In 1983, when much of the music world was turning toward “modern-sounding” synths and electronic music, one young outfit from Sheffield, England was about to make its impact by focusing on straight-ahead rock. Def Leppard’s Pyromania actually bridged the disparate musical islands of pop and metal, resulting in a blockbuster album that was only kept out of the Billboard top spot for six whole months by Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

Pyromania was only the band’s third album (in as many years), but when it came out, the median age of its members was around 21. They specialized in atomic, anthemic calls to action like “Let It Go” off of 1981’s High ’N’ Dry, resulting in a tour supporting AC/DC, an outfit that was no stranger to the rock anthem itself. Def Leppard’s concoctions featured catchy builds, highlighted by the born-to-front-a-rock-band vocals of Joe Elliott and the guitar playing of Steve Clark, who could also craft amazing lyrical hooks out of ferocious riffs.

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What Pyromania really had going for it, however, was the production by one Robert John “Mutt” Lange, who had also worked on High ’N’ Dry. His demanding, multi-take precision methods resulted in erratic guitarist Pete Willis being replaced with Elliott’s friend Phil Collen, for a light metal album that practically shone from all the gloss. This early ’80s era marked a bit of a rock high point for Lange, as he also went into the studio with AC/DC for Back In Black and Foreigner for its classic 4 album. Soon Lange would take off for the schlockier waters of Celine Dion, Bryan Adams, and future wife Shania Twain, but meanwhile, he corralled a randy group of post-teens in the studio to create a career-making hit album. Pyromania’s not-so-hidden theme is “more cowbell.”

The album took nine months to record, according to Classic Rock, and would need to sell at least 3 million copies to get the band out of debt. But Joe Elliott wasn’t worried: “We knew we’d made a great record… And we knew it had the potential to be huge.” The young Elliott was downright prophetic: Pyromania went on to sell 10 million copies in the U.S., going platinum several times over.

You could find a cassette of Pyromania in a high-schooler’s Chevy Nova in practically any town in the country (at one point, it was reportedly selling 100,000 copies a day in the U.S., begging the question, who didn’t own Pyromania in 1983?). Hard-rocking songs by metal bands were a dime a dozen; hard-rocking songs with hooks that refused to get out of your head, augmented by Elliott’s commanding vocals and Lange’s polished production, made Pyromania the album that first paved the way for Def Leppard’s ascent, culminating in its 2019 Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame induction. The album also contains an invaluable combo of hunger and fun—elements missing on follow-up Hysteria, which sold even better. Def Leppard had already poured all that vibrant energy into Pyromania, securing its spot in the rock firmament.

The album kicks off with a triumphant flourish of keyboards (supplied by Thomas Dolby himself) as if announcing the arrival of Def Leppard with considerable fanfare. Unfortunately, that fanfare leads us to “Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop),” a slight dirge that shows the AC/DC “call to rocking” influence, but with mind-numbingly repetitive lyrics like “Rock! Rock! Till you drop / Rock! Rock! Never stop.” For a kickoff, it still captivates, as Joe Elliott’s powerful, multi-octave vocals and well-rocked guitars vie for dominance.