It was close to 40 years ago that the five lads in Def Leppard, then just teenagers, came roaring out of the gloomy industrial environs of Sheffield, England. But for singer Joe Elliott, it seems like not quite so long ago. "I feel like it's been half that amount of time," he says. "Because when you don't like what you're doing, time drags. But when you enjoy something, it goes too quick. And we've never stopped enjoying it."
Now 56, Elliott is having a very good time indeed. The singer is speaking with Rolling Stone from an undisclosed, but quite tropical-sounding, vacation spot, where he's "chilling with friends and family. We're having a barbecue in about an hour," he says. "It's just good to be in a nice, warm place instead of wet, overcast Dublin where I live."
Career-wise, things aren't too bad, either. Last year, Def Leppard released their 11th studio album, simply titled Def Leppard, and they're currently gearing up for another massive U.S. tour, during which the band will spend six months on the road, from May through October, hitting arenas across the country. Earlier this year, Def Leppard had to cancel some dates after Elliott had a bit of a vocal scare, but he says he's currently on the mend. "You've gotta think about what happened to me this past January as what would happen to Peyton Manning if he pulled a muscle in his arm," Elliott explains. "You just take four, five, six weeks off to let it heal, then you get into some training and you're back again. Now I can walk and run and sing and … do interviews! And I'm working with a vocal coach and getting mentally prepared for the upcoming blitz on the U.S."
As for what people can expect to hear on this next round of dates, Elliott reports that the band will be adding in more music from Def Leppard alongside mega-hits like "Photograph" and "Pour Some Sugar on Me." "When we were out last summer, the new album was just a rumor," he says. "So the people in maybe the first 20 rows knew of it and everyone else was just there to hear, I imagine, what they've already heard for the last 10, 20, 30 years. This time, we'll do more new material, but we're also aware that you can overdo it with that if you're a classic band. Your Elton Johns, your Paul McCartneys, they know why everyone's coming to the gigs, you know what I mean? The Rolling Stones know everyone's there to hear 'Jumpin' Jack Flash.' So it's a very fine line. But we're OK with that. At least we have that luxury of having a catalog."
The always affable — and very chatty — Elliott took time out of not one but two of his vacation days to walk Rolling Stone through 15 songs from that catalog. And while every tune may not have come off an album as big as, say, the more than 20-million-selling Hysteria, each has something unique to offer. Says Elliott, "I don't care if you're McCartney or Dylan or Springsteen — whenever you go into the studio, from Day One until the day you come out, you don't try any less on any one song or record. Some of 'em just don't connect. And then some of 'em do."