REVIEW: Def Leppard – Hysteria (1987, 2006 deluxe edition)

EPIC REVIEW TIME.  Image heavy!  Step inside, walk this way.

DEF LEPPARD – Hysteria (1987, 2006 Mercury deluxe edition)

25 million copies sold.  Seven hit singles.  A two year world tour.  All done under the most difficult circumstances.  Def Leppard’s Hysteria is one of rock’s greatest triumphs.

Although the album was released in 1987, the Hysteria story really begins on December 31, 1984.  Drummer Rick Allen lost control of his speeding Corvette, and was thrown from the vehicle due to improper use of seatbelts.  His left arm was severed.  Doctors attempted to re-attach the arm, but infection set in and it could not be saved.  It would be understandable if people thought Rick’s career in music was finished.  While many artists from Django Reinhardt to Tony Iommi had dealt with physical disabilities, nobody had ever seen a one-armed rock drummer before.

Undaunted, Allen began working on a way around his disability.  The band never considered a future without him, and were disappointed by “ambulance chasers” looking for a gig.  Rick Allen wasn’t about to allow himself to go down or dwell in his misery.  With an electronic kit triggered by his feet and right hand, Allen eventually regained his ability to not only play drums, but play live.  This resulted in an inevitable stylistic change.  Allen’s drumming style became more staggered, with emphasis on bigger, spaced out snare hits.  His electronic kit was no crutch:  singer Joe Elliott said he could play it “and make it really sound terrible”.

The next album was supposed to be a big deal.  It was Phil Collen’s first Def Leppard LP as a writer, and Rick’s chance to prove he wasn’t out.  Unfortunately, when the band started to record, producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange was not available.  Instead the band began to work with Jim Steinman (Meat Loaf), but were underwhelmed by the results they were getting.  Leppard’s ambition was not just to make another album, but to make something seriously good, memorable and special.  Something with the potential to be as big as Pyromania was.  Steinman was let go and the band started working with Nigel Green with no progress being made.

The band were taking so long, and suffered so many setbacks and delays, that eventually Mutt Lange was available again, and together they finally began work on the new Def Leppard LP.  Co-writing every song with the band, Mutt provided the focus and intense discipline.  The stated goal, following the template of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, was to make an album with 12 potential singles.

The long story of this difficult album (false starts, illnesses, studio problems) is only overshadowed by its success.  But it took a while to get there.

The first single “Women” did well enough, but failed to kickstart the mega album sales needed to recoup the losses.  “Women” was an odd choice for a first single: a slow robotic rock track, with a killer comic book-based music video.  It was incredible just to see how Rick Allen played drums with his new setup.  Apparently, video directors asked how they should shoot Rick?  The band answered “Just the same as you would any other drummer.”  It was simple as that.

“Women” introduced the new Def Leppard groove.  A simple one or two note bass line, layers upon layers of vocals and chiming guitars, but none of the full-speed-ahead New Wave of British Heavy Metal that Leppard were founded on.  The year was 1987 and Def Leppard were on the cutting edge.  To get those chiming bell-like chords, Mutt had them recorded one note at a time!  This is very apparent on “Animal”, the second single.  It too was mildly successful, but not enough to push the album into orbit.  Listen to the guitar chords and you will hear something that sounds more like chimes than strings.  This is down to the incredibly detailed and overdubbed recordings.  “Animal” was a stellar pop rock track, and a fine example of what Hysteria sounds like.

Refusing to give up, a third single was dropped:  the ballad title track “Hysteria” and possibly the finest song on the album.  The fact that these singles were not the hits the band hoped for at the time has not diminished them.  Today they are all concert classics, radio staples, and beloved fan favourites.  Leppard even re-recorded the song in 2013 for release on iTunes.  (While the re-recorded version is impressive, it is impossible to exactly recreate the magic on this album.)

Finally, the success that the band and record label were waiting for happened.  The track was “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and the North American version of its music video showcased the band’s stunning live show.  Def Leppard were playing “in the round” to rave reviews.  “Pour Some Sugar”, a retro glam rock tune with a contemporary sound, was a summer smash hit.  It was cool, it was catchy, and Joe’s verses almost sounded like rap, although really they had more in common with Marc Bolan of T-Rex.

