Top 10 Def Leppard Songs
When Def Leppard released their debut album in 1980, their generic hard-rock riffing and slip-of-the-tongue moniker recalled watered-down Led Zeppelin. But by the time they released their third album, ‘Pyromania,’ three years later, they began growing into a sound — somewhat shaped by producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange — that dished up polished pop hooks alongside the classic rock crunch. When they returned with their fourth album, ‘Hysteria,’ they pretty much ruled the late ’80s with their highly processed, and super-catchy, songs. It’s no surprise that most of the cuts on our list of the Top 10 Def Leppard Songs come from that golden era.
The seventh and final single from the massive ‘Hysteria’ album is one of the LP’s toughest-sounding songs, even with all of the digital sampling and effects producer Mutt Lange added to it. If you listen closely, you’ll hear backward tapes, loops and snippets of vocals and instruments from other ‘Hysteria’ cuts. Plus, sampled drums and Apollo 11 audio can be heard. Busy but ready for liftoff.
The band’s only No. 1 single (and one of the few ballads to make our list of the Top 10 Def Leppard Songs) was, incredibly, the fifth single from ‘Hysteria.’ In a way, ‘Love Bites’ sounds a lot like many of the mid-’80s slow cuts made by harder bands of the era. But the intricate (and yes, somewhat obtrusively super-processed) production lends it texture.
‘Hysteria’ drained Def Leppard. It would be another five years before they got around to making its follow-up, the energy-sapped ‘Adrenalize.’ At the end of the ’90s they released their seventh album, ‘Euphoria,’ a return to the classic sound of their ’80s heyday. Its first single, ‘Promises,’ was their best song since the many monster hits that came out of ‘Hysteria.’
The title track of Def Leppard’s biggest album, like most of the songs on the record, is layered (or buried, depending on your perspective) in producer Mutt Lange’s processed studio technique. There’s hardly a moment where you don’t sense the digital machines at work. But they give the album, and especially the slower cuts, a radio-ready sharpness that heightens everything around it.
The third single from the band’s breakthrough third album ‘Pyromania’ helped seal Def Leppard’s signature sound. Pop, rock, metal and a kick-ass chorus all come together for one of the group’s earliest hits, which climbed to No. 28 on the chart. The stuttering chorus is cool, but the lead-in hook that drives straight into it is even better.
‘Bringin’ on the Heartbreak’
‘Bringin’ on the Heartbreak’ was originally released on Def Leppard’s second album, 1981’s ‘High ‘n’ Dry.’ It was pulled as the record’s second single but didn’t chart. Fast-forward a couple of years: After ‘Pyromania’ makes the band MTV stars, thanks to some hit singles (see Nos. 1, 3 and 6 on our list of the Top 10 Def Leppard Songs), ‘Bringin’ on the Heartbreak’ got a shiny remix, and the track became a radio hit this time.
‘Rock of Ages’
The second single from ‘Pyromania’ begins with some nonsense words meant to evoke a sinister, medieval chant. Forget that. ‘Rock of Ages’ earns its mettle (or is that metal?) once the drums kick in and the verse-chorus combo delivers one of the band’s finest knockout punches. It also became the group’s second Top 20 single in a row.
‘Women,’ the first single from the band’s follow-up to their breakthrough ‘Pyromania’ album, was a noisy bust. ‘Animal,’ the second of seven singles pulled from ‘Hysteria,’ is much better and way more representative of the album’s hyper-processed and sample-heavy production, made necessary in part after drummer Rick Allen lost an arm in a car accident.
‘Pour Some Sugar on Me’
It’s hard to escape (or deny) the total awesomeness of ‘Pour Some Sugar on Me.’ ‘Hysteria’ was already well on its way to becoming the band’s biggest album when the song was released as the third single. It made it all the way to No. 2, their highest-charting song at the time (the follow-up, ‘Love Bites,’ made it to No. 1) and remains Def Leppard’s only gold single. The late ’80s weren’t exactly a great time for rock music; ‘Pour Some Sugar on Me’ made sure it didn’t completely suck.
If the slashing intro guitar riff doesn’t immediately grab your attention, the bridge leading to the chorus will. But it’s that monster chorus that makes ‘Photograph’ an ’80s classic. The mighty mix of pop hooks and hard-rock crunch would serve as the band’s template for the next two decades. The ‘Hysteria’ album is the band’s apex, but it all starts with the four glorious minutes of ‘Photograph.’