I’ve been listening to a ton of Def Leppard this week. It started when I caught two documentaries on the making of “Pyromania” and “Hysteria” on Youtube. I’m remembering what this band did for me during my troubled teenage years.
One of the big points in both documentaries is that those albums wouldn’t have been the classics they became without the late guitarist Steve Clark. When we think of this band, we tend to think of Rich Allen, who showed us all how to overcome adversity when a severed arm failed to stop him.
Steve Clark is remembered for losing the fight against his demons. Alcohol took over his life and destroyed him. I remember the day he died in 1991. My friend Denise, an equally passionate Def Leppard fan, called me with the news as if she were reporting a death among our friends.
Looking at these two documentaries, I have a renewed appreciation for the songwriting he brought to the band. Without question, I can credit his riffs for helping to keep me from going over the edge in my formative years.
It’s sad how the demons took advantage of his gentle nature. As Rick Allen says in the “Hysteria” documentary, “Personal situations took him to a place that was very dark. I think there was a part of him that didn’t want to be here.”
I’m glad he got to help make those first four Def Leppard albums before the demons got him, because I don’t know what would have happened to me without those albums to sooth me through the death of a brother (also a Def Leppard fan, by the way) and the alienation I often felt in junior high and high school. I could have lost myself in drugs and alcohol. Instead I listened to Def Leppard. I listened to a lot of hard rock, but they were one of my favorites next to Motley Crue.
My favorite album is actually the second one to come out after his death, “Retroactive.” Though he didn’t get to play on it, his presence is all over those songs, most of which he helped write. It’s a collection of songs that were first released as B-sides or were meant for Hysteria but didn’t make the final cut.
His riffs are as clear as if he were playing them himself. I’ll end with two songs off that album that really capture his essence and simply thank him for the music he gave me when I needed it most.