Classic Rock

Def Leppard

Hysteria: The Singles / The Story So Far: The Best Of


Sheffield’s finest’s platinum-hued history gets one more go around.

Def Leppard are currently touring the Hysteria album around the world playing in similar rooms and to rapt and similarly sized sell-out audiences as they did when they first released the record in 1987. And while their audience may now be older and wider (who isn’t?), listening to these two collection­s it’s not hard to see why those people keep coming back.

Throw a pint pot in a rock bar and you’ll hit at least three men (it’ll be men) who’ll tell you that Def Leppard peaked with On Through The Night or 1981’s

High ‘N’ Dry. Those people are almost certainly drunk and to be avoided. There’s an argument to be had regarding the artistic and creative merits of Pyromania and its follow-up Hysteria (Pyromania for me, since you ask), but both helped confound rock music and make Def Leppard one of the biggest bands in the world before the 90s came along and spoiled the fun for everyone.

It’s hardly worth detailing the hits here; if you don’t know what Photograph sounds like, then you should maybe come out from that cave you’ve been living in the past 40 years? The vinyl seven-inch Hysteria: The Singles box set (10/10) (remember when bands released seven singles from an album that only had 12 tracks? Me neither), is a thing of jaw-dropping beauty and a pointed reminder that Def Leppard were capable of writing B-sides – Tear It Down, I Wanna Be Your Hero, Ring Of Fire – that most other bands of the era might have considered good enough to lead an album with.

The first disc of the two-disc The Story So Far: The Best Of (9/10) replays most of their Vault best-of, with a charged take on Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus. But it’s disc two where the band’s musical history is laid bare, most notably the production values post-Mutt Lange – there are moments where the band sound like they’re chasing an audience; the misstep that was Slang; and that album’s Work It Out, with its dry, thrumming sound that reminds you of nothing so much as the band Gun. These are the anomalies though, and Work It Out is still a song most other bands would sell a vital organ for. Elsewhere the bubblegum Promises (co-written with Lange) from Euphoria and the kick of Let’s Go from the band’s last studio album still sparkle.

Def Leppard: what a long, strange trip.

Philip Wilding

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