There are a mash-up of influences on this song, which is typical of Def Leppard, whose frontman Joe Elliott told us, "Everything I've ever listened to seeps in."
Joe can't always identify the specific influences, but the first record he bought was "Sugar, Sugar," which was a huge hit for the cartoon band The Archies in 1969. Near the end of that song, there is a line that goes "Pour a little sugar on me, baby," which Elliott says was at least subconscious inspiration for this song.
The lyrics started out as phonetic sounds to fit the music, which they refined later into actual words. Joe says that this was done in the style of "Bang A Gong (Get It On)" by T. Rex, which contains vaguely lascivious lyrics that don't make any sense ("a hubcap, diamond star halo"?) but sound great.
The lyrics are clearly about sex - Elliott says "Pour Some Sugar On Me" is "The metaphor for whatever sexual preference you enjoy" - but they are shrouded in enough metaphors to make the song safe for radio and MTV. Def Leppard, with Mutt Lange producing, were one of the best-selling bands of the '80s, succeeding with a formula of polished songs perfect for pop radio but with enough rock swagger to keep guys interested - which is where lyrics about sex and drums and rock and roll come in.
The massive commercial success for the band did not translate into credibility, but songwriters tend to write about life experiences, and lead singer Joe Elliott had no interest in writing about an assembly line. He explained to Q magazine in 1988: "I used to work on the treadmill making knives and forks; it don't cross over into a lyric. There's nothing in Sheffield (England) to write songs about - you can't write, 'This is Steel City!' and mean it. It's come across like bloody heavy metal Hovis ad! It's a great place with great people, but in my upbringing there was a lack of community spirit. I'm an only child; I found my own entertainment. The whole idea of being in a band is to escape boredom, so you create escapism."
Hysteria was the follow up to Def Leppard's 1983 album Pyromania, which was also a huge hit. Both albums were produced by Mutt Lange, who is known as a perfectionist in the studio. Hysteria was also delayed because drummer Rick Allen lost an arm in a car accident in 1984. He had to learn to play with one arm.
As detailed in the VH1 Classic Albums episode on Hysteria, producer Mutt Lange kept pushing the band for more songs for the album. They working on "Armageddon It" when they took a break and Joe Elliott started playing his basic idea of "Pour Some Sugar On Me" on an acoustic guitar in the control room. Lange heard it and thought it was a great hook, so he had them record the song, which was done quickly. To compose the lyrics, Elliott and Lange each took recorders and dictated lyric ideas. They listened to each other's recordings, and Elliott picked something Lange said for the opening line: "Love is like a bomb." This line was the basis for the rest of the lyrics.
Notice the rap influence on the verses Elliott sings? He explained to Kaos2000 magazine: "When we did 'Pour Some Sugar On Me,' it was only written because Run-D.M.C. and Aerosmith had done 'Walk This Way.' All of the sudden, rock and rap did mix, so we wrote our own."
Joe Elliot talks about the early TV appearances of Def Leppard in the book MTV Ruled the World - The Early Years of Music Video, where he says, "In 1981, we were in the States with Ozzy for about six weeks and Blackfoot for about a month. We were back home by September and October of '81, preparing for the next album, and didn't know anything about MTV. We'd shot three kind of... I wouldn't call them videos, promo 'movies' of three tracks from High 'n' Dry. Which for us, we knew the only chance of getting them shown was on The Old Grey Whistle Test on BBC in England or the equivalent shows in France and Germany. And maybe Don Kirshner's Rock Concert would show one, but normally, they'd have a band live. So MTV was new to us."
