Def Leppard – “The Def Leppard EP” (UMC / Mercury)
The one that started it all for Def Leppard. A fledgling band at the time straight out of high school, this EP was recorded in 1978 for the princely sum of £148.50 – borrowed from vocalist Joe Elliott’s dad no less – and self-produced by the band on their own label Bludgeon-Riffola. With the sleeves being glued together by Elliott and his mum(!), the initial 1,000 pressing was distributed as a means of gaining wider exposure. At the same time, John Peel, a BBC Radio 1 DJ was fast becoming the champion of punk and alternate music and as chance would have it, visited Leppard’s home city of Sheffield, whereupon said EP was thrust into his hands by a stage invading Elliott! The EP received the vital airplay it needed, climbing up the singles chart to eventually sell out the entire pressing, but more importantly, garnering the interest of Phonograph Records, who signed the band for their debut “On Through The Night”. The rest is history. Recorded with Frank Noon on drums, the EP features 3 tracks, ‘Riding Into The Sun’, a lightweight melodic rocker that was wisely left off the debut although a new version was recorded in 1987 as a B-side to the ‘Hysteria’ single. However, the next 2 tracks would be the defining moment for Def Leppard. ‘Getcha Your Rocks Off’ was a fast rocker, driven by an ultra catchy guitar riff backed by a hard end comprising of Rick Savage’s bass and Noon’s drum work – a beautiful synthesis of heaviness and melody, not to mention instant addiction! As if to answer any critics of the band’s youth, the impressive near 8 minute ‘The Overture’ would have jaws dropping at the Rush like composition, acoustic and tranquil in its beginnings, yet leading onto epic proportions of heaviness with unashamed harmonies – not to mention some blinding solos by the late Steve Clark and Pete Willis. Despite being one of NWOBHM’s commercial success stories, the relationship between their homeland and the band has always been a disputed one, but whatever the sensitivities, this EP serves to remind me of a time when youthful talent from humble backgrounds could indeed reach for the stars, and attain it. Big time.