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Def Leppard covers own songs to get digital revenues

After a long-running dispute with Universal Music, the English rock band takes advantage of a law that protects cover versions, by covering its own songs. Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Pour some acid on me.

Some musicians refuse to come to terms with the terms that digital downloads offer.

A few, such as Garth Brooks and AC/DC, have refused to allow their music on iTunes.

Def Leppard, the English rock band that some people rather like and others fail to comprehend, is another that just isn't amused by the digital age.

Now the band has leaped on a new, radical strategy to get a better deal for its music: it's covering its own songs and releasing them themselves.

As Billboard hums it, the Leppards and Universal Music aren't fond of each other. The band believes it deserves far more for digital downloads, so it has walked away.

Frontman Joe Eilliott told Billboard:

Our contract is such that they can't do anything with our music without our permission, not a thing. So we just sent them a letter saying, "No matter what you want, you are going to get 'no' as an answer, so don't ask." That's the way we've left it.

The solution is to replace their old songs with "brand-new, exact same versions of what we did."

Brand-new, exact same. That's how every loving relationship should be. But how easy will it be for musicians who are hurtling toward the initial phases of dotage to re-create their golden oldies?

"We had to study those songs, I mean down to the umpteenth degree of detail, and make complete forgeries of them,' said Elliott.

Elliott and friends have been fortunate in getting fine legal advice, which suggested that if they recorded cover versions of their songs, then Universal Music couldn't benefit.

The classic, but rerecorded "Pour Some Sugar On Me" is already available on iTunes as well as Amazon, along with other tracks.

Because the band is now in legal control of the master tapes -- and can therefore control the financial terms -- it stands to make far more money for its efforts.

Opinion seems to be divided, though on whether these efforts are wonderful or not so wonderful.

To my own ears, they sound not bad at all, but then Def Leppard isn't exactly my joy.

There are aficionados who, like iTunes poster Walleywood, declare: "Even Tom Cruise's version [in the recent movie "Rock of Ages"] is more appealing at this point."

In the past, Simply Red and Prince have both rerecorded songs in order to gain master tape control.

Perhaps, though, this idea might inspire artists who have made money from terrible songs to see if they might be able to rerecord them and make them sound better -- and make even more money, while gaining credibility.

Might this be a thought for, say, the Jonas Brothers?