Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell has recalled the bitter experience of seeing the first song he’d written for the band bombing when it was released as a single, even though the track had been well-received.
He’s hoping to put the bad memories behind him now that Slang, the first Def Leppard album he played on, has been re-released. Campbell joined the band in 1992 following the death of Steve Clark, and his first writing credits came with Slang four years later, including the single Work It Out.
He tells: “The first single in the States was my first writing contribution – here I was, stoked that the label had decided to go with it, and I remember someone from the management calling me up to tell me the bad news.
“Modern rock stations had tested the song and got a great reaction to it. But they realised they couldn’t play it because DJs couldn’t announce: ‘That was new from Def Leppard.’ They figured they’d lose so many listeners. They were playing Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soungarden – they couldn’t slot in Def Leppard even though they liked the track.”
With Slang the band had made a conscious effort to move away from their 80s credentials in an attempt to remain credible in the grunge era. Campbell recalls: “The underlying brief was: ‘It can’t sound like a Def Leppard album.’”
He admits: “My personal opinion is we went a little too left-field. There’s no backing vocals, which was a big trademark. There’s no real sense of that melody, the hooks. Being the new guy I didn’t rock the boat too much, but I think we went a few degrees too far left.”
But the guitarist – who recently successfully fought off cancer – is optimistic about the re-release, saying: “It’s nice that it will get a second run and be judged by a different generation. We’re glad that, with the passing of the last twenty-odd years, we can put it back out there. Hopefully it will be judged impartially this time round. “It is fresh sounding. It’s sonically very vibrant.”
Def Leppard have just begun work on a new studio album.