THE TOP TEN BANDS MOST OFTEN MISCATEGORIZED AS HAIR METAL: #4, DEF LEPPARD
Yeah, sure, I could fall back on the whole Van Halen “they really pre-dated hair metal” argument and put this article to bed right now, but that would be too easy. And, besides, there are plenty of other reasons why you should cringe every time someone referes to Def Lep as “hair metal” or “glam.”
Sure, Def Lep covered some of the same thematic bases as a most hair metal bands — namely, sex (with and without love) and the awesome power of rock n’ roll. But those lyrical tropes date back as far as rock music itself, so they don’t really count. And, sure, Def Leppard had some of the slickest production out there — but they were sharing a producer with AC/DC and Foreigner (MUTT FUCKING LANGE — show some respect), not Warrant and Winger (hello, Beau Hill). And, yeah, it’s easy to find pictures of Def Lep dressed like idiots, but guess what? It was the 80s. Everyone dressed like an idiot. I literally cannot remember seeing a single person with decent fashion sense in the 1980s. It was just, like, a ten year period when everyone temporarily went retarded, attire-wise. (And, for the record, I can’t find a single photo of the band where anyone is dressed like a lady; even the amount of hair product they used seems to be fairly reasonable by the standards of the day.)
So what does that make Def Leppard? Oh yeah. Just one of the most awesome arena rock bands of all time.
In fact, I suspect that’s why Def Leppard can still pack pretty large venues, while the remaining members of Warrant do everything they can to distance themselves from Jani Lane, lest they alienate the fifty fans they have left. While I think what most people would consider Def Lep’s essential albums — that would be the Lange era of High N’ Dry, Pyromania, Hysteria and Adrenalize — are a little dated, they’re also still a lot of awesome. I can’t remember the last time I actively listened to Slaughter, but I’ll still crank Hysteria a couple of times a year.
As we so often say here on MetalSucks — it’s about the songs, stupid. My ever-ongoing love affair with “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak” and “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and “Let’s Get Rocked” isn’t rooted in simple nostalgia (although those songs do make me nostalgic) — it’s rooted in my desire to get fucked up and scream along with Godzilla-sized anthems. If you don’t like “Rock of Ages,” you don’t like fun. (Fuck — we used a “Foolin’” joke to name an entire category here at MS.)
Ultimately, as my friend Anso would put it, Def Leppard’s grasp of melody was just far too strong for them to be lumped in with the andrognyous star fuckers on the Sunset Strip, whose music, more often than not, proved to have a real one n’ done quality. I may give Def Leppard shit from time to time, but I’d fucking throw down with Adrenalize right now.
THE LIST SO FAR: