Joe Elliott has spent more than 40 years as the frontman of Def Leppard, but the singer believes he was only handed the job because his bandmates felt sorry for him.

During an appearance on The Rockonteurs podcast, Elliott detailed how the fledgling Def Leppard came together.

“It was (guitarist) Pete Willis, (bassist) Rick Savage and Tony Kenning was the original drummer,” Elliott recalled, noting that the band’s priority at the time was finding a rehearsal space.

The group eventually set up shop in a closed factory that had previously manufactured silverware. “This was a real Victorian dump hole,“ Elliott noted. “I mean, it was a grotty, snotty, shitty little place, but it's perfect for a band in 1977.”

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The singer and his bandmates tried to improve the space, painting the walls, putting up posters and adding a couch and some rugs they’d found lying in a nearby alleyway. After spending many days transforming the room, the band was finally ready to rehearse.

'Now You've Got to Sing'

“I'd been in the band six weeks before I even sang a note,” Elliott admitted. “It's like now, no pressure, but now you've got to sing. And we were going to do ‘Stairway to Heaven.’”

The band tried covering the Led Zeppelin classic, but things didn't go well.

“I couldn’t do it,” the frontman confessed. “I was singing an octave down.”

“I didn’t know Led Zeppelin," Elliott continued. "I didn’t have an older brother that was [introducing him to music]. I was into T-Rex. So Zeppelin, Sabbath, most of Deep Purple except for the singles, was not my thing. Only because the situation of my neighborhood friends weren't into that.”

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Elliott asked if he could try a different song, with the band eventually settling on David Bowie’s “Suffragette City.” The rendition went better and Elliott was invited to stay in the group. Still, he concedes that his hiring likely had more to do with his work fixing up the rehearsal space, rather than any talent he displayed on the microphone.

“I think they only kept me out of like, you know, they felt sorry for me," the frontman confessed. "He’s been here, he’s helped us decorate the place, we might as well keep him on… There was nobody else [to sing], though. That was the thing.”

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Gallery Credit: Nick DeRiso

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