Sunday, January 8, 2012

January 8: Def Leppard guitarist Steve Clark died on this date in 1991...

... he was 30 years old when he died. 

(Video at end of post)

Stephen Maynard Clark was born and raised in Hillsborough, the north-western suburb of Sheffield, England. From an early age he showed interest in music—his mother even took him to a concert to see The Shadows perform when he was six. At eleven, his father gave him a guitar, insisting that Steve learn to play the instrument.

Clark primarily used Gibson guitars during his time with Def Leppard. He occasionally used other guitars, such as a Fender Stratocaster in the "Love Bites" video. This Fender Strat was given to Steve by Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page.

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/founder. According to Joe Elliott in Behind the Music, Clark auditioned for Def Leppard by playing all of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird" without accompaniment.

While a guitarist for Def Leppard, he contributed to the band's music and lyrics. Clark and Pete Willis shared lead guitar duties, and Clark was nicknamed as "The Riffmaster" according to Joe Elliott in VH1's Classic Albums series featuring Def Leppard's Hysteria. When Willis was asked to leave Def Leppard, guitarist Phil Collen was recruited into the band.

Clark contributed to half of the songs on the band's 1992 album Adrenalize just prior to his death. The song "White Lightning" on Adrenalize was written about Clark, because his bandmates nicknamed him "White Lightning" for his preference of wearing white clothes on stage.

On January 8, 1991, Clark was found dead on his couch by his girlfriend Janie Dean. The autopsy revealed he had died from an overdose of codeine and had Valium, morphine and a blood alcohol level of .30, three times the British legal driving limit. There was no evidence of suicidal intent. Daniel Van Alphen, Clark's drinking companion the night before, testified that the two went to the local pub and returned to the guitarist's home at midnight to watch a video. At the time of his death, Clark was on a six-month leave of absence from Def Leppard.

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

In 2007 Clark was ranked #11 on Classic Rock Magazine's "100 Wildest Guitar Heroes."


Def Leppard are an English rock band formed in 1977 in Sheffield as part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement. The band's strongest commercial success came between the early 1980s and the early 1990s.

Their 1981 album High 'n' Dry was produced by Robert John "Mutt" Lange, who helped them begin to define their style, and the album's stand out track "Bringin' On the Heartbreak" became one of the first metal videos played on MTV in 1982. The band's next studio album Pyromania in 1983, with the lead single "Photograph," turned Def Leppard into a household name. In 2004, the album ranked number 384 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Def Leppard's fourth album Hysteria released in 1987, topped the U.S and UK album charts. As of 2009 it has 12x platinum sales in the United States, and has gone on to sell over 20 million copies worldwide. The album spawned seven hit singles, including the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 number one "Love Bites," alongside "Pour Some Sugar on Me," "Hysteria," "Armageddon It," "Animal" and "Rocket."

Their next studio album Adrenalize was their first following the death of Steve Clark. It reached number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 and UK Album Chart in 1992, and contained several hits including, "Let's Get Rocked" and "Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad."
(Press album cover for direct link to the entire Amazon Website):
Vault: Greatest Hits


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