Def Leppard - Rocket - Hysteria Classic Album
Def Leppard’s Hysteria was an incredibly expensive project – at the time it may have been the most expensive record ever made in the UK. It’s estimated somewhere in the region of five million copies were sold before the band broke-even on the staggering costs. And it’s not hard to understand why; the album’s creation spanned a four-year period and experienced several phases before it’s completion.
Def Leppard were determined to produce a classic album from the onset of Hysteria. Their driving philosophy was “all killer, no filler” – why can’t a rock band have seven hit singles off one album? Why can’t a rock group sell records to an Elton John or Michael Jackson fan without losing their original market? Def Leppard refused to be restricted by their genre; Hysteria totally crossed over without selling-out and that’s a very difficult thing to do.
Rocket was the surprise underground hit of the album and became Hysteria’s sixth single. It was never intended to be lyrically excellent or convey topical messages. Instead, it’s filled with references to other songs, weaving in the souls of their influencing artists without losing the Def Leppard identity; Rocket was designed to be a journey through the youth of someone their age.
A tribute to the 70’s and 70’s bands, the song grew initially from a tribal beat in the 1971 song ‘Burundi Black’ by Burundi Steiphenson Black. After recording the beat and overlaying guitar, the band realised there was a gap in the chorus after the phrase “Rocket” and the following lyrics became “satellite of love”, nodding to Lou Reed’s 1972 track ‘Satellite of Love’. This is when the referencing in Rocket really began. Other artists recognised through lyrics in this track range from The Rolling Stones to Chuck Berry, Elton John to The Beatles and Queen to David Bowie. And to round-up the references, the vocal melody to ‘I Feel Free’ by Cream was incorporated into the guitar solo.
Rocket also references other tracks on Hysteria, representing the embodiment of everything which defines Def Leppard; massive guitars, massive drums, huge choruses. Backmasking effects feature the line “we’re fighting with the gods of war” – from track ‘Gods of War’ – sung in reverse throughout the track. Sequencing effects like this were a very new concept at the time of writing – Def Leppard were doing something quite unlike anyone else with a sound which is yet to age. Midway through the song, the words “love” and “bites” from track ‘Love Bites’ are used to replicate the sounds of a rocket launch and a chant can be heard underneath the guitar solo, emphasising the melody. There are so many dynamics in this song, yet Rocket is melodic and memorable.
Hysteria is the epitome of 1980s hard rock and an incredible follow-up to ‘Pyromania’; its singles have remained staples of rock radio, possessing that timeless ability to say something interesting and emotive to a new generation. When you listen to the record, it really is tremendous from start to finish – it’s like the Greatest Hits album which was written before the songs were released. It connected with everybody – a rock audience, a pop audience, older generations and younger generations. And as perfect as Hysteria is, you can still hear the five guys inside.
Def Leppard achieved what they set out to with Hysteria, it’s their classic album and their most successful record to date. Def Leppard consider themselves a band of real democracy – not one man out front, but five in a line. And this is how they work – somebody brings an idea to the table and everyone adds their own element. After four years of challenges and setbacks, Hysteria almost went Gold in one day.
Watch ‘Def Leppard: Hysteria – Classic Album Documentary’ on Amazon prime here.
Not enough to satisfy you? Take a look at our brand-new two-part live concert feature ‘London To Vegas’, showcasing Def Leppard’s undeniable performance excellence and acoustic renditions here.