For Def Leppard, 2006 was one of the most productive years in recent history. The British rock band ? call Def Leppard ?hair metal,? and 47-year-old vocalist Joe Elliott will call you ?disrespectful? ? released a covers album of pop-rock songs from the ?70s called Yeah!, oversaw the lush, two-CD reissue of 1987?s seminal Hysteria and launched its largest stage production since 1992 by co-headlining a five-month American tour with Journey. In between, the Leppards also made appearances on ?The Ellen DeGeneres Show,? performed ?Pour Some Sugar On Me? with country-music stud Tim McGraw at Los Angeles? Hollywood Bowl and helped raise money for autism research by auctioning off a one-of-a-kind Arlen Ness-designed motorcycle with the members of Journey. Goldmine caught up with Elliott in Miami as the Def Leppard/Journey tour was winding to a close.
Goldmine: Why do you think bands like Def Leppard and Journey continue to sell out venues and move albums long after most of your contemporaries have faded?
Joe Elliott: There are a lot of people from the generation after us that are actually very disheartened with their own generation of bands. You look at the ?80s, and the U2s, the R.E.M.s, the Bon Jovis and the Def Leppards have survived. Then you look at bands from the ?90s, and beyond Pearl Jam, I can?t think of one with any significance. People are actually looking at the ?80s with a bit more respect than they did before, simply because we?ve survived. Then they take that respect, and it makes them hear the music differently.
GM: What has been the key to Def Leppard?s survival?
JE: Just listen to the songs. That?s why we?ve survived. People don?t survive on their ripped trousers or hair spray. We?ve got 25 songs that went Top 40. So we?d gotten to a stage where, playing equal hour-and-25-minute sets with Journey, we actually had to take four or five hits out of the set. As annoying as that is, what a fantastic position to be in. These songs still get played on the radio, and we keep coming back and touring every two or three years. We try to maintain a profile so that people don?t say, ?Oh, they?ve reformed.? We?ve never gone away. That makes your music more current, even if it?s 20 years old. When McCartney tours, ?Eleanor Rigby? doesn?t sound so old.
GM: Have you been surprised by the vast age ranges at shows?
JE: Not particularly. The 7,000 to 9,000 people we were pulling in before the Journey tour were bringing their kids, anyway. I think the first time we noticed more kids in the audience would have been 1996 on the Slang tour, where there were 5- and 6-year-old kids down in front with moms and dads. They turned into 9-year-olds for the next tour and then 12-year-olds, and so on. It just keeps moving along. At one show the other day, there was a grandmother who was probably in her 50s, her daughter who was maybe in her 30s and then her two teenage kids. They were wearing their Def Leppard shirts and singing the words. The thing about rock ?n? roll music now is that it?s not a crime to be over 32 years old ?