Steve Clark

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Steve Clark
Clarke playing guitar
Clark during the Hysteria World Tour
Background information
Birth nameStephen Maynard Clark
Born(1960-04-23)23 April 1960
Wisewood, Sheffield, West Riding of Yorkshire, England
Died8 January 1991(1991-01-08) (aged 30)
Chelsea, London, England
GenresHeavy metal, glam metal, hard rock
Years active1977–1991
Formerly ofDef Leppard

Stephen Maynard Clark (23 April 1960 – 8 January 1991) was an English musician. He was a guitarist and songwriter for the hard rock band Def Leppard until his death in 1991. In 2007, Clark was ranked No. 11 on Classic Rock Magazine's "100 Wildest Guitar Heroes".[1] In 2019, Clark was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Def Leppard.[2]


Childhood and adolescence[edit]

Stephen Maynard Clark was born and raised in Wisewood, Sheffield, to Barrie and Beryl (nee Beckingham) Clark. From an early age, he showed an interest in music, attending his first concert featuring Cliff Richard and the Shadows at age six. At 11, he received his first guitar which was purchased by his father on the condition that he learn 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.[citation needed]

When Clark left school, his first employer was the engineering firm GEC Traction, where he worked as a lathe operator. He was three years into a four-year apprenticeship with the firm at the time Def Leppard was signed to a record deal with Phonogram Records.[citation needed]

Career with Def Leppard[edit]

Before joining Def Leppard in 1978, Clark played cover songs with his band Electric Chicken in Sheffield. Around that time, he met Pete Willis (Def Leppard's original rhythm guitarist and founder) at a technical college. Willis spotted Clark reading a guitar book and asked if he played. He then invited Clark 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 Elliott in Behind the Music, Clark auditioned for Def Leppard by playing all of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird" without accompaniment.[4] While a member of Def Leppard, Clark wrote or co-wrote over 90% of the band's songs.[5] Clark and Pete Willis shared lead guitar duties, and Clark was nicknamed "The Riffmaster" due to his talent and ability to come up with guitar riffs.[6]

Toward the end of the Pyromania recording sessions in 1982, Pete Willis was asked to leave the band, and lead guitarist/backing vocalist Phil Collen was recruited into the band to replace him.[7] Clark and Collen quickly bonded, becoming close friends and leading to the trademark dual-guitar sound of Def Leppard. He and Collen became known as the "Terror Twins" in recognition of their close friendship and alcohol-fueled antics offstage.[3] Part of their success as a duo was attributed to their ability to swap between rhythm and lead guitar, with 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. 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. Clark once said, "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]

Clark primarily played Gibson Guitars during his career and signed an endorsement with Gibson in 1987. 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.[10]

Although his name appears on many songwriting credits for Def Leppard's 1992 album, Adrenalize, he did not contribute much to the recording of the album. In the liner notes of the Adrenalize deluxe edition, Joe Elliott claims that a few riffs Clark had demoed were used in a couple of places on the album. His only other contribution was an occasional approval of what the rest of the band was working on, referring to it as "cool". The song "White Lightning" described the effects of Clark's alcohol and drug addictions.[11] However, the deluxe rerelease of Adrenalize features a demo of the song "Tonight", which Clark performed in, having been recorded in 1988, intended to be a B-side for Hysteria.

Clark was involved in the recording of the demo for the band's 1995 single "When Love & Hate Collide", just days before his 1991 death.[citation needed] The song at the time was reminiscent of the Hysteria and Adrenalize sound as opposed to the newer sound of the next album Slang. The demo of this song contains the final solo Clark ever performed. A demo of Clark's solo was found for the song "Stand Up (Kick Love into Motion)" but was never integrated into any official material.[citation needed] 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.[12]

Personal life[edit]

