All 145 Original Def Leppard Songs Ranked Worst to Best
Sheffield, England, has never been a stranger to popular music with Joe Cocker, the Human League, ABC, Arctic Monkeys and Pulp all calling the South Yorkshire city home. But no act was able to scale the commercial heights of Def Leppard, and we're ranking the 145 songs they've released in their career below.
Originally comprised of lead vocalist Joe Elliott, bassist Rick Savage, drummer Rick Allen and guitarists Pete Willis and Steve Clark, Def Leppard shot to the forefront of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement with a 1979 self-titled EP then their 1980 debut album On Through the Night.
High ‘n’ Dry, the follow up, turned out to be pivotal. It was Def Leppard's first project with producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange, and the band was soon able to find their wings and fly. Lange helmed their next two records, 1982's Pyromania and 1987's Hysteria, which took the group to bigger and bigger heights. As the producer of their definitive work, and a co-writer and executive producer on other recordings, Lange schooled Def Leppard to the point where they were able to take those lessons and continue to create their own pop-rock-metal hybrid even after he stopped producing them.
What makes Def Leppard stand apart from their peers is not just their endurance but an ability to overcome unthinkable hurdles, including replacing Pete Willis with Phil Collen in 1982, finding a way to have Rick Allen continue drumming despite losing an arm in an accident in 1984, the death of Steve Clark in 1991, and the subsequent cancer scare endured by his replacement, Vivian Campbell. At each turn, Def Leppard met these impediments head-on, remaining a driving force in rock.
Def Leppard’s catalog is one of the leanest in post-1980 rock. It’s muscular with very little fat to be trimmed, as evidenced by these rankings: Many of the lower-ranking songs aren't bad or embarrassing, but instead represent moments where Def Leppard simply didn't reach their own standards. Not every album after 1992's Adrenalize was a hit – the band may have followed the Hysteria formula a little too religiously and possibly crafted one too many ballads – but because they took years between recordings, the group's artistry shines through. Even the songs on the lower reaches of this list have merits, which is something that can rarely be said about anyone with decades of releases under their belt.
We limited our scope to original and officially released songs by the band. No unreleased demos, outtakes, live songs or covers – and that includes 2006's Yeah!, Def Leppard's spectacular Mick Ronson and Sweet covers on Retro Active, their absurd update of “Release Me” (with their road manager on vocals), or their rock-gospel rendition of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus.”
Revisiting their catalog, one can’t help but be struck by Def Leppard's quality control – so much so that ranking these 145 songs, notably the top half of this list, was not an easy exercise.
145. “Gimme a Job” (2002)
Released as a bonus track on a rare DVD single to “Long Long Way to Go" in the U.K. and Germany, "Gimme a Job" is an innocuous working-class anthem that feels like the band knocked this out over a lunch break without really intending to release it. Perhaps the best part of its history is the note on the single where guitarists Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell say, "Joe plays the solo, nothing to do with us!"
144. “Let Me Be the One” (2002)
X is underappreciated, but its reputation as a pop album is solidified by possibly one too many ballads that are well-constructed but easily fade from memory.
143. “Unbelievable” (2002)
A lovely power ballad curiously placed as the second song on X, this track's biggest crime is that it wasn't written by the band. Instead, credit goes to Per Aldeheim, Andreas Carlsson and Max Martin, who made their mark with songs for Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC. Def Leppard wanted to play in this same space, but it’s just too darn poppy for their own good. With better ballads elsewhere on the album, it’s hard to justify this one.
142. “Personal Property” (1992)
After it took the band more than four years to release Hysteria, they didn’t want to wait that long for a follow-up, so the plan was hatched to write while on the road and release a new album in 1989. The bones of “Personal Property” began at a soundcheck in Japan during May 1988, with the tentative title of “Black Leather Jacket." There’s nothing particularly bad about the song, but it’s a faceless composition.
141. “All Night” (1999)
The minimalist Slang became Def Leppard’s lowest-charting and worst-selling album since their breakthrough. So, the band felt it would be good to recapture their classic sound, and even invited Mutt Lange back to the fold for a few songs on Euphoria. This Collen-Lange co-write has a groove and slick production, but the lyrics, meant to be sensual instead of outright erotic, find the band playing in waters better left to others.
140. “It Could Be You” (1980)
One misnomer fans often attribute to the early work of an artist is that it’s more pure, which may be true, but that doesn’t mean it necessarily captures the band at their best. Joe Elliott seemed to agree with that notion in a 2011 interview: "You know, a lot of people got a great affection for that record, but as I always say, ‘Yeah, but it's hardly the first Van Halen or Boston album, is it?’”
139. “Goodbye” (1999)
The requisite ballad from the terrific Euphoria album was oddly chosen as the second single. It's ultimately a solid love song exercise, but it’s just done better elsewhere in their discography.
138. “Cry” (2002)
One of the more experimental cuts on X. They merge genres on an alternative-pop hybrid then add an interesting chorus, creating one of the album’s heavier songs.
137. “Sorrow Is a Woman” (1980)
This mid-tempo number features a great backbeat supplied by Rick Allen, but it doesn’t lead anywhere. In a 1988 MTV special on the band, Rick Savage later recalled the recording process for their debut: "We used to get drunk every night and still try and record. And it's like totally young kids playing at being musicians, and I think that's how it sounded to me."
136. and 135. “Jimmy's Theme” & “When Saturday Comes” (1996)
Joe Elliott made his acting debut as Sean Bean’s brother in the 1996 British soccer film When Saturday Comes. His scene was sadly cut from the final version of the film, but Elliott still contributed to the soundtrack, recording a few songs in his garage with the help of Rick Savage and Phil Collen. “Jimmy’s Theme” is a longing instrumental that could be considered their "Sleepwalker," while “When Saturday Comes” finds three-fifths of Def Leppard channeling a throwback to the band's more-rocking sound – despite its arrival during the Slang recording sessions. Originally released as part of the CD single for "All I Want Is Everything," these songs can now be found only on the iTunes digital release of the Slang deluxe edition.
134. “Make Love Like a Man” (1992)
The second single from Adrenalize came amid the alternative and grunge revolution in 1992. In keeping, "Make Love Like a Man" – which would have been wildly successful in 1989 – felt passé. Phil Collen tried to explain the song upon the album’s release: "It's really tongue-in-cheek. When I first suggested it to Mutt and Joe, I said, 'We'll change the lyrics later on,' and they were like, 'No, no, no, that sounds great - we can't change it.' So, we left it like that. It's not meant to be serious, and it's not about any of us."
133. “I Wanna Touch U” (1992)
The melodic guitar intro and arrangement are easy on the ears, but you can’t help but feel this is something a band emulating Def Leppard would come up with.
132. “It's Only Love” (1999)
This nice plaintive mid-tempo number from Euphoria has potentially a few too many “Na na na na na na na na na” recurrences.
131. “Hallucinate” (2008)
"Hallucinate" from Songs from the Sparkle Lounge showcases the driving interlock of guitarists Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell's bone-cutting licks.
130. “All on Your Touch” (2014)
The band took control of the master recordings from Slang and released a deluxe edition of the album in 2014, capturing early versions of many songs and assorted b-sides. The morose sounding “All on Your Touch” was originally tracked in 1995 and given a title “Heavy Metal Christmas," but was unfinished. In 2012, Joe Elliott re-wrote the song and recorded new vocals.
129. “Move On Up” (2014)
It may be hard to believe, but Vivian Campbell didn’t take part in the writing of a Def Leppard album until Slang. He provided some vocals and guitars on Retro Active, but 1995 was the first time he came to the table with his own songs. This is an unreleased demo from the sessions included on the deluxe edition. It has a shuffling rhythm and scratchy guitars, but "Move On Up" is ultimately an interesting but unfinished idea.
128. “Burnout” (1999)
A wicked groove highlights this Slang-era song that remained unreleased until 1999, when it arrived on the flip-side of “Goodbye.” The song eventually found a permanent home on the 2014 deluxe edition of Slang.
127. “It Don't Matter” (1980)
You can hear the band honing in their talents with a remarkable roller coaster guitar solo by Pete Willis from 2:08 to 2:38.
