Def Leppard’s Steve Clark on the long wait for Hysteria and the legacy of Pyromania



By Steve Newton

Most successful recording bands like to put an album out every year. Sometimes they’ll skip a year, to vacation in the Bahamas or release a live or best-of LP. After three years their fans start to get a bit worried, not to mention the band’s record company–especially if the group is a mega-seller. Def Leppard’s 1983 album, Pyromania, sold seven-million copies worldwide and spawned three hit singles, yet their follow-up didn’t hit the stands until four years later. The Georgia Straight caught up with Leppard guitarist Steve Clark in Moncton last week and got the inside scoop on the delay.

“After the Pyromania tour–which was quit a long one, and sort of swept us off our feet–nobody really thought of making the follow-up album right away. At the end of the tour we hadn’t had any material prepared, so we had to start from sratch and write 10 new songs, which took six or seven months in itself. And Mutt [Lange the producer] was originally going to do the album, then at the last minute he said he couldn’t make it because he’d just finished the Cars’ album and was really burnt out. So without any warning we were left without a producer.

“So we looked at who was available, and there were a lot of people who wanted to do it–people like Phil Collins even–but who just weren’t available at that time due to prior commitments. So we settled on Jim Steinman, but he just didn’t work out at all, and we sort of wasted the best part of a year with him. Then we tried it on our own, but it was very slow work because we didn’t have any sort of headmaster there, and we had to try everything five different ways.”

Mutt Lange eventually came back into the project, and the band wrote another batch of new songs. But it still wasn’t smooth sailing. “Just a lot of things happened,” explains Clark. “Joe [Elliott] got the mumps–which isn’t clever when you’re 27 years old, especially downstairs, if you know what I mean. But he’s all right. And there was Rick’s accident, and Phil [Collen] and I both had car accidents, too. And then when we only had two days of recording left, Mutt had an accident and smashed his knee up, and that held us up for another couple of months.

“So it was like somebody didn’t want us to make that album! But we got over it.”

Of all the problems that plagued Def Leppard in their quest to make Hysteria, the most serious was drummer Rick Allen’s accident, in which he lost his left arm. After much trial and error, and experimentation with various drum machines, Allen came up with a technique that allowed him to create the band’s driving percussion sound. Clark says that the band never really doubted Allen’s ability to bounce back under tremendous pressure.

“When the accident happened it was such a shock, and we were mainly just concerned whether he was gonna live or not, you know. But later on we just thought, ‘Well, we’re gonna carry on whatever happens.’ And we trusted Rick enough to know that he’d be the first to tell us if he couldn’t do it.”

Even with all the craziness involved in getting Hysteria made, Clark says the naming of the LP had nothing to do with the chaos involved.

“For months and months we just couldn’t’ think of a title. We had a working title of Animal Instinct, which eventually became the name of our book [written by David Fricke of Rolling Stone]. And we had another problem there, because, after everything else, we didn’t want the artwork fo the record sleeve to be held up. So we all sat around one night and were going through newspapers and things and Rick went, ‘Hysteria, that’s a good word!’ And we all went, ‘Yeah, allright, that’s good enough.'”

To date, Hysteria has sold five-miliion copies and yielded four hit singles, “Women, “Animal”, “Hysteria,”, and the quasi rap-style “Pour Some Sugar on Me” [which sounds curiously similiar to Queen’s “We Will Rock You”]. A fifth single, “Love Bites” (not the Priest tune) will be out in video form soon.

One of the most prominent features of the  new songs is the increased use of vocal harmonies, which are almost Beatle-ish in places. But Clark says there was no conscious attempt made to focus more on the vocals than on the other elements of the Def Leppard sound.

“The only thing that we did make a conscious effort about was to try not to make Pyromania II,” says Clark. “None of us wanted to make that sort of album again–mainly because a lot of other groups had already made it for us.”

Clark feels strongly about the effect that the breakthrough Pyromania album had on other bands in the late ’80s. Certainly when you consider the success that such groups as Bon Jovi and Whitesnake have had with melodic hard-rock, he’s got a point.

“I think that Pyromania sort of changed the music direction at that time for rock groups, because it proved that you could get rock music with balls and melody–which didn’t appeal just to headbangers, but could cross over to a lot of other people. I mean, if I had been in a young group at that time, I probably would have looked up to Pyromania and said, ‘That’s a good direction to go in.’

“So that’s not a big-headed statement,” claims Clark. “We just believe that that album set the standard for a lot of groups.”

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