Def Leppard’s primary songwriter and composer: Steve Clark
This website was created to honour Steve Clark, his legacy as a musician and a gentleman and to educate people about the very major role he had in the creation of Def Leppard’s music and success.
Since the advent of the internet, one thing that’s been of constant debate on various different Def Leppard forums has been the issue of Steve Clark’s input and contribution to the bands music.
It was common knowledge that during the bands heyday Steve was widely acknowledged in interviews as the main writer within Def Leppard. I feel this fact is possibly being lost upon new (and even old) fans of the band.
So, for all those fans that constantly ask about Steve’s writing and input, I would like to share with you some direct band quotes and interview snippets that discuss Steve’s role in Def Leppard. These come from multiple sources and were written or recorded and published/broadcast at different times throughout the bands career in the 80’s.
Audio Interview clip No. 1:
Joe Elliott speaking on US radio (Retro Rock USA 1984) about their influences states here that “Steve Clark, who writes most of the music, his favourite bands, two bands, are Zeppelin and The New York Dolls..”
Audio Interview clip No. 2:
Joe Elliott and Phil Collen being interviewed on another USA radio station in the 80’s and are asked about sharing guitar solos.
Joe says: “Steve writes the majority of the music and basically, normally, gets his say on what solos he wants to do, but at the same time he’s prepared to say, em, if there a song that Steve really wants to do a solo on he’ll say ‘Y’know, listen, I really wanna do that one. You can have two if you let me have this one,’ y’know or whatever. It’s like, it’s not that you get childish about it, it’s just that it’s best that you make both parties happy.”
Rock Scene magazine – June 1988:
Question posed by Rock Scene (to Phil initially): Phil, Hysteria was the first LP that you had a hand in writing. How much did you contribute, and was it hard orienting yourself to writing with a new band?
PHIL COLLEN: “I contributed quite a bit actually. I think that comes hand in hand.”
STEVE CLARK: “He fit in straight away. There was no problem at all. In fact, on the previous albums, I wrote a lot because it was left up to me to do so. No disrespect to Pete (Willis), but he wasn’t one of the main writers. So when Phil joined it took a lot of weight off my shoulders…”
Kerrang! Magazine – Issue 90 | 1985
Kerrang!: Has having Phil Collen involved from the start on this album made things different in any way?
JOE ELLIOTT: “Yeah, it means that the song-writing has changed a little; Phil’s input is better than Pete’s ever was. Steve will always be the major songwriter, I think, but he’s really encouraged Phil a lot. He doesn’t just sit down and say ‘I want to write all the songs’, stuff like that. In fact everything that Steve’s written, he’s written with Phil in the same room… Phil’s probably involved in eight of the 10 songs on the album.”
Kerrang!: And what about Sav? He writes too, doesn’t he?
JOE: “Yeah, but Sav’s weird; I can’t get to grips with him sometimes. More than anyone else in this band he likes your Journeys, and your Bryan Adams, occasionally even the odd Duran Duran song, yet he was the one who came up with ‘Stagefright’ and ‘No No No’. And on this new album he’s got a number called ‘Ring of Fire’ – not a cover of the famous Johnny Cash song! – which is an up-tempo, thrash crash metal job. He never writes like the people he listens to…”
Kerrang!: …have you written anything on the new record [Hysteria]?
JOE: “Er… I did come up with some stuff but I don’t think it got used. I wrote little bits on the last album [Pyromania], but my main worry is obviously melodies, lyrics and vocals….”
An issue of Hit Parader magazine from 1988 (Interview titled “Climbing New Heights”):
HP: Tell me about your first influences. Which bands had the greatest impact on Def Leppard?
JOE ELLIOTT: “When Pete Willis was in the band in the early days he was listening a lot to Pat Travers and Judas Priest which is where the very heavy stuff came in. Steve [Clark], our main writer, was more into Zeppelin. Sav [Rick Savage] was a big Queen fan. And I was very into the glam stuff. I like Mott The Hoople, Alice Cooper, Sweet and Slade.”
Musician magazine – April 1992. [This is one of the last interviews that Steve gave before he died and was published after his death in the April 1992 issue of Musician]:
Musician: Phil says you have equal share in writing, but it must move around.
STEVE CLARK: “On the older records I came up with virtually all the music, but on Hysteria it was all split four ways with the exception of Rick, because he was trying to get his new drum kit together.”
The OFFICIAL band biography Animal Instinct by David Fricke:
“Over half the songs that would later appear on the group’s independent EP and debut album were written within the first six months of Steve’s arrival, along with a few numbers that went unreleased like the full-throttle stomp ‘Glad I’m Alive’ and the Zep-like epic ‘World Beyond the Sky’. ‘Overture’, a seven-minute mini-opera modelled on the complex power-rock suites of the Canadian trio Rush, was written in one night.”
At a UFO gig in Sheffield, Steve told Joe in no uncertain terms that he was quitting the band, that he was bored with rehearsing. On a group vacation in June 1978, Steve repeated his threat to the entire band.
“Steve left the band about eight times during these rehearsals,” Joe claims. “He always got drunk and said ‘I want to play in a band that gigs, I’m fed up with rehearsing.’ “But this time I panicked, because I knew if Steve left, it would be the end of the band.”
Sav honestly believed that the end was at hand when Steve went on a booze-a-thon during a few days’ stopover in Seattle during the Blackfoot tour. “It was the only time I ever considered the possibility that the band was finished, actually dying…I just couldn’t see much life in us if Steve went over the edge.”
Def Leppard’s OFFICIAL Pyromania tour programme makes this direct statement about STEVE:
“Easily is the most talented songwriter in Def Leppard…”
The Sun newspaper – January 1991:
“Steve was seen as one of rock’s finest guitarists and was the richest member of Def Leppard with an estimated £20m fortune. He landed extra publishing royalties for writing 95% of their songs.”
Goldmine magazine – June 1993:
However even nine months after Clark joined the band, it had yet to play live. This was a particularly sore point with this guitarist, who kept threatening to quit unless a gig was lined up. Since Clark was now one of the bands major songwriters (he contributed the music to two out of the three songs on the bands EP and 10 out of 11 songs on the first album), this caused concern.
Dressed all in white, his Gibson Les Paul slung low, his blond hair surrounding him like a halo, he [Clark] was the most flamboyant of the bunch. Clark was also involved in writing over 90 percent of Def Leppard’s songs over the years.