14. DEF LEPPARD – Part One

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Well, first I have to say it’s brilliant so many DEF LEPPARD fans have checked out the blog already, even before we start. So … here we go …

Where to start – the music, the Rock’n’Roll stories, the band’s unswerving loyalty to Rick Allen, drunk with Steve Clark in Chelsea, the artwork, meeting the band in Ibiza, touring, watching ‘Spinal Tap’ with them all (hilarious), diamonds in Dublin’s Cartier, the ‘Terror Twins’? I guess I’ll just dive in and see where memories lead me … I did promise ‘diamonds in Dublin’ so I’ll definitely get there this time.

I did remember something that happened a few years ago which catapulted me dramatically back to the very early days working with the band. I can’t remember exactly when it was but I know it was the first time I’d met up with the band since an event which radically changed the political world we now live in. I met Joe first and he said, ‘It’s really weird Andie … when 9/11 happened…’ ‘I know,’ I said, ‘I thought the same as soon as I saw it.’  ‘PYROMANIA’, we both said in unison.

Iconic sleeve design by Andie Airfix

Nearly 20 years earlier, I met with Peter Mensch of Q Prime who managed DEF LEPPARD. Peter was the young protege of Cliff Burnstein, the founder of Q Prime – it was then, and still is, one of the best and most influential management companies in rock history. Peter’s brief for ‘Pyromania’ was refreshing and he was obviously excited by the challenge of the project. ‘The thing is,’ he said, ‘DEF LEPPARD are different to your average heavy rock band – the sleeve needs to reflect that. We’ve all had enough of tattoos, terrible pictures of half-naked women riding motorbikes and fire-breathing monsters – it’s all too cliched now. We need something different – more modern.’ ‘How – different?’ I said. ‘We need to go back to basics,’ he said. ‘We need to redefine the image of heavy rock.’

No challenge there then. I stumbled out onto the street in Earls Court, London – very aware of how important the project was. Not just for me (it was potentially a defining moment in my career as a designer) but, in terms of responsibility, it was an important step in the band’s rise to stardom. I realised I had to create an extraordinary image and present it in an original way. There were some things I couldn’t mess around with though; it WAS STILL ROCK’N’ROLL and with that comes important values that cannot be ignored or diluted – the anarchy, the sheer energy of the ‘in your face’ music and it’s ability to rocket emotions into overdrive. Crucially whatever I came up with had to reflect the energy of a generation rebelling against the Establishment. No matter what people say, it WAS different 25 years ago, and music, especially rock’n’roll, was one of the few mediums where you could express how fucked off you were, revelling in the company of like-minded people who defiantly held up two fingers to the status quo. Long live Rock’n’Roll.

Ok, a short diversion here (you should be used to them by now) but it’s relevant. I was in Washington in 1971, (yes I am that old) and I was there to add my voice to the millions who were objecting to the war in Vietnam. Think of the million who gathered in London demonstrating against an illegal and mis-judged war in Iraq – but on a much bigger scale. A state of seige existing in the Capital and the Nixon administration were so threatened they brought in 10,000 Federal troops, 4,000 paratroopers were on ‘War Alert’ at an airforce base 15 miles outside Washington, 5,000 DC police were deployed and 2,000 National Guard patrolled the streets. Government tactics involved low-level helicopter sweeps over the crowds (terrifying), the use of tear gas, actual combat assaults on those surrounding the Washington monument, and thousands of troops controlled all roads in and out of the city. The largest mass arrest in US history was the apprehension of 12,000 protesters, most of whom were detained in a football stadium without food or water. Luckily I managed to avoid arrest and attended the massive protest concert which brought the demonstration to an end. Music, once again was a common language which brought focus to the event, uniting disparate groups of people in a common cause. It was an exhilerating experience and a defining moment in US history. It was not the only factor in Nixon’s decision to bring home the troops from Vietnam, but it sure as hell woke up America to the to the error of participating in a war that couldn’t be won.

