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Rock News

Def Leppard released their classic album Hysteria on August 3, 1987. It’s a masterclass of mixing hard rock edge and pop polish that creates a sound that’s impossible to ignore. Of course, the journey to get to Hysteria was long and not without its significant challenges.

First, famed producer Mutt Lange dropped out of producing the album due to exhaustion from working nearly non-stop since about 1976. During those years, Lange not only produced Def Leppard’s High ‘N’ Dry and Pyromania, but he also helmed AC/DC’s Highway to Hell, Back in Black and For Those About to Rock We Salute You, Foreigner’s 4, The Cars’ Heartbeat City and many other titles

This led to Meat Loaf songwriter Jim Steinman being brought in. To put it lightly, it was a disastrous move. In addition to working with Def Leppard, Steinman was working with Meat Loaf at the same time on Bat Out Of Hell II, and he wasn’t able to give the band his full attention. Joe Elliott and Phil Collen recalled the eight weeks of working with Steinman in an April 2021 interview with Classic Rock. Elliott said there are recordings from that eight-week period, but they’ll never see the light of day.

TRAILER: ‘Step Inside: Hysteria at 30’

“We would never release that stuff,” said Elliott. “There’s nothing finished. It’s like the worst bootleg you’ve ever heard. Those tapes are locked away in my library. And that’s where they’ll stay.”

Collen added, “[Steinman’s] ideas seemed a bit hokey. Maybe it was a class thing. It was obvious that we were way more ‘street’ than he was. Jim’s stuff was a bit theatrical, which is great, but it wasn’t us. We were polar opposites.”

And then, things took a dramatic turn for Def Leppard on December 31, 1984 when drummer Rick Allen got into a car accident. The accident resulted in Allen losing his left arm. Instead of kicking him to the curb, Def Leppard stuck by Allen as he recovered from the traumatic incident. During this time, Allen developed his hybrid drum kit utilizing foot pedals to compensate for only having one arm.

Also during that time, Lange got the rest he needed and rejoined Def Leppard in the studio to work on what eventually became Hysteria. This is when the album finally started to take shape. However, with Lange ever the perfectionist, this made the recording process even longer. Per Billboard, the album ended up costing a whopping $5 million to make. To simply break even, Hysteria had to sell millions and millions of copies. Fortunately, the album became a smash selling 20 million copies worldwide, with 12 million copies sold in the U.S. alone.

To celebrate the album’s anniversary, here is every song from Hysteria ranked.

  • 12. “Excitable”

    “Excitable” could’ve been a single for another band during the hard rock boom of the ’80s, but Def Leppard was far from just “another band,” and Hysteria is far from just another album. “Excitable” being ranked last is truly a testament to how incredible this album is.

  • 11. “Love and Affection”

    “Love and Affection” closes out Def Leppard’s monster album on a mid-tempo high note. Once again, this song would’ve been a single for nearly any other band at the time, but Hysteria is just that good. Fun fact: Phil Collen told Apple Music this track would’ve been the eighth (!) single from the album, but they stopped after seven. Collen noted, “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.'”

  • 10. “Run Riot”

    Joe Elliott is belting his heart out on this straightforward rocker that’s about as arena-ready as any song could get. Of course, as we all know, there are even bigger arena rock songs on this album that simply overshadow “Run Riot.” Once again, it’s certainly not a bad song in any way; there’s just a bunch of songs on Hysteria that are monsters.

  • 9. “Don’t Shoot Shotgun”

    It’s a song title that immediately has you asking, “What does that even mean?!” After you listen to it and read the lyrics, its meaning is still a little mysterious, but it’s clearly about some sort of dangerous woman. Phil Collen said of the song to Apple Music, ” … 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.”

    We have to agree with Collen on that one. “Don’t Shoot Shotgun” just sounds cool. Sometimes, that’s more than good enough.

  • 8. “Women”

    “Women” was the lead single off of Hysteria in the United States, which was one of the few misfires from the album in hindsight. Even though the lyrics seem a bit dated by today’s standards, it’s hard not to be drawn in by the song’s sexiness and booming chorus, which set the tone for the entire album.

  • 7. “Gods of War”

    Make no mistake: “Gods of War” is a very unique, different song in the entire Def Leppard catalog, not just on Hysteria. It’s unknown how an anti-war song ended up on Hysteria, but it’s a track Joe Elliott thinks is the band’s best song. Elliott detailed in a May 2022 interview with Vulture, ” … it was so different from anything else we’d ever done. From a musical point of view, the only note that isn’t in that song is an E-flat. It covers a lot of ground. It’s a great example of Steve Clark’s very angular and unique riff-writing.”

  • 6. “Rocket”

    This sixth and final single from Hysteria, “Rocket” acts as a mega-tribute to pretty much every influence on Def Leppard. Among them are the Rolling Stones (“Jack Flash”), David Bowie (“Ziggy…Jean Genie…Major Tom”), Elton John (“Rocket Man…Benny and the Jets”) and many more. The song truly is a “Satellite of Love,” which, of course, is a reference to yet another influence: Lou Reed.

  • 5. “Hysteria”

    This song is so good that we forgive Def Leppard for rhyming “tonight” with “tonight” in the pre-chorus. Phil Collen told Apple Music the track is “somewhere between a rock song and a ballad.” He also noted it’s “such a great sing-along” that’s “lovely to play live.” Frankly, it’s always a lovely listen, too.

  • 4. “Love Bites”

    Whether or not “Love Bites” is Def Leppard’s best power ballad is up for debate. What’s not up for debate is its important place in the band’s history. “Love Bites” remains Def Leppard’s long number-one hit in the United States topping the Billboard Hot 100 in October 1988. Its chorus is one of the best examples of Def Leppard’s unique group vocal harmony that lands with peak enthusiasm.

  • 3. “Armageddon It”

    “Armageddon It” might be Def Leppard at their cheekiest. The track is one massive, flirty wink, and it absolutely rules. Are we getting it? Yes, but we always seem to want more of this song at the same time, too.

  • 2. “Pour Some Sugar On Me”

    It’s the song that likely helped put a lot of women through college, if you know what we mean. In fact, that was the design of the song the whole time. Joe Elliott told Vulture, “[Producer] Mutt [Lange] specifically said, ‘This needs to be at a pace that people can dance to.’ He wasn’t talking about ballroom dancing, he was talking about pole dancing.” Elliott is rather proud of the song’s legacy as a stripper anthem and said, “I couldn’t be happier. If the girls are happy to do it and nobody’s forcing them to do it, then this is the dong for them.”

  • 1. “Animal”

    There are many reasons why we rank “Animal” as the best song from Hysteria. Joe Elliott’s vocals are perfectly showcased, along with the band’s trademark group vocal on the chorus. The rhythm track is outstanding, as are the guitars of Phil Collen and Steve Clark. It’s a sexy song that’s also tender, yet primal. (It is called “Animal,” after all.) The track famously took nearly three years — or most of the entire production of Hysteria — to complete, but it’s clearly well worth it. There’s a magic to it that’s undeniable.

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