More than 30 years after Def Leppard got its start, the band is still playing stadiums. Until recently, however, you couldn’t buy its hits, like “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and “Rock of Ages” from online retailers. Lead singer Joe Elliott joined weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz to explain why and what the band’s doing about it.
GUY RAZ: Why can’t I download your original songs off iTunes?
JOE ELLIOTT: When we signed our record contracts, Noah was still sailing the ark off into foreign climes. It was 1979 and there was no such thing as “digitally.” It wasn’t written into the deal and consequently they [the band’s label, Universal Records] have no rights for a digital release.
They can only release them digitally with our permission because that’s written into our contract. We’re trying to wrestle back all control or as much as possible. We’re not enjoying it — but they’ve got to come to the table with some kind of reasonable proposal, which they haven’t done, so we shall go in the studio and have a bit of fun.
GR: You haven’t been able to come to an agreement about how you would be compensated, so in order for you to, as you said, “control your work,” you guys are going to re-record your entire back catalog.
JE: That’s about 180 songs. There are some strange Japanese B-sides that really aren’t worth the effort, but when it comes to the “Bringin’ On The Heartbreaks,” the “Photographs,” the “Hysterias,” “Love Bites” — I can name 20 Top-20 hits — some of those are well worth the effort.
GR: You guys are covering yourselves.
JE: Yeah, we’re just basically doing re-records — it’s as simple as that. We’re making them available on iTunes, but what we’re trying to attempt to do — and it’s down to the listeners to decide whether we achieve it or not — is give them something that sounds like the original.
We don’t want them to say it’s better or it’s worse, we want them to say it’s the same. I’ve done it myself where I’ve gone in iTunes where I’ve looked for a certain song where I accidentally bought the re-record and it’s been awful. It’s just been lousily, quickly done for a quick buck. We’re not trying to make a quick buck, we’re actually trying to maintain some kind of dignity in this. Cause we don’t want other people making a shedload of cash out of our work and not pay us for it.
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