Rocktober Day 14: Def Leppard - Hysteria


 

The aging aspiring rock stars among us know just how taxing and pricey recording a well-produced album in a traditional studio can get.

And at some point, we've all – rocker or not, young or old – said that some thing or another "cost us an arm and a leg"...

Well, My Friends in Rock (and bless you if you already know where I’m going with this), let the story of Rick Allen – the man for whom this album cost HIS ACTUAL ARM –give you pause forevermore:

Hysteria, so aptly named after the infamous incident and ensuing media frenzy, was of course Def Leppard's crowning achievement, if not the swan song signifying the End Days of hair metal itself. (And what an illustrious, all-too-short-lived life it was!) And it cost this man exactly one literal, non-metaphorical, shit-you-not ARM – the entirety of his professionally percussive, once-drumstick-wielding, lucky-golden-ticket appendage, from clavicle to fingertip.

I mean, can you even imagine?? Are you getting it? Really getting it??

While it's hard to write this review without putting this ubiquitous, schadenfreude-satisfying nugget of rock trivia front and center, maybe that's unfortunate. Why is that, you ask? Well, because, truth be told, this album is So. Much. More! 

Like many of you, I first fell in love with Hysteria back in elementary school, circa 4th grade, probably after catching a few spins on my hometown commercial-rock radio, latching on, then hearing catchy, pop-alicious, rock-taculous hit. After hit. After black-and-denim-sporting, button-clad, AquaNetted, fingerless-gloved HIT! – each unmistakable, sublimely overproduced, Joe-Elliot-fronted wonder following, almost taunting, the last with its mockworthy-yet-lovable, exaggerated-long-vowel belting.

Indeed, six top-selling singles from a single album is a beast of a collection by all measures. But I, of course, didn’t know that, nor could I care less as just another immigrant kid growing up in the American suburbs, knowing so little of the world; of rock; or least of all, of Def Leppard, beyond these six songs and a very rad album cover featuring tormented ghost faces, neon geometry, wickedly angular fonts and a blatant disregard for proper spelling… but really, what more could there possibly be? This language seemed universal.

And just like that, I had my first official Favorite Band.

Adding even more points to The Lep’s cool cache was none other than the gaze of the one-armed drummer staring back at me – How could it even be? Was this even possible?? – almost in a haunting manner, in the very way the specter of rock should haunt any appropriately reverent, deeply intrigued and utterly bewildered 4th grader gaping at the record sleeve of his new favorite band during just another visit to his local mall. Sure, I couldn't afford the record and didn't have MTV... and Behind the Music didn’t even exist yet... but none of that mattered, as Hysteria spoke loudly and proudly for itself, and I could (and would) go on to make bootleg tapes off the radio, capturing almost the entire album this way. (We all remember those days. That said, now that I’m all grown up, I'm very tempted to go out and get a copy of Hysteria: The Def Leppard Story right freaking now, and you should be too.)

Perhaps the reason that "the drummer for Def Leppard's only got one arm" is so deeply enmeshed into our collective cultural consciousness – having reached near-mythical status both as fodder for parody and as a stark testament to the brute force and profound perseverance of RAWK ITSELF – attests not just to the price one must pay for such fierce bondage (Love bites, Love bleeds), but more intimately, to this album's specific power and greatness, each tune wielding a force that lies beyond the mere innocence of childhood and the incidence of album-name-inspiring armless infamy.

Indeed, this album made Def Leppard a household name, and it's not just because some dude had to play his drums with a custom-built foot pedal. Nor was it because every white-trash stripper – apologies: exotic dancer – in the adult entertainment world would forever climb poles and fling hair to the ever-anthemic "Pour Some Sugar on Me," giving men the world over...  a way to more intimately relate to their automobiles' experience of a drive-through car wash.  Oh no - it's something deeper, a phenomenon even more profound, transcending the cult of celebrity and the magic of myth alike. It's about the songs themselves and their transformative powers to overcome any adversity, to grab each and every soul by the hair (and/or arm), as if to say, "DO YOU WANT SOME OF THIS??" knowing full well that if we do in fact Want Some Of This, it just might never let go. Ever.

And that, my friends, is but the tiniest glimpse into the foggiest of windows, overlooking that deepest, most burning of all pits:  the very core of Rock n' F#$*ing Roll.

Happy Rocktober, folks. And last but not least:

RIP, arm.*

*Small price to pay, in retrospect.**

**So says the dude with two arms.

 

APPARENTLY DEF LEPPARD DOES NOT BELIVE IN STREAMING MEDIA AS THE FUTURE OF ALL MUSIC. WE APOLOGIZE FOR THEIR IGNORANCE AND URGE YOU ALL TO BREAK OUT YOUR CASSETE TAPES THAT WE KNOW YOU HAVE OF THIS FANTASTIC RECORD AT YOUR EARLIEST CONVENIENCE. 

THANKS FOR YOUR PATIENCE.

YOU WILL BE RETURNED TO YOUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED STREAMING GOODNESS TOMORROW.

Sincerly,

CG Staff


OH DOUBLE SNAP!!! BONUS VIDEO NUMER TWO!!!!