Def Leppard's Steve Clark

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" (RealAudio excerpt) and

HREF="http://www.sonicnet.com/artists/clip.cgi?track=%7Em-

XXXXXX%2F0010276_0103_00_0005.ra&x=6&y=9">"Love Bites"

(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

White Guy)."

Other birthdays: Narada Michael Walden, 47; Captain Sensible (the Damned),

44; and Roy Orbison, 1936-1988.