126. “Worlds Collide” (1999)
Built around a blues crunch of guitars, "Worlds Collide" originally appeared as an international CD single in 1999 and on the Australian version of Euphoria. It actually hails from the 1996 Slang sessions, which is why "Worlds Collide" can be found on the album's 2014 deluxe edition.
125. “Answer to the Master” (1980)
There's a nice drum break from 1:14 to 1:23 during a prolonged jam where Rick Savage's bass shines. "Answer to the Master" also emphasizes the synergy between Steve Clark and Pete Willis, whose rhythm guitar work on the first three albums is often underestimated.
124. “C'mon C'mon” (2008)
"C'mon, C'mon" shuffles and is unblinkingly strident, with a call-and-response ready-made for the concert stage.
123. “Energized” (2015)
A peculiar mid-tempo cut from Def Leppard featuring drum machines on the verses and a subdued Joe Elliott, whose vocals are delivered in a hushed manner.
122. “Come Undone” (2008)
The exultant guitars of Vivian Campbell and Phil Collen make this underrated song sound like an overlooked stadium-conquering gem.
121. “Cruise Control” (2008)
A burrowing chorus highlights one of the band’s heaviest post-1999 songs.
120. “Man Enough” (2015)
Leading with a foot-tapping bass beat, "Man Enough" has a jangly rhythm track that uses guitars sparingly. That allows the song to breathe instead of giving it a multi-layered mix.
119. “Lady Strange” (1981)
There’s an argument that High 'n' Dry is the best Def Leppard album, but cuts such as “Lady Strange” feel unfinished and unrefined lyrically, holding the album back from perfection.
118. “Nine Lives” (2008)
This curious Tim McGraw collaboration, which saw the band flirting with country music, was the lead single for Songs from the Sparkle Lounge. In a 2012 interview, Phil Collen recalled their collaborative process: "In the case of Tim McGraw, I played him something I had been working on, and within a minute and a half we had the nucleus of what became the song 'Nine Lives.' It was just a very natural and organic way of working.”
Whatever their intentions, their timing was suspect. With their penchant for crafting easy-on-the-ears melodies made for the masses, you can’t help but feel Def Leppard occasionally stretch too far in the desire for a hit. When the band met McGraw in late 2006, Bon Jovi had just become the first rock band to score a No. 1 on the country music chart with “Who Says You Can’t Go Home.” Considering Def Leppard were label mates with Bon Jovi (and Rick Allen’s brother is McGraw's tour manager, dipping their toes into the country music waters only made sense. Unfortunately, the final product, while fun, is unmemorable.
117. “Love Don't Lie” (2002)
An appealing chorus and an all-too-short guitar solo are highlights of this sighing mid-tempo number.
116. “Broke 'N' Brokenhearted” (2015)
Despite being 14 songs long, the band’s self-titled 2015 album has little filler, including this high-throttle rocker which has a marvelous mid-section featuring a scintillating Collen guitar solo.
115. “Bad Actress” (2008)
"Bad Actress" is performed in a ferocious breakneck fashion. Recorded on the heels of their 2006 covers album Yeah!, the band kept the high-energy vibe with them as they recorded. “We were on a roll after that," Phil Collen told to Billboard in 2008, "and all we’ve done is kept that playful, fun vibe alive.”
114. “Love” (2008)
This Rick Savage ballad has incredible harmonies on the chorus, but it feels out of place on an album full of guitar swagger. "Love" was the only post-1995 song the band performed with Taylor Swift when they did CMT Crossroads in late 2008. It’s a startling performance, as Elliott and Swift trade off verses. It makes you wonder how many songs in their catalog have been overlooked just because they were never performed in concert.
113. “All Time High” (2015)
The band delivers "All Time High" like a fist to the gut; this is a swift and unrelenting anthem.
112. “S.M.C,” B-side to “Two Steps Behind” (1993)
Originally conceived by Phil Collen as a cradlesong for his newborn son Rory, it morphed into a tribute to Steve Clark (whose full name was Stephen Maynard Clark) during the 1992-93 tour. Often used back then as an intro to “Bringin' on the Heartbreak," “S.M.C” later appeared on the “Two Steps Behind��� CD single.
111. "We All Need Christmas” (2018)
The band’s only contribution to the Christmas music market was largely written by Rick Savage. "I'm not trying to get all deep and meaningful here, but there is a message," Elliott told UCR's Matt Wardlaw in 2018. "It's just one of those things. I think it makes you think back. I think that's what people do at Christmas: We think back to younger days, worse days, better days – or they're missing family that can't make it back this particular Christmas. It becomes a very poignant time of year for a lot of people. I think this song reflects that old mood.”
110. “Action! Not Words” (1983)
"Action! Not Words" is weakest song from their legendary third album Pyromania, but take note of the slide guitar opening and the cold fury of the chanting chorus, which other acts would make a career out of.
109. “10 X Bigger Than Love” (2003)
Originally a b-side from 2003, Elliott thought enough of "10 X Bigger Than Love" to give it to the melodic rock U.K. band VEGA, who released their version of the song in 2014. Many of the lower-ranking international bonus cuts on this list are due to the fact they were essentially incomplete songs and true outtakes. This is a rare instance, however, where Def Leppard should have spent more time and included "10 X Bigger Than Love" on X.
108. “Sea of Love” (2015)
Collen planned to give this to his Delta Deep side project. "I had this riff for a while, and when we started doing the Def Leppard stuff in February 2014, I just started demoing this song in Joe's swimming pool — not in the water, but in that room," Collen told Classic Rock. "It had a Lenny Kravitz vibe to it; it was almost rock-soul, and even lyrically, it reminded me a bit of some Stevie Wonder stuff. I thought the guys were gonna hate it, but I showed it to them anyway – and they really liked it. And then it took on a different life when Rick Allen started doing his drums: It ended up being a lot jazzier; it was almost a [Jimi] Hendrix-type thing." Delta Deep’s singer, Debbi Blackwell-Cook makes a special appearance helping Joe Elliott out on some of the higher harmony vocals.
107. “Kiss the Day” (2002)
A languid ballad reserved for Japanese release, “Kiss the Day” features a smoldering guitar solo that’s as good as anything the band committed to tape during this era.
106. “No No No” (1981)
This no-holds barred rocker brings Def Leppard’s sophomore album to a rousing conclusion. The original vinyl record had the final lyric “no” on an infinite repeat; the cassette had “no” repeat 46 times, while the CD only 15 times before it faded.
105. “Forever Young” (2015)
"Forever Young" is an enlivening song with a take-no-prisoners approach that’s as breezy as it is bustling. At only two minutes and 22 seconds, it is also one of the shortest songs in Def Leppard's discography.
104. “Last Dance” (2015)
As opposed to the clichéd power ballads that often weighed down their 1999-2008 albums, this is an indisputably superb acoustic guitar number that isn't overproduced. “Last Dance” features a glorious solo by Vivian Campbell, bolstering the band's most consistent collection of songs of the 21st century.
103. “Excitable” (1987)
Inspired by "State of Shock," the 1984 single by the Mick Jagger and the Jacksons, Def Leppard wanted to create a song that transcended rock and appealed to a broader audience. “We were hanging out a lot in discos in Amsterdam, and it got to the point where you’re going, ‘Why don’t they play any rock songs?’" Elliott says in the liner notes for the 30th anniversary of Hysteria box set. "We wanted to make a rock song that you could dance to, but that didn’t sound like the Bee Gees.”
102. “Gravity” (2002)
Originally entitled "Perfect Girl," this Phil Collen song morphed into a tactile arena-rock assault.
