DEF LEPPARD's JOE ELLIOTT: 'I Have An Issue With The Term 'Heavy Metal''

May 11, 2024

During a new appearance on the "Rockonteurs With Gary Kemp And Guy Pratt" podcast, Joe Elliott once again dismissed suggestions that DEF LEPPARD is a heavy metal band. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "I have an issue with the term 'heavy metal' because everybody outside of rock always thinks if you're a heavy metal band, it's like bad news… You get this impression that everybody's a moron.

"[AC/DC] were a blues rock band," he explained. "UFO and THIN LIZZY were not heavy metal. MOTÖRHEAD, even they had a blues influence to them… QUEEN were never a heavy metal band, but they had a couple of heavy metal songs, thanks to Brian May. And I think we were pretty much the same way. It was rock — absolutely heavy rock, for sure."

Elliott continued: "You listen to our first EP [from 1979], there's a song called 'Ride Into The Sun', which is a total pop song. But then '[Get Your] Rocks Off' was a, full-on rock song.

"If we're heavy metal, then so are THE ROLLING STONES, 'cause it's two guitars, bass, drums and a singer.

"It's a silly, silly term," Joe added. I like 'rock'. When you start pigeonholing, it gets on my tits, to be quite honest, because can't we just all be just a rock band or a pop band or be both?"

Four years ago, Elliott addressed the fact that DEF LEPPARD's debut single, "Getcha Rocks Off", on the band's own label, Bludgeon Riffola, helped kickstart the whole New Wave Of British Heavy Metal movement.

While a handful of NWOBHM bands, most notably IRON MAIDEN and DEF LEPPARD, achieved global success, most of the genre has been consigned to relative obscurity. Ironically, thrash — the more extreme metal subgenre that was directly influenced by NWOBHM — wound up having more commercial appeal and staying power.

He told uDiscover Music: "Even after all these years, the British media still try to lump us in with the NWOBHM, whereas the American media still try to pigeonhole us as a 'hair metal' band, but none of that has ever stuck because we became established as a standalone band," Elliott said. "The fact of the matter is, only two bands of note survived the NWOBHM tag — that's us and IRON MAIDEN, and we're vastly different bands. DEF LEPPARD are where we are now — playing stadiums and beyond, and inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame — because of who we are rather than because we were part of a movement."

Elliott has consistently dismissed suggestions that DEF LEPPARD was once a heavy metal band, telling VH1 in a 2005 interview: "We've had this argument many times. If you put Lemmy, Scott Ian and [Ronnie James] Dio in a room and say 'Heavy metal — DEF LEPPARD, discuss,' they'd all burst out laughing. But at the same time, you could take Pink and Christina Aguilera and say 'DEF LEPPARD — pop music' and they'd do the same thing. I don't know where we stand. I don't think we ever believed we were a metal band. I think MAIDEN were a metal band and a very good one. We're a rock band."

While promoting DEF LEPPARD's 2006 covers album "Yeah!", Elliott told about DEF LEPPARD being associated with New Wave Of British Heavy Metal bands: "Lumping us in with IRON MAIDEN was as ridiculous as lumping us in with DEPECHE MODE. And we've spent 20-odd years trying to tell the whole world that we're not a British heavy metal band. Now, if people finally hear the songs that influenced us, they might finally get the picture."

In a 2021 interview with "The Jeremy White Show", Elliott pushed back against the suggestion that DEF LEPPARD at some point moved away from its New Wave Of British Heavy Metal roots. "We didn't move away from anything 'cause we were never in it," he said. "We were put there by other people, and we would sit there kicking and screaming 'cause, youth being what it is, you're, like, 'Don't lump me in with that lot.'

"To me, there was only ever two bands that came out of that movement, and it was us and IRON MAIDEN, that have actually made something of themselves," he explained. "There was a lot of potential that fell by the wayside. To me, putting either of those two bands, us and MAIDEN, in the NWOBHM thing, is like saying that THE BEATLES were part of the Mersey sound. They weren't. They were the fucking BEATLES. They invented everything; everybody else followed in their footsteps and their slipstream.

"A lot of these bands, it was just because of the time period. Disco was dying on its ass. New wave was taking over as a pop phenomenon now rather than punk, and it was time for some rock music back in. 'Cause 1975, that was the last time that there was any love, at the time, for bands like [DEEP] PURPLE, [URIAH] HEEP, [LED] ZEPPELIN, [BLACK] SABBATH. Then punk came in and kicked everybody up the ass. But then when that didn't last and the new wave stuff was a bit more pop, there was rock coming back in it, but influenced by punk. I mean, you listen to early MAIDEN, it was punk, especially with [Paul] Di'Anno on vocals. You listen to our first album, songs like 'Wasted' and 'Get Your Rocks Off' were very influenced by punk, even if they don't sound like punk songs — short 10-, 15-second guitar solos instead of these things that lasted longer than a BEATLES song.

"It's an interesting thing that people always lumped us into that," Joe continued. "And in America, for example, we got lumped into the 'hair metal' thing. It's, like, how? All of a sudden we disappeared at the end of 1983 and we don't reappear until August '87. Something happens in Los Angeles while we're living in a frickin' windmill in Holland, and we get roped into it. It doesn't make any sense. I mean, I'd be the first to admit that with bands like WARRANT, 'Cherry Pie' — come on, it sounds like '[Pour Some] Sugar [On Me]'. Not that some of our stuff didn't sound like other people that came before us, but there wasn't an overload of that kind of stuff. But the fact is that some lazy media folk would lump us in with it, even though we were a) British, b) never spent any time on Sunset Boulevard. And, as I said, we were living just outside Amsterdam, watching windmills go around. What came out of us musically had nothing to do with anything else. It was totally us.

"Like I said, we've always wanted to be a standalone band," Elliott added. "And I've been accused year for decades now, 'Oh, he's being very defensive, isn't he?' And it's not being defensive. It's just trying to explain it to people that don't listen. And you do it, you do a round the press for a new album, and you have 3,000 interviews, and then the next time you put a record out, you're back to square one again. It didn't work, which is why when we did the 'Yeah!' album, we thought, 'Well, you know what? They don't listen when we talk. Maybe they will listen when we sing and dance.' Which is why you've got BLONDIE, David Essex, ROXY MUSIC, [David] Bowie, [Marc] Bolan, all that kind of stuff. No 'Smoke On The Water', no 'Rock And Roll', no 'Paranoid'. That's not us."

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