Part 4 of my 4-part series on early Def Leppard singles!
DEF LEPPARD – “Wasted” / “Hello America” (1979 Vertigo/Phonogram single)
My initial thinking regarding this single was that I didn’t need it; both songs are available on On Through the Night. Then I found out that these single versions of “Wasted” and “Hello America” are earlier, non-album recordings. Rick Allen was in the band by this time but On Through the Night had yet to be recorded. This immediately put the single on my radar as a must-have.
On Through the Night was produced by Tom Allom (Judas Priest) but before settling on him, Leppard tried out Nick Tauber due to his history with Thin Lizzy. (He also produced Sheer Greed by Girl, the band that featured future Leppard alumnus Phil Collen.) Tauber worked on the earlier, folksier Lizzy, not the later version of the band that rocked out such classics as “Jailbreak” and “Bad Reputation”.
The story goes that the record label was unhappy with Nick Tauber’s results and put a halt to his work on the album. He had finished four songs: These two, plus “Rock Brigade”, and “Glad I’m Alive” which both remain unreleased. The label released “Wasted” as a single while recruiting Tom Allom to start over on the album.
“Wasted” boasts one of Leppard’s all time greatest riffs, if not the greatest. You can see how this song has remained a cult favourite all these decades later. This earlier version isn’t as adrenalized (pardon the pun) as the later album version, but there’s otherwise nothing wrong with it. I think Allom’s album version is safely still the definitive one. The two tracks are not that dissimilar, just Allom’s more in tune with the current heavy metal sounds.
The B-side, “Hello America”, would become a single in its own right the following year, in its guise as an Allom track. This might be one that I prefer in its Tauber version. Allom added a synthesizer riff to the chorus of “Hello America” that I always felt dated the tune. While this version is not as manic or electrified, it does have the bare unadorned chorus. There are bonuses to both versions.
It’s kind of funny to hear how shaky Joe Elliott’s voice was back then. He grew into a powerful screamer by the High ‘n’ Dry album, which is my favourite period of Def Leppard. They were all young back then, but Joe was clearly not as confident nor in his control of his voice in 1979.
Still, as a purchase, as a single, as a collectible, I am very happy with this. My only regret is that I didn’t find one with a picture sleeve.