101. “Don't Shoot Shotgun” from Hysteria (1987)
In the 30th anniversary liner notes, Joe Elliott summed up "Don't Shoot Shotgun" as “a failed attempt to sound like the Rolling Stones. That’s the one thing we can’t do – sound like someone else. We don’t know how to be sloppy like the Stones but that riff is very Stonesy.” The song is also notable for being the straw that broke the camel’s back with the original producer of Hysteria, Jim Steinman. With Lange unavailable, the band hired the writer of Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell, but Steinman’s laid back approach didn’t gel with them. “The thing I think was the icing on the cake or the last nail in the coffin lid, as far as Phil and Steve were concerned," Elliott said in the Classic Albums documentary, "was one day we were running through a song, ‘Don’t Shoot Shotgun,' and Jim came on the talk back and went, ‘I think we got it there guys.' And they just looked at each other and said, ‘We haven’t even tuned up yet, you know?’ before Steinman said, ‘Yeah, but it sounds honest’ – to which they responded, ‘Yeah, but to a kid on Boise, Idaho, it sounds out of tune Jim.’”
100. “Four Letter Word” (2002)
Opening with a flickering guitar, this track oozes with melodies and a gawky chorus that showcases the band as a cohesive unit.
99. “When the Walls Came Tumbling Down” (1980)
You can hear the band begin to become a collaborative unit on a song most remembered for the spooky spoken-word introduction. Originally performed by Elliott during live performances and demos, “When the Walls Came Tumbling Down” featured a studio appearance by Dave Cousins of the Strawbs, who is said to have tried to channel legendary actor Laurence Olivier in his performance.
98. “Good Morning Freedom” (1980)
A spirited rocker that didn’t make the final cut for their debut, "Good Morning Freedom" was used as a b-side to "Hello America." The song was then resurrected for 2013's Viva! Hysteria residency in Las Vegas, where the legendary album was performed in its entirety. Def Leppard also acted as their own opening act, performing an in-your-face 45-minute set of hits and rarities – including this long-forgotten b-side, a first for Collen and Campbell. They weren't the only ones thrown for a loop. In his 2015 memoir Adrenalized: Life, Def Leppard, and Beyond, Collen said Rick Allen halted rehearsal at one point and said: “Wow. The last time I played this song I had two arms, so I need a minute to think about how I’m going to approach this.”
97. “To Be Alive” (1999)
Written by Vivian Campbell and P.J. Smith, the dreamy "To Be Alive" dials up many of the band’s hallmarks – including choral vocals and a beautifully textured rhythm guitar.
96. “Satellite” (1980)
Def Leppard's debut is often viewed as an essential NWOBHM album and "Satellite" is one of its boldest songs. The dual guitar attack from Steve Clark and Pete Willis finds them channeling Glenn Tipton and K. K. Downing from Judas Priest.
95. “Battle of My Own” (2015)
Delta blues acoustic riffs are plentiful on this all-too-short (2:42) roots stomper, a refreshing change of pace for the band. “Def Leppard is the first album we've put out where I can honestly say we did not give a hoot about the Hysteria record," Elliott told Rolling Stone. "We didn't try to sound like it; we didn't try to not sound like it. We didn't think about it at all.”
94. “You Got Me Runnin'” (1981)
Def Leppard was never afraid to push the pop envelope, starting as early as their second album, though with varying success. “People picked up on the title track, they picked up on 'Let It Go' and things like 'Another Hit and Run,'" Elliott later remembered. "They didn’t pick up on things like 'You Got Me Running' off side two, which is a total pop song-precursor to 'Photograph,' maybe."
93. “Gotta Let It Go” (2008)
The closing cut on Songs from the Sparkle Lounge is dispensed with a flashy chorus, a deft rhythm section and shredding guitars.
92. “Immortal” (1999)
Written by Elliott and released as the 1999 b-side to "Goodbye," "Immortal" features an intense whisper at the end of each chorus that is far more seductive than the awkward "All Night," which ultimately made Euphoria.
91. “Kings of the World” (2011)
Suddenly free of a record label, Def Leppard released 2011's Mirror Ball: Live & More, featuring highlights from the 2008-09 shows and three brand-new songs tacked onto the end. Rick Savage contributed this marvelous arm-waving ballad that could be mistaken as a long lost Queen song.
90. “Girl Like You” (2002)
When the band does pop well, they’re light years ahead of their peers. On "Girl Like You," Savage’s bass percolates the opening and the verses are particularly rich. This is further proof that even when an album is dismissed, there are crevices worth exploring.
89. “Can't Keep Away From the Flame” (1995)
Def Leppard was in the throes of recording Slang when their record label approached them about releasing a greatest hits album with a new song. Taking a page from label-mate Bon Jovi’s then-recent Cross Road, Mercury sold it to the band as closing one chapter and immediately beginning the next a few months later with the new material. Def Leppard dusted off “When Love & Hate Collide” as the lead single, but the band recorded one extra Collen-Elliott composition, "Can't Keep Away From the Flame" for the Japan release of Vault and the “When Love & Hate Collide” b-side. This delightful acoustic charmer feels more like a peek into the future rather than the past.
88. "Getcha Rocks Off” / “Rocks Off" (1980)
A highlight from 1979's The Def Leppard E.P., “Getcha Rocks Off” was later re-recorded, sadly not as well, and re-titled “Rocks Off" for their debut LP. “It was a Pete Willis riff, borrowed from a friend of his who'd half-written it. He changed it around a bit, came in and played it, and I started singing words over the top," Elliott told Rolling Stone. "It just developed into a kind of embryonic idea. And because it was our first, we were loath to change anything — no matter who might suggest we should stick a middle eight in or whatever! We were just a bunch of teenagers messing around, doing what we felt was right. But it did have a vibe about it that was above and beyond what everyone else seemed to be doing. I think there was a good reason we got the deal that hundreds of other bands couldn't seem to get at the time.”
87. “Ride into the Sun” (1993)
The first Def Leppard song on vinyl was also the only song from 1979’s The Def Leppard E.P. that did not appear on their debut album. Instead, “Ride into the Sun” was re-recorded in 1987 as a b-side to “Hysteria." This allowed Allen and Collen to put their stamp on the song, since they were not members when the 1979 EP was recorded. Original drummer Tony Kenning left right before the demo recording, so session musician Frank Noon sat behind the skins for the original take. Def Leppard revisited “Ride into the Sun” again in 1993, replacing Allen's drum intro from 1987 with a honky-tonk piano by Ian Hunter.
86. “Let's Go” (2015)
The album opener from their self-titled album checks off all the boxes for a Def Leppard classic: fierce guitar grooves, bombastic rhythm and an arms-in-the-air chorus. Joe Elliott agreed, saying "the first two songs on the album are what we like to call classic Def Leppard. If you turned on your radio and heard it for the first time without it being announced and you like the kind of music that we make, I've got a feeling that most people would go, 'That sounds like Def Leppard to me.'"
85. “Disintegrate” (1999)
A rare blistering instrumental, the Collen-composed “Disintegrate” was often used as the intro tape to their live shows during tours in 2002-03 and 2015.
84. “Women” (1987)
"Women" was an interesting choice to kick off Hysteria; it also served as the lead single in the U.S., while the rest of the world had “Animal.” The most fascinating part of the song's history, however, is how Mutt Lange spent three weeks mixing it, in what would eventually be a nearly five-month exercise that further delayed the album. “We were painting a picture here that had never been painted before, so we did have to go down a lot of dead-end streets and find out if they were valid or not, and then come back up and go down another one." Joe Elliott said in bonus footage from the Classic Album DVD. "What Mutt was doing was setting up the mix, the overall sound for the album. He did that on the one song and when he comes to doing the remaining songs, they weren’t going to be taking that long."
83. “Long Long Way to Go” (2002)
The best ballad from X was written by Wayne Hector and Steve Robson, proving Def Leppard can be great interpreters, as well. They convey genuine strain and regret about a lost love, alongside a serene acoustic guitar. Lionel Richie also recorded a version in 2004 for his Just for You album.
82. “I Am Your Child” (1999)
A marvelous Collen and Elliott composition about an abandoned child speaking to an estranged parent, this was sadly relegated as a bonus cut to the Japanese market. It’s evocative and emotionally engaging.
81. “It's All About Believin’” (2011)
An adoring and joyous composition full of many of the band’s hallmarks – notably Collen’s Fender Telecaster, which opens and closes the song, evoking images of a regal sunburst.