Clark was engaged to an American model, Lorelei Shellist, the two having been together seven years. Shellist revealed in her autobiography, Runway Runaway, that Clark's alcoholism played a major role in their breakup.[13] In 1989, his Def Leppard bandmate Phil Collen and others held an intervention to urge him to cease his alcohol abuse. Clark agreed to enter a rehabilitation centre, but left without completing the programme and resumed drinking.[14] He became engaged to a recovering heroin addict named Janie Dean shortly before his death.[15]


At the time of his death, Clark was on a leave of absence from Def Leppard. "We'd given him six months off," recalled Joe Elliott, "told him to go and spend some time in the beautiful house he'd bought in Chelsea, eat some food he'd cooked himself, and take his clothes out of the suitcase and put them in the wardrobe. But instead he spent most of his time in the pub round the corner, and do things like get so drunk he'd fall down the stairs and crack his rib. So he'd be on serious medication for cracked ribs. Then he'd carry on drinking."[16]

Weeks prior to his death, Clark was found unconscious inside a bar in Minneapolis and was rushed to Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center. His bandmates all subsequently flew to Minneapolis to be with him. There, a doctor urged them to convince Clark to enter rehab after he registered a blood alcohol level of 0.59%. By contrast, Led Zeppelin's John Bonham had registered a blood alcohol level of 0.41% when he died in 1980.[15]

Clark checked into a rehab facility in Arizona with the promise that his spot in Def Leppard would be held for him until he was healthy. While there, he met a recovering heroin addict named Janie Dean, and the pair agreed to help each other with their addictions. They soon became engaged and Clark started drinking again. According to Phil Collen, it became "almost impossible" to keep Clark sober after Dean entered his life, and almost as difficult to keep track of his whereabouts.[15]

On 8 January 1991, Dean found Clark dead on his couch.[4] He was 30 years old. The postmortem revealed that the cause of death was respiratory failure caused by a lethal mixture of alcohol and prescription drugs. At the time of his death, Clark had a blood alcohol level of .30% and morphine in his system.[4] Daniel Van Alphen, Clark's drinking companion the night before, testified that they went to a local pub and returned to Clark's home at midnight to watch a video.

Clark was buried at Wisewood Cemetery in Loxley, Sheffield, near to where the Clark family still reside.[4]


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]



  1. ^ "Jimi Hendrix, Dimebag, Tony Iommi, Eddie Van Halen Are Among 'Wildest Guitar Heroes'". 6 March 2007. Archived from the original on 20 November 2009. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
  2. ^ "Def Leppard". Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 15 December 2018.
  3. ^ a b Fricke, David (1 November 1987). Animal Instinct. Zomba Books. ISBN 978-0946391554.
  4. ^ a b c d Stanton, Scott (2 September 2003). The Tombstone Tourist: Musicians. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-0743463300.
  5. ^ Goldmine Magazine June 1993
  6. ^ according to Joe Elliott in VH1's Classic Albums series featuring Def Leppard's Hysteria
  7. ^ Spera, Keith (15 August 2009). "A conversation with Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen". Retrieved 14 April 2022.
  8. ^ on the BBC's Classic Albums show
  9. ^ Interview with Steve Clark & Phil Collen - December 1983 - Kerrang! magazine
  10. ^ "Phil Collen and Steve Clark: Def Leppard". 17 July 2017. Retrieved 14 April 2022.
  11. ^ "All About Steve Clark Pt. 1". YouTube. Archived from the original on 12 December 2021. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
  12. ^ "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.
  13. ^ "Meet Lorelei Shellist of Runway RunAway Collection by Style & Image Icon Expert". Voyage LA. 12 February 2019. Retrieved 5 November 2021.
  14. ^ "The Day Def Leppard Guitarist Steve Clark Died". Ultimate Classic Rock. 8 January 2016. Retrieved 14 November 2020.
  15. ^ a b c Wiederhorn, Jon (8 January 2021). "30 Years Ago: Def Leppard Guitarist Steve Clark Dies". Loudwire. Retrieved 12 January 2021.
  16. ^ Wall, Mick (May 2018). "A wild ride over stony ground". Classic Rock. No. 248. p. 37.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Def Leppard Lead Guitarist
Succeeded by