Def Leppard Guitarist Names Important Thing He Learned From Eddie Van Halen, Recalls Weird Way Band’s Biggest Hit Was Written

Def Leppard’s biggest hit song “Pour Some Sugar on Me” pretty much happened as an unexpected addition to the 1987 album “Hysteria.” As the band’s guitar player Phil Collen recalled in a recent interview with Guitar Player, it wouldn’t have happened if producer Mutt Lange didn’t intervene. Collen recalled:

“We’d finished ‘Hysteria,‘ and [lead singer] Joe [Elliott] was sitting in the corridor, playing an acoustic guitar. Mutt Lange, who was producing, said, ‘What’s that you’re playing?’ Joe just looked at him kind of confused and said, ‘I don’t know, just this thing I’ve been messing around with.’ Mutt told him to play it again, and when he’d finished, he decided that we really needed to record it.

DEF LEPPARD - "Pour Some Sugar On Me" (Official Music Video)

“What happened next was that it turned into a kind of hip-hop beat with a rap vocal. Joe and Mutt were coming up with lyrics, which were just random and kind of nonsense at that stage, trying to get something flowing. Prior to that, all we had was the line ‘Pour some sugar on me,’ and the chords.”

Of course, the song’s guitar tone is also something that many rock fans have admired over the years. But as Collen further revealed, we should thank none other than Eddie Van Halen for this. He explains:

“The main thing I used was a Strat that my mother bought me for my 21st birthday that I nicknamed Felix. I had a DiMarzio humbucker at the bridge where I‘d cut a hole in it.

Def Leppard's Phil Collen: Main Riff in "Pour Some Sugar On Me" | Behind The Riff | Jackson Guitars

“I’d met Eddie Van Halen on Van Halen’s first tour of the U.K., and he’d said to me that I’d never be happy with the sound unless I changed that pickup. So I thought, If Eddie says I should do it, I’m going to try it!

“That turned out to be the main guitar that I used on the album. The opening riff was played on a Jackson Dinky and doubled with a Telecaster, but everything else was the Strat, and it was all played through a Rockman.”

Photos: Kevin Nixon (Phil Collen performing live in 2018), Abby Gillardi (Van Halen-8611 (20022175423))


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.