Hysteria

Def Leppard

Hysteria

The third in Def Leppard's trilogy of Mutt Lange-produced '80s blockbusters, Hysteria presented the band's pop-informed hard-rocking roar writ larger than ever. With earworm hooks the size of mountain ranges and a weapons-grade onslaught of undeniableWhen Def Leppard arrived at the follow-up to their mega-selling third album, 1983’s Pyromania, producer Mutt Lange shared his vision with the Sheffield heavy metal crew. He told them that too many bands were copying their sound and they needed to set themselves apart from the pack. They should, Lange said, make the rock version of Thriller. Released in August 1987, the resultant album Hysteria sold over 20 million copies, which tells you all you need to know about how successful the group was in achieving Lange’s aim. “We ended up having seven singles off of it,” lead guitarist Phil Collen tells Apple Music. “It was mission accomplished. Mutt Lange was amazing, a genius, and I don’t say that lightly.” Pyromania had infused the group’s metal anthems with an expansive pop sheen, and here they sought to channel an even wider range of influences into their sound. “There was so much great stuff happening, like Prince, Michael Jackson, Frankie Goes to Hollywood—great-sounding records,” says Collen. “Most rock bands are very narrow-minded and stick within a genre, but to us it was anything that sounded great. It was the first time an album in the rock genre was being presented as a pop album. Mutt and us wanted to make a hybrid of AC/DC, full-on rock, and Queen, who were just magical.” After a slow reception initially, Hysteria’s success was given a boost by the success of glam-rock stomper “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” It kick-started a phenomenon. “It blew up,” Collen recalls. “It was a journey making it; we were trying to achieve something. It was great when it started taking shape. It sounded different to anything else out there.” Let Collen guide you through Def Leppard’s swaggering peak, track by track. “Women” “This was the first single in America. Our former manager Cliff Burnstein was like, ‘We really want to connect from a rock point of view. We don’t want to just be this pop band. We’ve got to keep our credibility.’ It didn’t do great as a single, but I think it kept that credibility thing there because it was a rock song and it sounded very Def Leppard. It had that pulsing, the sub-bass and kind of kick drum and massive snare and all of that. I heard that Stevie Wonder and Prince had commented on how great it had sounded when they first heard it.” “Rocket” “We wanted to do something very different. [Singer] Joe Elliott had this idea of doing a drum loop. John Kongos, this guy from South Africa, had a couple of hits in the ’70s and he would loop up drum parts and African drum rhythms, so that’s kind of what we did on this. We created this drum pattern using Fairlight machines, then I did this weird guitar riff, reminiscent of Siouxsie & The Banshees. Before you knew it, we had this kind of unique-sounding drum rhythm with a Siouxsie & The Banshees thing and chanting, Slade-style vocals. It was really super cool, blending all these different genres.” “Animal” “I remember I did a demo for this when we were all living in a house just outside Dublin, which was hysterical, great fun. We actually ended up going to Paris because we’d moved studios, and Joe did this really amazing vocal—and the backing track sounded dated all of a sudden. So we used some of the stuff that Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Trevor Horn were doing on ‘Two Tribes’ and put it into a rock format. We kept the lead vocal and re-modernized the track, recording everything from scratch. All of a sudden, it was more vital.” “Love Bites” “Initially, Mutt Lange wrote this. He played it to me and Steve [Clark, guitarist] and it sounded like a real countrified Don Henley song. We messed around with it for a while, got these different guitar parts, and then Mutt went to town and made it anything but country. It had these soaring vocals, and you can hear Mutt doing the main backing vocals on that track. You can barely hear anyone else! It was the longest vocals that Joe ever done in the studio. It was a real, real struggle. It was just really hard to get a convincing vocal—which is amazing now, considering he kills it every night.” “Pour Some Sugar on Me” “We were finishing up in Holland in this studio in Hilversum, just outside Amsterdam, and Joe was sitting in a hallway playing an acoustic guitar, going, ‘Pour some sugar on me.’ Mutt said, ‘What’s that?’ And Joe goes, ‘I don’t know, I’m just goofing.’ We were actually packing the stuff away and Mutt said, ‘Guys, I really think we should turn this into a song. I know everyone’s going to be really upset with us because we’re so over budget.’ But we nailed that song in 10 days. Mutt thought it was the missing link. Whenever we play that song, it brings out the inner stripper in every male or female. The album didn’t do great at first, but when this song came out, strippers were requesting it on local radio stations in Florida, because they were dancing to it. It started getting traction in Florida. That’s where it kicked this cult following, and from that, it just took off elsewhere. Same deal in Canada. Anywhere there’s a strip club, or a strip club culture, there was a lot of requests on the local radio stations from that.” “Armageddon It” “This was silly. We actually didn’t really finish the song off. We had some guide vocals, ‘Give me all your loving,’ and it was like a T. Rex kind of romp, a rock ’n’ roll groove thing, and we were still kind of working on it. We’d never quite finished it, but everyone was like, ‘Oh yeah, this sounds great!’ It ended up going to No. 3 as a single in the US. It goes down great when we play it now.” “Gods of War” “We pieced this together in Dublin. Steve Clark came up with this great instrumental part at the beginning, and it was like, ‘Wow.’ I’d never heard anything like it; none of us had. And then I had another part that I stuck on the end of it, that worked, and then Sav [bassist Rick Savage] had a part, Joe had a part, and then Mutt was like, ‘We can do all this. It’s not going to be a single, but it could be a great album track.’ You hit every fret on a guitar fingerboard on that song. It keeps changing, then it’s got a pre-chorus, then it’s got a chorus, then it’s got a post-chorus, and it does this kind of Beatle-esque jangle thing at the end, and we used that as an excuse to use all these special effects, like these rockets to show the awful thing that war is, a sonic version of that.” “Don’t Shoot Shotgun” “Again, a pretty-much-not-finished song. It was like we were trying to get a Rolling Stones-type vibe and turned into something else. The chorus was just a marker. We were singing, ‘Don’t shoot shotgun,’ and I have no idea what it meant, we were just using that until a song started forming but it kind of never did. It was like, ‘Oh, well, it kind of sounds cool,’ so we left it at that. The sillier songs and the ones that weren’t quite that serious made the other ones sound even better, for sure. When you listen to it as an album from front to back, it’s like, ‘Wow, this really, really works.’” “Run Riot” “We tried to get an Eddie Cochran vibe on this, but we did a rock version. Joe’s belting this out. If we’d gone back on it, I think we should have had a slightly different chorus, but you can say that about any song until the cows come home. I love the way it came out. It had an energy to it, and a lot of people really liked it for those same reasons. In the context of these songs on Hysteria, it really worked a treat.” “Hysteria” “This is somewhere between a rock song and a ballad. It’s got such a great sing-along thing to it, it’s lovely to play live. We didn’t know what the chorus was going to be, and I think Rick Allen [drums] said, because we were calling the album Hysteria, ‘Why don’t we call that “Hysteria”?’ And then Mutt and Joe turned the lyrics into ‘Hysteria.’ It just really made sense, and it was a definite combined effort, this one.” “Excitable” “INXS were doing a great job of doing a rock-band version of the Stones when they would go a bit funky, but INXS made it more like Prince. We were trying to do that. There was a Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson song called ‘State of Shock’ [by The Jacksons], so we used all of these things as a guide. It was like, there’s INXS, there’s Prince, there’s Jackson and Jagger doing this thing, so let’s aim for somewhere in between. We used all this technology with a Fairlight sampler and programming and all that stuff, and Rick Savage actually came up with the idea of it and the riff and everything. It turned into the song, and it was exciting. We’ve been playing it live some nights on tour, and it’s really fun.” “Love and Affection” “I wrote and demoed this in Paris. I used to have an apartment there, and I had my little four-track cassette thing and was sitting in there and making this riff. In the mid-’80s, there was a lot of rock bands like Journey, Bryan Adams, doing these songs that would kind of tick both boxes. They were rock songs, but they appealed to a kind of a poppy audience. This was a song like that. It was different to the other stuff on the record; it had that kind of songwriter thing. When we gave it the Def Leppard treatment, it obviously sounded very different. It was going to be the eighth single, but we stopped at seven. I think ‘Rocket’ ended up being the last single, and after that it was like, ‘OK, guys, you should probably go away and make another record now.’” guitar licks, the album underlined the band's commitment to stomping genre boundaries beneath their boots. And from the measured, melodic grace of the title track to the primal, glam-rock stomp of "Pour Some Sugar on Me," Def Leppard had the chops to put their agenda across with arena-sized impact.

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