“Animal,” the third track on Hysteria, was the first single released from the album in all markets except the U.S., Canada, and Australia. It has the rarefied distinction of being the first Def Lep single to chart in the U.K top 10, peaking at #6. Scoring higher on their home turf than the later and ubiquitous “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” the band would not top “Animal” in the U.K. until 1992’s “Let’s Get Rocked.” For this reason alone “Animal” deserves attention, if not, as we shall see, for its under-the-radar and surprising use of the genre to overturn sexual power expectations.

From the outset “Animal” moves into familiar turf for a rock song, male lust. The first-person singular “I” is the perspective of the entire song, and is set up in each of the two verses:

1st Verse
A wild ride, over stony ground

Such a lust for life, the circus comes to town
We are the hungry ones, on a lightning raid
Just like a river runs, like a fire needs flame
I burn for you

2nd Verse
I cry wolf, given mouth to mouth

Like a movin’ heartbeat in the witching hour
I’m runnin’ with the wind, a shadow in the dust
And like the drivin’ rain
Yeah, like the restless rust
I never sleep

In the song’s verses we face a diversity of images. The circus image, the controlling focus for the video and important for our overall interpretation of the song, only appears in the lyric in the second line. We encounter the running river, the burning flame, and the shadow in the dust, but none of these are built upon elsewhere. This is a distraction, but insisting on continuity or elaboration here is asking the wrong question of the song. The chorus, on the other hand, gives us the primary controlling image of the song: Read the rest of this entry »


The second track on Hysteria, “Rocket,” was eventually released as a single in 1989 and hit #12 in the US and #15 in the UK. According to a quote ascribed to a “band message” on the Canadian EP release, the song and video are about or concern their childhood.

“Rocket” is a melange of aeronautic imagery, rock history and the usual sexual subtext. It fits well in the sub-cannon of self-referential rock songs about, well, rockin’. See any number of great rock songs, but as examples “Rock and Roll Music” (Chuck Berry), “It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll” (Rolling Stones), “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” (AC/DC), or “Rock of Ages” (Def Leppard). As an oedipal genre born and raised in rebellion to the parental generation, Rock has a chip on its shoulder about its place in the world, loudly proclaiming that it will never die, and always offers suggestions on how to rock, when to rock, and why to rock. “Rocket” adds to this collection by comparing a good rockin’ time to space rockets (the ultimate phallic image) and serves notice that we are still on familiar ground even as we lift off.

Yet like “Women,” “Rocket” manages to go a lot deeper than one might initially expect. The lyric is impressionistic, combining a list of popular rock acts and songs ranging from The Beatles to T.Rex to (a lot of) David Bowie with references in the video to the US space program and artificial satellites. The song is a pointillistic nexus of music, rocket science engineering, and fist-pumping stadium bliss. One good question with which we can approach the lyric is to ask which “Rocket” is in reference? There are a multiplicity of answers. The music itself rockets us into another space. We see the Saturn V rockets lifting astronauts into space in the video. The music of the 1970s was a launch pad for Def Leppard in the 1980s. In the thought world of this song, Def Leppard themselves are the rocket. As is often the case with rock songs, if we hear the “I” in the singular there are obvious overtones to romantic love. If instead we choose to hear the “I” as plural (the band) brings another field of meaning into view: Read the rest of this entry »



Hysteria opens, appropriately enough, with the line “In the beginning God made the land.” And so this classic heavy-pop-metal album is off to a flying start with an anthem dedicated to the beauty of women, aptly titled “Women.” Or is it? suggests that this song is “much more a tribute to women than a boasting of their [the band’s] conquests.” On the surface this seems to be the song’s primary purpose, and even as a gay man I get stuck on the catchy chorus:

Women! Women! Lots of pretty women
Men! Men! They can’t live without them

And yet I cannot help but wonder if the person who wrote this quote has actually listened to the lyrics. The song is much more than a tribute of metal dudes to pretty women. “Women” is a re-telling of the Garden of Eden story in Genesis (2:4 – 3:24). The familiar story of the tree of knowledge has been replaced with the first man’s lust, which seems to destroy the bliss of the Garden:

And in the garden lust began
The animal instinct the wanton man

While there is no talking serpent in this version of events, it seems that a certain one-eyed snake is the center of attention here. Not surprisingly the lyric holds women responsible for the misbehavior of men, suggesting:

She fed him with a hunger, an appetite
And fillin’ with emotion he took a bite

She fed him with an implacable appetite, which holds the woman in question (Eve?) responsible for all of the problems which as members of Western culture know fell upon the first couple and, if you believe in original sin, the entire human race. As we learn later, this lust is something which is seemingly unavoidable: Read the rest of this entry »