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Vivian Campbell Finally Bitches About His Guitar Parts In Def Leppard
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def leppard

In 1992, Vivian Campbell joined the mega-success rock group Def Leppard, stepping into the second lead guitarist slot left vacate by Steve Clark, who had died the year before. At the time, Campbell had gone a few years out of the spotlight after leaving David Coverdale’s rock supergroup Whitesnake before signed on with the Leps, a position he’s had for nearly 20 years that remains his most high-profile gig to date.

The Irish-born Campbell, who got big break back in 1983 as Ronnie James Dio’s hot-shot lead guitarist in the former Black Sabbath frontman’s newly created solo band, Dio, has always said that the guitar parts in Def Leppard weren’t really challenging to him and he was fine with that. Now, the guitarist is finally bitching about it, complaining that fellow Lep guitarist Phil Collen gets all the good guitar parts. Let’s just say, I told you so.

When I first heard Campbell had joined Def Leppard, who at the time had abandoned their traditional rock roots and were in the throes of commercial success, I couldn’t imagine the guitarist would be satisfied playing such with pop hits like “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and “Love Bites.” Campbell had previously wowed audiences with his blistering solos on classic tunes like Dio’s “Rainbow In The Dark,” “Last In Line,” and “Holy Diver,” but I understand, the dude needs to earn a living. Let’s face it, he was probably making pennies in Dio and Whitesnake, since he was essentially hired help in those bands. Shortly after joining Def Leppard, I read an interview with Campbell in a guitar magazine where the writer asked him how he felt about not doing his typical intense soloing. His answer was something to the affect that now it was easier for him, that he didn’t have to play such difficult solos anymore, and I was like, that’s your bank account talking there, dude.

More curious was why the Leps would even need a soloist like Campbell if they were going to continue on in the pop world (which they did, although not as successfully as with the Hysteria album). The band already had Collen, who joined the group on their third album Pyromania and proved he had the chops on songs like “Photograph,” so why bring on Campbell? I still don’t know.

So now it’s been 19 years that Campbell has been in Def Leppard, but can anyone name a memorable solo he’s done since? I can’t. Two decades later and it’s finally come to light that not only has Campbell been relegated to mainly to simple chords and riffs, but that he’s still essentially a hired hand, thanks to recent comments (via BM) made by bandmate Phil Collen when he was told of Campbell’s complaints that he gets all the good solos.

Here’s Collin’s response about why he gets all the good solos:

Because it’s all my shit. Vivian joined a band that I helped create. He’s coming into my house! It’s not all the good parts, it’s the Def Leppard sound that me and Steve created.

We got together with Mutt Lang, and there was already a sound in place. Also, we play all the hits live, which were written before Viv was in the band.

Collen’s attitude towards Campbell is not unlike that of Metallica’s when Jason Newsted joined the band, replacing original bassist Cliff Burton, who’d died in a tragic accident. Metallica hazed the crap out of Newsted, and even after 15 years with the band — while Burton had only been with Metallica for 4 years at the time of his death — and playing on their most financially successful albums, the bassist was still considered the “new guy” and not given his due. (Everyone remember how Newsted’s bass parts were lowered in the mix so drastically on 1988’s …And Justice For All that they were practically non-existent? Yeah, that’s some bullshit right there.)

The Leps did and are still doing that same kind of thing to Campbell. They hired a guitar virtuoso only to tie his hands, and what, dangle all that Hysteria money in front of him so he knows he’ll never be rich like the rest of the band? He’ll have to make due with what he earns from co-writing “Demolition Man” I guess. (Does he even solo on that song? Apparently some Formula One racing champ did a guest solo on the song. Oh yeah, another slap in ol’ Viv’s face.)

Before reading Campbell’s comments about his solos in Def Leppard, I had wondered if he was even still in the band, as he’s also now playing with his fellow countrymen in the reunited Thin Lizzy.

I know a lot of you are fans of Def Leppard, what do you think of Campbell’s contributions to Def Leppard?

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