When Def Leppard’s return looked doubtful after ‘women’s’ flop
Once the labor of nearly four years to complete Hysteria reached its end in early 1987, Def Leppard didn’t have much time to wind down. Instead, they were faced with a new challenge that was almost as big as recording the album turned out to be: making a profit.
“We were in deep debt, like $5 million in three years,” guitarist Phil Collen recalled in 2019. “The studios and everything – shipping, freight, hotels and god knows what.” It was a similar amount to the profit made on their previous LP, 1983 Pyromania. So they had to sell more records than they had ever sold before just to break even and millions more to reach the $12 million the label was expecting after all that investment.
Fortunately, Def Leppard were confident in what they had accomplished in the studio. They aimed to create a record where every track was a potential hit. Now that the time had come to prove it, they wanted “Animal” to be the first in a series of singles. But their management disagreed: Q Prime’s Cliff Burnstein wanted “Women” to storm the charts.
It wasn’t the band’s favorite song at the time. Not because there was anything wrong, but because it took the longest time to complete as they worked with producer Mutt Lange to develop a completely new approach to making music records. rock. “We were painting a picture here that had never been painted before, so we had to walk through many dead end streets and find out if they were valid or not, then up and down another one,” singer Joe Elliott said in an interview in 2002. “What Mutt was doing was setting up the mix, the overall sound of the album. He did that on a song, and when he [got] to do the remaining songs, they weren’t going to take that long.
Collen described “Women” as a crucial part of the album. Lange had suggested that the opening should be about the group’s thoughts on women. “We followed his idea and it really worked,” said the guitarist. They struggled with the last part of the track, re-recording it as Lange searched for something “different”. “We sat down and worked a little culminating,” Collen recalled. “To be completely honest, the ending is a bit of a goof and it was left out.”
Hailing his bandmate’s contribution, Elliott said, “My favorite part is at the end. The modulation pitch changes as Phil walks away. It’s a magical moment that one day you hope your group will find themselves doing. Drummer Rick Allen, who took on “Women” as his first task after responding to the car accident that took his left arm, recalled that “it helped that he didn’t have a frantic tempo”.
Watch Def Leppard’s “Women” Video
In 2017, Burnstein said Billboard why he disagreed with the band members on the choice of the first single from the LP. “We always thought that in the long run the band would be stronger if it was always associated with a hard-rock band,” he said. “And so we took this hardest rock song on the record.”
The bet did not pay off: “Women” peaked at 80th place and only spent three weeks on the charts. “There was hardly any crossover at all,” Burnstein admitted. “It was generally considered a disappointment, and the record was generally considered a failure. … The label was scared to death. … I wouldn’t say all that to the band. i just want [say]’We’re building this song by song, and eventually, we’re going to get there.’ »
Jim Urie, Senior Marketing Manager, recalled, “The first single didn’t do well and we were very worried. The promotion guys were getting a massive amount of heat. It only went up the charts because it was a maximum effort by the whole company, promotion staff, and everyone involved to try to get it up there. It was really a quasi-steep, which was a surprise because it was a good song.
Collen reflected on the 2016 failure, telling Songfacts, “I think when you think about MTV and radio, it’s all about ratings and commercials and stuff. It’s a business after all, so a song like “Women”, unless it’s been in a movie or a commercial, will never be as commercially acceptable as saying something like “Hysteria”, “Animal or ‘For Some Sugar on Me.’ … It’s like completely beyond the band, the producer, even the record company in some cases. It’s just, “We notice that when we play this song, the ratings go up, it’s so that’s when we place our ads.” … When you have a band and you’re like, ‘Why isn’t this song popular?’ That’s why… He didn’t have the support.
As Burnstein reported with some relief, Hysteria began selling big after the cumulative effect of several singles, topped by the breakthrough hit “Pour Some Sugar on Me”. But, he confessed, “it was really tactile for a while.”
Elliott recalled that some people had seen the Def Leppard comic in the “Women” video and thought it was a real product, but it was just a single page pasted to another post. “It was just a single page…so they could film the kid looking like he was reading Def Leppard and the Women of Destiny“, he told the Quietus in 2013. “That piece of cardboard … could have easily been thrown in a trash can. Because nothing is historic until it’s old. But I made sure to catch it. I’m the group archiver if anyone is. I make sure everything from the door sticker on Letterman’s dressing room, to things like this blanket that’s now iconic, I make sure to grab them in case we need them.
With HysteriaThe success of Def Leppard is assured and the future of Def Leppard with, “Women” has become a classic that often appears on the band’s live set. “When Phil starts live,” Allen said, “the place always gets crazy.”
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