February 14, 2011

Sound Influence: Def Leppard - Hysteria

Welcome to Sound Influence. This is a series of columns looking back on the albums that were instrumental in first making me a fan of music and second helped shape my listening tastes over the years. Many of the albums covered will be popular for one reason or another, but more than that they mean something to me. These are albums that have stories attached to them and are albums that are a big part of why I love music and will continue to love music. These are not so much reviews as they are my memories of my first exposure to them.

Way back in 1987 an album came out that would have a big and long lasting affect on me. It is also an alum that I ended up getting in rather indirect fashion. I was not a big music connoisseur at the time, but there were songs that would catch my ear and I would fall in love with it. Well, it was about this time that Def Leppard started churning out hits from Hysteria. I loved it. I believe the first song I ever actually heard by them was "Rocket."

Anyway, I was in grade school at the time and a friend of mine had gotten the tape. For some unknown reason he did not like it. What? Impossible. In any case, I offered to relieve him of the item and a little money exchanged hands and I got a cassette that I would just about wear out. I cannot tell you how many times I listened to it, but I can say there was a time when I could sing along with the whole album and new the song order. Yes, that may not be a big deal, but it was to me.

I loved the Hysteria album. Every song was great. I didn't care about the recording or the production, or that Mutt Lange took one month to mix a single song. I was a kid, who cares about those things? For me it was all about the music, the catchy songs, the guitar riffs, the vocals, the energy, this delivered everything I was looking for in music. On the basis of this single album Def Leppard became my favorite band (back when "favorite" really meant something).

The videos, ah the videos. The videos that stuck out to me from this album were almost identical, both were concert videos recorded in the round with the stage surrounded by a sea of fans. You can probably guess which ones they are. They were "Armageddon it" and "Pour Some Sugar on Me." These songs make a great pair and the videos were electric.

One of the great things about Hysteria is that when I listen to it now, it sounds just as fresh as ever. Plus I am transported back to a simpler time when everything was new and fresh for my ears. There is something about the way these songs sound, how everything fits together so perfectly. On top of that I found a band that stood by their drummer and friend when he lost his arm in an accident and found a way to move forward with him still behind the, albeit modified, drum kit. How many other bands would be able to say the same thing?

Consider my surprise when I found they had three other albums before this! It was like something exploded in my brain. However, that is a story for another time.

Def Leppard was the first band I owned a T-shirt of, it was the Hysteria album cover. They were also one of the first bands to have a poster on my wall. They were also an influence on my short lived desire to be a guitar player. Sadly, I never did get to see them live during this period. In fact, it wasn't until just a few years ago that I got to see them live. They didn't disappoint, but it was not the same as it would have been back in the day.

This band has been through so much in their history. They are underrated for what they gave the music world in the form of some of the best accessible to the masses rock music that still retained its integrity. At this stage in their career I cannot say I care for their output and their current relevance is not what it once was (same thing for another band with a big album in my life, Bon Jovi). What they gave us cannot be taken away, should be respected and deserves to be revisited often.

Def Leppard's Hysteria was huge for me as a kid getting into music and I will always love them for what they mean to me. This album goes into my pantheon of all time greats.

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