Special Thanks to ThisDayinMusic.com.

No rock band sold more records during the 1980s than Def Leppard, and they are members of an elite club of just five rock bands to have two or more original studio albums sell over 10 million units each in the United States (Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Beatles and Van Halen are also Double Diamond winners.) Not bad for a band who started out as teenagers in the dilapidated and depressed industrial town of Sheffield, England.

Founded under the name Atomic Mass in 1977 by Rick Savage (bass), Pete Willis (guitar) and Tony Kenning (drums), 18-year old Joe Elliott was the next to join the band; he initially auditioned to be the second guitarist, but it was his vocal abilities that landed him the gig as the band’s singer. It was Elliott who offered up the name “Deaf Leopard” as a new band name, and the lads agreed to Kenning’s suggestion that it be spelled “Def Leppard”.

In January 1978, Steven Maynard Clark joined the band after performing Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” during his audition. Born April 23, 1960 in the northwest Sheffield suburb of Hillsborough, Steve showed an immense interest in music at an early age. He begged his taxi cab-driving father for a guitar, which he received at the age of eleven after promising he’d actually learn to play it. Kenning left the band abruptly on the eve of the band recording their 3 song Def Leppard EP. Drummer Frank Noon handled the sessions but was quickly replaced by 15-year old Rick Allen.

Legendary BBC Radio DJ John Peel got a hold of Def Leppard’s EP and put their song “Getcha Rocks Off” into heavy rotation, which helped the EP sell like hotcakes. 1979 saw the band’s popularity increase rapidly as they developed a loyal following among the hard rock and heavy metal sets. Before the year was through they had signed their first major label contract with Phonogram/Vertigo (Mercury Records in the States), and they were on their way.

Def Leppard released their debut album, On Through the Night, on March 14, 1980, and though it climbed into the Top 15 in the U.K., some fans were miffed at the perception that the band were trying too hard to make inroads with American audiences, thanks in large part to the song “Hello America,” as well as a heavy U.S. touring schedule opening for such heavyweights as Pat Travers, Ted Nugent and AC/DC. One particularly ugly moment was when the young Leps were pelted with beer cans and debris during their set at the 1979 Reading Festival.

Def Leppard’s fortune changed forever in the summer of 1981 when they caught the attention of producer extraordinaire, Mutt Lange, who took over the helm for their sophomore album High ‘n’ Dry. Released in July of ’81, Lange helped give form and shape to what would become the band’s trademark sound of multi-layered guitars and vocals. High ‘n’ Dry wasn’t a monster seller, but the band’s video for “Bringin’ On the Heartbreak” on the fledgling MTV increased their visibility, especially in the States.

1982 saw Def Leppard kick original guitarist Pete Willis out of the band during the Pyromania sessions for excessive drinking and unreliability, and he was replaced by Phil Collen, formerly of the glam band Girl. The Lange-produced Pyromania was released in January of 1983 and was an instant hit, thanks in large part to the success of its lead single “Photograph.” Other classic hits followed, including “Rock of Ages,” “Foolin’” and “Too Late for Love.”

When the dust settled a year after Pyromania’s release, Def Leppard had gone from a club band/opening act to a household name headlining stadiums, including San Diego’s Jack Murphy Stadium in front of nearly 60,000 fans. Were it not for Michael Jackson’s once-in-a-millennium album Thriller, Pyromania would have been the #1 album in the States for six consecutive months.

What followed next for the band can best be described as three years of personal and creative tumult, starting with the departure of Mutt Lange as the band’s producer, co-songwriter and unofficial “6th member”. Meatloaf’s co-collaborator on Bat Out of Hell, Jim Steinman, was brought in to fill Mutt’s shoes as they endeavored to follow-up on Pyromania’s success, but that quickly proved a bust. Then tragedy struck on December 31, 1984 when drummer Rick Allen flipped his Corvette outside of Sheffield and lost his left arm.

Allen’s recovery and metamorphosis as a drummer, coupled with the band’s solidarity in keeping him in the band, are legendary. Lange eventually made his way back to the fold, and together he and Def Leppard finally completed and released Hysteria in August of 1987.

After a relatively slow start and three good but not blockbuster singles, Hysteria blasted off after the release of the album’s fourth single, “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” The strength of “Sugar” and its follow-up, the #1 charting “Love Bites,” catapulted Hysteria to the top spot on the Billboard 200. A massive 15-month world tour and seven charting singles helped Hysteria sell over 20 million copies, making it Def Leppard’s best-selling album to date.

Unfortunately, after the tour ended and the band began work on it’s next album, Adrenalize, guitarist Steve Clark lost his long battle with alcohol and drugs on this date in 1991. His autopsy revealed a fatal mix of codeine, Valium, morphine and an alcohol content three times the British legal driving limit.

Nicknamed “The Riffmaster,” the late Clark, who played Gibson guitars almost exclusively, contributed half of the songs to 1992’s Adrenalize, which became Def Leppard’s first album to debut at #1 on the Billboard 200. Clark was replaced by another Les Paul aficionado, former Dio/Whitesnake guitarist, Vivian Campbell.