After the success of 1983’s Pyromania and Rick Allen’s tragic accident in 1984 when he lost his arm, Def Leppard had a tough journey ahead. How do you follow up an international success with a drummer with only one arm? Four years in the making, Hysteria was released in August 1987 and started an unstoppable train. Selling roughly a zillion copies (source unconfirmed) and spawning no less than seven singles, Hysteria became Def Leppard’s pinnacle album.
Yes, 20 years later Hysteria is a product of its time. The production is big and slick, like most popular music from the 80’s. Fortunately the songs themselves still resonate well, using the production to their advantage. “Mutt” Lange’s huge sound is perfect for Def Leppard.
Hysteria still is a terrific album; it is to pop-metal as Ziggy Stardust is to glam rock. Lep took the blueprint of Pyromania and re-enforced it with sharper hooks and bigger riffs. The sublime “Animal” and the title track are two of the greatest songs the band has ever written. Other notable tracks are, of course “Pour Some Sugar on Me” (a staple a karaoke bars the world over), “Love Bites” and “Armageddon It”. Apart from the singles, album tracks like “Run Riot” and the exceptional album closer “Love and Affection” hold their own as well.
The first disc is rounded out with four b-sides, all of which appear again on later albums in re-recorded fashion, “Tear it Down” on 1992’s Adrenalize and the rest on 1993’s Retro Active. Everything seemed to click during the sessions for Hysteria, and these original versions sound better than the re-recorded ones, perhaps because by the time the band got around to them again, they had been sitting around for five years, and lacked their initial enthusiasm.
The second disc has 11 more b-sides. The five remixes are typical of the era, not groundbreaking, but entertaining if you like the songs. The live tracks are better, but don’t differ drastically from the studio versions, except for “Rock of Ages” which includes a medley of classic songs, “Not Fade Away”, “My Generation”, “Radar Love”, “Come Together” and “Whole Lotta Love”. Not all of them work, but it certainly is a fun to hear Def Leppard loosen up, and Joe Elliott’s approximation of Robert Plant is almost spot-on. The final b-side is a cover of Englebert Humperdinck’s “Release Me” as sung by Stumpus Maximus (a.k.a. Malvin Mortimer, Lep’s tour manager) is a fine little novelty, but nothing more.
It may not be a Rock n’ Roll landmark like London Calling or The Joshua Tree, but Hysteria is certainly a pop-metal classic, almost single-handedly defining the genre. One of the most massive albums of the 1980’s was also one of the best, and now Hysteria finally gets the deluxe treatment it so deserves.