Review: Definitely: The Official Story of Def Leppard
Genesis Publications (May 18th, 2023)
Reviewer: Jason Hopper
Here is something that I never thought I’d find myself doing…reviewing a book. When the book is a detailed history of one of my favorite bands, then I could not pass up the opportunity. ‘Defnitely: The Official Story of Def Leppard’ is a 300-page sequential account of the band that includes interviews, promotional materials, news clippings, old itineraries, plane tickets, schedules, letters from the record company, and anything else the band or its fans accumulated over the length of their existence.
I knew most of the stories about the band having followed them for over 35 years. There are the familiar retellings of how the opening words to ‘Rock of Ages’ came to be, Rick Allen’s debut at Donington Park after his accident, and Steve Clark’s losing battle to alcohol addiction. What I enjoyed were the little stories in between that to my knowledge have never been discussed before, like the disastrous first show on the ‘High N Dry‘ tour due to Joe Elliot finishing up ‘Me and My Wine’ and hours later going to perform with a hoarse voice. I had no idea John Sykes sang backing vocals on ‘Heaven Is’ and nearly got the guitar player slot. There’s also a great story regarding Phil Collen and his camouflaged pants sans shirt look during the ‘Pyromania‘ tour that I won’t ruin here but found quite humorous. Stories like this offer fascinating insight, especially during the making of their first four albums.
There are interesting discussions from various members regarding their mindset during these periods. The book lays out their history with their albums breaking up the chapters of the book. Joe Elliott is the prominent person being interviewed. His input takes up around 50 percent of the text. They also included old Steve Clark interviews regarding the albums and status of the band at various time periods. What I found disappointing was Pete Willis’ involvement. He is given a measly three small paragraphs, presumably from previously released interviews. If you are going to be giving a founding member just three paragraphs in a 300 page book, why bother including him at all?
Another small critique is the way the book speeds up at it approaches their more recent history. There are a lot of great details straight through the ‘X’ album. Right after that, there’s less discussion on the creation and insight into the last four albums and more of an emphasis on management changes and how touring helped them to gain a new audience and appreciation, leading to their eventual inclusion into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame (which I could not care less about). While many fans may not desire to know the ins and outs of these albums, it still creates a weird imbalance compared to the overall structure of the book.
Before reviewing this, I had no plans to purchase it. Being that the book is 70% visuals, I had previously purchased the Ross Halfin collection on the visual history of the band that came out 12 years ago. I figured I did not need another book that was similar, but I was wrong. This book is more than a collection of professional photographs. You get lots of candid photos, what seems like every photo the band took of themselves when they were first starting out. Tales that, to my knowledge, you’ve never heard before, interesting promo pieces, various handwritten letters. They even threw in Trivial Pursuit cards that reference the band. So much history that the band and/or their fans saved up and were utilized here to give a rich, detailed account of the band throughout their lifetime.
Casual fans may not appreciate it as much as it rewards long time fans of the band, who will surely eat this up. This is the definitive visual and textual collection of the band, and at an affordable price, I know what I’m asking for as a gift for my birthday.