80. “Wings of an Angel” (2015)
One of Def Leppard's most intrinsic and audacious songs points to their NWOBHM past. “Wings of an Angel” is laced with a honey-sweet chorus and guitars that sound wretched, as the rhythm section of Allen and Savage generates deep-bodied grooves. Take note of Collen and Campbell trading off licks, bringing the song to a fiery close.
79. “Gift of Flesh” (1996)
Originally entitled "Black Train," Collen laced this with metaphors about the oil crisis in the mid-'90s. It birthed the heaviest song on Slang, including an unhinged rhythm section whom Elliott called “early Aerosmith with a little bit of Sex Pistols” on the album’s Spotify commentary.
78. “You're So Beautiful" (2002)
What makes the lack of commercial impact from X disappointing is that it was stacked with radio-ready hits, including this gleaming pop gem featuring a euphoric chorus of proclamation that is perfectly counterpointed by Allen’s rock-solid backbeat.
77. “Breathe a Sigh” (1996)
The song originally channeled rhythm and blues influences before the band worked through seven different versions, ranging from unplugged to reggae. They finally zeroed in on the melody and stripped it back to something more simplistic. “My original demo tried to sound like Mariah Carey does gospel with a country twang," Collen later recalled, "and I didn't think it would be right for us. But after all the different versions and being very close to bailing on this song, we tried it one more time. This time we based it around a pop, hip-hop drum feel and Sav's cool bass line.”
76. “Dangerous” (2015)
The spider-web crawl of the guitar signals to familiar territory on the band’s self-titled album, letting the listener know they’re aware of their past and aren’t afraid to embrace it. Listen to the mesmerizing Vivian Campbell guitar solo starting around 2:40, which leads in a storybook-ending crescendo.
75. “Go” (2008)
The guitar acrobatics of "Go" find Def Leppard erupting and assailing your senses with a sensational barrage of guitars that never relent. It's a great album opener.
74. “On Through the Night” (1981)
Not to be confused with the title of their debut, this track was written after the release of On Through the Night. "Because we wanted that kind of reaction from it really," Elliott later explained. "And it's like having two titles tracks on one album. It wasn't a leftover from the first album. We just thought it was a good title to use for a song. So, it was really Steve that was nagging me to do it. So I did it."
73. “Now” (2002)
Def Leppard's 10th album could have potentially been better received had they chosen a different running order or lead single, but Elliott confirmed this was intentional. “["Now"] opened the X album because it wasn’t a usual Def Leppard song," he said in the liner notes of the 2005 compilation Rock of Ages: The Definitive Collection. "We didn’t want something that would fly out the door. It starts simplistically and builds into the chorus which makes it haunting, but its claws still get you after a single listen.”
72. “Let's Get Rocked” (1992)
Arena-rock sensibilities abound on the lead single from Adrenalize. "Let's Get Rocked" was the last song written and recorded for the album, and is the only track that doesn’t have any element of it pre-dating Clark's death. The album debuting at No. 1 ahead of two releases by Bruce Springsteen in the spring of 1992, holding onto the top spot for five consecutive weeks. Still, the band received a good amount of grief for releasing something so polished in a time when alternative bands were beginning to invade the airwaves. These days, Elliott believes time has been good to “Let's Get Rocked”: “And you know we'd play the song now and it goes down an absolute storm and we love it for what it is," he later argued. "So it's funny how you can change your kind of attitude to it. The fans love it or hate it or get to love it and we do a great version of it. And again, it's one of our most important rock songs."
71. “From the Inside” (1993)
While recording b-sides in 1992, Elliott invited three members of the Hothouse Flowers for a three-hour session that yielded three songs: covers of the Rolling Stones' “You Can't Always Get What You Want," Jimi Hendrix's “Little Wing” and this original Joe Elliott composition. He explained in 1995 that the song “was inspired by a two-minute walk over O'Connell Bridge in Dublin and seeing a bunch of 10, 11, 12-year-old smack addicts. At the time, Dublin was the drug capital of Europe. Eleven percent of the teenage population were addicted to heroin, which is a ridiculous amount. But it's gone right down now; they've cleaned it up a lot. I just wanted to write a song that was – I hate preachy songs. I wanted to do one that was like me saying, 'Look, this is stupid.' So, I tried to do it from the drugs point of view, as though the heroin was actually singing the song. Which was, I thought, an unusual idea." "From the Inside” was included in set lists on the early part of the 1992 tour, but has only been played sporadically since.
70. “Pearl of Euphoria” (1996)
Def Leppard made a seismic shift in 1996, crafting a collection of tunes that stripped back a lot of Lange's layered sheen and sounded more like a traditional rock band. Renting a villa in southern Spain to record, they were influenced by Stone Temple Pilots and the soundtrack to the motion picture The Crow. They embraced psychedelia, grand jams and vocals delivered with syncopated detachment on “Pearl of Euphoria.” It’s a jarring experience, but the long fade at the end shows a band that weren’t simply copying trends, but developing their talents as musicians.
69. “Everyday” (2002)
Brushing acoustic strokes shine on this illuminating song about remorse, though it is easily missed due to the song’s lush arrangement.
68. “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad?” (1992)
Originally entitled “I've Never Wanted Something So Bad,” this Collen-composed ballad proved to be the highest-charting Adrenalize single in the U.S. (No. 12) and a fan favorite. “It's a silly love song thing about missing your girlfriend," Collin said in 1992. "That's what it was about when I first wrote it. I was in Australia and my wife was in America somewhere. Then we changed it a bit. I wrote all the music, except for the bridge, which Mutt did."
67. “Me and My Wine” (1981)
This barroom brawl of a song tips its hat to AC/DC – with whom Lange worked before and after High ‘n’ Dry. It was sadly relegated to the b-side of "Bringin' on the Heartbreak," however, only to be resurrected as a bonus track on the 1984 reissue. “Me and My Wine” may be most remembered for the in-your-face David Mallet video made in 1984; they filmed at the Dublin house where Def Leppard were writing Hysteria.
66. “Invincible” (2015)
From the thundering bass roll to the spacious and airy guitars, to the chorus that will infect your bloodstream on first listen, this is classic Def Leppard through-and-though.
65. “She's Too Tough” (1993)
Another gem saved from obscurity. “She's Too Tough” was originally demoed by Joe Elliott, playing all the instruments, during the writing of Hysteria before he handed it over to the Canadian band Helix for their 1987 album Wild in the Streets. Eventually, the rest of the Def Leppard fleshed it out. “She's Too Tough” first appeared as a bonus track on the Japanese version of Adrenalize, then a U.K. b-side before they re-recorded the drums in 1993 for Retro Active.
64. “Love and Affection” (1987)
Hysteria’s closer would have been the eighth single from the album if, according to Joe Elliott in the 30th anniversary liner notes, “we had the balls to put out another one." The song’s strength is in its simplicity and its studious vocal by Elliott, who was directed by Mutt Lange to “really give it some on the first word and then come right down. I don’t want it to be all one level."
63. “Too Late for Love” (1983)
A lingering and morose fan favorite, accentuated by Steve Clark’s channeling of Jimmy Page, "Too Late for Love" was originally titled “This Ship Sails Tonight.” It went through a complete re-work under the supervision of Mutt Lange, which caused issues for Elliott. “When I wrote the lyrics. I had almost no idea of what they'd be matched with," he later said. "They were very un-rock 'n' roll in the sense of what you'd expect. The verses and the pop-style chorus don't even go together. But we managed to bash a square peg into a round hole.”
62. “Scar” (2002)
“Scar” connects memory to emotion with scintillating results that cut through you on this unappreciated album closer.
61. “Overture” / “The Overture” (1980)
The closing song on Def Leppard's debut album was their most epic creation to date. Stretching to nearly eight minutes, the scope of “Overture” was operatic, as Willis and Clark congealed their two-guitar attack. It was wildly ambitious, over-the-top and above all else, exciting – something that can still be heard decades later. While the On Through the Night version may be more polished, the EP version has an unbridled intensity that only a group of 17- and 19 year-olds could muster.
