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Def Leppard readies covers album, plans tour

Songs by T. Rex, Bowie, Kinks, included; Journey will be the opening act
/ Source: Billboard

Def Leppard's upcoming covers album, "Yeah!," due in stores May 23, originally was scheduled to be out last fall. But the group delayed its release to keep it from falling into obscurity, according to frontman Joe Elliott.

"We wanted to put it out, tour (to support) it and make it a legitimate record rather than just some throwaway thing," Elliott told Billboard.com. "And we were kind of happy with the way it turned out. Essentially a covers album is supposed to be about fun. It's revisiting your youth and showing the world where your true roots are. It shouldn't be a labor of love."

While the concept was discussed for more than a decade, Elliott said it wasn't until 2004 — a rare year when Def Leppard didn't tour — that the outfit recorded the project at its leisure. "Yeah!" features material from the Kinks ("Waterloo Sunset"), Badfinger ("No Matter What"), T. Rex ("20th Century Boy"), David Bowie ("Drive-In Saturday"), Sweet ("Hell Raiser"), Mott the Hoople ("The Golden Age of Rock & Roll") and Thin Lizzy ("Don't Believe a Word"), among others.

Def Leppard originally intended to release "Yeah!" as a Dual Disc but instead opted to make the planned DVD component, "Bootleg Backstage," a separate release later in the year. The DVD will feature three live tracks ("Action," "Rock On," "No Matter What") and 20 minutes of interview footage.

It will be a classic rock summer for Def Leppard, which has tapped Journey as the opener for a 34-date coast-to-coast run that begins June 23 in Camden, N.J. After the band hit the road in 2005 with Bryan Adams, this marks the second year in a row that Elliott and company have teamed up with an established act that may be outside of its perceived genre. But Elliott doesn't see it that way.

"To me, we were always a lot more pop than heavy metal," Elliott said. "It's been extremely hard to get that point across to people. So the thing is, we could work both ways. We could tour with Journey or Bryan Adams and we could tour with the Scorpions too." In concert, fans should expect a handful of "Yeah!" tracks, as well as perhaps a gem or two from the back catalog.

Even though Def Leppard has sold more than 65 million albums worldwide and recently celebrated its 28th year together, Elliott isn't holding his breath for a phone call from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

"I highly doubt it," he said with a laugh. "I don't see a lot of the tuxedo-wearing panel being big Def Leppard fans, to be quite honest, so I wouldn't expect it."