rock-o-the-northOk, I’m going to admit it. I’m a 35-year-old bloke and I have a love affair with Def Leppard. Talk to some of my mates and you’d think it’s as bad as being addicted to crack cocaine or Jagermeister cocktails.

As far as they’re concerned it has never been fashionable to love the Leppard – even my best rock buddies have always preferred Maiden or Metallica. But for me there is only one band worthy of the title Kings Of Rock and that band hails from Sheffield, South Yorkshire.

So what started this fixation with the NWOBHM pioneers turned hair metal heroes? I remember walking into Woolies one day and seeing the 12-inch version of Animal staring out at me from a shelf stacked full of the kind of cheesy pop I’d been brutally exposed to as a 13-year-old with no musical clue whatsoever. It looked different, dangerous almost, and it drew me in like a dirty rock chick’s smile.

Until then the records I’d bought were most likely by Dead Or Alive and Belinda Carlisle. Rock and metal hadn’t crossed my radar. My dad wouldn’t let me buy the Beastie Boys’ Licence To Ill because of their bad (!) reputation but I do remember liking the riff on Fight For Your Right… It briefly hooked me but I didn’t truly understand the power of the electric guitar.

But then I bought Animal. I found the lyrics in Samsh Hits but pretty soon I was a Metal Hammer man. Alice Cooper was my first cover star and if we’re talking rock love affairs…but that’s for another day. This is all about Leppard. Within weeks I was religiously listening to Tommy Vance’s Friday Rock Show, recording Headbangers Ball and sewing patches on my new denim jacket. And it was all down to the Defs.

For me they’ve always boasted the full rock package. They can rock, they can slow it down, their live show is immense but most of all they’re some of the most humble stars on the block. They get on with each other and get on with their peers – hell, they’re even touring with Poison this summer despite Joe’s little spat with Brett Michaels.

So it isn’t cool to like Def Leppard? Judging by their record sales and ability to draw huge crowds more than 30 years after forming there must be a lot of uncool dudes like me out there. And closing Download isn’t a bad gig for a band publicly derided simply for being uber professional.

You see Leppard aren’t always changing band members, changing direction (apart from Slang) or trying to change the rock wheel. For critics that makes them ever so boring but for fans it’s the primary reason to invest so much time and money in the slick quintet. Like a pint of Guinness or a plate of fish and chips, you always know what you’re getting with Joe and his buddies. In Leppard’s case familiarity doesn’t breed contempt. It breeds respect by the bucketload.

If their Download slot doesn’t bring the house down then I’ll eat my Don Valley Stadium 1993 ticket and my original 12 inch Animal. Looks like it’s McDonald’s for tea on Sunday then…