Steve Clark

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This article is about the late Def Leppard guitarist. For other persons named Steve Clark, see Steve Clark (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with Steve Clarke.
Steve Clark
Steve-clark.jpg
Background information
Birth name Stephen Maynard Clark
Born (1960-04-23)23 April 1960
Hillsborough, Sheffield, England
Died 8 January 1991(1991-01-08) (aged 30)
Chelsea, London, England
Genres Heavy metal, hard rock
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter, recording artist, performer
Instruments Guitar, vocals
Years active 1978–1991
Labels Island, Mercury
Associated acts Def Leppard
Notable instruments
Gibson Les Paul XR-1
Gibson Les Paul[1]
Gibson Firebird[1]
Gibson EDS-1275[1]

Stephen Maynard "Steve" Clark (23 April 1960 – 8 January 1991) was an English musician. He was a guitarist and principal songwriter for the British hard rock band, Def Leppard, until 1991 when he died from alcohol poisoning. In 2007, Clark was ranked No. 11 on Classic Rock Magazine's "100 Wildest Guitar Heroes".[2]

Biography[edit]

Childhood and adolescence[edit]

Stephen Maynard Clark was born and raised in Hillsborough, South Yorkshire, the northwestern suburb of Sheffield, England. From an early age, he showed an interest in music, attending a concert held by Cliff Richard and the Shadows aged 6. At 11, he received his first guitar which was purchased by his father on the condition that he learned to play. Clark studied classical guitar for a year before he first heard the music of Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin at a friend's house.

When Clark left school his first employer was an engineering firm called GEC Traction where he worked as a lathe operator. He was 3 years into a 4-year apprenticeship with the firm by the time his band Def Leppard decided to sign a professional record deal with Phonogram Records.

Career with Def Leppard[edit]

Before joining Def Leppard in 1978, Clark played cover songs with his small band, Electric Chicken, in Sheffield. Around that time, he met Pete Willis (Def Leppard's original guitarist and founder) at a technical college. Willis spotted that Clark was reading a guitar book and asked if he played. He then invited Steve to come and audition for his band as they were looking to add a second guitarist. Clark never showed up but when Willis and singer Joe Elliott bumped into Clark again at a Judas Priest gig, Willis re-issued his invitation.[3] Clark finally came down to their rehearsal room and joined Def Leppard in January 1978. According to Joe Elliott in Behind the Music, Clark auditioned for Def Leppard by playing all of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird" without accompaniment.[4]

While a member of Def Leppard, Steve Clark contributed to over 90% of the music.[5] Clark and Pete Willis shared lead guitar duties, and Clark was nicknamed "The Riffmaster" due to his amazing talent and ability to come up with some of the coolest guitar riffs in modern rock.[6] Towards the end of the Pyromania recording sessions Pete Willis was asked to leave and guitarist Phil Collen was recruited into the band to replace him.

Clark and Collen quickly bonded, becoming close friends and leading to the trademark dual-guitar sound of Def Leppard. He and Clark became known as the "Terror Twins" in recognition of their close friendship and alcohol-fuelled antics off-stage.[7]

Part of their success as a duo was attributed by Collen to their ability to swap between rhythm and lead guitar, often both playing lead or both doing rhythm within the same song.[8] The fact that they came from entirely different musical backgrounds also contributed to their unique guitar partnership. Steve Clark was a classically trained musician who knew the rules of music and could read and write music and understood the theory and science of the art, as well as studying/being influenced by Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin, whereas Collen, like Willis, was self-taught and developed his fast alternate picking technique from studying Al Di Meola and listening to Jazz players.

Steve Clark: "I do read and write and I know the rules of music which is great in a two guitar band because we're so different in our approach to playing. Phil will play something if it sounds right, whereas I look at things and say: 'it's wrong to play that note, it's not musically correct.'”[9]

Whereas Phil Collen stopped drinking alcohol during the mid-1980s in pursuit of a healthier lifestyle, Steve Clark never managed to escape his addiction to alcohol.

