Friday, October 08, 2010

Rocktober Album #6: Def Leppard - Hysteria (1987)

Hysteria is one of those albums that lives in rock lore. It was one of the most expensive albums to make and it took longer to make than just about any album before it. Hysteria was four years in the making, interrupted most notably when drummer Rick Allen lost his left arm in a car accident New Year's Eve 1984. He not only recovered (aside from the loss of one arm), but he designed his own drum kit that allowed him to play with his feet what he would have previously played with his left arm. In addition, the band also had a string of producers that didn't work out, ultimately coming back together with Mutt Lange (who had produced Pyromania). It was well worth the wait.

Hysteria is a glam metal masterpiece. It rocks and it's catchy. It captures a band at the height of their creativity and the height of their success. The album has so many little complexities that make it great, from overlaid guitars to harmonies to twin lead guitars to weird effects. If you ever have the chance to see the VH1 "Classic Albums" special about Hysteria, do it. You'll realize how insanely complex the album is.

This was album that that transformed my taste in music from Beach Boys-centric to hair band-centric. I used to sit in my room and listen to this album over and over again. I would pause it after every line and try to transcribe the lyrics (I was WAY off on a lot of them, by the way). I have donated most of my tapes over the years, either because I have since purchased the CD or because I simply don't find myself listening to that much Richard Marx anymore. Hysteria is one of those tapes that I will always keep. Every time I see the tape, it's like I'm immediately transported back to 1988.

Here are some facts about Hysteria:
-It had seven songs reach Billboard's Top 100 singles chart, six of which cracked the Top 20 and four of which cracked the Top 10: "Loves Bites" (#1); "Pour Some Sugar On Me" (#2); "Armageddon It" (#3); "Hysteria" (#10); "Rocket" (#12); "Animal" (#19); and "Women" (#80).
-It is certified diamond by the RIAA, meaning it has sold more than 10 million copies in the US alone (it is currently at 12 million).
-It has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide.
-It is tied for the 39th best selling album of all-time in the US, and is tied for the 50th best selling album of all-time worldwide.
-At the time of its release, it was the longest rock and roll album ever released as a single album. (It is approximately 63 minutes long.)
-It spent a record 96 weeks in the top 40 of Billboard's album charts.
-It was Def Leppard's first #1 album in both the US and the UK, and it also hit #1 in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Norway.

1. Women
In the US, "Women" was the first single released off of the album. I remember there being a Def Leppard "Women" t-shirt that had comic book cartoons, like in the video. I wish I had that t-shirt. As for the song itself, it's a solid, brooding rocker, mostly about chicks. "Hair / Eyes / Skin on skin / Let the love begin." Whenever I scream that line at Jessie, she knows it's go time.

2. Rocket
This is a six-minute ode to all of the '70s bands that influenced Def Leppard. Rick Allen's drumming stands out on this one. It's nice and powerful, almost tribal. The song also features some backmasking, with the chorus to "Gods of War" played backwards during the bridge. Unfortunately, the only version on is the trimmed-down radio version.

3. Animal
Despite what you might think, this is not a song about bestiality. "Animal" took nearly three years to record, which is crazy under normal circumstances, but as I discussed above, Hysteria was hardly made under normal circumstances. It is kind of a softer song, which is by no means a knock. The chorus makes up for the softness of the verses.

4. Love Bites
"Love Bites" was Def Leppard's first (and only) #1 song on the Billboard charts, topping the charts exactly 22 years ago today. Every Friday morning, I used to rush downstairs to look at the Tribune's "Friday" section, which included the weekly Billboard singles and albums charts. But I was on vacation with my family 22 years ago today, in Colorado Springs. I remember being in the hotel room and finding some music program on TV that counted down Billboard's top 10 songs of the week and showed the videos. Knowing that "Love Bites" had been in the top 5 the week before and not having access to the "Friday" section, I watched diligently, telling my family to "piss off" anytime they spoke. After the #2 video played (which I think was UB40's "Red Red Wine"), I was freaking out because there was that moment of panic where I thought, "what if it dropped out of the top 10 completely?" Thankfully, it hadn't. Interesting tidbits about "Love Bites": (1) the weird language at the beginning and ending of the song says "If you've got love in your sights, watch out, love bites"; (2) at the very end of the song, there is a nearly inaudible voice that, legend has it, says "Jesus of Nazareth, go to hell" or "Christ of Nazareth, go to hell." According to Mutt Lange (the producer of the album), that's not true, and it actually says "Yes it does, bloody hell." I still hear the Christ of Nazareth thing when I listen.

5. Pour Some Sugar On Me
I heard a snippet of a song on Z-95 while riding in the car on the way to Phar-Mor with my mom back in '88. I heard what I thought was "burnin' like a flame," and I knew immediately that I had to own that song. After rifling through the entire tape collection at Phar-Mor trying to find the song, I almost bought a Dokken tape because they have a song called "Burning Like a Flame." It turns out what I heard was "love is like a bomb," and luckily I soon figured out that it was "Pour Some Sugar On Me," and it quickly became my favorite song (and has stayed my favorite song to this day). As the Hysteria liner notes said, this song is "pure sex." I didn't understand it when I was 10, and I don't understand it now, but I do understand that the riff -- that beautiful fucking riff -- makes me want to get randy. It's amazing that "Pour Some Sugar On Me" never made it to #1 on the Billboard charts. It was #2 for several weeks, beaten out for the top spot by Steve Winwood's "Roll With It." Of course, "Pour Some Sugar On Me" has since been named by VH-1 as the #2 song of the 1980s (not behind "Roll With It," but rather Bon Jovi's "Living On a Prayer"). Perhaps most importantly, it was chosen by you, the GMYH readers, as the Best Hard Rock Anthem of Our Generation. Seriously, though, this song is perfect.

6. Armageddon It
This is just a solid, straightforward rock song that kind of gets forgotten amongst the other massive songs on the album (even though it went to #3 on the charts). Of course the line, "C'mon Steve, get it" is particularly poignant, as this was the last album Steve Clark made before his death in 1991.

7. Gods of War
"Gods of War" is an interesting song. It's an anti-war song, featuring audio clips of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Rick Savage's pronounced bass line drives the song. The overlaid guitars in this song are solid and kind of eerie.

8. Don't Shoot Shotgun
This is an underrated song. I don't know why it was never released as a single because it's a pretty damn good rock song. Unfortunately, it's not on

9. Run Riot
When I was in fifth grade, Mrs. Johnston let students bring in tapes to listen to while we were doing group activities. I brought in Hysteria, and I specifically remembered being worried that "Run Riot" would be "too hard" of a song for Mrs. Johnston's tastes. In fact, I explicitly warned her that one of the songs might be "too hard." She took it in stride by jumping out of the third story window when the song came one. It's a pretty damn good song.

10. Hysteria
The title track is a pop metal masterpiece. It's almost impossible not to sing along, even if only in your head.

11. Excitable
This is another song that could very well have had some success on the charts if it had been released as a single. It starts of with some crazy dude asking over and over in an increasing pace "Are you excitable?" For me, the answer is yes. For some chick, the answer is a scream, which doesn't really answer the question directly. The riff is pretty solid. Unfortunately, this too is not on

12. Love and Affection
Not to be confused with the Nelson song of the same name, this song sounds a little like "Hysteria." Again, I think this song probably would have done well had it been released as a single, but my view is obviously skewed. This isn't on either.

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

No comments: