Def Leppard's Joe Elliott: My Life in 15 Songs

U.K. hitmakers' singer on "Pour Some Sugar on Me," "Photograph" and other glammy gems

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"Tie Your Mother Down" (1992)

We did this at the tribute show [The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness], and it was great to be a part of it. I've been friends with Brian May for years — in '83 he got up onstage with Def Leppard at the L.A. Forum, and six months after that, I ended buying a house 20 minutes from his. We hung out all the time throughout the Eighties. Brian was also the first person to ring me when Steve Clark passed away. And, apparently, I was the first person to call him when Freddie died. When they were putting together this tribute, Brian phoned me and said, "Will you perform, please?" And I said, "Of course. You guys are one of the reasons we're a band."

The performance itself was a little kind of deer-in-the-headlights. To be quite honest, when you get up there, you don't really even know what's happening. It's like three minutes and that's it. This was the first song of the set, and they didn't want to start with a guest, so Brian took the first verse. Then I took the second verse and Slash took the solo. Done. No soundcheck, 90,000 people in the stadium and a billion-and-a-half more watching on the telly. No pressure, then! Then you spend your time backstage talking to anybody from Elton John to Elizabeth Taylor to Robert Plant. It was surreal. We were celebrating, but celebrating a very sad situation. We all would have rather had no reason to be there. So you had these mad juxtapositions of emotions. A very enjoyable day, but for the wrong reasons.

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