At that point, it had been eighteen months since Def Leppard had been on a concert stage. And there was no guarantee that they would stand on one before the year was out.
“We went through a phase at one point,” grumbles Steve Clark, “where we didn’t even want to see a group play live, because we wanted to do it so badly. It was too painful.”
But Steve wasn’t feeling any pain as he sat in the studio manager’s office at Wisseloord one sunny afternoon in March, 1985 listening to rough tapes of the new songs. With sunlight streaming through the window, music blaring out of the office stereo at nuclear volume, Steve rocked back and forth in his chair, gulping Heineken between shit-eating grins.
These were only demo tapes of the new songs, recorded during pre-production in Ireland the previous year. The versions cut at Wisseloord at the end of ’84 with Jim Steinman as producer were a total write off. The message, however, was written clear across Clark’s face.
Def Leppard had plenty of confidence, not only in these songs, but in themselves to produce them on their own with Nigel green. Green had been Mutt Lange’s assistant engineer on High ‘n’ Dry and was familiar with Mutt’s preferred method of piecemeal recording.
While Rick Allen recovered from his accident and worked to develop co-ordination between his three working limbs, Green and the other members of Leppard set about recording the fourth album at Wisseloord in exactly the same manner – note by note, chord by chord, scream by scream. Another Pyromania was in the offing; the platinum was sure to follow.
The songs Clark played in the Wisseloord office that day were an uncanny marriage of Def Leppard’s old spoon-factory instincts and the platinum pop lessons Mutt Lange had drilled into them on the last two albums. As a package of roaring arena metal and pop accessibility, the album-to-be seemed to be at least equal to Pyromania, if not better.
Run Riot was a hot bodyslam rocker with an unmistakable Aerosmith bite. Steve got to show off his best Jimmy Page Kashmir drone in the intro to Gods of War while Women, a hard stomp taken at Black Sabbath tempo, was the perfect showcase for Phil Collen’s zigzag solo flourishes.
There was a classy pop flair to the chorus in Animal, although that hadn’t stopped the band from tagging no less than three false endings to the track.
“We did that,” said Steve with a playful leer, “to fuck up the DJs.”