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Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen looks back at 40 years of ‘Pyromania’

Virgin EMI/Mercury Records

Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen has fond memories of working on their Diamond-certified album Pyromania, which was released 40 years ago.


The album was Collen’s first with the band. He was hired during the middle of the recording process to replace original guitarist Pete Willis, which is why he says it wasn’t too difficult of an album for him to make. 

“For me, I didn’t have to do the heavy lifting,” he tells ABC Audio. “All the songs had been written, all the anguish and pleasure about writing songs, I didn’t have to do any of that.” 

Pyromania was a huge hit for the band, peaking at #2 thanks to hit songs “Photograph,” “Rock of Ages” and “Foolin.” Collen says that while those songs were being played all over the radio and on MTV, it wasn’t until they toured the United States that they realized how big a hit they had.

“When we got to the States, that’s when we noticed that there was something really weird going on because we were getting a teenybop girl thing, kind of like the Duran Duran vibe,” he says. “But you’d also get rock fans, you know, guitar freaks and people who wanted to hear this other thing.”

He adds, “So that really worked well and worked in our favor.”

To celebrate the anniversary, Def Leppard just released a 40th anniversary deluxe edition of Pyromania featuring unheard demos from the band’s archives. Front man Joe Elliott took a very hands-on approach to finding these unreleased tracks, which according to Collen probably wasn’t too difficult for him.

“Every band, if they’re lucky, they have a geek who collects everything, and that’s Joe … he’s very meticulous,” Collen says. “So he gets the run of that and we trust him.” 

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