Clark primarily played Gibson Guitars during his career and signed an endorsement with Gibson sometime before the commencement of the Hysteria World Tour. Gibson made some custom specification guitars for Clark. He was occasionally seen playing other guitars, including a Fender Stratocaster for the song and video "Love Bites". Clark would also use Fenders in the studio occasionally due to their unique sound. In the early days of Def Leppard's career Clark would often be seen on stage playing a Hamer Standard and a Hamer Special.

Clark always stated that he was more of a traditionalist when it came to guitars.[10] This can be seen in his selection of gear. At the time of his death, it was estimated that he owned approximately 75 guitars.

Prior to his death, Clark contributed to the recording of half of the band's 1992 album, Adrenalize. Collen and Clark began working on what would become the song "White Lightning" during the recording sessions for the 1992 album, Adrenalize. Completed after Clark's death, the song described the effects of Clark's alcohol and drug addictions.[11]

Def Leppard enjoyed their most successful years commercially during the Clark era.

Personal life[edit]

Clark was engaged to an American model, Lorelei Shellist, until shortly before his death, the two having been together since 1984. Shellist revealed in her autobiography, Runway Runaway, that Clark's addictions played a major role in their breakup. After Clark and Shellist ended their relationship, Clark began a new relationship with Janie Dean which lasted until Clark's death in 1991.

Death[edit]

Steve Clark during the Hysteria World Tour

At the time of his death, Clark was on a 6-month leave of absence from Def Leppard.

On Tuesday 8 January 1991, Clark was found dead on his couch by Dean.[4] He was 30 years old. The postmortem revealed that the cause of death was accidental, due to a compression of the brain stem causing respiratory failure. This respiratory failure was caused by a lethal mixture of alcohol and prescription drugs.[12] The autopsy also found that Clark had a blood alcohol level of .30 as well as the presence of morphine.[4] No evidence of suicidal intent was discovered. Daniel Van Alphen, Clark's drinking companion the night before, testified that the two went to a local pub and returned to the guitarist's home at midnight to watch a video.

He is buried at Wisewood Cemetery located in Loxley, Sheffield, near the Clark family estate.[4]

Tesla, who opened for Def Leppard on the Hysteria tour, recorded a tribute to Clark entitled "Song & Emotion (To Our Friend, Steve 'Steamin' Clark)" for their album, Psychotic Supper.[13]

Discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

Compilation albums[edit]

Live albums[edit]

  • Viva! Hysteria Tribute (Intro to Gods of War taken from Live: In the Round, in Your Face)

Extended plays[edit]

Videos[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Mutt Tracks: What Do AC/DC, Def Leppard, Foreigner, The Cars, Bryan Adams and Nickelback Have in Common?". Gibson.com. Retrieved 15 July 2014. 
  2. ^ "Jimi Hendrix, Dimebag, Tony Iommi, Eddie Van Halen Are Among 'Wildest Guitar Heroes' - Blabbermouth.net". Roadrunnerrecords.com. 6 March 2007. Retrieved 15 July 2014. 
  3. ^ Fricke, David (1987). Animal Instinct. Zomba Books. 
  4. ^ a b c d The Tombstone Tourist: Musicians – Scott Stanton – Google Books. Books.google.com. 2 September 2003. p. 303. Retrieved 15 July 2014. 
  5. ^ Goldmine Magazine June 1993 and The Sun Newspaper January 9th 1991
  6. ^ according to Joe Elliott in VH1's Classic Albums series featuring Def Leppard's Hysteria
  7. ^ Animal Instinct by David Fricke, Zomba Books 1987
  8. ^ on the BBC's Classic Albums show
  9. ^ Interview with Steve Clark & Phil Collen - December 1983 - Kerrang! magazine
  10. ^ Metal Hammer Magazine Fan Pull-Out 1988
  11. ^ "All About Steve Clark Pt. 1". YouTube. Retrieved 15 July 2014. 
  12. ^ Steve Clark Autopsy/Coroners Report 1991.
  13. ^ "Top 5". The Cairns Post. Cairns, Australia: News Limited. 11 March 2010. p. 14. Inspired by the death of producer and C+C Music Factory founding member David Cole, as well as Def Leppard guitarist Steve Clark, 90s R'n'B doesn't get much sweeter than this. 

External links[edit]


Preceded by
Original
Def Leppard Lead Guitarist
1978–91
Succeeded by
Vivian Campbell