Adrenalized: Life, Def Leppard and beyond, Atria Books, Phil Collen, Chris Epting, 2015.
I always wondered who would be the first member of Def Leppard to release a book, and to be honest, I didn’t think it would be Phil Collen. In Adrenalized Collen covers his childhood in Hackney to his foray in the band Girl and of course, Def Leppard. It’s interesting to finally get a book from someone in the Leppard clan.
I see some reviews making a big deal about this book, and others claiming it was boring and had little to offer. I fall somewhere in the middle. I consider myself a seasoned veteran of the rock autobiography and believe I can make distinction between the divide.
First things first, Collen’s childhood offered nothing out of the ordinary or fascinating. It was much more informative to read about his days in the band Girl, who achieved some moderate success in the U.K. He really takes us back to that scene and era with the makeup, the androgyny, hanging out in gay bars and behind the music of Girl. It’s well-known that Collen wasn’t a member of Leppard’s first two albums and he gives his stance on them and how it felt for him to join an already established band.
There’s an interesting moment where Phil discusses High N’ Dry vs Pyromania and goes deeper into Mutt Lang’s contributions and ideas for the band and their sound. Collen believes Pyromania was original and a stepping stone but that “…the band’s originality culminated in the Hysteria album”. There’s a lot going into Adrenalize and Slang, then the content becomes less and less. It becomes more about tours -which band they toured with and such anecdotes- than proper storytelling. Up until then he gave good amounts of stories and information on the band’s biggest years and tours.
While we’re at it, I’m sure a lot of readers would’ve no doubt preferred more Phil Collen and less “guests”.
Adrenalized is very quick read at just about 200 pages. We also hear from people in Phil’s entourage who help tell the story (family, band members, ex-bandmates, wife etc). There are also numerous concert and album reviews that end up taking a lot of space. I don’t think Collen needs that much gratification from other sources in his own book. All of this superfluous content detracts from the story. He just needs to tell the story his own way, it’d be enough. It helps paint the picture but it happens a lot for what is supposed to be an autobiography.
While we’re at it, I’m sure a lot of readers would’ve no doubt preferred more Phil Collen and less “guests”. What is supposed to be a tool ends up hurting the book. And then there’s a lot of “…And then l was with this girl and then she got jealous of this girl so l ran of with her” as well, and so it becomes more of the same.
“…the band’s originality culminated in the Hysteria album”
The book seems to be done a bit too much by the number at times. Drugs? Check. Girls? Check. Joining über Rock band Def Leppard? Check. Life-changing moment? Check. Finding love? Check. A revelation of some kind? Check. I don’t know if it’s because there have been so many autobiographies on Rock musicians, but it seems lacking and doesn’t really do or say anything different. We don’t get as much of a feel for Phil’s personality as maybe we should. He just seems like this kind lad who somehow ended up in a massive rock band.
We get some glimpses of human moments -impacts, such as Steve Clark’s death or Rick Allen’s famous accident- like when Phil took his mom out on tour, that add a relatable human aspect to the book. It’s a good read for the obsessed and curious Leppard fans, but there’s no fanfare here. Don’t expect much revelations besides a few insights into the band, it’s simply an average Rock autobiography done by the numbers. Being the Leppard fan that I am I had to buy it. I went through the book’s 200 pages very quickly, and l thought it could have been more than what it ultimately ended up being. 3/5 stars.