PYROMANIA’. So there I was sitting in Battersea Park, London, watching ducks laugh (they so do don’t they?) thinking ‘What would really freak people out as an image?’ Inspired by the title, and stretching the concept to its extreme, I tried to envisage what would constitute an attack on our materialistic world that would be totally unacceptable. An attack on a skyscraper was what I came up with. The ‘sight’, aimed at the building, emphasised the attack was a deliberate action. I’ll get to the details of design later but the point here is to give some background to the concept behind the sleeve design. It’s weird looking at the cover now, in the context of 9/11, but even without that context it remains a powerful image that is both subversive and terrifyingly aggressive.

On a lighter note. The ‘Terrible Twins. Dublin. Diamonds. Steve and Phil were legless in Dublin and they decided it would be fun to head for Cartier and spend some money. Cartier were not prepared for the 2 lunatics, off their heads, who tumbled into their precious, expensive environment, flaunting a fistful of credit cards. It must have really pissed them off to have to politely deal with the dangerously unknown quantity lurching around the shop. They started to buy stuff and the assistant they were dealing with was smugly confident that at some point the credit cards would explode. I can’t remember whether it was Phil or Steve, but one of them asked the hapless individual, ‘Where are the fuckin’ diamonds? We want big diamonds.’ At this point the assistant thought his time had come, but as each sale was processed the card delivered a resounding confirmation of the sale. The boys decided to push the limits, but as the diamonds got bigger, and prices became astronomical, each sale was processed. With their bags of goodies, the Boys left the shop and headed home.

If the assistant’s world was thrown into chaos and insanity he couldn’t deal with that day, he must have thought at least the shop had made a fortune. Not to be I’m afraid. Realising the next day that their impromptu extravagant spending spree had made them the beneficiaries of  ‘fuckin’ rubbish we don’t want’, Steve and Phil went back to Cartier and told the assistant exactly that and dumped their treasure trove on the counter, denying the poor bastard the only consolation he had for the ordeal he’d suffered the previous day. The small fortune they had given Cartier was retrieved and the Twins sauntered out of the shop. Pure genius. Pure Rock’n’Roll.

I think that’s probably enough for this time. Next week I’ll explore the ‘Hysteria’ phenomena, my times with Steve in Chelsea and the stratospheric rise to fame of one of the most successful bands in the world. I may throw a few random short blogs into the mix in the meantime.

Watch this space.

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23 Responses to “14. DEF LEPPARD – Part One”

  1. Megan Says:

    Thanks for taking the time to share this with all us fans, I enjoyed it!

  2. Charlie D Says:

    That was awesome.
    You lucky dog, hanging with Def Lep……Is that the same shopping trip that, afterward, inspired Phil to quit drinking alcohol? Or that was watches, right….. hmmm
    Keep the stories coming. I just hung up a BRAND NEW, from 1983, Pyromania poster over the weekend that I had bought online months ago. It looks killer. Great concept Andrew!
    So great that, me, a 36 year old man feels totally comfortable hanging it in his bedroom. lol Later……

  3. Patricia Ann Calobong Says:

    I always enjoy looking at videos of Joe Elliott (England) when he was a young sprout. Thank you for sharing these videos with the public.

  4. Benjamin Says:

    I love hearing stuff like this….thanks for sharing. Can’t wait to hear the inspirations for the Hysteria sleeve.

  5. Dina Says:

    Thank you so much! I’m ready to read as many stories as you want to post. I’ve been so depressed since the Leps cancelled the rest of their tour; I had tickets to see them on the last night. So I’ve been re-watching old and not-so-old footage, and listening to the cd’s. Thanks again for sharing your stories with the fans.

  6. Dawn Says:

    Thanks for a great story! I was supposed to see them in Atlantic City tonight, but it was cancelled so this story is lifting my spirits a little.

  7. w r gibbs Says:

    Love to hear any stories about the Def Leppard guys!
    Thanks for the bit about ducks laughing-it made me smile.
    Keep it coming!

