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During their '80s heyday, Def Leppard found a territory midway between traditional British hard rock and slickly produced pop-metal. Appealing to both audiences, and outliving a couple of serious tragedies, made Def Leppard one of the most successful hard rock groups of the decade. Founding members Pete Willis (guitar) and Rick Savage (bass) were part of the metal band Atomic Mass that came together at Tapton School in Yorkshire; guitarist Steve Clark, drummer Rick Allen and singer Joe Elliott all joined soon afterward. All three were still in their teens, and Elliott was recruited as lead singer after failing his audition as guitarist. Elliott also gave the band its new name, Deaf Leopard; the spelling was soon changed in an obvious nod to Led Zeppelin. Still leaning toward metal, the band released its first EP on its own Bludgeon RIffola label; two of its songs were repeated on their debut album, On Through the Night. The album didn't chart in America but at home Def Leppard were hailed-with other emerging bands, notably Motorhead, Iron Maiden and Saxon-as part of a new wave of British metal. They took a decisive step by recording the followup, High 'n' Dry, with US producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange, who streamlined the sound considerably, pumping up their melodic hooks and their anthemic Slade-like choruses. This approach was refined on 1983's Pyromania, which made the band worldwide stars; seven of its ten tracks were successful singles. The album also marked the debut of guitarist Phil Collen, who stepped in when Willis was fired for excessive drinking. Hard times reared their head during the recording of Pyromania's followup. The first sessions (with Meat Loaf partner Jim Steinman) were scrapped and Rick Allen then suffered a car crash which severed his left arm. This had little effect in the studio, as Mutt Lange (who eventually returned as producer) preferred to use programmed drums; but it required Allen to develop an electronic kit for live shows, enabling him to trigger sounds with both feet. (The band insisted that letting him go was never a possibility.) But their musical luck held out; after a three-year delay Hysteria topped the US and UK charts and produced another seven hit singles, including the glam rock throwback "Pour Some Sugar On Me." Tragedy again struck afterwards when Steve Clark died of alcohol and prescription drug overdose in January 1991. Phil Collen played all the guitars on Adrenalize , Def Leppard's last chart-topping album; guitarist Vivian Campbell joined afterwards. With Lange out of the picture, the band lost some momentum with a string of departures: A darker Nine Inch Nails-influenced album (1995's Slang), a ballad-heavy pop album (2002's X), and an album of '70s glam-rock covers (2006's Yeah!). The band nonetheless persevered, beginning a Las Vegas residency in 2013, and still touring into the late 2010s.
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