60. “Blind Faith” (2015)
"Blind Faith" is Def Leppard's "A Day in the Life," as it poses question after question to the listener. The song – which features a mellotron by the band’s producer and engineer Ronan McHugh – is notably sparse, giving the lyrics far more depth. The result is more than a tour-de-force album closer, it works as a modern day psalm. “The song lyrically is about blindly following any specific, say, religion without questioning why you're doing it," Elliott said in 2016. "Maybe you're doing it because your parents did or your grandparents. Or you're just kind of brainwashed into not thinking before you tread fearlessly into that kind of area of your life. ... I live in Catholic Ireland and for many, many years almost every day you'd pick up the paper and there would be something about a priest that was doing bad things. If you tell your parents, you'll burn in Hell and it was like, 'Well, that side of organized religion just doesn't do it for me.'"
59. “Miss You in a Heartbeat” (1993)
This surprise U.S. Top 40 hit began as a song Phil Collen gave to the Law, whose members included Paul Rodgers and Kenney Jones, in 1991. When Def Leppard needed a few extra songs for b-sides and international versions of Adrenalize, they worked up their own take. In fact, Def Leppard ended up releasing five versions of “Miss You in a Heartbeat”: the original Japan-only bonus track on Adrenalize, three on Retro Active and an import CD single featuring the original demo with Collen on vocals. The restrained piano version was the one that became the hit. Surprisingly, “Miss You in a Heartbeat” was the first time a proper piano appeared on a Def Leppard recording.
58. “Run Riot” (1987)
Opening with three electronic drum snare shots, Collen and Clark begin their assault with lofty guitars that interplay off each other strikingly. “[I]t comes from rock ‘n’ roll. It’s just ‘Summertime Blues’ by Eddie Cochran – guitar lick singing over the drums, repeat," Elliott said in the liner notes for the 30th anniversary edition of Hysteria: "But we were bringing it up to date.”
57. “Day After Day” (1999)
The penultimate song from Euphoria is a slow burner where the band’s collective powers careen into archetypal harmonies, vacillating guitars, and a shadowy chorus.
56. “Kings of Oblivion” (1999)
A scorching finale to Euphoria, with lyrics that wouldn’t be out of place on a Judas Priest or Iron Maiden album.
55. “Billy's Got a Gun” (1983)
Pyromania's closer found the band venturing into more cryptic storytelling and eerie foreshadowing. The song follows “a wronged guy on the underground with a gun in his pocket, ready to go off," Joe Elliott said in the Rock of Ages: The Definitive Collection liner notes. "It was intended to be claustrophobic, and we left it open-ended.”
54. “Turn to Dust” (1996)
Tinged with Indian influences from British bands like Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, Collen's "Turn to Dust" may be the most distinctive song in their broad catalog. Rick Allen’s acoustic kit shines here, serving as the foundation for their exploration.
53. “Heaven Is” (1992)
A peculiar single, with a Beatles-esque melody that has a long history despite never being played live. At the same time, “Heaven Is” has been included in all three of the band’s best-of compilations. “It had been around for years," Collen said in the Rock of Ages: The Definitive Collection liner notes. "Parts of it had been taken from ‘Armageddon It.' We gave it a new treatment and it worked nicely for Adrenalize." Elliott provided additional history: “The backing vocals on the chorus made it sound like the Beach Boys. And it was the first time we’d ever gone that far. It was more Queen than Queen!”
52. “Blood Runs Cold” (1996)
Musically, this is about the empty spaces that haunt us, heavily influenced by Steve Clark who passed away in 1991. The way Def Leppard are able to conjure up images of Clark is evocative, yet it doesn’t come easy. Collen was writing the lyrics and couldn’t finish, so he handed it over to Elliott, who completed the second verse.
51. “White Lightning” (1992)
The ghost of Steve Clark, who died in January 1991, is all over Adrenalize, from the songs he wrote to the guitar parts Collen replicated from the demo sessions to this tribute to the man, whose title came from his nickname. The music had its start in 1988, but was ultimately one of four tracks from Adrenalize that Clark didn't co-write. It’s the most grand and epic song on an album purposely streamlined to be more succinct than Hysteria, and hearkens back to the band’s earlier and heavier material. "We wanted it to be about Steve," Elliott told Rolling Stone, "but we also wanted anybody who was listening to it and had been in a similar situation to be able to relate to it. So, we never mention him by name. But the situations he found himself in, and the situations he put us in, are all kind of referenced – without getting overly specific.”
50. “21st Century Sha La La La Girl” (1999)
Glam rock had an incalculable influence on Def Leppard, notably David Bowie, Queen, Mott the Hoople, Sweet, Slade and T. Rex. This rave-up rocker offers a nod to “20th Century Boy,” which they would eventually cover on 2006's Yeah!, and also name drops “Cosmic Dancer" – the second song on T. Rex’s legendary album Electric Warrior.
49. “Where Does Love Go When It Dies” (1996)
It started out as an acoustic idea by Phil Collen before Joe Elliott went to a Spanish beach with a Walkman to write the lyrics. Def Leppard emerged with a stirring song devised on persistent repetition that slowly pulls in the listener.
48. “Rock Brigade” (1980)
The band’s debut found them forging their own sound, but classic rock influences permeated throughout – notably on this dashing number which is remarkable for Rick Allen’s drums. "When Pete Willis was in the band in the early days," Elliott explained in 1989, "he was listening to a lot of Pat Travers and Judas Priest, which is where the very heavy stuff came in. Steve, our main writer, was more into Zeppelin. Sav was a big Queen fan. And I was very into the glam stuff. I like Mott the Hoople, Alice Cooper, Sweet and Slade."
47. “Truth?” (1996)
When U2 released Achtung Baby in 1991, Bono said it was “the sound of four men chopping down The Joshua Tree. Similarly, Slang is the sound of Def Leppard detonating their history. The band attempts to come to terms with their past (“Am I the victim of youth”) on this experimental and deeply confessional song. "'Truth?' was one of the first, if not the first song written for the Slang sessions way back in 1994," Elliott said in a Spotify commentary. "By the time it was released in 1996, it had gone through an entire metamorphosis from a standard rock song to something that was almost electronica. Lyrically, it's a coming-of-age song. It's us referencing our awareness of a whole new movement that comes from a new generation of musicians. ... And well, we were having none of it."
46. “Back in Your Face” (1999)
The opening trio of songs from Euphoria give Pyromania a run for their money. As with “Truth?” in 1996, Def Leppard faces their critics directly, with the key difference being that “Back in Your Face” is a raucous celebration of their return-to-form sound. Rick Allen’s drums pound like sledgehammers, the guitars are razor edged and Elliot continually proclaims “I’m back” with a growl not heard since Hysteria. There’s even a glorious nod to their hero name-dropping (see “Rocket”) as Queen's Sheer Heart Attack and the Rolling Stones “Jumpin' Jack Flash” are referenced in the final chorus.
45. “Fractured Love” (1993)
This was the first song penned for Hysteria (co-written by Clark, Elliott and Savage) but it wasn't finished until 1993 when a new arrangement and a reworking of the intro took place. The building tension of the opening is fortified by shadowy guitars and Elliot vocals that are pure noir, before the band explodes at the two-minute mark. Retro Active is more than a rarities collection; it’s the band’s way of taking top tier b-sides and putting them in the proper context of their career and legacy. Decades later, it plays like a lost classic covering something every fan of Def Leppard can love – from ballads to covers to abundant mountains of rock.
44. “Tonight” (1992)
On an album crafted for arena-rock bombast, “Tonight” serves as a bridge to more mature themes. Led by an acoustic guitar played by Rick Savage, the song is a fascinating interlude. Def Leppard originally recorded the demo in 1988 while on the Hysteria tour, and portions of it made the final mix. An acoustic version, taped at Sun Studios in Memphis, was a b-side to "Two Steps Behind." The band made a visit to the legendary studio after their Feb. 9, 1993 gig and at around 1:30AM the following morning, they joined the ranks of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Howlin' Wolf, Johnny Cash and U2 as acts who have recorded at the studio.