On a roll, nothing would stop Def Leppard now.  Though the goal was an album with 12 potential singles, Hysteria eventually yielded seven.  Most rock bands were lucky to squeeze three out of a hit album.  Though the album was now becoming a bonafide hit, some critics and fans lamented the death of the original Def Leppard.  Others embraced their pop success.  The raw edgy guitars were gone and replaced by bright, precise parts working as a whole, in a gigantic pop rock juggernaut.  Joe wasn’t screaming out every line, but actually singing now.  It hardly matters.  With the success of Hysteria, Def Leppard had embarked on a whole new journey and have rarely looked back to their origins.

The singles carried on, through the rest of 1988 and into 1989.  “Love Bites” was fifth up, which originated as a country ballad that Mutt wrote and the band Leppardized into something different.  It was a hit for the autumn of ’88, a slightly dark ballad for the fall.  The victorious glam rock of “Armageddon It” was next, simple and pleasant enough for radio and video, and another huge hit.  These were songs that had pep, but wouldn’t frighten mom and dad.

The seventh and final single was a surprise choice:  “Rocket”.  On album, “Rocket” was 6:37 long, and featured a long experimental middle section.  The ambitious mid-section featured loads of NASA samples and sound effects, all backed by the African inspired drum loops of Rick Allen.  The song was based a drum beat by Burundi Black, brought in by Joe Elliott, played by Rick Allen and looped.  Eventually lyrics were added, inspired by the glitter groups of the 70’s that Leppard grew up with.  Lange also used backwards vocals for some of the hooks.  The line that opens the track and repeats through the song is the chorus from “Gods of War”, backwards:  “Raw fo sdog eht rof gnithgif er’ew.”  It was a sharp track to be used as a single, but that unforgettable beat was beyond question.  It was remixed and brought down to 4:25 for the single release.

It is  unfortunate that Mercury stopped at seven singles, because they could have released at least nine.  Many fans had counted on a “Gods of War” release, certainly before “Rocket”.  “Gods of War” had become a fan favourite for those who bought the album, and it could have been used as a “serious” themed single towards the end of the album’s life.  Dark in tone but more epic in quality, it really could have been a valiant single.  It has since become heavily associated with late guitarist Steven Maynard Clark, who was responsible for much of its guitar thunder.

The final track that shoulda woulda coulda been released as a single was the album closer, “Love and Affection”.  As good as any of the actual singles, “Love and Affection” had its own charm and hit potential.  It’s long been one of my album favourites, just under “Hysteria” and “Gods of War”.

Rounding out the LP are “Run Riot” and “Don’t Shoot Shotgun”, two rock tracks that help keep the album afloat.  Neither are clearly as brilliant as the hits, but both solidly get the job done with guitar thrills.  Finally there is “Excitable”, the only song I’ve never particularly dug.  It strikes me as gimmicky and very 80’s, much like “Social Disease” by Bon Jovi.  Too reliant on sound effects and gimmicks.  So out of 12 tracks, only one was really a dud.  That’s not bad by any measure.

So Hysteria rode the charts, recouped its costs, and then some.  The tour in the round was legendary and resulted in a live video In the Round: In Your Face.  Def Leppard were, for a short while anyway, the biggest rock band in the world.

Obviously, Def Leppard have continued to suffer ups and downs since Hysteria.  Steve Clark died.  Rick Savage has Bell’s Palsy.  Vivian Campbell fought cancer.  Yet they have continued to soldier on, never topping Hysteria of course, leaving it as the magnum opus that it is.

HYSTERIA

The album inspired a book and a movie.  An album of Hysteria’s stature deserves a killer deluxe edition too.  This one is nearly perfect.

As discussed in greater detail in Record Store Tales Part 4:  A Word About B-Sides, this album and its singles really clicked with the collector in me.  Def Leppard prepared a number of B-sides for Hysteria, and perhaps because these were not produced with Mutt, they all have a harder edge.  “Tear It Down” was a speedy but basic rock track considered good enough to include on the next album, and so it was.  The B-side version remains its superior, because it is tougher than the one on Adrenalize.  “Ring of Fire” was even heavier, clearly too heavy for what Hysteria became.  Along the same lines is “Ride into the Sun”, an old track from Leppard’s first EP, re-recorded here and in fine form.  “Ride into the Sun” is a stellar track and perhaps should have received some acclaim.  Even though the song has been remixed and reissued on other things, it remains a rarely heard gem.  Yet the most impressive B-side was probably “I Wanna Be Your Hero”.  This B-side from the “Animal” EP has the Hysteria vibe and sound.  It easily could have replaced “Excitable” as an LP track, but if it had perhaps Hysteria wouldn’t have sounded as diverse.  Dig that false ending!

