Remembering The High School “Hysteria” Of Def Leppard 30 Years Later
“exaggerated or uncontrollable emotion or excitement, especially among a group of people.”
I can’t say I remember the day Def Leppard released the ‘Hysteria’ album. According to Wikipedia it was August 3rd 1987. At the time I wasn’t a fan of the band so that day came and went without any thought. It wouldn’t be long, however, for it to become virtually impossible to not take notice of the hysteria surrounding both the album and the band.
I was 15 years old and heading into my sophomore year at Southington High School when the record was just picking up steam thanks to the first two singles “Women” (#80 single) and “Animal” (#19 single) getting play on the radio and MTV.
I do remember seeing classmates in the late summer/early fall autumn days with their brand new back-to-school jeans and sneakers carrying around the cassette with them daily, playing it in their walk-mans in the cafeteria and on the bus.
There was this kid, Joe Mihalik, who would sit with me and my friends in the SHS cafeteria during lunch. For some reason I still remember that he always wore camouflage pants to school. I also remember that there were two things he loved – Funny Bones and Def Leppard. He always seemed to have that ‘Hysteria’ cassette with him. That and his precious Funny Bones. I certainly don’t judge him for that. Who doesn’t love Funny Bones? Frosted peanut butter creme filled devil’s food cakes? I mean, seriously, folks. It’s a heavenly combination. Anyway, back to my story.
On October 11th, 1987 Def Leppard played at the Hartford Civic Center. The next day sightings of Def Leppard Hysteria World Tour concert t-shirts popped up throughout the high school hallways. The Def Leppard logo was stenciled on many a book covers too. The hysteria was just starting to pick up.
The holidays came around next and many of the kids at school who didn’t have ‘Hysteria’ yet would eventually get their own as they turned in their record store gift certificates in exchange for a copy. With a follow up single, the album’s title track, in January of 1988 ‘Hysteria’ had now completely taken over. The temperature outside may have dropped to below zero but Def Leppard was hotter than a dog-day in August.
A few months went by and it was springtime once more. The birds were chirping, the flowers were budding and a brand new Def Leppard video on MTV called “Pour Some Sugar On Me” began to run in regular rotation. That damn video was on every day after school yet I never changed the channel. It was so saccharine sweet I couldn’t resist. Kinda like Funny Bones. Def Leppard and the album ‘Hysteria’ was now blowing up big time as “Sugar” went all the way to #2 on the charts. The success of the single would propel the album to the top of the charts nearly a year after its release.
That spring I would often join up with some of my high school buddies after school at a town park basketball court and shoot hoops. Usually one guy was in charge of bringing the boom box while the rest us brought along our favorite cassettes. I distinctly remember our friend Ed Clarke would often show up with ‘Hysteria’. Yes, he too was among Def Leppard nation. We often popped that cassette in the boom box and cranked the volume up while we played a game of 3 on 3. I admit that I wasn’t all that great a basketball player. I threw up many bricks; sank very few baskets but I didn’t care. I was enjoying the good music you see.
Listening to interviews today we now know Def Leppard had set the bar high for ‘Hysteria’. They wanted the rock and roll equivalent of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ which meant they wanted to release a total of seven singles; all of them being hit singles. Well here it was the spring of 1988 and the current tally was – Four hit singles down, three to go.
As the band rode the success of “Sugar” through the summer of ’88 they planned their next single. That would be the groove-heavy arena rocker “Armegeddon It”. It was another hit going all the way to #3 on the charts. Eventually the summer came back around; it was almost a full year after ‘Hysteria’ was released and the band wasn’t done. In fact, they still had #1 in their sights and, watch out, they got it with “Love Bites” topping the charts in July of 1988.
The band rode out the massive success of “Love Bites” through the rest of 1988 before finally finishing their all-out assault on the charts with “Rocket”, which went all the way to #5 in January of 1989.
The success of “Hysteria” is still hard to wrap my head around. I was a sophomore newbie when it came out in August of 1987. By the time it released its final single in I was halfway through my junior year at Southington High School.
According to Wikipedia ‘Hysteria’ went on to dominate album charts around the world for three years. It was certified 12x platinum by the RIAA in 2009 and it currently sits as the 51st best selling album of all time in the US. It spent 96 weeks in the US top 40, a record for the 1980s (tied with ‘Born in the U.S.A.’ The album has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide.
I mentioned I wasn’t a fan of Def Leppard when ‘Hysteria’ first came out 30 summers ago. That didn’t last long. I couldn’t resist following the buzz of the album straight to the record store and got a copy on cassette for myself. I wore that damn cassette down. Then I got it on cd, then I loaded the mp3s in my phone…..I’m actually listening to the album right now. Thirty years later I’m still caught up in the hysteria that is Def Leppard’s ‘Hysteria’.