43. “Hello America” (1980)
Def Leppard crafted a prophetic anthem for their debut, despite never having been to America. According to Elliott, it was partially inspired by U.S. television. “I was working in a factory with lots of nuts and bolts and no natural light," he later remembered. "But there was a lot of downtime, and I would sit around writing stuff. With this one, I had seen a TV show the night before — Kojak or Starsky & Hutch, something where they show the tree-lined boulevards of L.A. You see all these palm trees and you go, ‘Wow, this is a lot sexier than Sheffield!’ That's where that lyric came from — ‘Well I'm takin' me a trip/I'm going down to Californ-i-a.’ It was, ‘Get me out of here!’”
42. “Two Steps Behind” (1992)
A Joe Elliott composition dating back to 1989 that was given the acoustic treatment in the spring of 1992 for the “Make Love Like a Man” CD single. In 1993, Def Leppard received notice that songs were being gathered for the Arnold Schwarzenegger film The Last Action Hero, so they sent off the b-sides. Composer Michael Kamen’s secretary spent all weekend with the tape and informed them that “Two Steps Behind” was her favorite. Kamen added strings to the song and it became a Top 20 hit in the U.S. Bolstered by that success, Def Leppard revisited Elliott’s demo and recorded a proper plugged-in version for Retro Active.
41. “Deliver Me” (1996)
Originally demoed with the title of "Anger," this track was inspired by the misfortunes Def Leppard endured during this time. When Slang was released in May 1996, it alienated many core fans, but as Joe Elliott told Rolling Stone, they couldn’t simply rehash the past. “[W]e couldn't have made another like Adrenalize; it would have killed us. We had already done the big trilogy of albums with massive productions, and we had to go back and start again from zero. By the time we got to the studio to do it, we collectively started getting married, we started getting divorced, parents started passing away, kids were being born. … All of a sudden, we woke up into reality. And we decided to write about it. People weren't ready for that. But to churn out a batch of insignificant rock songs in 1996 would have been an even bigger mistake.”
40. “Undefeated” (2011)
Used as a show opener to great effect, Elliott's "Undefeated" featured a determinedly positive message. “I’m not going to deny it," Elliott told The Guardian. "I write songs like the Brill Building people. I want my songs to be massively anthemic, lighters up at Madison Square Garden. That’s where this song is coming from. It was us on the way back in, saying: ‘You’ve tried and you’ve failed. We have found you wanting.’”
39. “Wasted” (1980)
Steve Clark was both Def Leppard’s wild man and wild card. He rarely came to the band with full songs, but had bits and pieces that were integral to jump starting things. Rick Savage recalled the creation of their debut's most recognizable song in journalist David Fricke’s Animal Instinct: "Suddenly, we heard these footsteps on the cobblestones outside in the courtyard of the spoon factory. Then the footsteps came up the stairs. The door burst open and Steve raced across the room. He picked up his guitar where he'd left it the day before and started playing this riff he later said had come to him on the bus on the way down. It was a brilliant riff, but he didn't say anything to anybody when he first came in, in case he forgot it. He just ran across the room, and started playing this riff. That riff became the basis for 'Wasted.' But he had more than just the riff. He'd put chords after it for the bridge and he had an idea for the middle section. He walked off that bus with an instant song. Fucking brilliant."
38. “Love Bites” (1987)
The band’s only No. 1 single in the U.S. had a distinctive birth. Mutt Lange envisioned a guitar melody that had a country feel before the band decided to take a stab at it. Notable for its backing vocals, "Love Bites" was also meant to stand out musically from anything by their peers. “[I]t’s got an earthiness to it because of the way Steve and Phil played those guitar parts – essentially live, facing off in the control room and bouncing organic energy off each other," Elliot recalled in the 30th anniversary liner notes. "They gave the backing track this sound that didn’t sound clinical.”
37. “All I Want Is Everything” (1996)
“All I Want Is Everything” started out as a country song but it eventually was stripped back and the final product is one of stark minimalism. Elliot’s lead vocal is unadorned, while Campbell’s guitar glistens in the background. “They were weird times," Elliott recalled in 2014, saying "that demanded a very sober lyric.”
36. “Tomorrow” (2008)
Phil Collen shaped a rallying cry, capturing magic in a bottle with a luminescent chorus that hits a sweet spot in your aural senses as the band paints scenic images" “I wanna take a ride / I wanna kiss the sky.”
35. “Slang” (1996)
The title cut from the band’s most artistic album, originally entitled "Raise Your Love," is a head-spinning concoction. It's one of the few times on Slang where a trademark colossal chorus appears. The rhythm section is also on-point, driving Def Leppard to the edge.
34. “When Love & Hate Collide” (1995)
Originally demoed for the Adrenalize album in 1990, the band left it on the cutting room floor, only to resurrect “When Love & Hate Collide” in 1995 when the label wanted a new song for their best-of package Vault. Def Leppard dusted off this outtake and meticulously crafted a stunning version that never overreaches. It’s elegant but is tinged with inconspicuous tension in the performance. The UK CD single contains the original demo of the song, which is stretched to six-minutes and features the last recording Steve Clark did before his untimely death in 1991.
33. “We Belong” (2015)
All five members of the band sing individual verses on this underestimated and significant song. Anyone who has ever seen Def Leppard in concert can attest to their prowess as a live entity, and much of that comes from their ability to replicate the backing vocals from the albums. Elliott wanted fans to have a chance to hear all of their voices unadorned, and once they convinced drummer Rick Allen to take part, they set out to execute it. Using the Beatles' 1995 Anthology song “Free as a Bird” as a template, the band made a little nod to the Fab Four on a wonderfully soulful celebration of their legacy which links past to present.
32. “Ring of Fire” (1993)
In a winter 1984 fan-club newsletter where the band pledged their commitment to Rick Allen, Def Leppard shared the names of 10 songs that were slated to appear on the next album. Of those, two didn’t make the final cut: “Fractured Love” and “Ring of Fire." The band returned to “Ring of Fire” in early 1987, knowing they would need b-sides for the singles. They originally open with the sounds of guitar feedback and a riff low in the mix. But on the refreshed and “revised” version, the spiraling guitar opening injects the listener with terror right from the get-go on one of their heftiest songs from this era. (That's probably why it was left off.) The band was looking to make a musically diverse album that could play on any radio format, and according to Joe Elliott in the Classic Albums documentary, Mutt Lange would constantly ask: “Why can’t a rock band have seven hit singles off one album?”
31. “Guilty” (1999)
Def Leppard has regularly illustrated their dexterity as crafting impeccable pop-metal, and the strength of the underrated “Guilty” is the aching vocals on the chorus. As a unit, their background vocals often sound like a choir, and they’re exuberant here on a deeply confessional song wrapped up in an immaculate creation.
30. “I Wanna Be Your Hero” (1993)
Another Hysteria b-side originally titled “Love Bites,” this track was resurrected from the used-vinyl singles bin and touched up in 1993. Def Leppard was always better than most of their peers because of their musical variation, reflected magnificently on “Hero.” Take note of the discordant guitar clash between Clark and Collen from 2:27 to 2:57, two styles that defined the sound of Hysteria – and it all occurred on a song relegated to a b-side. The original 1987 recording has a wonderful fake fade-out before coming back in, while the ’93 version features no fade.
29. “Torn To Shreds” (2002)
A pop-guitar triumph wrapped in crashing guitars, a breathtaking chorus and one of their best bridges, (“If I ever get myself together / And it takes whatever it takes / To get myself back to you”) is heightened by Elliot’s impassioned vocals, where the regret and disbelief seeps into the listener’s bones.
28. “Another Hit and Run” (1981)
The galloping rhythm section of Savage and Allen highlight this barnburner, but it’s the downcast political references, often overlooked for the meticulous musicianship, that are most revealing. “It has some veiled references to people that were making us sit around and wait to get on with our career," Elliott subsequently remembered. "Even though it was recorded before the miners’ strike in 1984-85, there are also references to Margaret Thatcher. I didn’t want my politics to be as blatant as Jimmy Pursey on Sham 69, but they were there if you looked for them. Maybe nobody knew that until now."
