Meet Phil Collen. You may know him as the lead guitarist in Def Leppard, whose signature song Pour Some Sugar on Me is still as widely enjoyed as when it debuted in 1988. Maybe you’ve heard of him as the rock star who gave up alcohol and meat more than 25 years ago. Most likely you’ve seen him shirtless - in photos or in real life - flaunting his impeccably toned body to appreciative female fans.
But it wasn’t always like this. Collen worked his way up from nothing, teaching himself guitar from scratch as a teenager by imitating his heroes. He slogged it out in London-based pub bands for years, long before Def Leppard formed and transformed from unknowns to icons (all thanks to a little album called Pyromania), from playing openers in near-empty arenas to headlining in those same stadiums and selling them out every night. But as Collen discovered, true overnight success is a myth. Like the other band members, he had to struggle and fight his way to the top; in the end, he says, 'our work ethic saved us'. Just as it still does.
This is Collen’s story, starting with his first real taste of success and wild rock and roll excess as a member of the seminal glam rock outfit Girl. But once he joins Def Leppard, it’s also an amazing underdog tale featuring a bunch of ordinary working-class lads who rose to mega-stardom, overcoming incredible obstacles - such as the drummer, Rick Allen, who lost an arm in a car crash, and the tragic death of guitarist Steve Clark, Phil’s musical soul mate, who lost his fight with alcoholism. Featuring personal, never-before-seen photos of Collen and his band mates on stage and off,Adrenalized is a fascinating account of the failures, triumphs, challenges, and rock-hard dedication it takes to make dreams come true.
Adrenalized was published in hardback by Bantam Press in October 2015, and is Phil Collen's story.
There is a saying; something about never meeting your heroes. Well, in this case, for me, it should be never read a biography of your hero. I've been a Def Leppard fan since the 80s. I bought their albums (in vinyl, before the days of CD, let alone downloads), I went to their gigs. I saw them in Leeds in the late 80s, I saw them play their massive 'hometown', never to be forgotten gig at Don Valley Stadium in the mid 90s.
Great, I thought. Phil Collen has written (or co-written) his story, I'll read that, it will be fabulous to relive the memories. Pah!
Adrenalized is certainly Phil Collen's story, but for a Northern British fan it's a huge disappointment. It is clearly aimed at the American market, I know that the band were huge in the States, they struck gold over there way before they made an impression here in the UK, but why speak directly to the American fans only? Phil Collen was born and brought up in London, yet he talks about putting gas in his car and turning on the faucet. He talks about meeting the Queen of England instead of just 'The Queen' and compares well-known shows such as The Old Grey Whistle Test to American shows. It's very annoying, it's very off putting and the more I read, the more I went off the bloke. That is a shame.
The writing is fine, I guess that Chris Eptling did most of it. It's the whole feel of it and how Collen comes across as a person, that I didn't like. For those of us, at home in the UK who supported them when Rick Allen lost his arm in a car accident, and cheered when he returned on his custom-made drums, for those of us who grieved along side the band when Steve Clark died and for those of us who went to their massive hometown gig on a very hot day at Sheffield Don Valley arena, this feels like a bit of a kick in the teeth. That Don Valley gig was huge. The hugest thing that the band had done for years; the first band to play the Stadium, a Sheffield band, a full day. We loved it, they sounded fabulous, it was one of the best days ever. Phil Collen doesn't mention it once. He talks about loads of shows in the UK, he talks about many more in the US, but he doesn't give Sheffield Don Valley Stadium one teeny tiny mention. Kick. In. The. Teeth.
If you can keep up with his love life, take a bow. This is not a long book but there are so many relationships mentioned, they all seem to blur into one another. At one stage, towards the end, he's moved in with a woman and her child, at the same time he's having a baby with his on/off wife, and then another baby, and at the same time he's starting a relationship with another woman .... it's all confusing and told in a very flippant way.
I'm not even going to go into a discussion about the last chapter; the philosophical mutterings, the deep thoughts. By the time I'd got to this part I was just fed up to the back teeth.
I don't usually feature books on the blog if I've not enjoyed them, after all, we all have different tastes, and what I don't enjoy, someone else may love. However, this is not fiction, this is a memoir and it's a bloke that I've been a fan of for years, and it's really annoyed me, so I decided to say so!
Phil Collen is the lead guitarist of the legendary rock band Def Leppard. He has been a vegetarian for 31 years, alcohol-free for 28 years, and vegan for over four years, busting the myth of the classic rock star stereotype.
Chris Epting is the author of many books, including: Led Zeppelin Crashed Here, All I Really Need to Know I Learned From Kiss and Hello, It's Me - Dispatches from a Pop Culture Junkie.