Regarding the above-mentioned TV shows: The Old Grey Whistle Test was a BBC2 TV series running from 1971 to 1988 which focused on giving airtime to "serious" rock music as opposed to playing only the hits like Top of the Pops. Guest artists on the show included Bob Marley and the Wailers, Billy Joel, Judas Priest, Judee Sill, Heart and Lynyrd Skynyrd. The show was named after an old phrase from Tin-Pan Alley; new songs would be tested on an audience of doormen (called "old gray" because of the uniforms they wore), and if they could whistle the song back after a couple of plays, the song producers would know that they had a hit. As for Don Kirshner's Rock Concert, that was the Don Kirshner of Monkees and Archies fame running a syndicated ABC TV series from 1973 to 1981. They featured guest performances by the likes of Rush, The Eagles, KISS, Foghat, The Ramones, Kansas and The Allman Brothers Band. At its peak, the show drew better ratings than The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.
Asked during a 2015 interview with the Albany radio station Q103 if he has ever actually poured sugar on anyone, Elliott replied: "I think we once had a competition backstage to actually pour, like, a pound of sugar over some poor girl's head who had been saturated in hot water. It was written in the contract that it had to be done, no doubt. So, yeah, I think maybe about 25 years ago, we did it at one time."
"She seemed to enjoy it, from what I can remember," he added, laughing. "You know, sugar is better than coal."
Russell Mulcahy, who was one of the most successful music video directors of the '80s, did this one. Most of his videos have actors and storylines, but the "Pour Some Sugar On Me" video shows the band setting up for a show and performing on stage.
Joe Elliott recalled the story of the song to Artist Direct:
"We were working on the vocals for I believe it was 'Armageddon' when Mutt disappeared to get coffee or whatever, and I just picked up this acoustic guitar in the corner of the control room and started playing these three chords around in a circle and singing this hook over the top, and he came back in unbeknownst to me. You kind of feel the eyes burning in the back of your head after a while and you turn around, 'What are you doing?' And he's like, 'What are you playing?' I honestly think to this day he thought I was just playing some Stone or Kinks song or something, I said, 'It's just an idea I had, it doesn't matter, we've got 11 songs on this record, two years into it, I know we're done,' and he goes, 'Oh no, we're not. That's the best hook I've heard in over five years. Play it again.' So I played it and he literally stopped the tape and he took the tape off and put a brand new piece of tape on and said, 'Right, we're going to do this,' and between me and him, we just mapped out what turned into 'Pour Some Sugar On Me.'"
"When the rest of the guys came back in, I believe it was a weekend, and they all came back in around Monday lunchtime and we've got the guts of this thing done in rough form, drum machine, bass, some bad guitar playing by him or me or both, banged out rough vocals on chorus and stuff like that, and said, 'Guys, we've got an idea for a song,' and they kind of went, 'Oh God,' everybody's eyes are rolling. We said, 'No, wait, wait, listen,' and literally about a minute in, they're all going, 'Holy crap, yeah!' And it was the fastest thing we did. We banged the whole thing out in two days, really. By comparison to the record, that was nanoseconds. That was because it took us that long to get comfortable."
In America, this was kept off the #1 spot by Richard Marx, with "Hold On To The Nights." The next Def Leppard single, "Love Bites," reached the top, giving them their only #1 on the Hot 100.
John from Manhattan, NyHysteria, the follow up album to the mega successful pyromania, was languishing in sales. I forgot which songs the record company released as singles, but they weren't hitting. As the story goes, exotic dancers in a Florida strip club started playing this song for their dance routines. The song was picked up by a local DJ and its popularity spread throughout the country. I'm pretty surprised that I didn't see anything about this on here already.
Kat from Adelaide, AustraliaPour = ejaculate
Chordless from Atlanta, GaThe original lyrics were "Hit me like a bomb..." but recently they sing it as "Love is like a bomb...." I wonder why they changed it? Some political-correctness thing?
Scott from Russell, NyMichelle it was my dad for me.
