Published on February 7th, 2018 | by James Hrivnak0
12 Essential Def Leppard Deep Cuts
What has nine arms and sucks? Well, you’ve heard the joke. Here are 12 essential Def Leppard deep cuts with a Spotify playlist for you.
There are three universal truths: death, taxes, and at any given moment someone somewhere is singing ‘Pour Some Sugar on Me’ at karaoke. Recently, Def Leppard finally released their entire catalogue to streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music as well as for purchase from digital retailers iTunes, Google Play, and others. The band has a deep history, 12 albums released between 1980 and 2015, plus a couple compilations and live albums thrown in along the way. The band has amassed dozens of hits that still get airplay today, whether it’s in an arena, a bar, or grocery store (h/t to my local grocery store for spinning ‘Love Bites’ regularly), but beyond ‘Photograph,’ ‘Let’s Get Rocked,’ and ‘Two Steps Behind,’ the band has a gem-filled discography and here are 12 essential deep cuts.
- ‘It Don’t Matter’ – On Through the Night (1980). Before Def Leppard broke out with Pyromania in 1983, they were lumped in something called the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (abbreviated to NWOBHM—no, really). This period captures the band’s unbridled energy, but far more ragged than the studio polish they’d become known for. ‘It Don’t Matter’ appears on their debut’s second side and showcases the young band’s penchant for pub rock riffage and pop hooks.
- ‘You Got Me Runnin’’ – High ‘N’ Dry (1981). Def Leppard’s second album was the first they worked with producing wunderkind Robert John “Mutt” Lange, who muscled up the band’s sound and helped hone their songwriting. ‘You Got Me Runnin’’ could have sounded like filler, but the band treats it as if it has the potential to be a hit single. Such is the genius of Mutt Lange. (Hear the track)
- ‘Mirror, Mirror (Look Into My Eyes)’ – High ‘N’ Dry (1981). One of the harder, more menacing songs in the band’s discography, this one still gets regular rotation on tours and for good reason. It’s got a hypnotic riff and killer chorus. (Hear the track)
- ‘Love and Affection’ – Hysteria (1987). One of the few songs on Hysteria that wasn’t a single (seven of the 12 tracks charted!), ‘Love and Affection’ closes the album with the kind of perfectionist slick mid-tempo ballad that’s the band’s true secret weapon. See also “Stand Up (Kick Love Into Motion).” (Hear the track)
- ‘Tear it Down’ – ‘Animal’ single (1987) / Adrenalize (1992). Never to waste a song, every track from the Hysteria sessions has seen a second life: all of the B-sides have appeared in revised versions on either Adrenalize or Retro Active. “Tear it Down” closed out the former, but here it is in its original B-side form without the early-90s gloss. (Hear the track)
- ‘White Lightning’ – Adrenalize (1992). A tribute to late guitarist Steve Clark, who passed away from alcohol poisoning in 1991, “White Lightning” is Adrenalize’s centrepiece and the band’s most dramatic, epic song. (Hear the track)
- ‘Move with Me Slowly’ – ‘Work it Out’ single / Slang (1996). Slang came at a time when perceived relics of the 1980s were fighting for relevance. Sure, 1995’s collection Vault sold well on warm memories of the band, but Slang wasn’t able to ride that wave and died a quick death with critical indifference and commercial disdain, though it’s the band’s most stylistically adventurous work that holds up quite well. ‘Move with Me Slowly’ appeared as a B-side and as a bonus track on the Japanese release, and is now on the deluxe version. It’s the band with their guard completely down: they’re open and relaxed, and it’s a swaggering, swooning Stones-y jam (listen to those solos!). (Hear the track)
- ‘Guilty’ – Euphoria (1999). Euphoria returned to the blueprint of Hysteria and Adrenalize, but augmented with some late-90s studio flourishes (‘21st Century Sha La La La Girl,’ you have not aged gracefully) and minor detours in adult contemporary pop rock, which actually suits the band just fine, like on this ‘Hysteria’ rewrite. (Hear the track)
- ‘Everyday’ – X (2002). Like Slang, X is a black sheep in the band’s catalogue for veering away from their signature sound, diving into the deep end of adult contemporary pop rock. X very much sounds like 2002 (there’s even a Max Martin collaboration). It’s over-produced, sounding sanitized and safe, but it’s the band exploring the ins-and-outs of their craft, like on this unassuming jangly earworm. (Hear the track)
- ‘Four Letter Word’ – X (2002). More than a decade removed, late-period Def Leppard is pretty rewarding, if you’re willing to search for those diamonds in the rough. “Four Letter Word” is one of those, all tight riffs and punchy hooks. On Earth 2, this is a hit single. (Hear the track)
- ‘Drive-In Saturday’ – Yeah! (2006). Yeah! Is a loving tribute to Def Leppard’s influences, and it’s pretty great as far as covers albums go. Plus the band sounds young and energized as ever when they tear through the likes of Blondie, Roxy Music, T. Rex, Bowie, and others. I could pretty much drop anything from that album here, but my heart belongs to this Aladdin Sane classic. (Hear the track)
- ‘Invincible’ – Def Leppard (2015). The band’s self-titled release is the best they’ve sounded in more than a decade, finally feeling free to unabashedly cherry pick their own highlights and dabble with gleeful abandon. As an album, it’s about four tracks too long, but boasts some of their best material in ages. ‘Invincible’ sees the band embracing their history, while channeling A Flock of Seagulls-style new wave (in the best possible way). (Hear the track)
This isn’t an exhaustive list—if there’s a deep cut you love you wanted to see here, let us know in the comments below.