Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott Explains How a Hole in the Wall Led to the Hit Song “Photograph”

Known for his raspy voice, Joe Elliott is not only a founding member of the band Def Leppard but also led the David Bowie tribute band called the Cybernauts. Always remembered for his time with Def Leppard, Eilliot has performed on every album produced by the band. The band’s last album, Diamond Star Halos, released back in 2022. Having a rich history with the Def Leppard, Elliot recently recalled one of his favorite memories with the band and how a hole in the wall led to the iconic song “Photograph.” 

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Like many artists, Elliott and Def Leppard found themselves in somewhat of a rough patch financially as they worked on the 1983 album Pyromania. Due to not having a great deal of funds, the singer ended up renting a small apartment that had more than a few problems. Recalling his time living in the town of Isleworth, Elliott told The Rockonteurs podcast, “The previous tenant, obviously on a drunken rampage one night, had punched a hole through the bathroom wall. So it looked like The Shawshank Redemption.”

[RELATED: Joe Elliott Responds to Rumors Def Leppard Used Backing Tracks During Performances]

Joe Elliott Finds Inspiration In “The Ultimate Want You Can Never Have”

Not wanting to take the time to fix the hole, Elliott simply covered it with a poster of the mesmerizing Marilyn Monroe. Not knowing at the time, but that poster helped the singer draw inspiration. “You’re staring at this thing every day. And when we came to the idea of ‘Photograph’ I said, ‘How about we write it like [The Who’s] ‘Pictures of Lily’,’ where it’s about this girl that you’re madly in love with and then your dad taps you on the shoulder goes, ‘Sorry son, but she’s dead.’ The ultimate want you can never have.”

At the time, “Photograph” was a song without words as the band looked to match the perfect lyrics with the music. Elliott recalled, “We knew from a musical point of view, this is really special. Just don’t ruin it now [with the lyrics].” Able to blend the music with his inspiration from the hole in his wall, Def Leppard found themselves yet another hit. 

When released, the song helped solidify Def Leppard as a top name in music as the track dominated the charts. And as for Pyromania, the album ended up selling more than 10 million copies in the United States alone. Throughout their history on stage, Def Leppard sold more than 100 million albums. Thanks to their hit songs and memorable albums, the band eventually found themselves inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2019.  

(Photo by Anthony Devlin/Getty Images for Live Nation UK)

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