Revisiting Def Leppard's Hysteria

1987 was the greatest year in the history of music. There, I said it.

Check out Wikipedia. Look at the list. Appetite for Destruction. Sign O' The Times. Document. Kick. Faith. Pleased To Meet Me. In My Tribe. I could go on. Many of these albums are justly remembered as beloved classics. But for some reason, you don't hear much of what for me was the definitive album of that year and, frankly, that entire era of my life.

1987 was the year of Hysteria. And it fucking ruled.

Everything about Hysteria screamed awesome to me, from its Tron-meets-Altered States album cover to its pedigree as the follow-up to what could be best described as patient zero for the hair metal movement, Pyromania. The first single I heard, "Animal," had the guitar bite and the punchy chorus that my 17-year-old brain was hardwired to fall in love with, and within a month the plastic cassette case went from shiny and clear to opaque from overuse. It was in my car, in my Walkman, in my boom box... pretty much anywhere a late '80s kid could put it without rectal bleeding.

My recollections of that time--from my senior year in high school through freshman year in college—-don't exist without a soundtrack, and so much of Hysteria formed the backdrop of my most precious memories. Driving my '64 Buick Skylark down Riverside Ave. with my friends in the back, singing "Women." ("Skin on skin/let the love begin!") Trying to woo potential girlfriends with "Love Bites." Sitting in the cafeteria and debating the political meaning of "Gods Of War" with friends. The 24-hour loop MTV seemingly played of "Pour Some Sugar On Me." Seeing the band live at the Spokane Coliseum (with Tesla!) and, when the power unexpectedly went out, being treated to an acoustic version of "Rocket." Even lamenting that, sixteen months after it was released, they still hadn't put "Love And Affection" out as a single.

The author so loved the album that he once
commissioned a mashup with his daughter
for his blog.
It's been twenty-five years since Hysteria came out, and it should be towering in our collective memory as the apogee of pop rock, the singular moment in which the bombast and power of rock and fucking roll met the sheen and accessibility of pop, creating a love child that can be enjoyed by all. Yet the revisionist histories of that era haven't given Hysteria its due. Where's the specially packaged deluxe edition? Where is the VH1 retrospective? Where is the interview with Obama where he recalls the first time he heard "Armageddon It?"

Ever since Kurt Cobain left an Akira-sized hole in popular music, turning the leopard-print spandex industry into flannel manufacturers, the world rightly turned its back on the bloated excess of hair bands. None of us were honestly looking forward to the next BulletBoys or Great White album, and I can never unhear "Unskinny Bop." Even "Let's Get Rocked" had the strong whiff of a stale formula....

But we must not let Hysteria fall into the abyss where Look What The Cat Dragged In and Empire now reside! We can still marvel at Robert John "Mutt" Lange's sterling production, and how a band with half a drummer could pump out one of the quintessential rock albums of the '80s. It deserves at least the same non-ironic playlist rotation that Aerosmith and Van Halen enjoy.

Don't worry, Hysteria... if nothing else I won't forget about you.

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