Def Leppard

Love Bites

Composed by Steven Maynard Clark / Phil Collen / Joe Elliott / Robert John "Mutt" Lange / Richard Savage

Song Review by

The fifth single (and second power ballad) pulled from Hysteria, "Love Bites" became Def Leppard's first American number one hit in late 1988. Naturally, "Love Bites" had the signature big, polished Def Leppard sound, but it wasn't choked with the melodramatic sentiment of most '80s power ballads, nor the usual power ballad pose of bad boys with sensitive hearts of gold. In fact, "Love Bites" is moody and even kind of sinister, creeping along quietly until bursting into a chorus featuring lines like "love bites, love bleeds...love leaves, love dies." Actually, the darker tone was a refreshing departure, its themes of fear and unsentimentalized pain making the song seem much less calculated than the commercial sheen of the music itself would suggest. It was territory that had held a great deal of potential ever since Aerosmith recorded "Dream On" in 1973, but, unfortunately, precious few hard rock bands had chosen to explore it over the following decade and a half. "Love Bites" was the only song on Hysteria augmented with keyboards; it opens with a minimal, two-note bass line thumping over echoing electronic drums. Joe Elliott's effects-altered voice enters shortly thereafter, its murky whispers adding a stylishly vampiric touch; however, when he actually begins singing, it's in his normal tone. The band only kicks in with the guitars and massively overdubbed vocal harmonies on the pre-chorus and chorus, giving the rest of the song room to breathe, and a real sense of spaciousness that didn't occur often in the group's work. The uniqueness of its approach made "Love Bites" one of the most satisfying songs in the Def Leppard catalog, as well as one of the best products of the late-'80s power ballad craze.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Hysteria 1987 Mercury 5:46
Vault: Def Leppard Greatest Hits 1980-1995 1995 Mercury 5:46