How Brian May Demonstrated to Def Leppard That They Had Arrived
Joe Elliott recalled the moment in 1983 when Queen guitarist Brian May demonstrated to Def Leppard that they were now a musical force.
The singer, who was speaking to SiriusXM about some of his band’s most defining moments, also joked about how he got the gig with founding guitarist Pete Willis in 1976.
“One day I bumped into Pete Willis on the way on from work, and he said he was putting a band together, and I just jumped in,” Elliott explained. “I said, 'I’ll give it a go.' And they saw my awesome record collection, and I was tall, and I got the gig! ... If I hadn’t missed the bus home that night, I wouldn't have seen Pete Willis and then I wouldn’t be [sitting] here.”
He reflected that, in the earliest days, they had only a “concept” of a band and didn’t even have any equipment. When he started writing lyrics, he made use of “everything that I knew on everything I’d bought or heard,” Elliott noted. “The naivety is what carries it across, really. It was just a bunch of young kids having a goal. It’s something that their heroes had done 10 years previously – now it’s our turn.”
You can watch the interview below.
Fast-forwarding to 1983, by which time Def Leppard was touring in support of Pyromania, Elliott remembered a show at the Forum in Los Angeles where they were told May wanted to attend. “And we were like, ‘OK, we’ll sort him out a pass.’ [The messenger] says, ‘No, he wants to come and play with you.’ We’re like, ‘Oh, – oh, wow!’” Describing May as “an enormous part of an enormous band, with an enormous influence on us,” the singer said, “So he brings his gear down and sets it up onstage. And we stood out at the mixing desk watching this iconic guitarist on our stage, start playing the riff to ‘Photograph.’
“And that was like, ‘Wow, OK, I think we’ve kind of arrived!’ We hadn’t made it, but we’d arrived, you know. … When ‘Photograph’ was voted the most popular video on MTV, [it] was a eureka moment. You didn’t get paid the second your video got played on MTV. We didn’t see a penny until that tour was finished. So we were still on a hundred dollars a week. … We were selling out arenas, but we still hadn’t seen any money, so it was just weird.” In 2019, May inducted Def Leppard into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.