Wednesday, 20 July 2011

100 Lps Shortlist #13: Def Leppard - "Hysteria"

Even if this record wasn't spectacular for its great songs, if nothing else it would be legendary for the painful conception, gestation and birth alone.

Sheffield band Def Leppard started in the late 1970s as contemporaries to bands like Saxon and Iron Maiden. Their first two LPs sold respectably in the US, their third LP "Pyromania" sold 6 million in the US in 1983, but the band had hardly made a ripple in their native territory. In fact, while the heavy metal press in Britain thought the band was great, mainstream press thought they were actually American!

So how do you follow up a 6 million selling album? That was a big enough problem in itself, but it was nothing like what was to come...

Firstly, the band lost their producer of choice ("Mutt" Lange, who produced "Pyromania"), clashed badly with new producer Jim Steinman (songwriter on Meat Loaf's "Bat Out Of Hell" album) and nursed their drummer through rehab after a horrific car accident which severed his left arm, causing him to have it amputated.

Drummer Rick Allen slowly learnt to play again with one arm, having a modified MIDI drum kit developed for him to make it easier to play. He eventually played on all the album sessions through 1986/87. The band also signed Lange back on as producer, but they had to wait 3 months for Lange to recover from his own car accident. And then the gruelling recording sessions filled with technical dramas with layering of guitars and synths and other technology.

The result however, was extraordinary. Released in the latter half of 1987, during the last 4 years the legend of Def Leppard grew in the UK to the point where the LP debuted at Number 1 on the British charts. The album took close to 12 months to climb the summit in Australia.

The album was superior in almost every respect to anything the band had done previously, and also to everything they have done since. Their sound was already big, but on "Hysteria" it was massive. It sold the most out of all their albums - some 20 million copies as of 2009 (source: Wikipedia). Of the 12 tracks on the original LP, it produced 7 hit singles (every track on the original side one of the LP plus the title track) equalling Michael Jackson's record on the Thriller LP. It was the most expensive production of any of their albums, and it was the longest to make.

This last point is notable because 4 years was unfashionably long for ANY BAND to make an album in the 1980s. Their contemporaries like Kiss and Iron Maiden were in the habit of turning out LPs every 12 months or so during this period. It was a huge risk, as most bands would have lost momentum and their first LP in 4 years would have bombed, but not this one...

So here it is, in order to remind yourself how great it was...

...and for Glen Ironman, to hear for the first time.

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