  8. Barbara Says:

    Thanks so much for this! :) And yes, the ducks do seem to laugh, don’t they?! lol.

  9. mikeerson Says:

    I wanted to hear more about:
    The pyro design…. where you were when it hit you – yeah, I’m an artist and I know there are those moments when a design smacks you upside the brain and you can’t wait to get to the drawing board = or computer = lol
    I also wanted to hear what you were doing when the twins were buying stuff…. were you encouraging them? “This would look good in my bathroom, but I don’t have the money” LOL…. You weren’t taking advantage of our guitar heros were ya??? LOL What exactly were YOU doing???
    I gotta tell ya, I love your art…. and I’m thrilled my favorite band found you…. Your art also was another added influence to love this band…. When did I start loving them? ….Early 80s in Denver, Colorado…. I went to see Billy Squire = Never heard of Def Leppard…. When the band started playing, I knew their music and after each song said: I know that one… Joe got a little too close to the edge of the stage and a fan jumped up and grabbed him by the neck… the three guitarists ran up from behind and lowered the necks of the guitars as if they were going to chop this fan in half = lol… the fan released, joe staggered backward…. the band never missed a beat – THAT IS WHEN I FELL IN LOVE WITH DEF LEPPARD.

  10. JoesLover Says:

    I have been a Fan since the late 70’s and the 80’s and still am in the 90’s and 2000 I am a def leppard junkie….. I Love watching Joe stomp around as He does now adays by far than I did in the 80’s.

  11. Lindsey Says:

    Thank you so much for sharing these stories!

    “Fuckin’ rubbish we don’t want.” That’s amazing! Hahaha ;)

  12. crazy for def leppard Says:

    I was going to see the Leps for a 3rd time this tour in Columbus Ohio, but it was cancelled, so these stories give me a little laugh. I’ve been a fan forever and always will be. Rock on boys and I hope everyone gets healthy so they can come back next Year. Happy Thanksgiving & Merry Christmas everyone.

  13. blue hosting Says:

    Very cool. I’ll be reading all your entries!

  14. Lisa Says:

    Thanks so much for sharing the stories and the insights…..

  15. ST Says:

    More, more, more! Thanks!

  16. Kelly Douglas Says:

    What a great Terror Twins story – truly priceless. Thanks for giving me a big laugh – I needed it.

  17. Stephie Says:

    Thank you for sharing your experiences! Looking forward to the next installment.

  18. Tashika Brown Says:

    Great story…looking forward to the next!

  19. Rick Says:

    AWESOME I just can’t wait part two. Hysteria cover its just pure genius.

  20. Rick Williams Says:

    Thanks for posting the story about phil and steve lol lol(bet that dude never forgot them) my aunt over in england first turned me on to DL sent me there original record still have it. Love your artwork your images defined the band and set them apart Great Job keep the stories comin:)

  21. Gia Says:

    Wow…the fact that both you and Joe had the same thought about Pyromania’s cover…I thought the same exact thing about the irony and relation. Great to hear how you came up with the creative covers for both albums (as I still call it and will always call new releases “albums”!). Love to hear stories from the past from their tours, etc…thanks for sharing and allowing us longtime fans to enjoy!

    DLMomAz

  22. raymond Says:

    man thanks for this story… these are the inside information we the fan’s need to know… it’s nice to read something new in the history of def leppard.

  23. Regeana Says:

    Wanna say Thank You, the art work goes oh so well with all the guys have done! I have been a Huge Fan of the Lepps since 1983 way back in high school days! They are an inspiration with all the good and bad they have been through it just shows we are all human no matter how big they get and even though us (their fans) see them as Rock Gods they are the ultimate “Mate next door”!
    Love the art work and love seeing on all the things that is Def Leppard!
    Andie you are the 7th Def Leppard member with Malvin being the 6th!
    Rock On and thanks!

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