DEF LEPPARD Singer: Covering THIN LIZZY During Debut Concert 'Pushed Us Towards More Commercial Direction'
February 1, 2018
During a recent interview with iHeartRadio, DEF LEPPARD frontman Joe Elliott reminisced about the band's first live performances. "I remember it very well," Joe said (see video below). "I mean, I think anybody that ever forgets their first gig, there's something wrong with them. It was June of 1978. We'd only been together... the four of us formed in, like, August. We didn't even play until late September or October, because we didn't have anywhere to play or any gear. It was just the idea of being in a band. We were four-piece, and then Steve [Clark] joined, and then we were a five-piece. We rehearsed and rehearsed and rehearsed, and we went on holiday during the summer of '78, and Steve Clark got drunk and said, 'I'm quitting unless we do a gig,' because he was just sick of rehearsing. We rehearsed five, six days a week for apparently, as far as he was concerned, no end. We just wanted to get better; he just wanted to play live. The compromise was, 'All right, let's do a gig.'
"A friend of ours basically arranged this gig at our school," Joe continued. "I remember lots about it. We were very nervous. We took the bass drum out of the bass drum case, and filled the bass drum case up with beer to smuggle it in, and had a few cans before we went on. Then we went on stage, and Steve threw this fantastic pose — did the windmill for the opening chord, and forgot to turn his amp on, so complete silence. It was great. We played and sang okay. I remember it was like a glorified rehearsal, really. There was a bunch of kids [who] all sat right on the outside of the perimeter of this gym, wouldn't come anywhere near us, thought we were, like, from Mars. Didn't like the music, because they were probably all disco fans. But they tolerated it, for some strange reason, and then when we went off, we went back into this classroom, and we could hear this, like, 'More, more,' and clapping. [We] went, 'They want another one?' We came out, and we played the only cover that we did for the night, because we'd just played 45 minutes of original material, so there's no wonder they weren't really into it. We played a song called 'Jailbreak' by THIN LIZZY, and they went mental. We realized they were rock fans; they just didn't know the music. We realized then, 'Okay, we need to write more songs like this.' That kind of pushed us towards that more commercial direction, I think, or at least it was a contributing factor.
"[We were paid] five pounds out of a teacher's pocket," Elliott recalled. "It was weird, because it was like, we just gave the money to these — you say crew, [but] they were friends of ours who happened to have a [car]. None of us could drive. I think I could drive, but I didn't have a car, and my friends borrowed their parents' station wagon. We threw the kit in the back of one and the amps and the guitars in the back and crammed in there with it. We gave them money for gas. The next gig we played was about a month later in a field. We'd been promised it was going to be this big festival, and it turned out to be a wire running out of somebody's house. There wasn't even a stage – we set up on grass. It went dark, and we didn't know what to do, so our friends drove their cars in front of us and just turned their headlights on, and we finished the set. We got paid three pounds for that.
"The next gig we did was in a club in Sheffield called the Limit Club. We'd frequented this place for years as punters, just going out and watch other bands and drink. Once a month, they'd have these what they called 'free festivals,' where you didn't get paid to play, but they let everybody in for free, so you were guaranteed a full house. We were the opening act for THE HUMAN LEAGUE, which is odd because this was pre-successful HUMAN LEAGUE. This was the KRAFTWERK version of HUMAN LEAGUE, which was five guys behind plexiglass and keyboards. We had kind of a fan base of friends that came down and just took over the front and made noise, and made us feel important. So, we went from five pounds to three pounds to nothing. Of course, the end joke was then, 'Well, I guess the next gig, we're going to actually have to pay to play.' And technically, we did, because we got a real gig, but they paid us twenty pounds, but it cost us thirty-five to hire a van, so we were fifteen in the hole. It's like, 'This is not working out,' which is what encouraged us to go to the studio and record the EP. We took a huge shortcut."
DEF LEPPARD recently announced an extensive co-headlining tour with JOURNEY. Comprised of stadiums and arena venues around the U.S., the 58-city run is set to kick off in Hartford, Connecticut on May 21 and will wrap in Los Angeles, California on October 6. Tickets for most dates go on sale to the general public beginning Saturday, February 3 at 10 a.m. local time at Ticketmaster.com. American Express cardmembers can purchase tickets before the general public in select cities now.
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