27. “Move With Me Slowly” (1996)
International editions of Slang included "Move With Me Slowly" as a bonus cut before the song received a wider release in 2014 as part of the Slang deluxe edition. Collen’s opening guitar riff is pure blues and Elliott’s vocals show shades of soul. The band has never sounded more refreshing than on this fully formed sun-rising jam. Elliott loves the song so much, he singled it out in 2016 to Rolling Stone: “This one is probably my favorite, and, to be truthful, it's not actually on Slang — it was added onto the re-release. It's one of Phil's songs, and it's very Stones-y. There's some lovely guitar work on it, and I think it had a lot to do with the way the current album turned out. Unfortunately, not that many people have heard it, though."
26. “Demolition Man” (1999)
“Let me loose / I just got back” is how Def Leppard unwrapped Euphoria. Capturing lightning in the bottle, the band hits the gas pedal and never takes their foot off for all of its 204-seconds. After the under-appreciated Slang, the band dialed back into the land of melodic triumph with a spirited pledge to their audience, where they said were quite simply going to rock until they drop. The song gets bonus points for asking as a counterpoint to lyrics from “Pour Some Sugar on Me”: “Demolition woman, can I be your man?”
25. “Comin' Under Fire” (1983)
The arrangement for “Comin' Under Fire” is something to behold, as the band acts like a pressure cooker with the verses building tension before blowing off steam on the choruses, then peaking with Steve Clark’s wailing solo. Bonus points to singer-songwriter Matt Nathanson, who covered this song on his Def Leppard covers EP Pyromattia.
24. “Stagefright” (1983)
A regular part of their live set from 1983-92, “Stagefright” stood out as the opener on the Hysteria tour. The curtain would dropped to reveal the band already in performance, as documented on the In the Round, In Your Face concert film. But capturing the song in the studio proved more troublesome. Willis was unable to crack the solo due to substance-abuse issues, so Phil Collen of the band Girl was asked to come down and help. He was given a cassette and returned to Battery Studios with Mutt Lange the next day, then cut the solo in one take. Considering how there had been hundreds of takes for certain songs, the fact the notorious perfectionist Lange was so taken with Collen told the band everything they needed to know, and Collen would soon replace Pete Willis.
23. “Stand Up (Kick Love into Motion)” (1992)
The seeds for the "Stand Up" go back as far as an idea Collen had in 1987. Clark and Collen continued working on the song at Wisseloord Studios in Holland, but held it over for Adrenalize where it was the fourth Top 40 song from the album in the U.S. It is possibly the most underrated single in Def Leppard's catalog, elevated by an opulent production and Elliott’s rapt and muscular vocal. Criminally, it has never been performed live.
22. “Only the Good Die Young” (2008)
Seventeen years after he passed away, the ghost of Steve Clark can still be heard in their music. While this Vivian Campbell-penned anthem doesn’t specifically name Clark, the lyrics allude to his struggles, his talent and the impact he made: “I saw you on a screen / And come, a legend, a king / I heard it in a song / That's still goin' strong.” The dreamy chorus is accentuated by a tidal wave of emotion as the band drives this one home in his memory.
21. “Die Hard the Hunter” (1983)
The longest and most epic song from Pyromania dates back to Def Leppard's 1980 tour of America. The riff was written on a tour bus, but held over until their third album. “Die Hard the Hunter” was ultimately punctuated by perfect performances across the board, but Elliott’s raspy vocals and Steve Clark’s transfixing solo steal the show. Drawing inspiration from Michael Cimino’s 1978 Oscar-winning film The Deer Hunter, Elliott decided to write about the psyche of the war veteran. "I was going through a period when I wanted to write about something other than sex, drugs, women backstage and Jack Daniel's," Elliott told David Fricke in the 1987 biography Animal Instinct. "I wanted to deal with a serious subject that I didn't necessarily have to be a big expert on. I didn't want to write about the Falkland Islands war because that would have been too mercenary, cashing in on a current event. But I'd already written ‘Billy's Got a Gun’ for the album, a kind of Death Wish scene, a real New York subway song about a guy that fell into bad company and turned into a troublemaker."
20. “High 'n' Dry (Saturday Night)” (1981)
Pete Willis crafted the bluesy opening AC/DC-inspired riff. “Lyrically, it started off about a night Steve, a tour manager of the Scorpions and myself once had in Paris," Elliott wrote in the Rock of Ages liner notes. "We hijacked a taxi and got stuck in the middle of nowhere, hence the title. But by the time the lyrics were finished, they had nothing to do with the story.”
19. “Paper Sun" (1999)
"Paper Sun" is a deep and reflective response the Omagh car bombing in Northern Ireland that occurred on Aug. 15, 1998, during the recording of Euphoria. It could be seen as a spiritual sequel to “Gods of War,” featuring Collen’s full-bodied chords and Campbell’s most expressive solo. Collen also rides the song out, transporting grief and anguish through his six-string.
18. “Mirror Mirror (Look into My Eyes)” (1981)
Take note of the introductory guitar, courtesy of Steve Clark, and you can feel the danger emanating from his six-string, further substantiating his stamp on Leppard’s first four albums. Using “Mirror Mirror" as a starting point, Lange helped Elliott bring the lyrics to life. “We wanted a spooky lyric for a spooky song," he explained in 2005 liner notes.
17. “Tear It Down” (1992)
The down stroke of Clark’s guitar brings the band to life on “Tear It Down.” Possibly their greatest b-side, this song so good that Def Leppard wound up re-recording it for Adrenalize. While rehearsing for live performances in 1987, the band worked this up and added it to the b-side inventory for Hysteria singles. The song had such a positive reaction that it was performed on a few 1987-88 tour dates. They re-worked “Tear It Down” and performed it at the MTV Music Video Awards in September 1989, which was Steve Clark’s final performance with the band.
16. “Rocket” (1987)
Airy jet-engine riffs commence the most audacious song from Hysteria. The sonic touches make this a studio creation that is wholly unique, and it was never performed on the subsequent tour. “It’s sometimes compared to Adam & the Ants or the Glitter Band, because they both made an effort to feature the drums," Elliott wrote in 2005. "In fact, the idea came from an African band called Burundi Black. I first heard them while having a meal on a barge in Holland. I borrowed the tape, took it to the guys and they fucking loved it. The band took the ball, ran with it and made it sound like an updated version of the mid-section of ‘Whole Lotta Love.’ Lyrically, we name-checked everything from our youth: there are references to artists diverse as Lou Reed to Elton John.”
15. “Foolin'” (1983)
The song opens with faint but spellbinding guitars, pulsating rhythm, ardent vocals and an arrangement that creates an atmosphere of fury. Perfected by Lange, this is one of Def Leppard's best arrangements, covering the many stages of despondency where shadowy darkness is disguised by momentous pop hooks. The first Def Leppard album took 30 days to record, the second took 12 weeks and, by the five-month mark of recording for Pyromania, the band had yet to complete one song. Mutt Lange was a task master who pushed the five members of Def Leppard so hard that Pete Willis was given walking papers before it was over. Lange had a widescreen vision for the album and nothing short of perfection was going to be acceptable. “Foolin’” is one of their most perfect creations.
14. “Desert Song” (1993)
The backing track was recorded during the Hysteria sessions but remained unfinished until 1993 due to the lack of lyrics. Steve Clark’s guitar is prominent on the track, and it’s the only song in their catalog to feature both Clark and Vivian Campbell, who provided uncredited backing vocals. This heavy tale of a man facing the end alone – inspired by the story of David Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson – led off Retro Active with a wall of guitars channelling the narrators' anguish on an astonishing anthem. A cover of Ronson’s “Only After Dark” was also included on Retro Active, safeguarding his legacy and influence.
13. “Gods of War” (1987)
Steve Clark was chasing the shadow of Jimmy Page from his wavy hair, drinking and the way he hung his Les Paul guitar, but musically he never felt satisfied until "Gods of War." "I remember Steve's face when we heard the first playback of 'Gods of War,'" Elliott wrote in the Hysteria box-set liner notes. "We finally got him his 'Kashmir.' ... With ‘Gods of War,’ that was us thinking it is okay to be Roger Waters for six minutes. It was another dimension.”
