#464: Def Leppard, "Hysteria" (1987)

Out of touch, out of reach, yeah, you could try to get closer to me

A puffy ginger mullet, braces, freckles and acne, garish Jams shorts, a Quicksilver T-shirt, high-top white Reeboks, a stonewashed jean jacket, loitering the aisles of Kemp Mill music at Tysons Corner mall. Mooning over Karin D., my first unrequited love, calling up DC101 and requesting “Love Bites.” Googling her now, over 25 years later, it appears she is teaching kindergarten in the same town, perhaps corralling children down the same hallways of the same school where we (I) first fell in love. I’ve moved probably fifteen times since then: five countries, as many states. When I move on I often wonder what I leave behind: a sense of connection, the slow establishment of relations, resources, comfort; each stop chalking up a few new acquaintances to have them drift away after the next move or the next next. I’ll see you when I see you. A fading cipher in suburban DC, Denver, New York, Baltimore, Tuscaloosa, Chicago, Rome, Saigon, Colombo, Hong Kong.

This album is not holding up at all. When I’ve listened to Def Leppard in the past ten or twenty years, I’ve opted for Pyromania, the album previous to this and possessed of a drummer with two arms and a full band unaware of danger, unconcerned with coming drug overdoses, not yet ensconced in Bible study, just ready to fucking rock. “Photograph,” off Pyromania, is the only Def Leppard song that still seems to have any value to me; its paean to longing, the impossibility of the woman in the picture; the cliché of a preteen boy and a lingerie catalog. While Hysteria’s “Women,” couched in Christian creation myth, is a disassembling of the woman into hair, eyes, legs, thighs; a KFC orgy, the photograph cut apart and reassembled in a cubist collage. Ahead of its time I suppose, “Women” is “Photograph” as Photoshop.


Oh, I get hysterical, hysteria, oh can you feel it? (Oh can you feel it?) Do you believe it? (Do you believe it?)

According to the Internet, female hysteria was a not-uncommon malady that afflicted women for a period of approximately 2,000 years before its unaccountable disappearance from the medical rolls about a hundred years ago; its early manifestations caught the scholarly attentions of Plato and Hippocrates. They attributed its cause to a “wandering womb,” as the woman’s uterus strolled throughout her body wreaking havoc upon internal systems like a collection of unruly droogs. Treatment varied from a hysterectomycomplete removal of the offending organto a doctor manually stimulating the afflicted woman’s genitals, bringing about “paroxysm” and a calming of hysterical tendencies. It is thought that a doctor’s fatigued hands occasioned the invention of the first mechanical vibrator.

Karin doesn’t appear to have a Facebook page. Is it under her married name? What the hell, Karin? Could you have saved me from this? Could I be at the Vienna Inn right now eating a Chili Dog with the boys? (I’m pretty sure the Vienna Inn closed down; it is now either a Chipotle or a Starbucks.) Could we go down to Neighbors on Sunday for some brews, wings, and the ‘Skins game? Would our children be playing Little League baseball at the old field, sponsored by Auto Zone, PetSmart? Would they be skateboarding in the drainage ditch by the community center? Enacting pyromania in the woods by the bike path, as Matt S. and I did, throwing fireworks into the trees, panic as the creeping tongues of fire spread, the wail of the siren. Matt’s mother believed that we’d just stumbled upon it; mine, less so, seasoned by my early mischief and affinity for fire.

I saw a picture of Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen on Dave Mustaine’s—Megadeth guitarist and singer—Twitter the other day. I follow Mustaine for comic value; he has become a caricature of the caricature that is Ted Nugent: guitar god, right-wing hysteric, 9/11 conspiracy theorist, though “Holy Wars… The Punishment Due” is still a ripping tune (as is “Stranglehold”). Dave Mustaine reminds me that turning into a reactionary asshole is the prerogative of all aging white men in this world, feeling hemmed in by a changing society they do not understand. Dave makes me feel a little better about my dad’s transformation in recent years: from a fiscally conservative, mostly sensible Republican to a man living in utter terror of anything outside the realm of his immediate influence. ISIS terrorists piggyback Ebola-carrying immigrants into his middle-American garagethey conspire against freedom while engaging in sordid homosexual acts under a tattered and soiled American flag in the substantial bed of his American-made pickup. In the picture on Dave’s Twitter, Phil’s head resembled an unnaturally distended birthday party balloon with a pageboy wig.


I gotta know tonight, I feel alone tonight, can’t stop this feeling, can’t stop this fire

Like hysteria, nostalgia was once a disease, though men were the primary sufferers of this particular ailment. The Internet tells us it was first discovered in the mid-1600s among soldiers sick for the comforts of home; the phrase “homesick” is derived directly from the word nostalgia’s Greek roots. Treatment ranged from the sensible: slowly monitored withdrawal from the object of affection, to the monstrous: live burial. During the U.S. Civil War, the preferred treatment was abasement and repeated insinuations of unmanliness: a boy’s favorite schoolyard taunt: “fucking pussy.” The diagnosis of nostalgia was carried on through the Great Wars.

I watched this movie Murderball recently, about the Paralympic Wheelchair Rugby team. Not to spoil it, but the team loses a match to their rival Canadian team at the 2004 games, making their best possible result the bronze medal, a great disappointment for a team that expects gold. The scene after the match is one of sadness, with many of the athletes and their loved ones crying. A dad stoops down to his son’s wheelchair and hugs his boy and cradles his boy’s head in his hands and tears flow from both men as the father tells the son he is the greatest son a father could ever hope for, that he is so very proud of him and loves him so very much.


It’s such a magical mysteria, when you get that feeling (When you get that feeling), when you start believing (When you start believing)

I had a crush on a Paralympic gold medalist once. She won medals in both the summer and winter games in wheelchair basketball and skiing. I remember one night in a Tuscaloosa bar—a place where the occasional “Pour Some Sugar on Me” would not be out of place, soused dudes and chicks pumping fists to the chorus—and I was tanked and the Paralympian and I got into a shouting match about something the specifics of which I do not recall, our foreheads pressed hard into each other’s, my unfocused eyes reflecting hers. Out of the corner of my beleaguered vision, her (I guess) boyfriend watched sheepishly, horrified across the room. Exhausted by my foolishness, she pushed off the barstool, into her wheelchair, and was gone. I watched her many continuing victories on a scratchy Internet feed from Beijing, 2008. One of the guys on the men’s team was in my Early American Literature summer school class at the University of Alabama; I do not recall him as a very good student, though I do remember an embarrassing moment when I asked him when he would be out of the chair, thinking it was a temporary injury. “Uh, never,” he replied.

Oh babe, Hysteria when you’re near, come on closer, closer to me

—Erik Wennermark