Though Def Leppard -- one of the best-selling hard-rock bands ever --
are still together, their sound has not been the same since the 1991
death of guitarist Steve Clark.
Stephen Maynard Clark was born 39 years ago today in Sheffield, England.
He was not among the original members of Def Leppard. Guitarist Pete
Willis and bassist Rick Savage formed the group in Sheffield in 1977 and
were joined a few months later by singer Joe Elliot, who brought the
name Deaf Leppard (the "a" was later dropped).
About a year after the band began gigging in Sheffield pubs, Clark joined. He
participated in the recording of Def Leppard's 1978 debut EP, Getcha
Rocks Off, which was released on the band's own label, Bludgeon Riffola.
The record sold by word of mouth and was played by the BBC.
Rick Allen soon joined as permanent drummer. Def Leppard then signed
with AC/DC's manager, Peter Mensch, and Mercury Records. The group's
first LP, 1980's On Through the Night, was a hit in Britain and
drew attention to the band in the U.S.
Def Leppard's opening slots on tours with Ozzy Osbourne and Judas Priest
primed fans for the release of 1981's High and Dry, which reached
platinum status in the U.S. The fledgling MTV embraced the video for "Bringin'
on the Heartbreak" and the band in general.
Willis' alcoholism got him fired during the recording of Pyromania (1983),
which was produced by Mutt Lange. Willis was replaced by Phil Collen, and the
album became a hit on the strength of such melodic songs as "Photograph" and
"Rock of Ages." Clark's guitar interplay with Collen became a highlight of the
band's live shows and records.
But one month into the recording of a follow-up to Pyromania, Allen lost
his arm in a car accident. Though the group's future looked uncertain, Allen
learned to play a custom-made electronic drum kit and stayed with the band.
The more pop-focused Hysteria was released in 1987 and included a
string of six top-20 U.S. hits that began with its second single, "Animal." The
other singles included "Rocket," the title cut,
HREF="http://www.sonicnet.com/artists/clip.cgi?track=%7Em- XXXXXX%2F0010276_0101_00_0005.ra&x=8&y=6">"Pour Some Sugar on Me" HREF="http://www.sonicnet.com/artists/clip.cgi?track=%7Em- XXXXXX%2F0010276_0103_00_0005.ra&x=6&y=9">"Love Bites"
XXXXXX%2F0010276_0101_00_0005.ra&x=8&y=6">"Pour Some Sugar on
Me"(RealAudio excerpt) and
(RealAudio excerpt). The band was at the peak of its commercial success and
influenced a slew of copycat "big hair" pop-metal bands.
During the recording of Def Leppard's next LP, Clark overdosed on alcohol and
drugs in London and died. He had undergone a drug rehabilitation program
prior to his death.
The band carried on with new guitarist Vivian Campbell and Adrenalize
sold well, but Def Leppard failed to match the commercial and artistic success of
their heyday. They are preparing to release a new album, tentatively titled
Euphoria, in June.
"It's what you want to do in rock music," Elliot said of the popularity the band
achieved with Hysteria, which recently received the newly created
Diamond Award, marking sales of more than 10 million copies.
The spoken introduction to "Rock of Ages" received frequent airplay again last
year when the Offspring sampled it for the intro to their hit "Pretty Fly (For a
Other birthdays: Narada Michael Walden, 47; Captain Sensible (the Damned),
44; and Roy Orbison, 1936-1988.