WEST VALLEY CITY — Life is good for Phil Collen.
The lead guitarist for iconic rockers Def Leppard has not only had the kind of career that most musicians can only dream about – selling 65 million albums worldwide – but at 54 he also in the best shape of his life.
“Honestly, I wake up everyday feeling like Superman,” he said.
Recently, Collen and Def Leppard added movie soundtrack to their long list of achievements.
Rock of Ages, the movie, opened over the weekend. It’s the story about a small town girl and a city boy meeting on the Sunset Strip, backed by some of the biggest songs of the rockin’ ’80s.
The title alone instantly conjures up thoughts of Def Leppard, and their 1983 classic song from the Pyromania album. But when the play of Rock of Ages originally debuted on Broadway in 2009, Def Lep’s music wasn’t to be found on the original cast recording.
Collen says when the play came out, there were legal issues that prevented Def Leppard’s songs from being in it. To prevent the same thing from happening in the movie, the Leppards re-recorded two of their biggest hits, “Rock of Ages” and “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” so they could be used in the film.
“It’s a fantastic movie,” Collen said while speaking to the Deseret News from outside a Starbucks in southern California prior to the band’s summer tour of the U.S. “Musically, I’m really pleased with the way it came out.”
For Cruise, there may have been extra pressure as the night he was filmed performing “Pour Some Sugar On Me” in a club in Florida, the real Def Leppard members were in town and showed up to watch.
“He said he was really nervous we showed up at that moment,” recalled Collen. “We were so impressed with his singing.”
Def Leppard is now getting ready to get on stage themselves and perform “Rock of Ages,” “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and many of their other songs from their multi-platinum albums. Their entire summer tour starts Wednesday at the USANA Amphitheatre with fellow ’80s rockers Poison and Lita Ford.
This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the band’s biggest album, Hysteria, which has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide.
“On the tour, we’re going to highlight that,” Collen said. “We’re going to revisit some material we haven’t done for years live. I’m really looking forward to that. (Hysteria) was such a big event in our lives.”
The massive success of the album was something that the band didn’t instantly recognize, he said. They didn’t realize the payoff of their hard work until later.
“It kind of crept up on us. We would do these mammoth recording jaunts, we were constantly working, touring 250 dates. We never really got to enjoy the time off or also realize what happened.”
But when Def Leppard received it’s Diamond award for Hysteria going ten times platinum, “I remember going up on the stage to accept our Diamond award, I remember looking and thinking, ‘I think we did something special.’ That’s when it home home,” Collen said.
When Hysteria first came out, the band went on an extensive tour with an “in the round” stage setup, putting the stage in the center of the arena each night and running around the large set-up so everyone in audience got a good view of the band.
“It was almost like an Olympic sport. You’d lose five pounds on stage each night,” Collen said.
Collen said he’d love to play in the round again, but it would have to be under the right conditions.
If Def Leppard were to tour in the round again, there’s little doubt the extremely fit Collen could handle it. At 54, he is in better shape than many rockers more than half his age. Collen, who typically plays shirtless in concert, has had so many people ask him how he stays so fit, that he is releasing his own workout video.
Collen, who stopped drinking 25 years ago and his a vegan, says he gets his main workout from boxing and kickboxing drills. But he believes the key for everyone is to just get out each day and do something to get their bones and joints moving.
“If you don’t move, your body will start getting used to that lifestyle,” he said. “Run, walk, jump….there’s millions of things. I think people just make excuses.”