Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott Reflects on ‘Hysteria’

def leppard, hysteria, joe elliott

As band releases 30th anniversary box set, singer explains how they fused rock with pop and made a modern masterpiece.

The story of Def Leppard’s Hysteria – the monolithic pop-metal record that defined the latter part of the Eighties – reads like Homeric odyssey. The four-year gap between their 1983 mainstream breakthrough Pyromania and the release of the album was marked by tumultuous behind-the-scenes drama – including the exit and return of production genius Mutt Lange – completely rewritten songs and coping with the aftermath of a car accident that severed drummer Rick Allen’s left arm. Ultimately, the band made one of the most expensive albums ever. Through it all, they persevered to create a record that transcended the rock of the time.

“It took a long time to make, and it shows you how quickly music moved in the Eighties,” singer Joe Elliott tells Rolling Stone. “As we were doing it, it was sounding out of date, because the Eighties were a weird time. There was always new technology or a new way of doing things – new sounds replacing old sounds – so much quicker than how it happened in the Seventies. In the Eighties, the Eurythmics came along two weeks after Dio. Then it was Frankie Goes to Hollywood and all these different forms of music coming out. We were listening to it all going, ‘If somebody put all this in a bucket and stirred it around, you’d get a hell of a sound.'”

The sound they came up with – a vision of hard rock reflected off a pop mirror – earned them the top spot on both the U.S. and U.K. charts, and it fostered a series of an astounding seven mega singles that dominated radio and MTV for years. The ballad “Love Bites” made it to Number One in the U.S., while the indelible and purposely sexual “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and beat-crashing “Armageddon It” made it to Numbers Two and Three, respectively.

The album, which also topped out the chart, has since been certified 12-times platinum, and now it’s the subject of a deluxe box set to mark its 30th anniversary. The band has remastered the original album, which is also available in less ostentatious configurations, and packaged it with two discs of B sides and radio edits and 12-inch versions of the songs, as well as a live album culled from their Live: In the Round, In Your Face concert film, which was only previously available on VHS. They’ve also included a DVD of their music videos and Top of the Pops performances and another with the Classic Albums documentary about the film. Lastly, they’ve included a book of photos, a replica tour program and a book detailing the ups and downs of the making of Hysteria.

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