Sheffield’s most famous rock band Def Leppard rose to dizzying heights in the 1980s, and they show no signs of slowing down, bassist Rick Savage tells Natalie Li
They were the first band to sell seven million copies of successive albums, Pyromania and Hysteria in the US – Def Leppard were once a force to be reckoned with in the rock genre.
The British band – consisting of lead singer Joe Elliott, bassist Rick Savage, drummer Rick Allen and guitarists Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell, have sold over 100 million records, won a place in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and played stadiums worldwide. You’d expect the adulation and fame to go to one’s head. As I chat to bassist Rick Savage, before he jets off on a stadium tour with Mötley Crüe and Poison, it becomes apparent that the Sheffield-born star is humbled by the band’s achievements.
“It’s absolutely amazing that we are as popular as we ever were,” he says. “We’re performing in stadiums and people are still talking about us, streaming, and downloading our songs. You can’t compete with the new kids, but it’s incredible to think we’re still doing what we love – it doesn’t feel like 40 odd years have passed!
“It’s an honour and we’re grateful that we get on as people and that’s the bottom line. It doesn’t feel like a job when you’re with your mates. There are so many facets to being in a band. As we say: there is more to being in a band than being in a band,” he laughs.
What is the secret to their longevity? “Having respect for each other – the friendship and the camaraderie,” he says. “The feeling of being in a gang, which really appeals to kids aged 10 or 11 – it’s still appealing to us in our late 50s and early 60s. I am not sure what that says about us,” he smiles, “but at least we have that in common.”
Def Leppard formed in 1976 and rose to chart-topping fame in the early 1980s with hits such as Pour Some Sugar on Me and Foolin’. Rick, known as ‘Sav’, grew up in Crookes and attended Tapton Secondary school, west of Sheffield city centre. He recalls happy memories growing up.
“I remember spending summers at Weston Park and The Bole Hills. It was a happy childhood,” he smiles. “The summers seemed to last forever, and the days always seemed sunny. We all lived on the same street – a clichéd family atmosphere. As I got older we’d frequent places like the Limit Club and pubs like the Broadfield.”
The 63-year-old rockstar, who lived in Dublin for a few years, moved back to Sheffield in 2001, with wife Paige, sons Scott and Tyler, and Jordan (Paige’s daughter from a previous relationship). Today he resides in the village of Dore with Paige.
“My roots are established. I’ve visited so many cities in my lifetime – some fleetingly and some more in others. Don’t get me wrong – there are cities in England I love, but there’s something about Sheffield. It’s a big city with a small city feel to it. It’s always had a little bit of everything for me.”
Life as a rockstar isn’t always a head-banging, spandex-wearing experience. A scroll through Rick’s Instagram feed reveals an endearing glimpse into his countryside life – like feeding the ducks early in the morning. “I’m so fortunate that I’m surrounded by the most beautiful pieces of nature. I’m so blessed; I have to pinch myself sometimes,” adds Rick.
“It’s so tranquil and as I am talking to you, I am looking over the garden. To be honest I would struggle to know which end of a shovel to use! When you’re constantly travelling, staying in different hotels, the hustle and bustle of that life is such a contrast. Sheffield is a great place to wind down, reboot and get ready for the next set of tours and concerts.”
The huge Sheffield Wednesday fan, who once pursued a career as a footballer with Sheffield United, is a regular at Hillsborough stadium. But it’s not just football that keeps Rick firmly rooted in his hometown.
“My brother and mother live near Rotherham, and my nieces and nephews are close by. My children are still here, we’re all within 30 minutes of each other. That is why I left Dublin; I wanted my children to grow up in the same environment as I did.”
Rick’s closeness to his family is evident – he recently launched a fashion brand, Overnight Angels Crew, with his son Scott – merging their love of music and fashion. The brand name was born from a place of Rick’s nostalgia, inspired by Ian Hunter’s title track on his 1977 album, Overnight Angels.
“We started developing the brand during the pandemic,” Rick explains. “Scott has always had an eye for fashion, and we thought it’d be great to do something together. The Overnight Angels Crew is more street, urban style and OAC X Special Projects is my line – more classic rock ‘n’ roll with high end sophistication, not strictly biker stuff, it would appeal to a more rock-oriented crowd. We’re delighted with the way it has been received. It’s still early days but I honestly think there is a niche for it. I’ll be wearing some of my line on tour!”
As for the 2023 world tour, Rick is more than primed to hit the stage. “To be able to say that you’ve played Wembley Stadium is pretty cool. As an Englishman it doesn’t get much bigger – I’m really looking forward to that and Bramall Lane, Sheffield. It’s my hometown, a sort of homecoming – that will be a big occasion. It has a lot of meaning.”
With a string of successes to their name, you’d imagine Def Leppard might begin to slow down. It seems not. “We’re always setting ourselves new goals – we feel we have places to go and more to achieve. Whatever you think is your greatest achievement, it’s only momentary and you set your sights on something else,” reveals Rick.
“Glastonbury is such an iconic festival, it’s not defined by one specific genre of music. At some point we’d like to play it – definitely on my bucket list. We’ve always perceived ourselves to be wider than the hard rock genre. We don’t class ourselves as a heavy metal band. We tried to write universally appealing songs with guitars and be a bit more commercial and that’s the way we’ve always looked at it. Our biggest achievement is being in a band together and still enjoying it. It’s nothing to do with selling tickets, records – it’s still liking each other after all these years.”
Def Leppard perform at Bramall Lane, Sheffield on 22 May 2023. For more on Overnight Angels Crew, visit overnight-angels-crew.com