Def Leppard recorded a nearly note-perfect rendition of the title track of their 1987 blockbuster album Hysteria, as well as a heavy cover of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus,” at Spotify’s recording studio for the streaming service’s “Spotify Singles” series. “Hysteria” features a little bluesier guitar soloing here and there and it lacks the gargantuan wall of vocals on the original, but it’s an otherwise faithful performance of the song, which made it to Number 10 on the Hot 100.
Also mostly faithful – or at least full of faith – is their take on Depeche Mode’s 1990 single “Personal Jesus,” which features a little more of the group’s signature giant vocals than “Hysteria” and to great effect. They also mimic the original’s heavy breathing and shuffle rhythm while beefing up Martin Gore’s guitars to a heavy-metal crunch. The band has started some of their shows with a recording of the cover – adding to the long, great lineage of hard-rock and heavy-metal bands who can call Depeche Mode a major influence.
Re-recording past hits has become a pastime for Def Leppard, which, half a decade ago, were proudly making “forgeries” of their biggest songs to thwart the record label Universal, whom they claimed was treating them unfairly in the streaming arena. They recorded “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and “Rock of Ages” on their own and stuck them online so they could get the full cut of royalties from the songs.
“Our contract is such that they can’t do anything with our music without our permission, not a thing,” frontman Joe Elliott said at the time. “So we just sent them a letter saying, ‘No matter what you want, you are going to get “no” as an answer, so don’t ask.’ That’s the way we’ve left it. We’ll just replace our back catalog with brand new, exact same versions of what we did.”
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Like “Hysteria,” the versions were nearly identical. The biggest difference is the presence of guitarist Vivian Campbell, who joined the band to replace the late Steve Clark in 1991.
The band has since made up with Universal and allowed the label to release the original versions of their early albums on streaming services. Elliott chalked the decision up to getting a fair deal and a change of regime at the label. “We were able to come to the decision that it was the right thing to do and have it all come out at once,” he said this year. “So now you’ve got everything from the very first EP we did back in 1979 – which is what got us our record deal in the first place – all the way up to the last album that came out in 2015.”
The band is currently in the middle of a massive tour with Journey.