"Love is like a bomb, baby / Come on get it on."
Immortal lines like that made Def Leppard a staple of rock radio and MTV throughout the '80s and into the '90s. But as grunge and alternative rock took over, their bombastic over-the-top production and singalong choruses, to many, seemed cheesy in comparison. However, while many bands of the '80s have faded into obscurity and guilty-pleasure territory, Def Leppard is one of the few that people will still actually admit to liking, even if they don't sell albums quite like they used to. And while the group may be best-known for pop-friendly rockers like "Bringin' on the Heartbreak" and "Pour Some Sugar on Me" (as well as a horrible streak of bad luck that left their drummer minus an arm and their lead guitarist dead at 30), their repertoire includes many songs that may shock more casual fans, including surprisingly effective "modern" rockers and hard metal headbangers. Even if you're not a fan of power pop or radio-friendly metal, you might enjoy some of these deep cuts.
"Ride Into the Sun" – The Def Leppard E.P.
The first song on Def Leppard's first release – no, not On Through the Night, but their self-produced, self-distributed, self-titled EP. This one was re-recorded for their rarities collection Retro Active, but while that version was massively overproduced, this is a raw, stripped-down mess that sounds like some sort of dreamlike cross between latter-day Def Leppard and Motorhead.
"Wasted" – On Through the Night
This was the band's very first single, and it shows. Unlike most of the songs they later became famous for, "Wasted" is a heavy rocker about getting shit-faced drunk. And while "Me and My Wine" is an unapologetic ode to the bottle, "Wasted" is a more reflective look at the dangers of drinking, something that the band would become tragically more aware of as the years went on.
"Me and My Wine" – High 'n' Dry
Given the band's trouble with booze and excess later on, they probably consider this track an embarrassment they'd like to forget. Don't let them, though. Another hard and heavy rocker that has more in common with the New Wave of British heavy metal than the pop-metal genre they are more associated with, this was originally a B-side, but was remixed for later releases of High 'n' Dry.
"Switch 625" – High 'n' Dry
On High 'n' Dry, "Bringing on the Heartbreak" fades into this song, much as "Eruption" segues into "You Really Got Me" on Van Halen or "We Will Rock You" teams up with "We Are The Champions" on News of the World. However, this instrumental rocker never gets any radio play. One of the only tracks by the band to be entirely written by Clark, it's a must-listen for fans of the great guitarist.
"Die Hard the Hunter" – Pyromania
There are only nine tracks on Pyromania, and odds are you still hear at least five of them on the radio today. One of the few great tracks from the record that wasn't picked up by rock radio at the time was the awesomely named "Die Hard the Hunter" – it's also one of the only Def Leppard songs you might find an old-school metalhead headbanging to.
"Gods of War" – Hysteria
The idea of a "deep cut" on Hysteria is kind of ridiculous, when you think about it. Not only did the record go platinum 12 times over, it also spawned seven singles (that's out of 12 tracks). Still, that does leave five tunes that were designated to be "album cuts," and this one is probably the best. A critical blast at Regan and Thatcher, it proved that the proverbial party band could actually handle political themes and serious subject matter when they felt like it.
"Run Riot" – Hysteria
While "Gods of War" could have fit on Pyromania, Adrenalize, or High 'n' Dry, the party-time tune "Run Riot" could only have fit on Hysteria. A catchy song on an album filled with nothing but catchy songs, it could've easily been a hit single if there weren't seven songs from the album that had already claimed that prize.
"Rocket (Lunar Mix)" – Hysteria (Deluxe Edition)
"Rocket" was already a weird song for the decidedly commercial band, and this wacked-out remix takes it even further out there. Twice as long as the single edit and two minutes longer than the version that appeared on Hysteria, this one extends the tripped-out mid-section to near Pink Floydian levels. This was originally only on the 12'' "Rocket" single, but now you can pick it up on the deluxe version of Hysteria.
"The Desert Song" – Retro Active
Retro Active was a collection of B-sides and other rare material that served as a floodgate release for everything the band recorded with Steve Clark before his untimely death. This outtake from the Hysteria sessions was the lead-off track to the album, starting things off with a bang. One of Clark's best solos is on this rarely-heard gem.
"Two Steps Behind (Electric Version)" – Retro Active
There are two different versions of this power ballad. The acoustic version is the more well-known, as it's the one they always put on their greatest hits packages. The electric version is arguably better, though, and should remind fans of Def Leppard classics like "Bringin' on the Heartbreak."
"White Lightning" – Adrenalize
To date, Adrenalize remains Def Leppard's last unequivocal hit record, but its success pales when compared to their mega-hits Pyromania and Hysteria. While it doesn't have the charm of those records, it does have its share of standout moments, including this epic tribute to Steve Clark and his rampant drinking problem.
"Slang" – Slang
The title track to the unjustly maligned 1996 album. Slang was an attempt by Def Leppard to break free of the '80s pop-metal label that was proving to be a career killer when this album dropped in 1996. The band mixed some subtle western influences (and even a little bit of hip-hop) into their tired-and-true "songs about sex" formula, and the result was much better than expected. While not every song on the Slang album was a winner, this one definitely succeeds.
"Work It Out" – Slang
Another notable track from Slang is this mid-tempo ballad that was Def Leppard's attempt at crossing the bridge from pop-metal to more "serious" rock music. Distorted guitars and a more sedate singing style from Joe Elliot prove that the band can mix it up when necessary.
"Pour Some Sugar on Me (Acoustic Live)" – Acoustic in Singapore
Shockingly, one of the greatest cock-rock anthems of the 80s works great as a stripped-down acoustic blues-tinged number. The band has performed its signature hit acoustically on a few different occasions, but the closest it has come to a wide release is on this bonus disc, issued with select copies of Slang.
"Demolition Man" – Euphoria
After the critical and commercial disaster that was Slang, Def Leppard returned to what they knew best with Euphoria, a collection of 13 fan-friendly pop-metal songs. The best track of the bunch was this one, and while it was the opening track of the record, it was strangely not chosen as a single (instead, the label went with the lousy power ballad "Promises"). And don't worry, this track has nothing in common with either the Sting tune of the Stallone/Snipes movie.
"21st Century Sha La La La Girl" – Euphoria
Don't let the silly name fool you; this is another standout from the Euphoria album. The best rock song about boning in outer space you're likely to hear.
"Disintegrate" – Euphoria
One final pick from the band's shoulda-been-comeback record, and their first instrumental since "Switch 625," is this great track. While "Switch 625" was the brainchild of Steve Clark, this melodic guitar melody came courtesy of Phil Collen.
The most appropriate album title of all time, X should be that -- crossed out of the band's discography and never mentioned again. A pandering collection of sappy pop ballads that should be an embarrassment to a band that actually built much of its career on sappy pop ballads.
"20th Century Boy" – Yeah!
One could argue that "Pour Some Sugar on Me" was just an '80s update of this sleaze-rock '70s classic, so it makes sense that Def Leppard would make it their own on their 2006 covers album Yeah!, amping it up a notch in terms of loudness and tempo in the process.
"Waterloo Sunset" – Yeah!
While a T. Rex cover isn't too surprising from a band that helped popularize glam rock, this surprisingly good version of the Kinks' classic is. Bowie also covered this song, but his version actually pales in comparison to this one.