37 Years Ago: Def Leppard Play Their First Concert
It was held at the Westfield School in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England, and they were paid only five pounds, but July 8, 1978, nevertheless, was a very big deal for Def Leppard: It marked the group’s first-ever public performance.
Oh, and the five pounds? According to their website, it came out of a teacher’s pocket. The group, fronted by Joe Elliott, played an approximately 50-minute set that included a cover of Thin Lizzy‘s “Jailbreak” and an apparent original track called “World Beyond the Sky.”
Legend tells us that Elliott and band successfully smuggled some beer into the venue via the bass drum. But guitarist Steve Clark’s first big rock-star move didn’t go nearly as well, thanks to a Marshall amp left on standby during a pre-show tuning session.
“Steve plugged in and walked to the front of the stage, looking brilliant in his tight jeans and long blond hair,” Elliott recalled in David Fricke’s 1987 book The Def Leppard Story: Animal Instinct. “All ready to go into the first song, ‘World Beyond the Sky,’ he did his windmill arm motion, just like Pete Townshend, for the big opening chord and nothing happened. No power. Everybody in the audience was laughing. After a few seconds, we started all over again.”
Clark would continue with Def Leppard through their biggest years on the charts, until his tragically early death in 1991. Elliott and bassist Rick Savage remain. The rest of the 1978 lineup included drummer Tony Kenning (replaced by Rick Allen later that year) and guitarist Pete Willis, who was switched in favor of Phil Collen just before Def Leppard’s breakout album Pyromania.
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