“I thought I’d make the notes count, like Jeff Beck. It doesn’t sound anything like Jeff, but that was the intention going in!” Phil Collen on how – by accident and design – Def Leppard reinvented rock guitar on classic album Pyromania

Phil Collen live in Tokyo, 1984
(Image credit: Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images)

Every guitarist has been told that rhythm guitar is the most important skill, because no one gets a gig playing only solos. But when Phil Collen got the call to play on Def Leppard’s third album Pyromania, it was to do exactly that. “The painting was finished,” he recalls now. “I just threw an extra layer over it.”

The band’s first two albums had been recorded with the guitar team of Pete Willis and Steve Clark, but when Willis was dramatically fired late in the Pyromania sessions, Phil was drafted to provide the solos on songs that would become hit singles and deathless rock anthems: Photograph, Rock Of Ages, and Foolin’. It was the gig of a lifetime.

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Jenna Scaramanga

Jenna writes for Total Guitar and Guitar World, and is the former classic rock columnist for Guitar Techniques. She studied with Guthrie Govan at BIMM, and has taught guitar for 15 years. She's toured in 10 countries and played on a Top 10 album (in Sweden).