Steve Clark to most of us, will be remembered as one of the most talented rock guitarists to play the stage during the 1980’s. Steve was the heart and soul of Def Leppard‘s music. He was known by his fellow musicians and fans as “The Riffmaster” and Steve “Steamin’” Clark.
“The day the music died” got new meaning to Def Leppard on 8th January 1991. Steve’s life would end prematurely that day and a great musical talent would be silenced. What many fans did not know at that time was that Steve was the driving force behind Leppards’ music. He wrote most of the music, most of the riffs and orchestrated most of their songs through the glory days of the 80’s. Photograph, their biggest hit from Pyromania was also riffed by The Riffmaster.
Steve played with pure emotion; his soul bled through his guitar. Steve was not interested in speed playing, but rather, precision through guitar playing; his solos seemed to recreate the mood and feeling of the songs from which they were played.
Steve’s stage presence also earned him nicknames. He was commonly called “White Lightning” – because he looked like a lightning bolt flashing across the stage at times with so much speed and energy. He would leap and spin around the stage throwing those heavy Gibson guitars about as if they were toys!
Steve once commented on his idol, Jimmy Page: ‘He’s the whole package; he writes the songs; he arranges the songs; he plays the leads; he produces in the studio and on stage he is one hell of a showman.’ Steve learned from the best and added that extra 80’s muscle to the sound.
From a musician’s standpoint I knew the day that I had heard about his death that Def Leppard would never be the same again. I can remember in high school, all fellow guitarists must compete, and we would walk around during break comparing what we had learned the night or week before. One guy said to a friend, ‘Hey can you play Crazy Train?‘ My friend looked at him and said ‘Yeah, but can you play Bringin’ On The Heartbreak?’
You should’ve seen the look on his face. I said ‘Yeah, that’s real talent.’ Just as I guessed, Leppards’ sound and uniqueness would never be the same. Never again would we see Steve strutting across the stage, Les Paul Custom hanging at his knees, ripping into the ferocious lead of Die Hard The Hunter.