Ten years ago, Def Leppard teamed up with a teenage Taylor Swift for an episode of CMT’s Crossroads. With the band set for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March (Swift will be eligible in 2031, if you’re keeping track), Elliott recently looked back on his band’s career on the Rolling Stone Music Now podcast – including that collaboration. To hear the whole discussion, press play below or download and subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.
It’s been 10 years. What signs did you see that this young woman was going to basically conquer the world?
Well, she was already pretty big, so the conquer the world was something that was either gonna happen or wasn’t. In fairness, she really did go out, full bore, and conquer the world. Good luck to her for doing that, you know? The whole thing came together because somebody walked into our dressing room with a laptop… He goes, “It’s Taylor Swift, she’s doing this interview, and she said there was only band that she would ever do a Crossroads with, and it was Def Leppard.” We went, “Wow, OK, get in touch with her, see what she thinks.” Lo and behold, couple of months go by and, all of a sudden, we’re doing this show. We’ve always been that poke-noses-out-of-joint kind of band. I loved the idea of something that’s gonna either piss people off or they go, good for you for doing something different. If you’re gonna do collaborations, I don’t see the point in us doing a song with Bon Jovi. Do you know what I mean? It’s like, I’d prefer the idea of Jon doing a song with like, Tom Waits. Us doing something with Loudon Wainwright III or Leonard Cohen. Somebody completely off the wall. Or Elvis Costello and Motorhead. Can you imagine what that would sound like?
How did it all work?
Getting hooked in with Taylor was great. She was 17 years old. We were more than willing to do this. We got a new record just out. It was a bit of fun. It was a four-day project. It was two days of rehearsals. It was two shows and everybody did their homework. We turned up knowing all the chords, knowing all the lyrics. There weren’t really any difficulties. There were a couple of moments where we sat down, me and Taylor sat down, and she says, “I can’t sing that line,” ’cause it was a bit too risqué, in [“Pour Some Sugar on Me.”] So we’d swap things around. And the fact that I was actually singing from the male point of view in some of her stuff, like in “Love Story.” As you say, I’m not going to sing something and half-ass it. I’m going to give it my all. Because it doesn’t matter. It’s a one off project and you’ve got to sell yourself in the right light. It makes no difference to me whether it’s a Ramones song or a Taylor Swift. I’m gonna do it the best I can.
She’s a veteran now. That’s how fast things move.
What the hell does that make me? God Almighty!
Download and subscribe to Rolling Stone Music Now, hosted by Brian Hiatt, on iTunes or Spotify, and check out two years worth of episodes. Tune in Fridays at 1 p.m. ET to hear the show broadcast live on Sirius XM’s Volume, channel 106.