Def Leppard came to realize that they were into something different. [The] New Wave of British Heavy Metal, a lot of it wasn't very professional and a lot of it wasn't very deep, guitarist Phil Collen told UCR recently.

When producer Mutt Lange started working with Def Leppard, he pushed them hard. "How come you take so long doing these songs," Collen recalled someone asking Lange, in the Hysteria period. "So you'll be talking about it in 30 years," came the reply.

Now more than 40 years on, Lange has been proven correct, time and time again, when it comes to 1983's Pyromania, his second collaboration with the Sheffield hard rockers. One thing that sticks out when listening to the band's third album now is how epic each song sounds, thanks to the elaborate introductions that were constructed for many of the songs and other flourishes that were added in.

During a conversation with Ultimate Classic Rock Nights host Matt Wardlaw to discuss the Pyromania 40 box set, singer Joe Elliott explained that in some cases, the additions came during the recording process. But for others, they had already been concocted at the time the band was working on the original demos. That's just one fascinating layer that the frontman shared with his comments below, while also remembering everything they were up against as they were hard at work on their third album.

If you listen to the demo of “Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop),” that intro is there. But it was just done on guitars. The big power chords in the front, the jangle that comes in halfway through to build up to the riff, it’s all in the original demo. But as we put the song together, Mutt said he wanted to enhance the record by putting subliminal keyboards all over it. By now, we’re halfway through the record. You know, in fairness, he’s Mutt Lange. If he makes a suggestion, it’s got to be really out of your wheelhouse for you to go, “No.” Because he normally comes up with good stuff. He’s Mutt Lange, so you want to work with somebody that comes up with good ideas. A good referee, a good suggestion maker, all of that kind of stuff.

By the time we got to enhancing that intro with Tom Dolby, who he brought in to do the keyboards, we’d already accepted the fact six months previously that we were doing the album backwards. We still didn’t have any drums. We were playing to kind of a Phil CollinsIn the Air Tonight” drum machine. It was maybe three or four months into the album that we started building the drum parts, because we didn’t want them to interfere with the vocals. They were mostly done after the vocals were written. We were writing the vocals on the fly. We did the arrangements for all 10 songs with no lyrics written. As we’d get a song done, Mutt would give the guys a day or two away and me and him would sit down and go, “Right, which song shall we do today?” We’d sit down, “What ideas have you got for lyrics?” We’d literally write a lyric a day, mostly. We might go in and reevaluate them a day or two later and change a few bits.

Listen to Def Leppard's Demo for 'Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)'

But once we put the Phantom of the Opera stuff on that intro, it just gave it a grandiose thing that we only other heard from other bands that we grew up listening to. Queen, Yes, UFO, Thin Lizzy, that would do something extraordinary in part of one of their songs. You know, it kind of makes you giggle as you do it. You go, “My God, we’ve just joined the big leagues here. Because we were still on 20 quid a week, following an album that as we went into record Pyromania, the High ‘n’ Dry album had pretty much not done a great deal. It got good reviews and all kinds of stuff, but it wasn’t until the “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak” video started getting [played a lot] on MTV, because they only had about a hundred videos. They started getting requests for it, so it started getting played more. Then, it started getting requests on the radio.

As we were nearing the end of Pyromania, we were getting [electronic] Telex messages, if you remember those, from New York. They were saying, “Hey, High ‘n’ Dry, which stalled at a quarter of a million, has now gone gold at 500 thousand and it’s flying out at 60 thousand copies a week.” Because of MTV. But as we were making this album that sounded so grandiose and expensive, we’re all on the dole! [Laughs] But we’ve got this guy at the helm, Mutt Lange, who is guiding us through the choppy waters. “Yeah, we’re going to do the drums last.” “Oh, okay, I’m glad you know what you’re doing, because I’ve got no idea!” We were just so hellbent on not making High ‘n’ Dry part two, which is basically what got said at the beginning of the project. Mutt said, “Do you want to make High ‘n’ Dry II, or do you want to make an album that nobody’s ever made?”

Having not seen Mutt for nine months, when we first got together for Pyromania, we would just discuss what been’s going on since we last saw [him]. Things that had happened in the past that we didn’t take much notice of, had really taken root now. Like, it was 1981 when the Human League released Dare and “Don’t You Want Me Baby,” with that brilliantly done drum machine. Then, there was New Order. All of these drum machine things were becoming commonplace in that alternative rock scene. But nobody was doing it in what you might call the standard rock scene. You know, in 1982 when we were making Pyromania, the new thing was Men at Work. And Asia. The established bands like Styx and REO Speedwagon were still making records like they always did.

We had this opportunity to come out all guns blazing. A British band with a much more pop/rock sound than the previous albums. Because me, Steve [Clark] and Sav [Rick Savage] had really taken more of a push towards the pop/rock side rather than the bluesy/metal stuff that Pete [Willis] liked to play, which was drying up anyway a little bit. You know, Phil wanted to join us because of that direction that we were going in. Songs like “Photograph” were more like a band like Boston, accessible rock. It wasn’t just out and out metal or something like that. The big harmony vocals, because Phil was a great singer, that was something that attracted him. That’s where me and Sav always wanted to go. You know, if you listen back to The Def Leppard E.P. in 1979, “Ride into the Sun” is a pop/rock song. Half of “Overture” is very melodic. We always wanted to do both. Like Queen, we wanted “Tie Your Mother Down,” “Now I’m Here,” “We are the Champions” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” We wanted the variety as well.

Watch Def Leppard's 'Photograph' Video

It wasn’t just the intro to "Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop).” We kind of made a big deal of every single song. Every song on side one has some kind of effect. You’ve got the Phantom of the Opera intro to “Rock! Rock! {Till You Drop).” You’ve got the guitar snag on the beginning of “Photograph.” There’s the crowd on the beginning of “Stagefright,” the whooshy bit on “Too Late for Love” and then on “Die Hard the Hunter,” you’ve got [sounds from] Vietnam, Korea, whichever war you want to pick. So we were really bringing theatrical embellishments to this whole process and loving every minute of it. If you take those out, it becomes a much more standard record.

We were at that age where technology was allowing us to do this. [We weren’t thinking about] how are we going to do this live? It’s like, “Let’s worry about that when we get in the rehearsal room. Let’s make a record.” Queen never went, “Oh, God, how are we going to play ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ let’s not do it.” They said, “No, this is a masterpiece. If we can’t do it live, at least we’ve got it on record.” That was our way of thinking. You know, records last forever, live performance comes and goes. Or at least it did until YouTube! [Laughs] But that was it. We wanted to make a record that people would hear and go, “Holy God, where the hell did this come from?” We weren’t reinventing the wheel, we were just dressing it up a bit, really.

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Gallery Credit: Eduardo Rivadavia

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