In 1982 I was 11-years-old and I was lucky enough that a couple of my friends in grade school had older brothers in high school. When I would go over to my friend’s house to play, I would get my very own tutorial on hard rock and heavy metal. Shawn’s brother Mike had the heavier stuff – Scorpions, Deep Purple, Blue Oyster Cult, while Mike’s brother Pat had Pink Floyd, Journey, and this new band called Def Leppard.
The album was ‘High ‘n’ Dry’ which was released earlier that summer (July 11, 1981). By this time, I had already discovered Kiss and The Go Go’s so I was open to expanding my musical palette, but nothing could have prepared me for the roaring guitars when the needle dropped on Def Leppard’s sophomore album.
‘High ‘n’ Dry’ opened with the twin guitar attack of Pete Willis and Steve Clark on “Let It Go.” The Brits from Sheffield were young and hungry and it came across in their songs. “Let It Go” bowled you over with that buzz saw iconic guitar riff and Joe Elliott’s determined lead vocals. The band flexed their muscles with a little more melody on “Another Hit and Run” before going for the jugular on the legendary Leppard track “High ‘n’ Dry (Saturday Night).” The song would go on to be ranked at 33 on VH1’s “40 Greatest Metal Songs.”
Listeners got another look in to the band when they practically invented the power ballad with “Bringin’ On the Heartbreak” Interestingly enough, the song blends seamlessly into the Steve Clark masterpiece instrumental “Switch 625,” arguably one of the best instrumental tracks in rock & roll history.
The flip side of the album kicked off just like side A — with the guitar-driven British rocker “You Got Me Runnin'” followed by the fist-pumping “Lady Strange.” “On Through the Night” was the eighth track and coincidentally the title of the bands 1980 debut album. Then they head into the much overlooked “Mirror, Mirror (Look into My Eyes),” with its resolute vocals from Elliott, a big chorus and a rumbling bass line from Rock Savage. ‘High ‘n’ Dry’ closes with the Savage-penned furious rocker “No No No,” which leaves you going back to the beginning of the album for another round.
Even though ‘High ‘n’ Dry’ was a big album for Def Leppard, it came with its hardships. They fired original guitarist Pete Willis for (ironically) too much drinking. However, the record made Def Leppard a household name for music fans in the United States. ‘High ‘n’ Dry,’ which was produced by famed studio man Robert John “Mutt” Lange, peaked at No. 38 on the Billboard 200 and No. 26 on the UK Albums Chart. Two years later, after Def Leppard released the mega-selling ‘Pyromania,’ ‘High ‘n’ Dry’ re-entered the charts and went double platinum. The album was also reissued with a pair of bonus tracks — remixes of “Bringin’ On the Heartbreak” and “Me & My Wine.” Both tracks came with videos on MTV, which feature new guitarist Phil Colllen, even though he didn’t play on the original tracks.
In their earlier days, Joe Elliott (vocals); Steve Clark (guitars, vocals), Pete Willis (guitars, vocals), Rick Savage (bass, vocals), and Rick Allen (drums, vocals), channeled the anthemic, working-class hard rock of their peers and added their own flavor to give them that classic Leppard sound of the 1980s. The band were writing stadium and arena rock songs before they were even playing large clubs and in the end, their vision paid off. ‘Pyromania’ may be the bands greatest work, but there would not be the masterpiece without the broad strokes of ‘High ‘n’ Dry.’