by David Chiu
Band photo by Ross Halfin
Nowadays, a four-year gap between studio albums for a hugely popular band is not a big deal; in fact, it’s the norm in the industry. But for Def Leppard, the pressure was on at the time to follow-up 1983’s smash breakthrough Pyromania. What followed has become now a legendary story in explaining the four-delay in delivering the now-classic Hysteria in 1987: Robert John Mutt Lange temporarily sitting out in the production, false starts with other producers, including Jim Steinman; and of course the devastating 1984 car accident with drummer Rick Allen that cost him his arm. And yet, the story of Hysteria is also one of resilience with Lange back on board, and the result was the heavy metal version of Michael Jackson’s Thriller—a bonafide and unabashedly pop mainstream smash that yielded several hit singles in “Animal,” “Hysteria,” “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” “Rocket,” “Love Bites,” and “Armageddon It.” There was a tome in 1987-1988 when you couldn’t turn the radio dial without hearing a Def Leppard song; that’s how massive the band and the Hysteria record were at the time,. And as history shown for the band, Hysteria set a level so high that it was pretty hard to surpass; it’s also poignant being that it would be guitarist Steve Clark’s final album with the band before his tragic passing in 1991. Considering that no expense was spared in Lange’s state-of-the-art production in practically making the songs stadium and radio-friendly, it’s not surprising that on the 30th anniversary of Hysteria is given ultra-deluxe reissue treatment: the original album, the B-sides and rarities (including the band’s humorous and way over-the-top rendition of Engelbert Humperdinck’s “Release Me,” billed as ‘Stumpus Maximus & The Good Ol’ Boys’ ), the live ‘In the Round’ concert recording from Denver, 1988; and DVDs featuring promotional videos and a Classic Albums documentary on the making of the record. It could be debatable that some might think Hysteria is too commercial and pop-oriented in contrast to Pyromania or the earlier albums, but it still a perfect and timeless-sounding record, the musical equivalent of cinematic blockbuster a la Star Wars that continues to be enjoyed.