by Alexandra Mrozowska
– Sr. Columnist —
From the perspective of the ‘80s Rock fan, is 2015 a year of Def Leppard? In many respects, yes. Of course, the credit has to be given to Mötley Crüe for causing quite a stir with their (supposedly) Final Tour. There’s been also plenty acts of the era that came up with solid releases in the course of the last twelve months. However, Def Leppard has been one of the most eagerly anticipated albums if it comes to Hard Rock scene. And even though it won’t match the success of Pyromania or Hysteria, it appeals both to the fans of the classic and post-classic Leppard. Also, 2015 saw the release of the Phil Collen-penned memoir Adrenalized: Life, Def Leppard And Beyond. Written with help of the award-winning journalist and writer Chris Epting and published via Bantam Press, it’s the first book even written by a member of Def Leppard. But is it a book on the band really – or perhaps not necessarily so?
The book’s title itself is the key to the right understanding of it. It’s all about the eponymous three dimensions to the persona of Phil Collen: his life, his music and anything else that constitutes his being. First and foremost, then, it’s the account of the fifty one years of his living, growth and personal development. The dynamics of the story may be subjected to Collen’s work in one of the biggest bands of the ‘80s and the good portion of the book may be built around stories related to Def Leppard (and, in relatively smaller scale, to side projects). However, it’s still not entirely a band chronicle. Rather than that, a reader gets a personal diary of sorts, narrated by a well-known musician. Some clichés in this rags-to-riches (or rather, working-class-to-Rock-stardom) tale were, obviously, unavoidable. However, there’s still more to that than just following a standard.
The eponymous “life” part is obvious here, ranging from vignettes from the veteran of the music industry to thoughts shared on Collen’s private life – relationships, family life, fatherhood, alcohol abuse, abstinence, diet choices etc. What could be understood, in reference to the book’s title, as the eponymous “beyond” parts are mostly our protagonist’s memories presented in a context that’s quite broad for an autobiography. His recollections of particular events or routines related to his past are not introduced for their own sake only but rather to become starting points for some general contemplation.
To some extent, it can be said the book has both a cultural and a philosophical dimension to it. For example, insight into the guitarist’s family life and childhood memories is a sample of how the ordinary British working class family lived back in the ‘60s. Collen – being the narrator of the story – discusses his life in the context of such phenomena as the adolescent angst, the primeval contrast of the British versus the American culture… or even the psychology of car ownership. He also recalls cultural and musical phenomena of his lifetime – Glam Rock, Punk Wave, NWOBHM, Grunge etc. – and provides some surprisingly insightful commentary. Particular passages quoted from this book could also serve in modern day era as the account of one of the first followers of the “slow life” movement, the veganism and keeping fit. Could Phil Collen become your personal coach then? In the pages of his autobiography, he seemed to be pretty persuasive…
For Def Leppard fans, there’s also plenty of picturesque tales on and off the road and in and out of the recording studio. A reader can find some stories behind the band’s songs and classic albums here (the groundbreaking quality of the cross-genre, technology-driven Hysteria in particular) as well as an insight into the band’s routine, policy and creative process. It’s also a sneak peek into the developing NWOBHM scene in the early ‘80s, the MTV-dominated music industry of the decade or the reality of the ‘80s band adjusting to the changing musical landscape of the grungy ‘90s. However, it’s again more about Collen’s musings on his band experience rather than a month-by-month, year-by-year chronicle of recording and touring.
It’s an insight into Mutt Lange’s work ethics that laid the foundations to Pyromania or Hysteria as well as a rare occasion to learn what does the mature rock musician think about their fandom, groupies or the pomposity of the ‘80s era. The book also details Collen’s brotherly friendship with Steve Clark (with emphasis put on the fact how the two connected on the artistic, emotional and intellectual level), the aftermath of Clark’s death as well as Rick Allen’s accident and his return to drumming. An interesting thing about all things Leppard in the book is how the guitarist – deliberately or not – models himself and his band mates as the “boy next door.” Their down-to-earth, humble attitude, family values and focus on music are emphasized more than their backstage antics. An account of the journey from the ordinary to the extraordinary, the book is critical towards the worship of fame and the fragility of success. Even the photos are more like a few pages torn from Phil Collen’s family album than a handful of Def Leppard’s glossy promo shots.
The first-person narrative makes it difficult for a reader to actually estimate the co-writer Chris Epting’s influence upon the book. Whatever was the actual working strategy on the book, Adrenalized: Life, Def Leppard And Beyond turns out to be a very good read in the end. The style is candid, detailed but not long-winded and sometimes humorous. It doesn’t matter if you call it a memoir, a personal diary or a music-related autobiography with a bit of a lifestyle twist to it – as long as you’re a rock fan, you’ll enjoy it anyway.
ISBN-10 – 147675165X.
ISBN-13 – 978-1476751658.
Publisher: Bantam Press