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  JONATHAN CHURCHILL: DEFENDING OUR ISLAND

FORGING PAST GLORIES: DEF LEPPARD RE-RECORD THE HITS FOR DIGITAL RELEASE


jonathan churchill



Breaking news for the iPod generation: the mighty Def Leppard are embracing digital. But in a peculiar twist, the band are not making their classic albums available. Instead they are taking the trouble to re-record brand new 2012 versions of their greatest hits.

This is very strange behaviour. I mean really? How much spare time do they have?

Now the Lepps are genuine national treasures – in fact I'm staggered that they weren't invited to pour some sugar on the Queen's Jubilee. But thanks to a long-standing dispute with their ex record label, a whole generation of teenagers have grown up without hearing the awesome power of 'Gods Of War' through tinny little white headphones.

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For the last few years, Spotify and iTunes have been a wasteland for Def Leppard fans with nothing digital available at all. While smug Foreigner and Toto fans swaggered around with shiny new iPods full of digital content, for the Def Leppard faithful it was either a battered 'Hysteria' cassette and an old Walkman, or nothing.

The band did come to digital for the first time last year with 'Mirror Ball – Live And More'. The 'more' part being three brand new tracks, which reminded us all just how great their classic-era was.

In an interview with Billboard.com, lead singer Joe Elliot explained the situation: "When you're at loggerheads with an ex-record label who... is not prepared to pay you a fair amount of money and we have the right to say, 'Well, you're not doing it,' that's the way it's going to be," Elliott tells Billboard.com.

"Our contract is such that they can't do anything with our music without our permission, not a thing. So we just sent them a letter saying, 'No matter what you want, you are going to get "no" as an answer, so don't ask.' That's the way we've left it. We'll just replace our back catalog with brand new, exact same versions of what we did."

Sadly the band seems to have conveniently forgotten its own special history... and there are just a few minor points worth considering.

1. Steve Clark
2. Mutt Lange
3. Rick Allen

It's OK though because apparently Mutt has given them a big thumbs up!

According to Billboard.com: The two new versions (of 'Rock Of Ages' and 'Pour Some Sugar On Me') meanwhile, got a "total thumbs-up" from one important quarter - original producer Mutt Lange, via guitarist Phil Collen. "Phil sees Mutt a lot," Elliott says, "and he played him the re-records and (Lange) couldn't believe how brilliant they were. He was like, 'Wow guys, incredible job!' Phil was just raving about how much Mutt was raving about them."

What a relief then! If Mutt's OK with it, I'm sure that mitigates the contentious and outrageous issue of erasing Steve Clark. And of course Rick Allen pioneered his drumming style on 'Hysteria' so it is only the earlier material which will have his new sound. I don't think 'Pyromania' sold many copies so people probably won't notice...

It's not all good news though. While the excitement builds for the Lady Gaga generation who can anticipate exciting 'forged' versions of many Def Leppard classics, unfortunately the band have been energised by the process and are hinting that they may record the dreaded 'new material'.

Elliott says Def Leppard might also consider "just releasing a song or two and then put an album out when we've got 10 or 11 songs we've been releasing over time. But we'll see; we come from that old school that follows in the paths of the Eltons and McCartneys and Beatles and Stones and etc. You have this built-in thing that you should be making another album, but the world's moving on and going, 'You don't really need to.'"

But quite frankly if the band has enough time on their hands to re-record their back catalogue, then how about just writing some new hard rock tracks we can all enjoy. I just hope they don't decide to re-record 'X'.

Def Leppard's brand new recordings of 'Rock Of Ages' and 'Pour Some Sugar On Me' are available now in all the usual places. The original CDs (and LPs/cassettes) will probably be available on E-bay or, for most of us, in a box somewhere covered in dust.

Let us know what you think of this situation. Are Def Leppard right to take a stand against their former record label? How come almost every other veteran rock band has found a way to get their music online without resorting to 'forgery'? And why do they never seem to play 'Gods Of War' live?

5.7.11

Jonathan Churchill. MetalTalk.net
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