Jamie from Cabot, ArI love reading these comments from you younger people. I'm a child of the 80s and think that decade has the best music. Hysteria came out when I was in high school and it was THE album for me and my friends those days. I have an 11 year old son that I've introduced to that era and he loves this album and this song in particular. A couple of years ago I asked him if he could see anyone in concert, who would it be? I was expecting him to say Nickleback or some hip-hop act. But after thinking for a second, he said Def Leppard and Poison. I was so proud! LOL
Michelle from Levittown, PaThis is my second favorite song of theirs! My mom has taken me to 2-3 concerts.(can't remember. They are the best band..I know almost all their songs. Thanks to my mom...^^ She has gotten me into all the 80's music now..:3
Jeff from Baltimore, NvFor me, this song symbolizes the nature of summer, how guys are just crazy for girls and seem to do whatever it takes to see them or hang out with them. I'd pour some sugar on them ;P
Jesse from St. Peters, MoJim, you're correct; mutt did country, but he still does rock. Nickelbacks new album, Dark Horse, was produced by him.
Sara from Union City, Tnalways always got to dance to this one LOVE IT!
Heather from White Bear Lake, Mnlove the song, love the band, and love everything that they had done. the drummer is a god of hard rock!
Linc from Beaumont, TxRick plays the drums better than most people with two arms! He uses a series of foot peddles and performs barefoot! Def Leppard puts on a wonderful live show, I have seen them several times.
Kassi from Rosenberg, TxLOL Michaela
Steven from Shepparton, AustraliaOne of the most instantly recognisable bands of all time. When lets get rocked came out I heard one bar of it and knew it was Def Leppard.
Anthony from Nowhere, IaI agree with Kelsi! i love it i love it i love it... haha and yes the drummer will forever go down in history as a God of Rock! :o just a side note; like 20 years ago my mother sold leather jackets to Def Leppard!!! haha how BA is that?! hehe
Sarah from New Castle, Pamy ex got me hooked on def leppard their drummer is amazing and this song is rockin im more into harder music but wen i hear this song im like yea. great party song if u like to get drunk and do it
Cati from Atlanta, GaKristin: 1. Its called "Cherry Pie", not "Sweet Cherry Pie". Also, it's by Warrant, not Whitesnake.
Jose from Brisbane, -I'm gonna see these boys in Nov 2008!!! Can't wait as I've never seen them live before. Cheap Trick also supporting them... Hysteria!
Ken from Perth, AustraliaLeppard are just a great band out of the UK. Similar tounge in cheek titles and lirics that KISS would be proud of. One of my favourite rock bands since they first hit the stage years ago. MAGIC!!
Zakk from Ponoka, Abthese guys are my heros!!
Michaela from Brooklyn, NyI remember the first time I heard this song.I was born this year the song came out.It was a Saturday night.I was in my bedroom listening to a station that plays 80's music on saturdays.This was the first time I heard this song.I couldn't understand what he was saying.But for some reason this song was turning me on.I wondered why.So time past by and I kept listening to it.Then I knew the words.I was wondering if the song was about sex but I thought it was about a man who wanted to make out-not make love!Then,one time I read here that this song was about sex,then I thought to myself this is probably one of the reasons why I thought this song was sexy!
Stewie from Nashville, Tnthis song was used in the movie "Balls Of Fury"
Alyssa from Forney, TxI love this song its really awesome
Michael from San Diego, CaOne of the better songs on a very good "Hysteria" album, and still a concert favorite as well!
Mel from Mattoon, IlRodd is right. This song will live forever. Even my 7 year old loves it.
Mary from Canyon, Tx"Cherry Pie" is by Warrant, not Whitesnake.
My spousal unit and I saw Def Leppard and Journey in concert last summer in Los Vegas. A large number of people our age brought their kids to the concert. (We were in high school when these songs first came out in the early 80s.)
Rodd from Naples, FlI have loved this song since the first time I heard it back in high school in the late 80's. Back in 2003, I started to kick the idea around about going back to college for another degree and made the leap in 2004. I'll never forget the time I was at a club with my classmates and heard Pour Some Sugar on Me come over the speakers. The place went nuts!...and this was 2005...some 17-18 years later after the song had become popular. It was great seeing the young crowd enjoying a song that I loved from way back when.
