We've headlined major festivals but Glastonbury is something else – we'd love to do it, says Def Leppard's Rick Savage | The Sun

THEY’VE sold over 100million records, been inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and are currently on their biggest ever stadium tour.

But there’s one major event that’s eluded Brit rockers Def Leppard over their 45-year career – Glastonbury Festival.


Bassist and founding member Rick Savage, 61, admits the Sheffield five-piece would love to headline Worthy Farm – but feels they still face a fight to win over the Glasto crowd.

Speaking exclusively to The Sun from his home in Portugal, he says: “It would be cool to be accepted in that family of musicians, if you like. 

“We’ve done Donington; Donington and Def Leppard goes hand in hand, we’ve done the Reading Festival back in the day, but to even be considered to do Glastonbury means something else.

“Even after all these years we feel we still need to shed that tag of being in the heavy metal bracket. We didn’t think we were heavy metal back in the late 70s and we’ve been battling this concept ever since. It is what it is, people perceive you as they want to perceive you, as is their right.”

Metallica broke a glass ceiling for heavy metal bands when they headlined the Pyramid Stage in 2014, delivering an epic headbanging set in the face of a fierce backlash from festival purists.

The following year Brit rockers The Who closed out the festival for the second time in their illustrious 50 year career, and tonight Paul McCartney will take to the stage just days after celebrating his 80th birthday.

The successes of those legacy rock stars at Worthy Farm gives Rick hope it could be Def Leppard’s turn in the years to come.

“Metallica were just cool,” he says. “It wasn’t so much about the music, they were cool to people who didn’t really like heavy metal, it just happened for them.

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“I guarantee you the reason The Who did Glastonbury is because they’ve been around so long you just become accepted for what you are. You become bigger than your music. 

“They're legends, regardless of what style of music. Hopefully we’re getting to that sort of point in our careers where we're accepted as just Def Leppard rather than a heavy metal outfit from Sheffield.”

Eighties sounds have had a major revival in recent years, heavily influencing some of the biggest pop acts in the world, from Miley Cyrus to Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and Harry Styles.

Oscar-winner Gaga previously declared herself a huge fan of the Leppard lads, while the band performed with Swift for an episode of CMT’s Crossroads – where country stars collaborate with acts from other genres.

Rick believes the group’s multi-layered intricate harmonies and melodies are behind the two pop stars’ love for their music.

“We want to be the Eagles, we wanna be Pink Floyd,” he says. “We always considered ourselves the first boy band. I honestly think Pour Some Sugar On Me is the first boy band single of all time. 

“When you strip it down, artists who have nothing to do with heavy metal really really get on board with Def Leppard because of our sound and the way our melodies are structured and the way we sing. Every so often iconic artists get it and love it for what it is, rather than just loud guitar music.”

It’s a big summer for the bassist as he takes his first steps into the fashion world with the launch of his label Overnight Angels, hot on the heels of the band’s latest album Diamond Star Halos.

A passion project with his youngest son Scott, the brand – which is heavily influenced by rock ‘n’ roll and motorcycle culture – is also a nod to Rick’s life before finding fame.

The collection is inspired by the title track of Ian Hunter’s 1977 album ‘Overnight Angels’, which was released the same year aspiring footballer Rick was let go by his club Sheffield United and formed Def Leppard. 

I honestly think Pour Some Sugar On Me is the first boy band single of all time. 

“I really wanted to pay homage to such a pivotal moment in my life. And to be able work on this alongside my son, Scott, means so much more,” he says.

Designer Nick Holland – the creative force behind Liam Gallagher’s Pretty Green brand – is also on board, which Rick says is a major coup.

I think it represents us in the same way as the Pretty Green stuff represented Liam. What I liked about it as an outsider is it truly represented him, that’s the feeling I got.”

While the two brands are nothing alike stylistically, Rick is full of admiration for the Oasis frontman.

“Liam’s a musical legend and a fashion icon if you like. I’m not being funny, I’ve got a lot of respect for the guy. It was a bonus to get someone like Nick on board.”

Rick has been wearing the range on the road with hair metal titans Motley Crue, Poison and Joan Jett on a 36-date stadium run in the States.

Renowned for their debauchery and excess in their 80s heyday, the Crue partied harder and nastier than any other band.

It led to numerous near-death experiences, lawsuits and all out chaos. But the Crue of 2022 is a very different proposition having shunned drugs and adopted a more health-conscious LA lifestyle.

“There’ll be a certain element of green tea and yoga,” laughs Rick.

