Steve Clark left such an indelible mark on Def Leppard’s legacy.
It’s hard to believe Steve performed on only four of the band’s albums — this goes to show the major impact he had in shaping Def Leppard’s music, trademark sound, and, ultimately, their identity.
Decades after his passing, it’s still practically impossible to discuss some of Def Leppard’s greatest songs without bringing up how Steve Clark played a part — literally and figuratively: the unmistakable opening riff of “Photograph” or “Wasted,” the guitar intro to “Gods Of War” or acoustic opening for “Foolin’,” the unforgettable “Switch 625,” and so many other Def Leppard songs Steve co-wrote and performed on.
Without Steve Clark, Def Leppard would not be where it is today, nor would they have reached the heights of success achieved with Pyromania and Hysteria.
Steve was such an integral part of Def Leppard and helped lay the foundation which the band still stands on today.
Def Leppard: Feeling Like It’s Over…
Def Leppard fundamentally changed the day Steve Clark passed away.
Fans’ hearts sank January 8, 1991, when MTV interrupted their regular programming with “breaking news” and a picture of Steve’s face appeared on-screen.
It was confusing, shocking, sad, and so tragic to hear MTV’s Kurt Loder communicate the grim news.
In an instant so much changed for the band and its fans.
Aside from the human tragedy that Steve’s life had ended at the age of 30, so many other realizations also sunk in over time: Def Leppard lost one of its original members; there would be no more Terror Twins, playing “Photograph” live — especially its iconic, opening riff — would never be the same; Joe Elliott can no longer playfully call out to Steve with his classic line “C’mon, Steve. Get it!” during “Armageddon It,” and so on.
Def Leppard without Steve Clark’s irreplaceable on-stage presence was so hard to fathom.
Here’s just one example showcasing a fierce, live performance from Steve during the “Pyromania” era — the first 90 seconds alone speaks for itself:
Bringin’ On The Heartbreak
Steve’s death also occurred in a pre-social media era where you couldn’t grieve or discuss his loss with legions of other heartbroken fans.
You mostly stay glued to MTV to get up-to-the-minute updates, hoping to hear from the band and share in their loss.
I still recall the image of a very somber Joe Elliott discussing Steve’s passing during an MTV interview…
Up to that point, Def Leppard fans had been waiting years for a follow-up to Hysteria, but it all seemed so inconsequential the day Steve Clark died.
All of a sudden, it became a question of IF or HOW Def Leppard — a two-guitarist band — would continue, not about what their next album would sound like.
Trying times indeed.
Thankfully, Def Leppard being the band that it is, once again persevered and overcame the tragedy.
Stand Up! (Kick STEVE Into Motion)
Adrenalize was the first album to not include Steve Clark’s guitar contributions on record; Phil Collen performed all the guitar portions, also working off of demos Steve had recorded.
How nice would it have been to hear Steve’s contribution to a Def Leppard song like that one… How would he have approached it? What kind of guitar melody would he have added?
Those are questions that will always linger on any Def Leppard song post-Steve, but in the case of “Stand Up! (Kick Love Into Motion)”…well, the answer may actually be possible.
What is believed to have been a demo of Steve’s original guitar solo for the song has been around the internet for years, and there’s something genuinely comforting — albeit melancholy — when listening to it.
Phil Collen reportedly confirmed years ago that the guitar solo was a demo of him and Steve performing together.
If that is indeed the case, and if you’ve never heard it before, enjoy the lovely melodies of this chill-inducing solo.
How nice would it have been if this solo had made it onto the final recording of the song?
Now let’s go a step further…
One fan made the extra effort to incorporate the demoed guitar solo into the final version of the song (starting just before the 3:00 mark), so it could be further savored and enjoyed by fans:
Steve Clark’s Legacy
The band has mentioned in interviews over the years that unreleased material from Steve does exist — one can only hope it will be released someday.
Until then, we are still left with Steve Clark’s unforgettable legacy.
And hearing recordings like the “Stand Up! (Kick Love Into Motion)” demo is a nice reminder that though Steve may be gone, his presence forever remains — if not on an actual album, then somewhere out there, he’s still playing along with the band, guitar slung low and riffing away as only he can.
So much has been said about Steve in many fine, well-deserved tributes over the years — whether spotlighting his ups and downs, the demons Steve fought, and so on. But what I think of when I’m reminded of Steve — no matter the anniversary — is simply all the wonderful work he left us with.
Def Leppard and its fans were so fortunate to witness Steve’s genius in the (much too) short amount of time he was with us.
Though forever missed, Steve and his immeasurable contributions will never be forgotten.
Thank you, Steve.