In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!
It seems like just yesterday. I was listening to the radio, when a song by a previously unheard-of band from Britain – who apparently didn’t know how to spell their own name – came on and my eleven-year-old mind was blown! And while this may sound like a scenario during the height of Beatlemania, this was 1983. This was Def Leppard!
Before I continue, I am not stating that Def Leppard is the Beatles of my generation. However, their album Pyromania was my first purchase, which changed the way I listened to music forever. I am ecstatic that they will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. I spent some time during my winter break re-listening to all of Def Leppard’s covers. And even though it was difficult, I was able pick my personal Top Five.
Def Leppard – Release Me (Eddie Miller cover)
Credited to Stumpus Maximus & The Good Ol’ Boys, which is just Def Leppard backing their future tour manager, Malvin Mortimer. Originally written and recorded in 1949 by Eddie “Piano” Miller. Since then, it has been covered dozens of times. (Engelbert Humperdinck, anyone?) This version was a B-side to “Armageddon It” (1989). That’s all I will say about it because I don’t want to give anything away. Crank it up to eleven!
Def Leppard – Ziggy Stardust (David Bowie cover)
Most people are familiar with this Bowie classic. The cover was a B-side of “Slang” (1996). I love how they stripped it down to the bare essentials to give the proper tribute to Bowie.
Def Leppard – Action (Sweet cover)
This Sweet cover was originally released as a B-side in 1992. (Later included on their Retro Active album.) Sweet’s guitarist Andy Scott called it “the best cover of a Sweet song” he’d ever heard.
Def Leppard – Hell Raiser (Sweet cover)
After such accolades from Andy Scott on “Action”, is it a surprise that Def Leppard would cover Sweet again? Coming from their cover album Yeah!, they are joined by Justin Hawkins (The Darkness) on backing vocals, giving it a Sweet-er sound.
Def Leppard – No Matter What (Badfinger cover)
Badfinger is probably one of the greatest and saddest stories in rock & roll. The first band signed by Apple Records. Then “Without You”, written by band members Pete Ham and Tom Evans, became a number one hit for Harry Nilsson in 1972. From there, life became a battle of lawsuits and unpaid royalties, which eventually led to the suicides of both Ham and Evans.
While not as tragic as Badfinger, Def Leppard has also had their struggles. Just after taking the world by storm, drummer Rick Allen lost his left arm in an accident. With therapy and determination, he taught himself to play with his feet. The band then released their biggest album to date: Hysteria. A few years later, the band would face the death of guitarist Steve Clark.
On the liner notes for Yeah! Joe Elliott writes, “Badfinger. Great name, great songs, bad vibe!!!… They had their troubles and they made ours look tame in comparison…(this is) the kind of song that we try write, which is why, one would imagine, we ALL wanted to do it.”
There are more Def Leppard-related covers in our archives.