Def Leppard released their classic album Hysteria on August 3, 1987. It’s a masterclass of mixing hard rock edge and pop polish that creates a sound that’s impossible to ignore. Of course, the journey to get to Hysteria was long and not without its significant challenges.
First, famed producer Mutt Lange dropped out of producing the album due to exhaustion from working nearly non-stop since about 1976. During those years, Lange not only produced Def Leppard’s High ‘N’ Dry and Pyromania, but he also helmed AC/DC’s Highway to Hell, Back in Black and For Those About to Rock We Salute You, Foreigner’s 4, The Cars’ Heartbeat City and many other titles.
This led to Meat Loaf songwriter Jim Steinman being brought in. To put it lightly, it was a disastrous move. In addition to working with Def Leppard, Steinman was working with Meat Loaf at the same time on Bat Out Of Hell II, and he wasn’t able to give the band his full attention. Joe Elliott and Phil Collen recalled the eight weeks of working with Steinman in an April 2021 interview with Classic Rock. Elliott said there are recordings from that eight-week period, but they’ll never see the light of day.
“We would never release that stuff,” said Elliott. “There’s nothing finished. It’s like the worst bootleg you’ve ever heard. Those tapes are locked away in my library. And that’s where they’ll stay.”
Collen added, “[Steinman’s] ideas seemed a bit hokey. Maybe it was a class thing. It was obvious that we were way more ‘street’ than he was. Jim’s stuff was a bit theatrical, which is great, but it wasn’t us. We were polar opposites.”
And then, things took a dramatic turn for Def Leppard on December 31, 1984 when drummer Rick Allen got into a car accident. The accident resulted in Allen losing his left arm. Instead of kicking him to the curb, Def Leppard stuck by Allen as he recovered from the traumatic incident. During this time, Allen developed his hybrid drum kit utilizing foot pedals to compensate for only having one arm.
Also during that time, Lange got the rest he needed and rejoined Def Leppard in the studio to work on what eventually became Hysteria. This is when the album finally started to take shape. However, with Lange ever the perfectionist, this made the recording process even longer. Per Billboard, the album ended up costing a whopping $5 million to make. To simply break even, Hysteria had to sell millions and millions of copies. Fortunately, the album became a smash selling 20 million copies worldwide, with 12 million copies sold in the U.S. alone.
To celebrate the album’s anniversary, here is every song from Hysteria ranked.