The hardest part is overcoming yourself. A number of bands could subscribe to this thesis. The British Def Leppard would certainly be among them, who captivated the audience with their warmly received third album “Pyromania”. How to move? How to reach the top? These were the fundamental questions that underpinned the successor to “Hysteria.”
Another of our Famous albums did not have an easy trip to the world. But the reward was sweet: Def Leppard became, for a time, one of the most famous and commercially successful groups of their time. The previous “Pyromania” was a hard rock rock at the time and gained a lot of fans for the British. But the plans for her successor were somewhat different. The intent was clear – the new work was to be something that was Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” for pop, simply put: what a song, it’s a hit.
However, the direct assignment of the Mercury label was not so easy to fulfill, and the preparation of the collection, which was originally supposed to be called “Animal Instinct”, took three years. And as the band jointly confirms in the next part of the documentary series Famous Albums, “it cost a lot of money”. And one of the label’s managers at the time, David Simone, explains: “It was an incredibly expensive project. I estimate it was the most expensive record anyone in Britain ever recorded. The cost was dizzying.”
“We said we’d release the album when the songs were perfected,” recalls singer Joe Elliot. This intention, together with the idea of rock music, which could appeal to fans of the aforementioned Jackson or Elton John, naturally brought with it a challenging search for a viable path. In the pre-production phase, producer Robert John “Mutt” Large left and was replaced by Jim Steinman, co-author of “Bat Out of Hell” Meat Loaf and creator of the musicals. It was not a happy choice. “Jim Steinman was primarily an author,” describes Elliot, “I pointed this out in ’84, but no one in management listened to me.” The second problem was Steinman’s relaxed approach, preferring rawness and sincerity to perfection. He wanted to record the songs fast, he was content with little – and the musicians who saw themselves as the new Queen at the time were, of course, annoyed. The producer eventually paid off, albeit at the cost of having to sell millions more albums to pay for them. Then they tried to produce the record themselves, but again without success.
The action came from above: on December 31, 1984, drummer Rick Allen had an accident in which he lost his arm. But he wanted to return to the drums and the very slowly emerging future “Hysteria” became a means to him. With the full support of others, he created his own style that combined a simplified style of play with pedal-controlled electronic devices. About a year later, “Mutt” Large returned to the team and the imaginary wheels fell back into place. Thanks to the studio’s holy patience, the album was finally completed in 1987. Despite the delays and rising costs, the label felt a clear potential, and as it turned out, the patience in this case bore the coveted fruit. The record was a clear commercial success. It was mainly sold by the hit “Pour Some Sugar On Me”, which was actually created by chance: Def Leppard already considered the recording finished, but during a break in filming Joe Elliot began playing a song on acoustic guitar, which he had composed a few days before. “Large came back and asked me, ‘What is this?’ I say it’s just a normal idea, no glory. He said, ‘No, that’s the most catchy tune I’ve heard in the last five or ten years. We should definitely record it.’ “
And so it happened, within two weeks the song was finished and became the most important element that sold the collection full of hit singles. Among other things, this confirmed the incredible smell of “Mutta” Large to strong melodies and the potential that he managed to discover in the songs, despite the band’s feelings. The fresh studio has quickly climbed to the top of the sales charts in Britain and the United States. It has dominated the charts for the next three years and has sold more than 20 million units to date, including 12 million in the US, where Def Leppard has been a huge success – their post-release tour has been hopelessly sold out.
Another part of the Famous Albums series offers a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the album “Hysteria”. It was broadcast by ČT art on Friday, November 19, 2021.
A series of articles is created in cooperation with Czech Television.