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Monday, July 25, 2011

Def Leppard, "Hysteria"

Def Leppard
Bludgeon Riffola (1987)

1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die

From the beginning, if there was going to be a heavy metal band that would swing for the pop charts, Def Leppard was going to be it. The band, largely thanks to Joe Elliott – whose voice was more hair than heavy metal – was simply less sinister than its fellow Englishmen, Ozzy Osbourne and Iron Maiden. The Robert “Mutt” Lange appeal to a more mainstream audience featured on “Hysteria” was only natural.

The most important part of any pop song is its hook. If the audience has something punctuating the song that they can sing along with wholeheartedly, it doesn’t matter too much if everything else is garbage. It’s interesting to note that the album’s biggest hit, and I would argue the most iconic hook of the ‘80s, was one of the last tracks to be written for the record. I refer, of course, to “Pour Some Sugar on Me.”

This song is about as pop as a rock band can get, which is why its often confused for a Bon Jovi track. The layout makes this an almost perfect example of ‘80s rock pop: First, guitarist Steve Clark warms up the verse with a brief lick typical of the decade’s six-string theatrics. Towards the end of the verse, the pace quickens upon the line “Take a bottle…”, sucking the listener into the inescapable whirlpool of the hook: “Pour some sugar on me.” It’s no wonder that this gets the crowd at any bar, birthday party, or bat mitzvah to sing along.

Another easy way for rock bands of Def Leppard’s ilk to get mainstream attention is via the ballad. Seemingly every hair/heavy metal band has one popular ballad to its name. It’s always been my belief that ballads are Leppard’s strong point (over heavier fare), and the track “Love Bites” is no exception (“Bringin’ on The Heartbreak” from 1981’s “High ‘n’ Dry” is the band’s best however). The verses of “Bites” are a little undercooked but, like any good popular song, the hook has just as much bite as the song's subject.

I’m not a very big Def Leppard fan on the whole, and the same applies to this album. Other heavy/hair metal bands are much stronger instrumentally and lyrically in my opinion. Nonetheless, I can’t argue with the strength of singles like “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and “Love Bites.” When you’re in pop music, people tend to only listen to the singles anyhow.

INTERESTING FACT: It was believed by many that the mumbling at the end of "Love Bites" said "Jesus of Nazareth, burn in hell." The actual line was producer Lange echoing the song's sentiments with "Yes it does, bloody hell." Bible-beaters remain unconvinced.

"Love Bites"

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