Joe Elliott’s Biggest Regret About Steve Clark’s Passing

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Shortly after their profound fame, Def Leppard really showed their worth to the rock world. Formed in 1977 in Sheffield, the band mixed hard rock with heavy metal and was known for their catchy, and radio-friendly songs. The lead vocalist Joe Elliot was a great frontman, as their stage shows were very elaborate and expressive.

The original frontline consisted of Joe Elliot, Pete Willis, and Steve Clark on guitars, Rick Savage on Bass, and Rick Allen on drums. Another remarkable band member was Steve Clark, who was recognized and praised by many music critics. Sadly, he passed away at the age of 30, in 1991. It was a great loss to the band, both personally and musically.

Steve was one of the founding members of Def Leppard. Clark joined the band in January 1978 and appeared on the band’s frontline for the next 13 years. He is one of the greatest guitar players of all time. His work in the band as a guitarist and songwriter was also very crucial for Def Leppard’s legacy. However, with fame, he was struggling with alcoholism for many years prior to his death.

Steve Clark was given six months off to focus on himself. In an interview with Classic Rock, Elliot said, “We’d given him six months off and told him to go and spend some time in the beautiful house he’d bought in Chelsea, eat some food he’d cooked himself, and take his clothes out of the suitcase and put them in the wardrobe.”

Sadly, this didn’t help Clark and he was found dead on January 8, 1991. He was only 30 years old. The cause behind his death was acute alcohol poisoning which caused respiratory failure. It was a huge loss to the band and Elliot expressed it back in 1992 during the promotion of ‘Adrenalize’.

“I tried to ring him the day before he died, and I got his answering machine. I hate that. That killed me for weeks, the fact that I never got to talk to him.”

“I’m not saying it would have done, but if I had spoken to him, maybe it would’ve changed the next 24 hours, just to the point where I made him an hour late for a drink that he didn’t bother having, so that final one might not have killed him.”

Even though he had great intentions and wanted him to get help, the frontman revealed that he could do nothing for him. Elliot reflected, “Anyway, February never came. He died in January.”

“We did everything we could. We went to the meetings, we talked to him, we sat him down, we gave him what he wanted, and it still wasn’t enough. There was nothing else we could do; we were exhausted. You can see why we didn’t get much of the record done.”

Joe has also talked about witnessing the pain Steve was enduring before his death. In an interview with Guardian, he talked about it. Joe recalled he often took the room next to Steve. He could head Steve punch on the wall and on the sink hoping to smash his knuckles. He didn’t want to get on the stage and was scared of the gig. Elliot also revealed how Steve would comment he was fine. He disclosed, Clark was always like, “‘I’m fine.’ With bruises everywhere.” Joe added,
“It was fucking hard work to have to room next to him. We would never have kicked him out of the band because he was always apologizing for being the way he was. He wasn’t an asshole by any means. He wasn’t angry or throwing things. He was always subdued or insular. So you always felt sorry for him.”
Despite his passing, the band honors his legacy by performing his songs in live performances. After his death, the band couldn’t operate in their usual way but eventually, they pulled themselves together and released their fifth studio album ‘Adrenalize’. The other bandmates dedicated ‘White Lightning’ from the album to Steve.

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