Classic Rock

The Soundtrack Of My Life

Joe Elliott

- Interview: Paul Elliott Hysteria: The Singles and The Story So Far: The Best Of are out now via Mercury.

The Def Leppard frontman enthuses about the special records, artists and gigs that will forever be of lasting significan­ce to him.

Next year Joe Elliott will reach a major landmark. On August 1, 2019 – just a few weeks after Def Leppard headline the Download festival – the singer will celebrate his sixtieth birthday. In the soundtrack of his life, glam rock has played a significan­t role in rite of passage and as an influence on the sound that has made Def Leppard one of the biggest bands in the world. But it was The Beatles that first inspired the young Joe Elliott to sing, and it was a Beatles song, heard many years later, that moved him to tears.

The FirsT Music i reMeMber hearing

My parents told me that when I was four years old I’d sing along to The Beatles on the radio – Love Me Do or I Want To Hold Your Hand. But that’s only second-hand memories. What I remember is being about eight, sat in the back of the car on a holiday in Wales, and hearing Even The Bad Times Are Good by The Tremeloes. It had an infectious melody, and that was the first song that had a physical effect on me. I got butterflie­s in my stomach, but that could have been the bottle of pop I was drinking.

The FirsT song i PerForMed Live

I mimed Elvis Presley’s The Wonder Of You in a school play when I was eleven, but the first time I ever played live was one gig with a band called Jump, standing in for their drummer. The gig was at a community centre in Sheffield in 1976, a year before Leppard got together. The song I remember us playing was Poison Ivy.

The greaTesT aLbuM oF aLL TiMe

Mott by Mott The Hoople, 1973. It opens with All the Way From Memphis, a killer song. It was the band’s sixth album, and Ian Hunter had been pushed by Bowie to take over. In every band somebody has to take the lead, and this album was really a showcase for Ian’s incredible songwritin­g.

The guiTar hero

Mick Ronson has been my favourite guitar player from the day I heard Bowie’s Starman in seventy-two. Ronson was never a show-off. He was so good, but he didn’t have to go ‘widdly-widdly-woo’ to prove it. I love the stuff he did with Bowie and Hunter, and there’s also some phenomenal work on his second solo album, Play Don’t Worry.

The singer

Paul Rodgers nails it every time. I knew when I was 17 that I was never going to be Paul Rodgers, but I might be able to pull off something akin to what Alice Cooper and Ian Hunter did. They’re not great singers but they portray a song brilliantl­y. I love those character singers – Alice, Ian, John Lydon, Gary Holton from the Heavy Metal Kids. Their limitation­s became their strength. Mick Jagger was another, and on Street Fighting Man he delivered one of the best rock vocal performanc­es of all time.

“I knew when I was seventeen that I was never going to be Paul Rodgers.”

The songwriTer

Ian Hunter is hard to beat. Bowie, Ray Davies, Pete Towshend, Brian Wilson, they’re all fantastic. And of course, Lennon and McCartney wrote the book on how to write the book.

The besT record i’ve Made

Hysteria is Leppard’s defining album and always will be. We had these songs, Animal and Pour Some Sugar On Me, that were so perfectly crafted and really groundbrea­king. And they’ve got legs. They’re our ‘forever’ hits.

The worsT record i’ve Made

Our first one, On Through The Night. We believed in it at the time, but does a song like Answer To The Master rattle my cage now? Not really.

My saTurday nighT ParTy song

Detroit Rock City by Kiss. It’s a really uplifting song, even if at the end it’s, ‘oops, I’ve just crashed my car and died!’

My ‘in The Mood For Love’ song

I’m always in the mood for love. I would pick Summer (The First Time) by Bobby Goldsboro. It’s about a seventeen year-old kid trying to get laid by a thirty-year-old woman. Hello!

The anTheM

All The Young Dudes by Mott The Hoople. It’s the anthem of my generation. Mott played it perfectly – great intro and tempo, the chorus is to die for, the lyrics are fantastic and Ian’s delivery is brilliant.

My cuLT hero

Jobriath. He was called the first ‘rock fairy’, but I didn’t know about that at thirteen. I got his first album [Jobriath] because he looked liked Bowie, and it was insanely good. It’s basically Ziggy Stardust sung by Mick Jagger.

The besT Live band i’ve seen

The first gig I ever saw was T.Rex at Sheffield City Hall in 1971, when I was eleven. It blew my mind and made me want to be a rock star. Another show I remember clearly was UFO at the Ipswich Gaumont in 1978. They were amazing that night. And Led Zeppelin at the O2 in 2007 was pretty impressive too. I was prepared for the worst, but it was stunning.

The song ThaT Makes Me cry

In 2005 I went to see a Paul McCartney show in LA. It was a thrill seeing a genuine legend on stage. And when he did Let It Be – a song that had been in my DNA for so many years – it felt like a summary of my entire life. My chin was wobbling and my eyes were welling up.

The song i wanT PLayed aT My FuneraL

I’d have three. The first two would be Mott’s All The Young Dudes, my favourite song of all time, and Rest In Peace, for the title alone. And then Anthem by the Sensationa­l Alex Harvey Band, a Scottish lament with bagpipes, for a triumphant finale as they throw me on the fire.

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