This deluxe edition includes all the live B-sides and almost all the bonus tracks associated with singles for the album, and then some.  “Women” is a live classic from the home video.  Anyone who has seen it will remember this version and Joe’s intro.  “We got everything we need!  We got the band, the crowd, the lights, the cameras, the action!  There’s only one thing that we ain’t got…”  Women!  (I doubt that, Joe!)  “Elected”, the live Alice Cooper cover,  was recorded during this period but released in 1993 on the “Heaven Is” single.

From the same gig as “Elected” came a lively cut of “Love and Affection”, which was also utilised as the album’s Japanese bonus track.  It’s very rare to hear this song done live, and definitely rare to hear a great vintage version done live.  Then there’s a so-so “Billy’s Got a Gun” (same gig again), and a fascinating “Rock of Ages” medley.   This medley seamlessly captures some bits of classic rock tunes within itself:  “Not Fade Away” (Buddy Holly), “My Generation” (The Who), “Radar Love” (Golden Earring), “Come Together” (The Beatles) and “Whole Lotta Love” (Zeppelin).  This is all done to the tempo and style of “Rock of Ages”, and quite well, too.  When this was originally released on the “Rocket” single, there was no mention of the medley part.  It was a total surprise when Leppard broke into these other songs, some of which I’d never heard before.

Leppard released a few remixes during this period too.  Extended versions of “Animal”, “Pour Some Sugar”, “Armageddon It”, “Rocket” and even “Excitable” all come from 12” singles.  What’s missing is the single edit of the “Rocket”, the short version of the “lunar mix” .  The single mix of “Pour Some Sugar” is also missing, but that track is on so many albums including the five-million-selling Vault, so we’re not going to worry about it.  These extended remixes are, not surprisingly, pretty much for the fans and collectors.

Finally, and most importantly, is the last B-side “Release Me”.  This track was initially released on the “Armageddon It” picture disc single, but not credited to Def Leppard.  Much like their later acoustic B-sides credited to the Acoustic Hippies from Hell, “Release Me” is credited to Stumpus Maximus and the Good Ol’ Boys.  Engelbert Humperdinck is responsible for the most famous version of “Release Me”, but Stumpus Maximus is definitely responsible for the most twisted.  Featuring Def Leppard’s roadie Malvin Mortimer on lead vocals and the rest of the band goofing around, “Release Me” is a hoot.  Mortimer breaks all known sound barriers with his screaming (and burping) of the lyrics.  I was absolutely confused beyond belief upon hearing this for the first time, since I didn’t catch on to this actually being Def Leppard in disguise.  They absolutely fooled me; I thought whoever they were, Stumpus Maximus and the Good Ol’ Boys absolutely sucked!  For the time it was a novelty release, but it’s now a wonderful tongue in cheek finale to this great deluxe edition.

Some, including renowned rock journalist Martin Popoff, have dismissed Hysteria as lifeless and dismally underwhelming sell-out pop.  Keeping in mind where they came from (High ‘n’ Dry, Pyromania) there is no question that Hysteria was a clear and intentional turn towards the mainstream.  Where Def Leppard rose above a simple pop foray is in the detail and care given to the recordings.  With Mutt Lange keeping his eye on the goalposts, he drove Leppard not to make an album without a soul, but one that offered flawlessly assembled guitar based songs.  The passion and heart can still be heard; they are not buried.  It’s a unique combination of studio sterility with Leppard’s brand of glam rock, and nobody (not even Leppard) have been able to duplicate the magic of Hysteria.

You might not “need” the full-on deluxe edition, but considering the quality of the B-sides and live material, you’d be positively missing out.

