I’ve chosen Def Leppard’s Hysteria for this week’s Music Monday for a number of reasons: 1) Yesterday was the 52nd birthday of bass player Rick ‘Sav’ Savage, and he’s one of my favourite bass players of all time (and so damn attractive in 1987!); 2) it will be a year this week since I last saw Def Leppard live, when they co-headlined with Mötley Crüe and were supported by the fabulous Steel Panther; and 3) this year marks the 25th anniversary since the release of Hysteria in 1987. Here’s a few album stats that will knock your socks off, from trusty Wikipedia: It’s the band’s bestselling album to date, and has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide, over 12 million of which were in the USA alone. It went to number 1 in the UK, USA, Australia, Canada, Norway and New Zealand, and charted at number 2 in Sweden and Switzerland. It went platinum twice in the UK, four times in Australia, ten times in Canada and an incredible twelve times in the USA, and spawned a mammoth 7 singles (out of 12 tracks) up to 1989, one of which, Pour Some Sugar On Me, went gold in the USA. Quite simply, this album is HUGE!
Hysteria is also the first album made after Rick Allen’s car accident, which led to the amputation of his left arm and his creation of a special drum kit which allowed him to continue his drumming career with the use of extra pedals. It is also the last album to feature the late great Steve Clark on guitar, who sadly passed away in 1991 at the age of 30.
So, the content! Women was the first single to be released in the USA, Canada and Australia. It’s a bit of an earworm song, very repetitive and with a strong, driving rhythm, and lots of chanting of “Women” (obviously). The outro is perhaps a bit longer than necessary, but it does show off the fabulous pairing of Phil Collen and Steve Clark on guitar, and there’s a fun video with a cartoon hero called Def Leppard getting up to all kinds of japes with what appear to be androids. It’s not one of my favourite songs from the album, I think it sounds a bit claustrophobic (which I know is a ridiculous way to describe a piece of music, but it makes sense to me). It is a bit of a fan favourite though (me aside, of course).
(Regular readers of my blog will know that I like to include the music videos for the singles when I write album reviews, so bear with me on this, there’s a fair few to get through!)
The second single (or first outside of the USA, Canada and Australia), is Animal, which I absolutely love. I should probably point out that whenever I stop being lazy and manage to do a spot of baking now and again, I always do it while listening to the best of Def Leppard because it’s so much fun to sing along to in the kitchen, and a lot of my fave singalongs are from this very album. Let’s face it, it’s produced some MAMMOTH tunes! Animal is no exception, it has lots of whoooahs and hand clap opportunities, basically everything you want for a spot of fun kitchen karaoke, and it always goes down a hoot live. The lyrics are a bit nonsensical, but there’s a fun circus themed video with lots of acrobats and zebras and the like, and the single scored 4 top 10 hits in the UK, US, Ireland and New Zealand.
Single number three, and one of the most famous of all Def Leppard songs, is the ever fabulous Pour Some Sugar On Me. The lyrics are totally ridiculous and seem to mainly consist of strings of random words, but they were probably an afterthought as rumour has it that Joe Elliot deliberately wrote it as a song for girls to strip to, hence the fierce driving rhythm and funky melody. This is the video for the original version, complete with house demolition, but a second version was later released (the Historia video edit) featuring a different intro, which I personally prefer. Amazingly, this only made it to number 1 in Canada, which I find totally ridiculous, as absolutely everybody knows that this song is ‘da bomb’.
Single number 4 is the title track Hysteria, a mellower, almost-ballad, that’s both charmingly calm and melodic. The video’s a bit awkward and so very eighties, featuring a variety of dancing couples in a multitude of crimes against fashion, and it all seems bit intrusive and Dirty Dancing-esque (a film I never liked, I don’t ever need to see Patrick Swayze grind like that against anybody, thank you very much). Awkward viewing aside, it’s another firm fan favourite and continues to get a lot of radio play to this day (assuming you listen to the right radio stations of course, plugplug Planet Rock).
The singles continued coming in 1988, kicking off with Armageddon It which made the top five in New Zealand and the States. Again, the lyrics are absolutely completely nonsensical, but it’s got a cracking riff and is pretty awesome live. It also lasts as a fitting tribute to Steve Clark, and I’m pretty sure I’ve heard Joe Elliot’s cry of “C’mon Steve!” before he breaks into his big guitar solo in the recording being shouted by fans in concert, which is rather touching. Again, this is a video that I hadn’t seen before, and I’m especially a fan of Sav’s big furry slippers.
Love Bites is the big belter of a ballad on Hysteria, and unsurprisingly scored two number 1’s in Canada and America, because if there’s one thing everyone loves (even if they can’t quite bear to admit it), it’s a power ballad. I’ve always been a fan of the intro, I’m not entirely sure which instrument is responsible for it (is it a distorted bass?) but to me it sounds like a big growl, which is always fun. The video is well worth a watch for all kinds of serious and dramatic face-pulling, especially by PETA’s Sexiest Vegetarian Contender 2012, Phil Collen.
The last single to be released from the album, in 1989, was Rocket. I really like this song, because it’s one big tribute to all the bands and songs that inspired the band, and so also serves in a way like a fun trivia guess-the-reference kind of song (and just in case you miss them, they all helpfully flash up on big screens in the video). There’s also lots of shouting the names of instruments before they’re played, and some nice whooahs and ooohs to sing along to – what more could you want from a song? I’ve recently discovered that the high pitched and rather unintelligible wailing that occurs each time in the chorus after “Rocket! Yeah!” is actually supposed to be “satellite of love”, although I must admit that to me it sounds a bit more like “lalalalalooo”. Nevertheless, it’s a corker of a song, as recognised by its making the top 10 in four different countries.
The other album tracks, with the exception of Run Riot, are perhaps a bit more understated in comparison to the bounce and energy of the singles, but they try to make up for it in other ways with a few added quirks. Excitable begins with a man’s voice repeatedly asking “are you excitable” while a woman groans sexually Donna Summer style against an increasing heartbeat, until she screams in terror and the song begins. Gods of War, meanwhile, ends with the sounds of guns and planes, and an American speech claiming “Today we have done what we had to do. We counted on America to be passive. We counted wrong.” All in all, these overly dramatic added touches were probably unnecessary, and more than a little bit weird or uncomfortable.
But despite a few odd touches here and there, it’s a bloody good album and is responsible for some of the band’s biggest hits, the majority of which remain firm fan favourites and still make the cut in the live show. If you were to delve into Def Leppard for the first time, I would definitely recommend this as a good place to start (after first questioning what on earth you’ve been doing with your life so far, of course). They’re such a feel good band, I don’t see why anyone could fail to like them, and this is one hell of a mood-lifting album!
Track listing: 1) Women, 2) Rocket, 3) Animal, 4) Love Bites, 5) Pour Some Sugar On Me, 6) Armageddon It, 7) Gods Of War, 8) Don’t Shoot Shotgun, 9) Run Riot, 10) Hysteria, 11) Excitable, 12) Love and Affection.