Def Leppard formed in Sheffield in 1977 with the ambition of becoming the biggest band in the world. Their first three albums had mediocre success in their home country of England and they certainly weren’t setting the world alight. Their third album, 1983's Pyromania, did however enjoy major success in the US, selling over six million copies. This was at a time when the band were struggling to fill 2000 seat venues in England. Having had major success in America at least meant that the record company was willing to invest in the follow up album, Hysteria.
Little did they know at the time, but Hysteria would go on to become one of the biggest selling albums ever, with over seventeen million copies sold worldwide and producing seven hit singles which dominated the charts for two years. This is the story of the recording of this classic album.
After the success of Pyromania in the US, the band had to come up with an even better follow-up album. To set about doing this, they went into seclusion in Dublin and started writing. The problem with this was that it was more like the Young Ones house than a place of inspiration. Copious amounts of alcohol were consumed and very little music was being produced. Robert “Mutt” Lange was considered the sixth member of the band and was asked to produce again, after the success of Pyromania. He was unavailable at the time, but luckily this album took four years to produce and after trying other producers, Mutt was able to come back on board and add his unique style of producing.
There is a lot covered in this rockumentary, the majority of which is gained from interviews with Joe Elliott, Phil Collen, Rick Allen and Rick Savage. Being interviewed in the recording studio, mulling over original recordings, they go into detail about how the unique sound of Hysteria came about. The documentary is split into sections covering the main songs from the album and it is fascinating to learn of how these songs progressed from bare bones guitar riffs to become classic rock songs with elaborate production.
Some of the memories are a little blurred these days - this is possibly from the time elapsed, but more than likely from the amount of alcohol they consumed. There is much discussion about the accident that caused drummer Rick Allen to lose an arm, and how he fought his way back to a triumphant return at the Monsters of Rock festival at Donnington in 1986. The death of guitarist Steve Clark in 1991 is also discussed briefly and how much he contributed to the band.
The driving force for this album was to create a Greatest Hits collection before it was even released, quite a heavy self inflicted burden on a band with limited success in England. Considering themselves as a rock band rather than a heavy metal band, they wanted to make the crossover into popular music without selling out, and today this album is owned by lovers of all genres of music, from heavy metal to middle of the road. The cost to the record company was massive, supporting a band for four years and buying out a failed producer, all on expected sales. Thankfully, this substantial risk was repaid in abundance.
Finally being released in 1987, Def Leppard enjoyed their first major success in England, with the album making its debut at number one. Over the next couple of years they became the biggest band in the world, something they had aspired to do when first forming. Although this title was only maintained for a short period, it was achieved, not something every band can claim.
This is a very informative documentary and one that most rock fans should enjoy. There was however one disappointment for me. While there are snippets of videos and live performances, the need is there to see full songs performed. The reason for this omission could have been time restraints on the documentary or quite possibly to encourage the few that don’t own this album to go out and buy it. Another minor issue is the fact that not all songs from Hysteria are covered.
With the band about to release their tenth album, aptly titled X, they may never accomplish the dizzy heights achieved by Hysteria, but their longevity is proof that they truly believe in what they are doing.
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and 16:9 enhanced, there is little to find fault with in this transfer. Being a made for television special, the majority of footage is filmed within a recording studio. Colours are vibrant and true and detail is not a problem. There are no major signs of aliasing and grain is never an issue. The archival footage used is reasonably good overall. The small portions of video clips shown are a little grainy, but this is more due to their age. There are a few choices of subtitles, except English. Although the accents are reasonably strong, there is little trouble understanding the spoken word, so this is not really an issue.
Sadly, the audio supplied is Dolby Digital 2.0, only because my expectation was for DD 5.1. This is quite sufficient for the interview sections and the excellent separation across the front speakers really gives that studio feel. The use of DD 5.1 would have been better on the music sections and during the acoustic tracks, but fans should be happy with the overall sound. Audio sync is generally good, however it did appear to drift out a few times during older video clips. For those with receivers able to re-process the 2.0 signal, the subwoofer gets a little action but is not overworked by any means. Anyway, by the end of watching this you will be digging out the original album and then you can really pump it up!
There is a total of 11 extras on this release in the form of featurettes, however to me they should not be classed as extras. Running for 49:28, these are equivalent in length to the main feature and should simply be classed as part two. The reason for this is that they seem to be made up of footage that didn’t make the main feature. Broken up into separate sections, the choice is there to play all of them as one feature, but for me the only items that should be classed as extras are the two acoustic tracks. These are the standout highlight for me and feature two performances by Joe Elliott and Phil Collen. They perform acoustic versions of Hysteria and Pour Some Sugar On Me and both are a real treat. You can make your own assumptions as to whether these are extras or not, but for this reviewer the extras should not be as long as the main feature and be of similar content, and although they are a wonderful bonus I have only given a low rating for extras, based on quantity not quality.
Fans with an interest in this album should get great pleasure from this release. It is lacking in full-length video clips or live performances, but hopefully a live DVD is planned for later release. An interesting documentary that accompanies the album nicely.