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The Record Vault: Def Leppard – Hysteria

I didn’t get into this album when it first came out. I’m okay with that.

But then something strange happened. It started to become part of the conversation. After a few false starts with the singles in Australia, they finally got our attention with “Pour Some Sugar On Me”. So we wanted to hear the album.

Metal and rock fans like to buy what is happening. And happening at the same time was Def Leppard and Guns N Roses. If a person went into the record store to pick up a copy of “Appetite”, they would add “Hysteria” to the purchase and vice versa. That’s how I remember it happening. Both albums were slow burners, percolating, until they exploded onto the scenes behind a few songs, like “Sweet Child O Mine”, “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and “Love Bites”.

“Hysteria” cost over $5 million to write and record. It’s Def Leppard’s fourth album, released in August 1987 on Mercury Records, four years after “Pyromania”.

The album was “eventually” produced “Mutt” Lange who at first, came in and did some work with the band, then left to work on other stuff and then came back. While Lange was gone, Jim Steinman came in, but he spent his time trying to change the carpet in the studio (as the colour didn’t suit his taste) and writing “Bat Out Of Hell 2” Meatloaf’s (RIP) comeback album in the early 90’s.

The band for the album is Joe Elliott, Steve Clark, Phil Collen, Rick Savage and Rick Allen. Rick Allen also came up with the album title, in reference to his 1984 car accident and the loss of his left arm from it.

It is also the last album to feature guitarist Steve Clark (RIP) before his death during the writing of “Adrenalize”. As a guitarist, this one hit me hard when it happened. He wasn’t as popular as EVH or George Lynch or Yngwie Malmsteen or Richie Blackmore or John Sykes, but goddamn, he was one of my favorites. Because he played for the song and he decorated each song with his sense of melody.

Because the album took so long to see the light of day, a book was also published called “Animal Instinct: The Def Leppard Story”, written by Rolling Stone magazine senior editor David Fricke.

“Animal Instinct” was also the original album title, hence the “humanimal” in the “laser bulls eye” on the album cover. Metallica used a similar humanimal cover idea for “Hardwired To Self-Destruct”. And I’m not happy that I stupidly traded it for some vinyl records in the mid 90’s. Those vinyl records mean nothing to me right now, but the book did.

It needs to be mentioned, the loyalty shown by the band to allow Allen to return to the drum kit, using a combination electronic/acoustic kit with a set of electronic pedals that triggered (via MIDI) the sounds that he would have played with his left arm.

Even their management team wasn’t sure if it was possible, but they all gave him the chance. And for all those self development books about positive growth mindsets and grit, well, look no further than Rick Allen. He is the definition of positive growth mindsets and grit.

“Hit Makers” by Derek Thompson mentions how most artists’ best work comes AFTER they’ve had a hit.

Def Leppard had the hit with “Pyromania” and then said to the world, “now that I have your attention, sink your teeth into “Hysteria””.

Following the “Blockbuster” method set out by Hollywood (check out the excellent book by Anita Elberse), the artists wanted to create albums in which every song could be a potential single. It happened with “Thriller”. It happened with “Born In The U.S.A”. It happened with “Hysteria”.

And I know that the traditional metal sound found on “Pyromania” was gone, but I was okay with that as well, as it was taken up by Tesla for their debut album “Mechanical Resonance”. If you don’t believe me, check out tracks like “Modern Day Cowboy”, “Before My Eyes” and “Rock Me To The Top”. Even Cinderella’s debut album has sounds and riffs from Def Leppard’s first three albums.

“Pour Some Sugar On Me” gave the album some legs.

But by June 1988, the band was getting ready to go back into the studio to record the follow up. The tour was coming at an end as well in October.

Then in July, 1988, “Love Bites” dropped as a single and the album started selling like a brand new album. The song gave the album another 15 months of life on the charts and it led to “Rocket” being released as a single in January 1989. And the album just kept on selling.

Women

I didn’t appreciate this song when it was first released as a single, but along with “Gods Of War” it’s one of the most heaviest on the album. Check out the intro lead and that Chorus riff.

Rocket

Musically it’s pretty simple with a F# major arpeggio being the main riff, a Joe Elliot vocal melody in which he raps his favourite acts and a Led Zep inspired “Rock N Roll” break down.

Animal

This song gave the melodic rock movement a heart. And I like how one guitar plays a rhythm track and the other guitar just decorates with melodic fills and leads.

Love Bites

I don’t normally like ballads, but this song is unbelievable. Steve Clark is on Rhythm here and Phil Collen is the decorator, with his melodic fills and leads.

That layered Chorus hook alone, is heavy and with Collen playing those metal like leads, well it’s perfect.

Pour Some Sugar on Me

Step inside I did.

