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Rocker Joe offers sympathy as Karla struggles on welfare

Former hellraising rocker Joe Elliott said he feels sorry for ex-wife Karla Rhamdanie, who is living on benefits, but added: "It's really none of my business."

The Def Leppard singer, who has lived in Ireland for 22 years, has admitted to being tamed and changed by the birth last year of his young son Finlay.

Elliott, who previously claimed he had no interest in becoming a father, even took the unprecedented step of organising a year's sabbatical for the rock band that spends most of its time on the road so he could stay at home in Co Dublin with his American wife Christine and their son who is now 15-months-old.

And the heavy metal rocker, whose band's hits include Animal and Pour Some Sugar On Me, admits he is relishing life as a father which is a million miles away from playing to stadiums packed with adoring fans across the world.

"Sure, I've changed nappies from the very beginning without giving it a second thought. I'm very hands on with my son. We get on very well, talking this strange language to each other. It's brilliant. And since he was born I haven't been away long enough for him to forget who I am. From the time he came home from the hospital, myself and my wife split-shifted all the work.

"We'd each take every second night to get up and change him and give him a new bottle. We each had roles to play. It was always that way from the very beginning. It was great to be at home for it."

Elliot, 51, met attractive property developer Christine in Dublin and they married in a ceremony at Kinnity Castle, Co Offaly, a few years ago, with his local pals mingling with rock legends such as Brian May of Queen and Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople during the ceremony.

His first wife, Karla, a former Irish model and socialite, revealed recently that she is living on welfare payments after her beauty business went bust and an employee sued her for non-payment of wages.

Elliott said: "I heard all right that she's been going through some tough times. I wasn't here myself when the news came out.

"All I'll say is that I have an awful lot of sympathy for anyone in that position but, really, it's none of my business."

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And while Elliott bonded well with his baby during the year off, he soon realised that he had also kept quite busy during that time.

In the studio in the basement of his Stepaside home, himself and Thin Lizzy guitarist Scott Gorham remastered three Thin Lizzy albums.

The work was a labour of love for Elliott, a huge Phil Lynott fan, and he didn't charge for any studio time.

He also formed a part-time band, Down'n'Outz, and they recorded an album and played a few dates.

And the band's name proved to be the inspiration behind a new business venture for Elliott. He explained: "I had the artwork for the sleeve with me one night in Lillie's Bordello, which is a regular haunt of mine, when the manageress Jean (aka Mother) saw it and said it would make a great logo for a beer bottle. She told me to talk to Oliver Hughes, who owns the club and the Porterhouse, which brews its own beers."

Down'n'Outz is now the name of a bottled beer and Hughes and his partners hope to sell it in America, where they already have a Porterhouse pub in New York.

"We tested out plenty of different formulae before settling on this. It's only available in bottles at the moment, but we're hoping to get it out on draught."

While most of the members of Def Leppard moved to Dublin in the early Eighties for tax reasons, Elliott no longer has any tax benefits for staying but does so because he loves the country and has made friends here, such as Denis Desmond, nightclub king Robbie Fox, pop guru Louis Walsh, kebab king Graeme Beere, restaurateur May Frisbee, the Doody sisters and music man Paddy Freeney. But work in America and beyond is once again beckoning for Def Leppard, who have sold 65 million albums to date.

They will soon release a new double live CD, Mirrorball, and will play Dublin's O2 venue on June 8 with support from Alice Cooper and Thin Lizzy.

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