Classic Rock

Phil Collen Cringes On Only ONe Def Leppard Song

todayMarch 20, 2024 2

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Diehard fans are a passionate bunch. They’ll fiercely defend their favorite bands as if they were knights defending a castle. They’ll wax poetic about albums that have soundtracked their lives, claiming them to be flawless masterpieces.

But the truth is, even the most iconic albums have a hidden dud or two. Every band has songs that, in hindsight, maybe weren’t their finest moment. Take Def Leppard’s Hysteria for example. A cornerstone of 80s rock, this album boasts a collection of anthems that have filled stadiums for decades.

Yet, guitarist Phil Collen recently revealed “Run Riot”, the ninth song in Hysteria, makes him cringe whenever he thinks about it.

Precision under pressure

For many guitarists, hearing about the recording process for Def Leppard’s Hysteria might sound like a nightmare. Producer Mutt Lange was infamous for his meticulous approach, demanding every part be played and re-played until it achieved sonic perfection.

This relentless pursuit of flawless recordings wouldn’t have fazed Collen, however. Unlike his bandmate Steve Clark, who was known for his more improvisational style, Collen thrived under pressure.

His dedication to precision stemmed from years spent studying under guitar masters across various genres, including rock legend Ritchie Blackmore and jazz fusion innovator Al Di Meola.

Hysteria was a high-stakes gamble

But for Def Leppard, Hysteria wasn’t just another album – it was a make-or-break moment. The band owed a significant debt to their record label, and the pressure was immense. Hysteria needed to be a massive success, at least matching the sales of their previous album, or risk sinking their career.

Thankfully, the gamble paid off in spectacular fashion. The iconic record wasn’t just a success, it was a phenomenon. The album propelled Def Leppard into superstardom, with a staggering number of the album’s tracks becoming hit singles.

This incredible success wasn’t a stroke of luck. Singer Joe Elliott revealed the band’s deliberate strategy in a conversation with Classic Albums magazine. Their goal wasn’t just to make a good album, it was to craft an album filled with potential hit singles. 

As Elliott put it, Mutt Lange challenged them to “practically write a greatest-hits album before it’s even been released.”

Collen’s dissatisfaction with “Run Riot”

Yet the recording process for Hysteria wasn’t always smooth sailing. While some songs came together quickly, others demanded an almost Sisyphean level of effort.

Tracks like “Animal” required complete re-recording due to a terrible mix, while “Don’t Shoot Shotgun” became the unfortunate cause for their initial producer’s dismissal – the entire song was accidentally recorded out of tune.

The band also faced internal struggles with certain songs. Collen wasn’t entirely satisfied with “Run Riot”. In his opinion, the track veered too far into pop territory, straying from the song’s rock and roll roots. He even admitted to fumbling the solo during recording, something that caused him initial embarrassment.  However, time has softened his perspective. 

“I used to really cringe when I heard it, but it’s been 25 years now,” Collen reflected, “so I’ve let it go.”

The raw energy of Hysteria and the band’s evolution

While Collen might consider “Run Riot” a bit rough around the edges, it’s hard to imagine the song being anything less than impressive in its final form. Compared to other glam rock acts of the era, Def Leppard offered a more sophisticated sound.

They weren’t simply another Sunset Strip band emulating AC/DC’s raw energy. Instead, with their layered vocals and prominent guitar work, Def Leppard seemed to be channeling the spirit of Queen.

This raises an interesting question: why did Def Leppard eventually abandon their signature sound in the 90s, opting for a heavier, more “guttural” direction? It’s especially puzzling considering the success they achieved with Hysteria and their producer, Mutt Lange. 

While it’s natural for bands and producers to take breaks from each other, the sheer quality of “Hysteria” – even its “rough” moments – suggests a partnership worth preserving.

Written by: Best Classic Bands Staff

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