5/5 stars

Gallery of single covers

 

 

 

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49 comments

  1. “Instead the band began to work with Jim Steinman (Meat Loaf), but were underwhelmed by the results they were getting. Leppard’s ambition was not just to make another album, but to make something seriously good, memorable and special. Something with the potential to be as big as Pyromania was. Steinman was let go”

    WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A valid point by Joe Elliott – “Jim Steinman WROTE Bat Out of Hell. He didn’t produce it. Todd Rundgren produced it.” They were looking for a different kind of producer.

      Like

  2. Great post Mike! There’s so much here I don’t even know what to add… agree with you on Excitable! The only track I don’t like. I was never that fussed on Love and Affection either but I liked it more after hearing that live version. Great version!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Scott, Skipable it is. Wish I’d thought of that ;)

      Love and Affection started to hit me about a year after the album came out. I remember being on a school bus and the song came on my walkman, and I thought “Jesus this song is just as good as the hits!” And that’s when I plotted its eventual single release.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, epic review time! lol
    I am curious….do you have that Armageddon It picture disc? Because…(Sarca seeeeecret) I do too!!!
    I don’t even have any Def Leppard albums at all, but in grade 9, DL was a guilty pleasure of mine. I loved all the hits from Hysteria, and would listen to my sister’s bf’s copy. I was a frequent patron of the record stores around Sudz, and found this Armageddon It picture disc that looked kickass. Unique…I picked it up. I’ve never played it (our record player was broken), and since, I haven’t bothered to. And I am surrounded by a music snob that wouldn’t appreciate it.
    How about that? :)

    Liked by 1 person

        1. The Zellers in Suds is now a Harts which is a dept store chain in Northern Ontario It’s in a very sad mall downtown. Sad because that’s where I spent alot of time growing up and now it’s pretty rundown.

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  4. That was an awesome review Mike! I am a massive DL fan so I read this review carefully and loved it. I have everything they have done. And B-Sides has always been important for me to get for them. I would buy the albums, the singles, you name it. At one time I even had the Gold Pyromania CD, but later sold it when I realized I could get $75 for it and bought it for $19. I love DL, but money is money!! I bought a bootleg of B-sides called Convergence on Ebay 10-15 years ago that got me a few things I was missing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank sir! Sounds like you have one fine collection yourself. If you ever feel like reviewing that Convergence CD I know I’m eager to see what’s on it.

      Def Leppard B-sides have always been important right from day 1. I have all their early singles now and they are great.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The backstory is fascinating. In the album they included a page of liner notes explaining to the fans why the album took so long. It was nuts! So many illnesses and studio bugs, accidents and problems!

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  5. What an awesome write-up, Mike. You’re really something else when it comes to writing about music. Some magazine should hire your services yesterday!!!

    Even though not all of the 12 tracks here are equally brilliant, it’s impossible not to give this album the Gold trophy – it is a masterpiece. I would give it the 10 without any second thoughts at all. Still, I’m with you on Excitable, I can’t figure out why they chose that one over I Wanna Be your Hero. Ring Of Fire is even better, I think. Either Run Riot or Don’t Shoot Shotgun should have been outed for that one. I’m glad Tear It Down didn’t make the album though – underwhelming track. It shouldn’t have been included on Adrenalize either, but I guess the band liked it – they did play it on the Hysteria tour. The rest of the songs are all brilliant.

    Also, Love And Affection was played live when Leppard played Monsters Of Rock with Ozzy and Scorpions in 1986. I remember I loved the tune when I heard it there – I still do.

    When it comes to the singles, it was a bit different in Europe than in North America (and Canada, I guess). Animal was the first single here, Women the second, Sugar the third, Armageddon it was the fourth and after that the title track.

    Have you written a review of Retro-Active yet?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Cool you seen them on the Comeback Tour of 86 so to speak Jompa. I remember that killer action pic on the inside of the Hysteria album and tape and if a pic could say a 1,000 words that would be it…

      Liked by 1 person

    2. No Retro-Active YET — but I will be doing it soon. I will be doing it fairly detailed, because the songs on Retro-Active were remixed and I want to be thorough in my review about all that stuff. They added Vivian to Only After Dark for example.

      To see Def Leppard in 1986 is LEGENDARY dude!!!!

