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Q&A: Joe Elliott

In 2006, the Def Leppard singer talks about the band’s long- awaited album of covers – and why it isn’t just Celebrity Stars In Their Eyes

After almost two-and-a-half years of procrastination, conjecture and internet flame wars, Def Leppard’s covers album is finally available. Titled Yeah!, it contains 14 cover versions of songs from a diverse range of artists including The Kinks, Blondie, Roxy Music and the Electric Light Orchestra, along with more obvious choices from singer Joe Elliott’s beloved glam rock heroes Mott The Hoople, David Bowie, The Sweet and T. Rex. In his review of Yeah! in this issue of Classic Rock, Philip Wilding wasn’t exactly kind to the record, but Elliott is outspoken in his defence of it.

Why the delay in the album being released, when it has been finished for ages?

We’ve been discussing this [doing a covers album] for 20 years, and decided to go ahead with it at the end of the last tour. 2004 was a gap year for Def Leppard, the first summer we hadn’t worked since 1989. I got married, Phil [Collen, guitarist] spent some with his dying father. I did the vocals whenever I felt like it. It was pencilled in for 2005, but there was an American tour [with Bryan Adams], then departures at the record company, and we went through the stress of changing management companies. Eventually we decided it was strong enough to tour, so it went onto the back burner until now.

How did you choose the songs to cover for the record? Did each member of the band just pick a handful of favourites, or was there an agenda of some kind?

The record company were in on this from day one, and they presented us with a wish list of 75. This’ll sound odd, but the 25 we would have picked were all on there. We narrowed that down to a shortlist of 17, 15 of which got recorded. There are also some bonus tracks, including [Bowie’s] Space Oddity, American Girl [by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers] and Queen’s Dear Friends.

Our only rules were that they had to be hits by British bands – which we didn’t exactly stick to in the end – and recorded before we signed our record deal [in 1979]. We wanted to show the world our true roots. Unquestionably we come from Sabbath, Purple and Zeppelin, but there’s more to us than that. We’re laying our souls on the line.

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