Mike from Los Angeles, Cagreat party song!!! good song while your playing a drinking game
Kelsi from I-town(ionia, Milove it love it love it love it love it love it love it love it love it love it love it love it
Kristin from Yaphank, NyVERY VERY CATCHY. I love the older rock songs like this, with a hard beat and metaphorically sexual lyrics. Another one like this is "Sweet Cherry Pie" by Whitesnake.
Frank from Pearl City, HiThis song is great but the guitar could be better
Nick from Paramus, NjRick Allen uses an electric foot pedal to get a snare effect. If you really want to see (hear) how good he sounds with one arm, listen to the song "Armageddon It" to the drum fill at the end and tell me that isn't astounding.
Anonnymous from Nashville, TxThis song is so catchy. It is hard not to get excited when you hear it.
Lacie from Whitefish, MtAWESOME SONG!!!
I MUST agree that the drummer is amazing! i mean drumming normally is hard, but think about it with only one arm! HE IS A HERO! Anyway, Def Leppard is Great, and this song is GREAT
Fer from Pacifica, Ca"You got the peaches, I got the cream..." How much more suggestive can you get ? Hilarious!
John from Taylors Falls, MsThe most talented member is the drummer causehes got one frickin' arm! Who else do you know can play the drums with one hand.
Ashley from North Lima, OhI love this song, it's my favorite rock song! I wasn't ever into rock, but a friend of mine got me into, and this her favorite song too. I could listen to it over and over.
Lisa from No City, WalesThis is one of my favourite songs of Def Leppard, everytime i listen to Hysteria album this son is always the first one i listen to. And as for that joke someone had written, there are 9 arms not 7 okay.
Nicola from Sydney, Australiahaha its completely about sex! RUDE
Mark from Dudley, Canada'Mutt' Lange has often received criticism for 'overproducing' bands. It has often been thought, by some die hard fans of the bands he produces, that he tends to break a band away from their roots and influence them to create chart fodder.
Stephen from Altamont, IlI heard this song *first* (that I can remember, I'm 14) when I was goin' through the re-broadcasts of Live 8, 2005.
It sounded extremely familiar; the guitar part mainly (at the beginning...).
Dee from Indianapolis, InHysteria has to be one of the all time great albums ever put out!!! Not a bad song on it, if you ask me. This song seems to be the one everyone gets into though. It is a rockin' tune and I always crank it when it's on. I think this whole album could've gotten radio play, but what do I know?
Mia from Wellston, MiWhenever a def leppard song comes on the radio i will immidialty know its def leppard becuase of the awesome drums. its so fun to sing and clap along with the drums. lol. but def leppard is an amazing hard rock band and their rockin loves songs rock!
Mia from Wellston, MiLOL i saw that commerial for THE REAL GILLAIGAS ISLAND with the girls lol
Elliot from St. Louis, MoI listen to a lot of Papa Roach and Korn, bands which use a lot of swearing in their music. I thought that that was pretty bad, but when my sister gave me some of her "80's Music" CDs, and Hysteria was one of them. Papa Roach and Korn can get dirty, but all of their music is staightforward in it's dirtyness. This is like a pervert's heaven, their are so many hidden meanings and sexual slang in this song, I love it. Also, I agree that their drummer is incredible.
Brandon from Morristown, TnThis song was used in a Gilliams Island reality camerical and its well suggeustive.
Ali from Lahore, Pakistangreat song indeed for a live audience! it just sparks fire in the crowd
Andy from Tualatin, OrThe most talented member of Def Leppard is their drummer, if you dont believe me listen to this song one more time!
Snatchworth from Seattle, WaSpeaking of the similarities between Shania Twain and other acts produced by her husband Mutt Lange, anyone else notice that in her hit "Honey I'm Home", the style and rhythm of the verses bear a striking resemblence to "Pour Some Sugar On Me"?
Rick from Baltimore, MdSaw these guys on the Pyromania tour. Good show!
Jim from Aurora, CoMutt Lange was a monster producer for hard rock acts, including AD/DC, Loverboy and Foreigner. He gave up rock for country when he married Shania Twain. If you listen to her music with this in mind, you'll hear similarities between her stuff and the acts that Mutt used to produce.