12. “Switch 625” (1981)
A crushing and invigorating instrumental written solely by the late Clark that was tagged onto the end of "Bringin’ on the Heartbreak." "I think it's the most interesting song on High 'n' Dry and I'm not even on it!" Elliott told Rolling Stone in 2016. "It has this very strange, angular melody that came straight out of Steve Clark's brain. To cover that with my voice didn't make any sense to me. So I fought tooth and nail with Mutt to not add lyrics to it. I said, 'It doesn't need singing!" It kind of led in from 'Heartbreak,' and I said, "This has got to be treated the same way as the extended version of 'Layla,' with the piano and the slide guitar. Or the end of 'Free Bird.' To me, this and 'Heartbreak' were just one long song that we gave two titles.”
11. “Work It Out” (1996)
The most ambitious single the band ever released was Campbell's creation. While “Work It Out” didn’t set the charts ablaze like Def Leppard's previous work, the depth and dexterity of this cut rank as two of their greatest accomplishments. The band’s talents were camouflaged at times by the overall sheen of their productions, but they set out to make create on their own terms without Mutt Lange. “Viv's demo of this was pure pop and a great song but we wanted to give it a harder edge," Collen later remembered. "This song took ages to get right as we tried to blend certain unusual elements (i.e. Nine Inch Nails, the Cure and Bowie) while keeping the rock guitar thing happening. A lot of the stuff we record is due to a process of elimination and this song was no different."
10. “Let It Go” from (1981)
Originally titled “When the Rain Falls," the song was performed in 1980 before the band and their new producer Mutt Lange knocked it into shape. “Let It Go” became the auditory equivalent of a pure adrenaline rush.
9. "Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)" (1983)
This opening salvo was Star Wars for pop-metal, with the first 30 seconds being the equivalent to the opening crawl at the beginning of A New Hope in 1977. Originally titled “Medicine Man” and performed on their 1980 tour, "Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)" featured the foundation of what would open Pyromania – but not before Mutt Lange helped them refine it. “We wanted a stomping call to arms as the opening track," Elliott recalled in 2005, "to get everybody out of their seats as soon as the lights go down. Mutt convinced us to slow it down. We added an opening riff that we could put down on tape and use as an intro to the live show, and we took it from Division Two level and into the Premier League."
8. “Promises” (1999)
Collen’s guitar serves as a siren call on an elevating proclamation of commitment to both a loved one and their fans. Written and produced with the help of Lange, “Promises” is phenomenal for its melody but also the band's trademark backing vocals. The guitars screech and rumble under the battle-like brigade of Savage’s bass and Allen’s drum kit. Listen for some of Elliott’s most earnest vocals, particularly on the fade-out.
7. “Armageddon It” (1987)
One of the songs dating back to the 1984 demo sessions, “Armageddon It” was like “a Russian army marching through Red Square” according to Elliott. But Clark had other plans for it and wanted to “sex it up and Bolan-esque the thing." The song became an unexpected sixth single from Hysteria, eventually reaching No. 3 on the Hot 100 in early 1989. The live performance of it found on In Your Round, In Your Face is the greatest and most immediate visual document we have of Steve Clark.
6. “Animal” (1987)
Lange’s mix for "Animal" is a wonder to behold, using the guitars sparingly on the verses to allow the vocals and rhythm section to breathe. When it gets to the chorus, the heavens open up. What stands out from the demo – heard on the Classic Albums documentary – is how the foundation of the song was all there, including the false ending. Still, it took the band another three years of tweaking before they properly captured the arrangement. “It was a guitar riff that Steve and Phil came up with together," Savage said later. "We recorded the song with all these guitar parts and then recorded the vocal, which we all thought was one of Joe's best efforts. In fact, the vocal was so good we decided to redo the backing tracks. What eventually happened is that we kept a finished lead vocal and completely rewrote the song underneath that vocal. We had to keep the same chord changes so the vocal would work, but the verses, bridge and chorus were all rewritten. The original version sounded much heavier, but once we heard the style of the lead vocal we thought it would be best to make it more of a pop song.”
5. “Rock of Ages” (1983)
Allen’s thundering drums lead the charge on a call-to-arms anthem, capturing the very essence of Def Leppard. But where did the lyrics come from? "We had the backing track for ‘Rock of Ages’ but were singing melodies because we didn't have any lyrics," he told VH-1. "We let somebody use the studio the night before, and they held a bible-study session. A Bible was left in the studio open to the hymn ‘Rock of Ages.’ So, I picked it up and started singing, ‘Rock of ages.’ Mutt went, ‘That's it! That's the chorus!’ It was a very anthemic song. This was us doing Joan Jett's ‘I Love Rock and Roll’ or Billy Squier's ‘The Stroke’ or Queen's ‘We Will Rock You.’ Big drums, handclaps, no guitars in the verse, singing, and then guitars blaring in on the chorus.”
4. “Bringin' On the Heartbreak” (1981)
Originally titled “A Certain Heartache," Mutt Lange sensed it could be the breakthrough hit. “Bringin' On the Heartbreak” kept the band alive while they took a year recording Pyromania – thanks to MTV, who put this video in constant rotation. "The High 'n' Dry album was already history on the charts, but then MTV started playing ‘Bringin' On the Heartbreak,'" manager Cliff Burnstein said in Animal Instinct. "Slowly but surely, we started getting sales reports on the record, and it started selling about 5,000 copies a week – which was enough to get it back on the charts. This was a whole new ball game."
3. “Pour Some Sugar on Me” (1987)
The sound of rock n’ roll religion. “Pour Some Sugar on Me” remains the most important song the band ever recorded, but it was an 11th-hour addition to Hysteria. Mutt Lange and Joe Elliott were in the studio in November 1986 when Elliott began strumming a riff that stopped Lange in his tracks. The two of them worked on the song before informing the others that they had one more song to complete. That was met with trepidation – until everyone heard it. The larger-than-life track worked on every level, with the rhythm section of Savage’s Godzilla bass line and Allen’s propulsive drums providing bombastic syncopation; it's all complimented by guitars from Clark and Collen that are nothing short of sex. Collen captured the riff in the studio by using a metal guitar pick, while Elliott’s phrasing was partially inspired by the Run-DMC / Aerosmith collaboration of ‘Walk This Way.” Def Leppard was more lyrically oblique, tongue-in-cheek, svelte and sexier than their pop-metal peers – and “Pour Some Sugar on Me” is proof.
2. “Photograph” (1983)
"Photograph" had its start during the High ‘n’ Dry sessions but completing it for their third album proved to be problematic. While Def Leppard was watching the World Cup in the summer of 1982, a disinterested Clark went into the other room to work and, during a break in the game, the other members heard a larger-than-life sound. When they entered the room, Clark looked at them and simply stated, “I fixed it.” What he'd created was the momentous riff that opens “Photograph," the lead single from Pyromania and Def Leppard's first Top 40 U.S. hit. Then there was the case of the lyrics, which came from a discussion between Joe Elliott and Mutt Lange. Elliott subsequently told Rolling Stone that he was thinking of a Marilyn Monroe poster from his apartment: "So I said to Mutt, 'Wouldn't it be great to write a song about a woman who's the ultimate woman, but also a woman you could never have?' Elliott said, ‘What do you mean, never?’ And I said, ‘Because she's fucking dead!’”
1. “Hysteria” (1987)
The title track of Def Leppard’s fourth album, and their first Top 10 single in the U.S., had quite a journey to the top of this list. “Hysteria” is their most exquisite creation and the peak of their collaboration with Mutt Lange. “Rick Allen thought of the title in hospital because people were trying to climb up laundry chutes to get photos of him," Elliott wrote in 2005. "The verse was Sav’s. Phil wrote the bridge and the chorus came from Steve. Mutt, Phil, Sav and I wrote the lyrics. There are actually 11 different guitar parts. We glued all those elements together like a model kit and they worked perfectly.”
At the heart of “Hysteria” is the yin-and-yang tale of two guitar players. “On the one side, we have this creative Johnny Thunders-type guitarist. And on the other side we had Phil who was the total and utter technician,” Joe Elliott explained in the Classic Albums documentary. Collen further commented, “Me and Steve Clark developed this guitar thing, which was like harmony chords, and we never played the same thing at the same time. It would be lead, rhythm, rhythm, lead, a bit of both.”