      Like

  6. Well we know what Mike was doing for the four years between reviews, creating his Hysteria review that’s what ;) Needed two coffees to get through this one fer my Sun morning read, and did wonder if I’d picked up my copy of Animal Instinct by mistake LOL…

    Way back when this was released I was handed a pair of headphones while sitting down for a lunch, the cassette being Hysteria and the very first song I heard was Gods Of War. Magnificent stuff. Wasn’t as taken by Sugar or Armageddon but understood their appeal but it was with songs such as Gods, Don’t Shoot Shotgun and Run Riot (and indeed Wanna Be Your Hero, is that one of the best Bsides ever?) that won me over and contine to get spun alongside the Pyromania record and have since now bought this on CD Cassette LP a couple times too many all the 7″ still on hand hmmm, clearly a winner when released :)

    That said, after tiring of Hysteria by the time the rest of the world caught up the years have drawn these ears back to this record from time to time but none moreso than now after such a cracking effort from Mike Ladano inspiring us to revisit rediscover and enjoy yet again. I mean that’s what it’s all about right?

    While they were intent on going for broke with the production anyways, most writers seem to overlook how the electronic drum sound likely pushed that intent further than they had initially intended, a VERY fair point when picking apart the OTT production.

    and thanks again for the eye candy pics scans a wonderful trip down memory lane, add this to yer list of best writeups Mike, loved this review thanks \m/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the kind words Wardy! This is a very special album, and the truth is that I’ve found I can put it on at virtually any time and just enjoy it. Just purely enjoy it.

      Yes I probably got tired of it in the early 90’s, wore out the tape absolutely, but when the reissue came out, sounding so full and fresh, it was like a time machine back.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Brilliant review. I have the US picture disc of the LP – sound quality is only so/so but it looks great. Which is what counts with music, surely?

    I loved this LP from the first, I’d never heard any previous Leppard and they were on the BBC Friday Rock Show with Tommy Vance, playing tracks from Hysteria, some fave tracks and just chatting. The music was like nothing I’d heard before and they just seemed really nice guys, so I bought the Animal single and never looked back.

    Have to say I rarely play it (once in last couple of years, maybe?) but I love every second.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I always wanted that picture disc just for its looks, but not to play. I do have this on 180 gram vinyl, I forgot about that until I posted this!

      Play it some more, it’s great fun in the summer time.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I think High n Dry, Pyromania and Hysteria are equally as good, but they all sounds different to each other. I dig that.
      Pyromania was the first album I heard by Def Leppard and it was the one that made me fan so it holds a special place in my heart.

      Like

  8. Epic is right in both album and this review Mike! Well done and believe it or not I have this in the Deluxe as well but when I yammered about it I just reviewed the original album…
    Was it the Love Bites single on vinyl that came with he lyrics? Whatever one it was that was the 45 I purchased…..

    Like

    1. Yes that’s the one Deke, and the one in the picture. I thought that was a pretty cool bonus because I couldn’t understand most of the words!

      I think you must agree the B-sides are worth buying the deluxe for.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Man, that’s a helluva write up! I didn’t know much about Def Leppard other than the singles from Adrenalize (?) and Vault until a year or so ago. I have to admit that I haven’t really been that taken by much of what I’ve heard. Dare say I’ve attempted to get on board the bus too late. Still some good pop-rock singles there, though.

    Anyhoo, I think I need to listen to this one again. Seems I’m missing something.

    Also, I had a double take moment – I thought I read Phil Colllins …

    Like

  10. I didn’t see but was told about it. In the 90s, there was a documentary about Rick Allen’s accident. It turns out that Rick was saved because some woman happened to come by and see the wreck and managed to save him. I’ve always liked Hysteria and like “Pour Some Sugar on Me” is my favourite track on the album and I too think Gods of War should have been released as a single.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Holy epic review, Batman! Well done, sir! Your enthusiasm for it is everywhere.

    Funny, this is where I stopped listening to DL, way back when. I found a copy of it on cassette at work, paid $0.50 for it, but haven’t played it yet.

    But your review makes me think I’ve maybe given it short shrift. To say that now, in 2016, means I’m a little late to the party. Make you a deal, if we see it at a good price in Taranna, I’ll snag it. Hell, maybe even the 2CD.

    Liked by 1 person

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