The year was 1979.
I was at Rosemont Horizon (now Allstate Arena) to cover a Ted Nugent concert, but wound up missing Nugent's entire performance after being blown away by the opening band and opting to stay backstage and interview an energized group of British teens.
These fresh-faced rockers were Def Leppard, then promoting their Mercury Records debut album, “On Through The Night,” which kick-started a 30-plus year career still going strong today.
“The only good thing about getting old,” laughed Leppard guitarist Phil Collen, "is that you become better players, better singers and a better band with the passing of each year.”
While they have soared to great heights of success together, they have also cried and suffered great losses together — the death of guitarist and childhood friend Steve Clark in 1991 and the 1984 car crash that caused drummer Rick Allen to lose his left arm.
“Families members support each other and get each other through hard times,” Collen said. “That’s what we do in this band, that is what has kept Def Leppard together and moving forward. We’re very much a family.”
“Rock Of Ages” — the summer movie starring Tom Cruise — borrowed its name from one of Def Leppard’s best-known songs. It’s one of two older songs the group recently re-recorded (the other is “Pour Some Sugar On Me”). Both are available for purchase at iTunes.com, Amazon.com and other digital music outlets.
Collen and his mates are currently headlining a hard-rocking summer tour package supported by fellow ‘80s MTV-era metal artists Poison and Lita Ford. The tour runs through September and hits Rosemont’s Allstate Arena on July 19.
Def Leppard is also one of the best-selling recording artists of all time.
Their 1987 album “Hysteria” — which marks its 25th anniversary this summer — earned them the honor of being one of only five artists, alongside Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Van Halen and Pink Floyd, to be certified “Diamond” sales status after going 12 times platinum in the United States, and selling more than 20 million copies worldwide. “Pyromania” became Leppard’s second album to be certified Diamond.
Because of the anniversary some deep cuts from “Hysteria” have been resurrected for the current tour, along with that album’s mega-hits “Animal,” “Armageddon It,” “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” “Love Bites” and “Rocket.”
“It was suggested that we do the entire album, but we only have an hour and forty (minutes) to play, so we’ve just hand picked a couple of songs we don’t normally do we think the fans will enjoy hearing, like ‘Gods Of War’ and ‘Women’,” Collen said. “This is a really a fast-paced set. We cram so much stuff into this show and people are really, really loving it.”
There is a short acoustic set in the middle that has become one of the highlights of the show for both the band and its fans.
“This is an all-new show so it’s very fresh,” Collen said.