Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Derivative Works, Influenced, Music, My Stories

The Record Vault: Def Leppard – On Through The Night

“On Through The Night” will turn 42 this year.

It’s the debut album from Joe Elliot, Pete Willis, Steve Clark, Rick Savage and Rick Allen, otherwise known as Def Leppard.

I would love to say I purchased this when it came out, but it was after “Adrenalize” that I went back and got this.

Rock Brigade

It brings the standard hard rock blues vibes to the album but it’s got all the glitter from Sweet added to it.

Pete Willis takes the solo spotlight on this.

Look out for the rock brigade is the catch cry and look out we did.

Hello America

After the “hello America” chants, a “Strutter” style beat and feel kicks in.

I like the Beach Boys vibe, especially after the solo section which Steve Clark nails.

Sorrow Is A Woman

Press play to hear the “Stairway To Heaven” inspired lead break.

And how good is that harmony solo section from the 2.40 mark, which leads to the Outro.

It Could Be You

It shows their love of UFO, Mott The Hoople, Sweet and hard rock Queen.

Hell, the song wouldn’t be out of place on a Judas Priest album.


Listen to that tasty palm muted arpeggio riff from Steve Clark in the verses after the first Chorus and how good is that “staring up at the sky” section) which shows the adventurous and melodic spirit of the band.

Press play to hear the solo. It’s Pentatonic heaven and the section straight after the lead.

When The Walls Came Tumbling Down

How good is the clean tone intro?

And then it morphs into those galloping style riffs which was a big part of the NWOBHM and something Iron Maiden would use a lot, “The Trooper” comes to mind immediately.

With a Chorus that reminds me of New Wave acts.

Press play to hear the riff after the Chorus at 2.34.


What a headbanging riff to kick off the song.

For anyone who wanted to question the metal credentials of Def Leppard, I always pointed them to this song.

Rocks Off

It’s interchangeable with “It Could Be You” with very similar riffs being the main riffs. Then again the whole blues hard rock movement was based on the same riffs being re-used by each individual artist.

It Don’t Matter

It could have come from the fingertips of Michael Schenker as “Rock Bottom” comes to mind. And how good is that Chorus, just a simple, “It don’t matter” line repeated in a simple AC/DC style backing vocal.

Answer To The Master

How good are those harmony leads in the Chorus?

And the song has a little drum solo before it moves into a section that reminds me of U.F.O.

But press play to hear, the lead break courtesy of Clark, with an open string lick before it morphs into the pentatonic lines.


It’s 7 plus minutes long and it doesn’t feel laboured and boring. At the 2 minute mark it starts to go into a Thin Lizzy style of song, full of energy and harmonies.

But my favourite part is the stop start harmony section from the 4.20 mark and at 4.40, Joe Elliot starts singing a haunting melody, before a wah solo kicks in.

And from here to the end, it’s that good, that the only thing I could do is press repeat.

For all the multi-platinum and Diamond certifications that came afterwards, there is something simple and organic about the debut.

Check it out.


Pete Willis will be forgotten in the future when Def Leppard is mentioned and written about, however his songwriting chops and guitar playing on this album is at a high level.

And let’s not forget Steve Clark. Together they formed a formidable guitar team.

Post Def Leppard, check out the excellent band Roadway in which Willis wrote most of the tracks. The album came out in 1991 and it’s a melodic rock gem, a continuation of the work he started with “Pyromania”.


12 thoughts on “The Record Vault: Def Leppard – On Through The Night

  1. I love how in the section where they list the roles of the band members, it says “Throat” for Joe Elliott, haha! I have yet to get this album. I don’t plan on getting all of their studio albums (since some of them are ehhh), but I definitely want to get this one because of how raw Def Leppard sounded on this album. They polished a little bit on the next album, ‘High ‘n’ Dry.’ Even the songwriting improved quite a bit on the next album. But yeah, ‘On Through the Night’ showed the band’s potential. I’ll never forget my reaction to hearing the guitar solo for “Answer to the Master” for the first time; I couldn’t believe it was the same band! Great review, Pete!

  2. I can say I sort of had this album when it came out. My brother saw them open some festival and bought the album so that meant I had access to it. Doesn’t mean I immediately became a fan, but I knew of them early on. And Pete and Steve were the best guitar duo. I like them better than Phil and Steve. They were more raw and a little more crazy and together, they were magic.

  3. They were definitely on track to be a metal band with this. It’s always interesting to go back and see them lumped in with Iron Maiden and the NWOBHM movement. It took me some time to get used to this album, I also picked it up way later and it was a shock compared to their other output.

  4. I love love love this album, something raw and unadulterated about it all. I thank you for your avid words with this one, it’s been a wee while since I listened to this one.

  5. 42 years young that is whacked. lol Great debut as my buddy Muk bought this in the summer of 81 when we went to a record shop together. Muk got this one and I bought Killers by Maiden! That was a successful trip for a couple of 14 year olds at the time.
    I will need to check out that Willis record as I read about it at the time yet never heard or seen it.
    Off to Youtube!

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