The horror behind the making of Def Leppard’s ‘Hysteria’

Any average Def Leppard session felt like going to rock and roll boot camp. When the Sheffield lads worked with super-producer Mutt Lange on the album high and dry, They came up with a formula for absolute precision, making songs with the strength of AC/DC alongside the huge sounds of Queen. When they were about to reach their creative pinnacle, everything started to fall through their fingers.

After settling in for the Hysteria sessions, Lange initially said he would not be available to produce the record, which completely mortified the rest of the band. For the past several years, Lange had been the unofficial sixth member of the band, and his ability to make music come out of the speakers would be sorely missed. Although the band initially thought they would make a record with Meat Loaf’s partner Jim Steinman, it became apparent that things would not work out from the first sessions.

Unlike Lange’s style of having the band go through take after take until they got it right, Steinman was looking for a lively atmosphere, not caring if some of the instruments were in tune before the tape was recorded. According to his manager Peter Mensch, Steinman was also not silent when asked to leave, saying classic albums, “We paid Steinman a ton of money to get him out of this deal, which meant we essentially had to sell a couple million records to break even.”



The band had already learned that the record needed to sell in the millions to break even, but their break for the Christmas holidays would be short. On New Year’s Eve, drummer Rick Allen was involved in a car accident and wrecked his Corvette in a field, cutting his arm. Being trapped in a seatbelt, Allen received immediate medical attention, only for his reattached limb to become infected and have to be amputated again.

After saying he was determined to return to drumming, Leppard took a studio break for Allen’s sake. After a lengthy physical therapy session, Allen returned just weeks after his accident and tried out a kit that was being built for him. In this way, he could play left-handed rhythms with his left foot.

Although the rest of the group was hesitant to see Allen struggle with his drumming, Joe Elliott mentioned that it had all paid off after a few weeks, recalling, “He came up one day and told us ‘Come over here, I want to play you something.’ behind the drums and he starts playing ‘When the Levee Breaks’ by Led Zeppelin and we all immediately get goosebumps.”

After a huge welcome concert at the Monsters of Rock festival, the band reunited in the studio to record the rest of the album, earning them some of the biggest hits of their career, including ‘Animal’ and ‘Pour Some Sugar’. On Me’. Even to this day, Elliott never takes Allen behind the kit for granted, saying, “When we play live, 99% of the time I have my back to him, and there’s never a moment where I listen and say, ‘That’s it.’ it sounds a little weird.’ He sounds like a drummer.”

the work in Hysteria It may have cost hundreds of thousands of pounds, sleepless nights and the loss of a limb, but nothing would stop Leppard from reaching even greater heights than Pyromania.


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