Saturday, October 9, 2010


"Step Inside, Walk This Way, You n' Me Babe...Hey!Hey!"

  I'm not even gonna dance around this one. Def Leppard's 'Hysteria' is most definitely a classic. Hair Metal, or otherwise. This 1987 release has sold over 20 million copies worldwide and is ranked the 51st best selling album of all time. To put that in perspective, The last Lady GaGa album, which was considered extremely successful mind you, sold 12 million. Although to be fair, she did it in an era where people have stopped buying albums. Still... 'Hysteria' is the preeminent pop metal album by which all future and past albums will be judged. The album spawned 7 hit singles, which was unheard of, even in the 80's hair metal heyday. The world tour for this album lasted nearly three years. Now sales aren't everything. Hanson, and the Spice Girls had huge sales...and their 'music' was awful.
  But, how does Hysteria stack up musically?

  When I was in 6th grade at Douglas Elementary in Garden City Michigan, we endured a torture like no other: music class. Now some kids actually like this stuff. They get to play instruments and sing fun songs and they have a gay old time.
  Not Us.
  We had a teacher named Mr. Stern. Mr. Stern could best be described as...odd. It's been several years since then so the memory is a little fuzzy. But, I do remember the rumor floating around the school was that he accidentally killed his cat by turning on his car while the cat rested under the hood. I have no idea if this was true or not, but we theorized the event so traumatized him, that he decided to make all of his students pay by singing crap like "Oh Don Gato" (Ay, Carumba) every week. However, even a broken clock is right twice a day and Mr. Stern actually did what was considered a pretty cool thing for an old teacher. Provided nobody acted up in class, we were allowed the last five minutes to play whatever song we wanted. Looking back, it was actually a pretty ingenious way to keep kids interested in music class. Pay attention, and someday it may sound like this. Now the norm, of course, was for smart asses to find the most offensive song possible. When you're 12 years old, that means songs like Motley Crue's "Wildside" because of the line, "Kicking Ass On The Wildside". But I discovered two bands through this process: Bon Jovi and Def Leppard. A kid (I think it was Terry Black!!) played the song 'Animal' and I enjoyed it. I started paying more attention to MTV for Lepp's videos and in addition to 'Animal', heard their first single 'Women', and their follow up single, 'Hysteria'.
  I was hooked.
  I went to my local K-mart and purchased the cassette for $7.99...standard K-Mart pricing in those days. Their next single, a song you all may have heard of, solidified my love for the album and the band. I once stayed home in front of my VCR one day for Def Leppard Sunday on MTV to record all of their videos, 'exclusive' interviews, and footage.
  Yeah, I'm a dork.
  'Hysteria' is one of those rare albums that is listenable and enjoyable front to back. There's really no duds in this collection. When I saw the band live in 1999, I was overjoyed they pulled "Gods of War" out of mothballs. They even kept the old school Ronald Reagan dialog. So while it's all good, I'd like to cover some of my personal favorites.

  Technically the first single from the album and unfortunately the one that is the least known. Record executives at the time felt that the first single should be a standard rock song to bring back the older "Pyromania" fans. Maybe that's why I like it so much, as I've always gravitated towards the heavier sound. The song, like many on this album, just oozes sex. Leave it to Def Leppard to make the creation of Adam & Eve dirty and sexual. Great opener, though.

  There are actually two versions of this song. The album version clocks in at 6 and a half minutes with a instrumental section that, truth be told, could easily be eliminated. So that's exactly what they did for the single/video version, and in my opinion, it became a better song. It's got catchy verses and a chorus that even a caveman could follow along (Rocket...Yeahhhh!). Plus as I got older and more versed in classic rock, I really appreciated all the references to the 60's/70's music scene.

  As previously stated, this song introduced me to Def Leppard and remains one of my favorites. I particularly love the ending with the ad libbed Joe Elliot screams. I was always curious about the circus theme for the video as clearly the song is, yet again, all about sex. That's OK though, a video of the band trying to rape some women might have upset a few people.

  "Love Bites"
  Remember in the Europe article where we talked about "Chick Music"? This is the personification of that. Great ballad but really, to me, doesn't age as well as the rest of the album. It's clearly dated nowadays but you can't deny that it's a good, catchy song. Well written actually. I'll give the women a second to wipe the tears before I continue.

  All Better? OK, we move on.

  "Pour Some Sugar On Me"
  Unequivocally, their signature song. Not bad for a track that wasn't going to be included on the album. Joe Elliot wrote the song a month before 'Hysteria' was to be released. At the least minute, they added it as a song that might have a broader appeal. Not sure if that means girls. I always preferred the music video version with the "Love Is Like A Bomb..." intro rather than the album version with "Step Inside, Walk This Way..." At any rate, it's a great song although I'm ashamed to admit that I still don't get the sexual reference, but smile and nod to everybody because, really, who wants to look that dumb ? If it's what I'm guessing it is, that Joe Elliot is a freeeeeeeeeak!

  "Armageddon it"
  This song is known as that video where we all said "hey this video looks familiar, didn't they do this exact thing for the last video?". Yes they did but I'm not sure it matters. This was the follow up to "Pour Some Sugar On Me" and the band was at an overwhelming high. I like this song but it's not in my top 20 or anything.

  "Gods Of War"
  I don't know why but I really enjoy this song. Maybe, there's just something about a song that actually seems to be about world issues. The last line with former President Ronald Reagan saying "They counted on America to be passive...they counted wrong." still gives me chills. Politics is just not something a band like Def Leppard gets into but this song is rather effective. To me, it makes the band more well rounded when it's not all about sex, drugs, and rock n roll. I think it's things like this that has made the band stand the test of time.

  It's funny how things change. When I was younger, I was not a big fan of this song. It sounded way too much like something on my parents radio station. I mean even power ballads have the big guitars. Cut to my early 30's and while cruising along in my truck, I revisited this song and I'll be damned if I didn't think to myself "wow, that is just a really nice and well put together song". In my old age, I've come to appreciate things like song structure a little bit more than catchy sing-along choruses although those help too. Great song but definitely not the one I would use to hook a new fan...unless they're over 30.
Def Leppard's 'Hysteria" is a landmark recording, not only in "Hair Metal" history, but in music history period. LA usually gets all the credit for popularizing the pop metal movement but  this album, along with Bon Jovi's "Slippery When Wet" has got to comprise at least half of those sales. One band from England and the other from Jersey.   Overall, Hysteria holds up remarkably well which is saying something considering it came out twenty-three years ago! Seven hit singles is nothing to sneeze at. If you or someone you know...perhaps just waking up from a nice relaxing coma, love great pop music I strongly suggest picking this one up. For the full Leppard sound I also recommend picking up "Pyromania" and "Slang"...yeah I said it. Don't be too cool, Slang is awesome!

Until next time,
"The Casual One"
Marc Walentowicz
-for the DRB

"First things first we're gonna change the rules
Better listen up, all you boys and girls
Your prez says there'll be no after school
So vote for me wouldn't that be cool"

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