Def Leppard's Hysteria, 30 years on: "I’m going to have to go back in a time machine"

Rick Savage, enjoying the fruits of his labours, in 2004.

Rick Savage, enjoying the fruits of his labours, in 2004.
(Image: © REX/Shutterstock)

7. Gods Of War

“Again, this started with a guitar intro that Steve came up with. He wanted to create something a bit mystical and mysterious, and it developed naturally from there. We went around and around, verse then bridge. 

"We thought we had the chorus, then Mutt went, ‘No, no, no – that’s just another hook!’ It felt like we had two bridges within the song and it felt obvious were it was all gonna go. It became the rock epic of the album, and made us wonder how we could avoid going back into the verse again. Even though it all sounded anthemic, nothing really finished it off. 

“Then one day, I was driving the car and had a lightbulb moment – I knew I had the answer to it. I came up with the guitar backing for the chorus and within a day or two, it was all rounded off perfectly. 

"When it was all done, someone pointed out it really reminded them of The Beatles song I Want You (She’s So Heavy) – which is why the song fades out with Joe singing ‘Heavy!’ It was the perfect way to round off a classic Def Leppard album track. 

"Steve had this guitar jangle that was totally unfinished, he’d always come in with six bars of something that didn’t resolve and say, ‘There you are!’ We’d always say, ‘But where does it go?!’ He was so off-the-cuff and off-the-wall, coming up with brilliantly mad ideas.

8. Don’t Shoot Shotgun

“Phil [Collen, guitars] had come up with the original guitar riff and we just wanted to keep it Stonesy and very loose… which was difficult for us to do. It wasn’t natural for us to be a bit sloppy but still in time. We wanted the swagger and attitude. 

“When you’re making an album, you’re always conscious of creating a balance of what you’re comfortable with. Everything is an antidote for something else. This song would give the album a bit more depth because a lot of other stuff felt very polished and high-end. This one came out a bit more raw and ready!”

9. Run Riot

“We wanted to create something a bit more fun, where you could tell us boys were having a laugh. We liken this song to Summertime Blues by Eddie Cochran – it had that school’s out, free for all attitude. 

“It was born out of wanting a variety of songs, making a very balanced record. When you have four years to make an album, you go through different phases of what you think the album needs. Eventually… you get there!”

10. Hysteria

“This has a lot of meaning personally, because all the verse guitars and intro I actually played on Phil’s mirror-plated guitar going through a whole nation of different effects. 

"There was a box called the Rockbox, and it was very similar to the Rockman in that it was this tiny little thing you plugged in. But it had such great compression when you kicked it in! 

It’s not unusual for me to come up with guitar parts, but more often than not I let the proper guitar players record it on the album

"It’s not unusual for me to come up with guitar parts, but more often than not I let the proper guitar players record it on the album. For some reason, it just didn’t quite have the feel that me and Mutt wanted when Phil or Steve played it. So in the end, Mutt said, ‘Sav, it’s your riff… you just play it!’ and I did, even though I’m the bloody bass player. 

“So it’s a song that’s very close to my heart, it’s one of my babies. Phil came up with the bridge idea, which then went into this separate thing that Steve had come up with and all of sudden, we found we had a song. We just glued three sections together and I think it was Rick [Allen, drums] that came up with the title. 

“We were a little conscious of the fact that The Human League, not only a massive band but also a massive band from Sheffield, recently had an album called Hysteria. We were wondering if we could get away with it. It’s amazing how paranoid you can get about not wanting to be seen copying anything. We always went the opposite way, and at the end of the day, it worked!”

11. Excitable

“We were so engulfed by the technology of the 80s, it just kept on bombarding everybody. People were coming up with different ideas, different sounds. The Clavia was the new thing on the block – all these computers were taking over. We just wanted to make a dance song. 

"There’s a famous nightclub in Dublin called The Pink Elephant and we’d go there after hours. Mutt who was a total non-drinker would come down and have a glass of water with us and I remember hearing State Of Shock by Michael Jackson and Mick Jagger, thinking to myself how great it would be to write something like that.

“Literally, the following morning, I went to the writing room, picked a guitar up and came up with the riff. Mutt made me play it over and over again for 10 minutes, while we came up with new ideas over the top. After a bit of editing, we were there!”

12. Love And Affection

“This is one Phil had knocking around for a good long while. We were wondering if it was too lightweight, if it was really a Def Leppard song. And again, it was Mutt the great instigator who said, ‘Guys! Don’t worry about it, just record it and see how it develops…’ More often than not, that would work out.

“After thinking it was too AOR-sounding, once Joe started laying on his vocals and we had those textured guitars in the chorus, I realised it absolutely sounds like a Def Leppard song. A perfect one. Truth be told, it probably would have been a huge hit in America had the record company decided to release another single. It was getting a huge amount of airplay two years after the album was done.”