It sounded like one of the craziest tasks anybody ever dreamed up: Def Leppard is in the process of re-recording, in painstaking detail, its monster-selling albums from the 80s, specifically Pyromania and Hysteria. The latter, released in 1987, was a Herculean challenge to begin with. Hysteria was one of the most expensive records in history, one of the most richly textured and artfully constructed recordings in all of pop music. It cost millions, and it reportedly required several million in sales just to break even. Of course, in the summer of 1987, every single sentient life form, from paramecium and bacteria on up to iguanas, prairie dogs and Ukrainians, was singing along with “Pour Some Sugar On Me” – and the record went twelve times platinum around the world, around 20 million records.
So why remake a masterwork? Because Universal Music Group cannot reach a deal with the band on royalties for the digital downloads. To go around this, the band is depending on the legal difference between master recordings and song publishing – and making new recordings of songs they already own. Based on interviews, you get the sense the band is having a fun time with this project, but it’s amazing how convoluted things can get when legal structures no longer meet up with evolving business models.
Check out the results with this snippet of “Pour Some Sugar On Me 2012.” If your ears are ultra-sharp and you’ve recorded music in a studio or two, you’ll hear the difference between fat-sounding two-inch tape (oh, the drum sounds!) and digital hard drive recording. Otherwise, this is pretty spot on.
All in the name of rock and roll.