The intro riff is reminiscent of the hard rock songs from their first two albums with a Chorus similar to “I Love Rock N Roll”. And whatever “Sugar” they wanted to have poured over em, they definitely got it.

Armageddon It

The riffs on this song are Classic Rock and from their earlier albums.

The intro riff is “Photograph”. The verse riff is a blues boogie, reminiscent of AC/DC. And the song goes through so many key changes, it’s hard to keep up.

But my favourite part is the E major solo section. Press play and enjoy.

Gods of War

Side 2 begins with my favourite track on the album.

How good is that Beatles “She’s So Heavy” inspired outro?

Even the band realised this song is one of their best, bringing it back into their set lists.

Don’t Shoot Shotgun

It’s AC/DC on pop rock steroids. If you don’t believe check out the verse riff and tell me it’s not AC/DC like.

Run Riot

How good is this song?

Joe Elliot throws his voice out on this one, as he delivers a 60s/70s sugar gum pop vocal in the verses. If anything its very Sweet like with a bit of rockabilly.

Hysteria

Perfection.

And I like how that major key guitar riff for the intro and verses sounds haunting, because of the open G string.

Excitable

I didn’t know what to think of this song.

The start of it with the voices didn’t really get me excitable, but when the vocals kick in, it’s got that soul rock funk vibe, and I love it.

Love and Affection

It’s basically “Animal” part 2. Not that it’s a bad track, but with so many other awesome tracks ending up as B sides, it makes me think the album would have been better served with one of those tracks.

If you look at the albums popularity, it’s 4× Platinum in Australia, Diamond in Canada, Platinum in New Zealand, Gold in Norway, Gold in Sweden, Platinum in Switzerland, 2x Platinum in United Kingdom and 12x Platinum in 12,000,000.

There’s nothing else to be said, except, press play and enjoy a blockbuster release.

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19 thoughts on “The Record Vault: Def Leppard – Hysteria

  1. These album was a beast. It would not die and and to go 12x Platinum (Diamond) in the US is insane. It isn’t my favorite album, but it is pretty close. I have more copies of it then any other album in my collection though so maybe it is my favorite!! The title track is in my opinion one of their best songs ever.

  2. It was a slow burn for it in the States too. It was the first DL I heard and that was after it blew up in 88. That entire first side is still played on the radio today, it’s amazing just how omnipresent this album was once it got momentum. And Rick Allen’s story is great, getting to participate in this world-conquering fun after that kind of a setback.

  3. The artwork and packaging along with the music is impressive and good call on them waiting it out for Allen as if it was Stanley and Simmons he would have been long gone ..

  4. I agree with you about “Love and Affection.” It sounds like a filler to me. I think there are too many songs one the album. They could’ve got rid of “Don’t Shoot Shotgun,” “Run Riot,” and “Love and Affection” (maybe “Rocket” too), and I would like this album more. I don’t hate the ‘Hysteria’ album, I’m just sick of everyone saying that it’s their best album and how the band plays like half the album at their gigs nowadays. Also, I like your observation about the opening riff for “Armageddon It” because I used to get that song confused with “Photograph” because of that riff. And I believe both of those riffs were played by Steve, if I’m not mistaken?

    • 12 songs on an album in 1987 was seen as a treat but it was also becoming the norm due to the CD boom

      Because the album took so long to make they had a lot of tracks to pick from, and maybe they could have replaced em with some of the B sides.

      But I can tell ya, it’s hard to leave stuff off. That’s why a lot of bands in the 80s used John Kalodner. He was a maestro at sequencing albums for artists and telling them to drop songs off.

      David Coverdal said his favorite song on 87 was “Looking For Love” and Kalodner just dropped it from the normal US album release.

      • I’ve heard from other youtube channels and comments that it was the norm to take advantage of the space available on the CD, which was a good and bad thing. Depending on how you look at it.

        Yeah, I would’ve loved to see “Tear it Down,” “Fractured Love,” “Ring of Fire,” and the re-recorded version of “Ride into the Sun” instead. But I guess it worked out since those tracks were eventually released on ‘Retro Active’ in 1993.

        John Kalodner? I’ve never heard of him. But according to my search on google, it looks like he worked with Aerosmith.

        If Coverdale liked the “Looking for Love” song so much, how come Kalodner dropped it from the US album release?

  5. Henrik says:

    I was lucky enough to witness their 2nd public gig after tragic events in 1984. Def Leppard started their comeback in the UK Donington and the next one took place in Stockholm 23.8.1986.

    I do not remember exact details but I do recall their live sound was awesome and that they played medley of classics, including Led Zeppelin. None of use noticed they also played Love And Affection from the forthcoming album called Hysteria.

    Truth be told we were waiting for Ozzy so Def Leppard was a nice bonus in Monster of Rock lineup.

    PS
    Hysteria was probably my first album in CD format in 1987.

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