“I know Nikki’s [Sixx, Motley bassist] been clean for 20 odd years and he looks fantastic, and the whole band have gone through a… rehabilitation is probably a strong word but as we get older we realise what we have. What we do, we should be so thankful for it, to be able to still do it, and do it in a healthy way.

 “The 80s was a decade of decadence. It really was. When you happen to be in your 20s in the 80s; it was a fantastic time. For some people it was a pretty awful time. It was what it was, it could never be repeated. We are 30 years later and you live your life accordingly. The world has moved on. It is a completely different world now, but I would say 99 percent for the better.”

Leppard are certainly putting up a good fight against Father Time, with guitarist Phil Collen boasting a rippling six-pack at 63 and band members Rick, Joe Elliott, Vivian Campell and drummer Rick Allen able to rip through a set as well as acts half their age.

Before each show they do a 25 minute vocal warm-up, which Rick says sounds like the inside of a  ‘madhouse’, and rip through the hits in a rehearsal room.

And after the final notes of the encore have rang out, there's a quiet period of reflection backstage followed by a bit of mickey taking over mistakes before the wine is opened to celebrate.

Having overcome a nasty bout of pneumonia earlier in the year that left him with an “awful” pain in his chest and affected his vocal cords, Rick is firing on all cylinders again.

He’s already looking ahead to bringing the tour to the UK in 2023 and insists the band still want to get bigger and better.

“There’s going to be no holding back, it’s going to be the real deal.

“We’re good for running around the stage for a good few years yet,” he says. “The Who are going back out, The Stones keep going out, Aerosmith, even AC/DC; all these bands are a good five-10 years ahead of us. While they’re doing it, we're still coming across as the second generation. We’re all in our 60s but it really doesn't feel like it. It feels like we’re in our 20s, to be honest.”

Not many bands make it 45 continuous years in the business – and even fewer overcome the setbacks Def Leppard have.

The band’s drummer Rick Allen famously lost his arm following a car crash in 1985. Against the odds, he remodelled his kit and played on the album Hysteria two years later – the band’s most successful to date selling over 20million copies globally.

Then in 1991, the band lost its talismanic guitar player Steve Clark to alcohol poisoning. The driving force behind many of their most famous songs, Savage describes him as a ‘genius’. 

We’re good for running around the stage for a good few years yet.

Rather than folding, the band sought to pay tribute to him by continuing to play his music. They recruited Vivian Campbell, who remains in the band to this day.

Thirty years on from the loss of Steve, Rick says he still thinks about him every day. 

“You think of the things he’s not experienced that we have as a band and individuals and as friends,” he says. “You think he never got to see that, play in a stadium in the way we’re gonna do this summer, he never experienced becoming a father. Everyday for a short space of time something will crop up where you go ‘Steve would have found that funny, or Steve would have hated that,’ you know.”


Earlier this year another huge rock band, the Foo Fighters, lost an integral member: drummer Taylor Hawkins.

The popular musician was found dead in his hotel room in Colombia on the band’s South American tour after suffering chest pains.

A huge fan of the Foos, Rick draws parallels between what they went through and what Def Leppard experienced three decades ago.

“It’s really hard. You’ve lost one of your best friends, first and foremost. Parents have lost a son. It’s more serious than just being in a band. 

“I’m sure they’re going through the process as to ‘is there any point in continuing? Do we really want to continue?’ 

“This guy was such a major ingredient of the band it’ll never be the same. In our case we decided that it was worthwhile and the best possible way to pay tribute to Steve Clark was to continue playing his songs and keep his memory alive in that sense.

“The next hurdle you’ve gotta cross is finding the replacement and that can be the hardest thing. Making the right choice there is a massive decision. We got it right with Vivian [Campbell] 30 years ago this summer actually. It worked for us but every case is different. There’s no easy route around it.”

Leppard’s longevity and hunger to continue has been aided by a knack for looking to the future instead of what’s already gone before.

They have an appreciation for their fans and the achievements they’ve had that means they’ll never stop playing the hits, however, there’s still a hunger and determination to break new ground.

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“We’re immensely proud of what we’ve done, for each other, for our mothers and fathers,” says Rick. “It’s absolutely brilliant what we have achieved. Affecting people’s lives in a positive way.

“Every so often you get letters and emails from family members whose sons, daughters were in car crashes and comas that come around after being fed our music because they’re big fans. It puts it beyond making albums, trying to sell them and making money from it. Having said that, once it’s gone we really never look back. We’re always looking for the next thing.”

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