Known Johnson

May 23, 2006


Filed under: Music — Tom @ 4:03 pm

Def Leppard were my first musical love. They were the first band I fell really hard for. I bought everything I could find – singles, stickers, shirts, patches, you name it. They were my first “by choice” concert – meaning they were the first concert that I wanted to go to. I followed them through the mid-90s and then just lost touch with them as my tastes changed and I grew. Their CDs drifted out of my collection piece by piece as I stopped listening, replaced by other things I regarded as more important. Until recently, that is – maybe it’s the introduction of the little bundle of joy that is Amanda, but I’ve recently just wanted to get back to fun music. And, really, what Def Leppard did in the 80s with Pyromania and Hysteria is nothing short of astounding – these two albums are absolute rock classics that deserve to be held in high regard More than that, I can see no reason why there is any shame in loving Def Leppard’s take on the same 70s glam rock that everyone considers iconic today – yet there certainly is a stigma attached to that name. We all know what happened to rock in the 90s, how grunge came along and pretty much wiped clean any traces of anything that happened to contain (gasp!) a guitar solo. Much of it deserved to be swept away and forgotten, but unfortunately some bands fell victim undeservingly.

I read sometime last year that Def Leppard was working on an all-covers album. You know the cliché – covers albums are an artist’s last gasp. It seemed a really sad step for them – I gave them another shot when 1999’s Euphoria came out, which was being touted as a return to the Pyromania days, but it felt hollow to me. I didn’t even hear, let alone buy the follow up to that, X, but gathered that it left most fans unhappy. After that, a covers album? Of a bunch of bands that Def Leppard already sounded a lot like to begin with? And it’s called Yeah!? And the cover looks like this?


This must clearly be a band on verge of calling it quits, right? Until two days ago, I’d say yes. But I got to hear the album thanks to VH-1’s handy little album-preview. I was prepared for something really embarassing – a bunch of tired sounding covers, surely. Wow, was I blown away when this thing started playing. I found myself unable to stop listening, in fact, and when the album was done, I was in shock – Yeah! is the best thing they’ve done in years, but that sounds like a back-handed compliment and it’s not meant to be. The energy of the band here is right back in the 80s, ranking right up there with Pyromania and Hysteria. It is that good. Def Leppard did the almost impossible – they were able to do an entire album of covers that not only works as a tribute to their favorite artists but also remains true to their own sound.

However, I do have to report some major annoyances with this release that, luckily, have nothing to do with the actual music, but how it is being packaged and distributed. The standard version of this album is 14 songs:

1 – 20th Century Boy (T. Rex)
2 – Rock On (David Essex)
3 – Hanging On The Telephone (Blondie)
4 – Waterloo Sunset (The Kinks)
5 – Hell Raiser (Sweet)
6 – 10538 Overture (ELO)
7 – Street Life (Roxy Music)
8 – Drive-In Saturday (David Bowie)
9 – Little Bit Of Love (Free)
10 – The Golden Age of Rock ‘n’ Roll (Mott the Hoople)
11 – No Matter What (Badfinger)
12 – He’s Gonna Step On You Again (John Kongos)
13 – Don’t Believe a Word (Thin Lizzy)
14 – Stay With Me (Faces)

If you live near a Walmart, you can also pick up a bonus CD for $5.88 that includes 5 more songs and three interviews:

1 – American Girl (Tom Petty)
2 – Backstage Interview #1.
3 – Search & Destroy (Iggy & The Stooges)
4 – Backstage Interview #2.
5 – Space Oddity (David Bowie)
6 – Backstage Interview #3.
7 – Dear Friends (Queen)
8 – Heartbeat (Jobriath)

The interesting thing on this disc is that this isn’t technically the band – each song is by a subset of the band or is solo (“Search & Destroy” is guitarist Phil Collen singing and playing everything, “Space Oddity” is Joe Elliot doing the same, and “Dear Friends” has bassist Rick Savage handling everything) and two tracks find the members supplemented by non-members (“American Girl” and “Heartbeat.”) Somehow it still manages to sound like Def Leppard.

But we’re not done with bonuses. Best Buy has to get in on the fun, too. Their version adds two tracks to the original 14 track lineup:

15 – No Matter What (Live 2005) (Badfinger)
16 – Winter Song (Lindisfarne)

Believe it or not, there are still more bonus tracks. Even Target has to get in on this action:

15 – Action (Live 2005) (Sweet)
16 – When I’m Dead And Gone (McGuinness Flint)

If you’re adding that up, that’s nine additional songs available for you to choose from. If you really want them all, you’re in luck, this week at least – everyone has this on sale. Best Buy and Target both have it for $9.99, and you can price-match it at Best Buy to Circuit City’s $7.99 if you still have this weekend’s ad. For about $24 total, you effectively double the album’s length. This is one of the few times when I think it might actually be worth investing the time and money into getting all these versions.



  1. I’m no Def Leppard fan, but I have to say that I admire the fact that they’ve chosen relatively obscure songs. I hate it when bands insist on covering the most tired, overplayed songs to cover. These guys did it right. And the album is actually getting good reviews!

    Is the cover of this album supposed to look like a Backstreet Boys album? Because it does.

    Comment by Chris — May 26, 2006 @ 6:45 am | Reply

  2. Spot on.
    Def Leppard have never claimed to solve world issues or be socially relavent with their work. They play for fun, and that’s what this album delivers.
    Unlike most bands of the 70’s and 80’s, Def Leppard have been touring steadily ever since, and are touring again this summer. That promises to be as much fun as this album has been so far.

    Comment by Lepplady — May 29, 2006 @ 4:38 pm | Reply

  3. I purchased all three versions of YEAH! and the bonus CD. I’m enjoying the songs on all 4. The one exception would be Rock On. I had the pleasure of hearing the band perform this song live last year – several times actually.

    The studio version pales in comparison. I believe that Rock On is one of the best live songs the band performs.

    After hearing it (and seeing it because it is a very theatrical performance) I wrote the following:

    I’ve tickets to a couple of shows this year ~ I can’t wait to see what additional songs they add to the set list from YEAH!

    Rhonda Elizabeth

    Comment by Rhonda Elizabeth — May 29, 2006 @ 5:08 pm | Reply

  4. Nice review.

    Comment by AShton — June 6, 2006 @ 3:07 am | Reply

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