STEVE CLARK should be regarded as one of the most influential guitarists of the 1980’s. His legacy is showcased on the work of Def Leppard from their humble beginnings in hometown Sheffield, until the international multi-platinum, state-of-the-art Hysteria album where the band’s career peaked at the top of the planet.
Although it’s never stated anywhere, it is without a doubt that Steve Clark was one of the finest songwriters of the 1980’s. Clark – a classically trained musician, had ideas. Ideas that were different and unusual, musically complex, and interesting. He had a great musical brain.
To date, Hysteria is an album that stands alone in it’s field. There is no other recorded album that sounds anything like it. It is unique and it is undoubtedly different. It’s a modern rock masterclass, with a classical influence and produced to the highest of standards.
The composition, structure, and arrangement of the music on Hysteria is very different to most other rock albums, which is primarily down to the musical genius of Steve Clark who is regarded by many as the life-blood of Def Leppard, and multi-talented producer Robert John ‘Mutt’ Lange. I don’t take anything away from the other members of Def Leppard at all here, as all of them contributed to this amazing album. (e.g: It was Joe Elliott who presented the African Burundi style drum rhythm for the track “Rocket”). But I personally believe that the main reason this world has a Pyromania and a Hysteria to listen to is because of Steve and Mutt.
When you listen to the songs, it’s wonderful to try and pick out all the different guitar parts that merge, compliment, support, enhance and flow into and out of each other every time you listen. When Steve was asked once what the band’s approach to this album was musically, he replied with: “We approach things more like a classical orchestra…”
THE HYSTERIA SOUND:
And so people often ask: “How do you get the Hysteria album sound?”
This is a question which is near impossible to answer because of the fact that, in the studio, the band used many different instruments, gadgets, effects and amps to get certain sounds for certain bits of certain songs. As well as taking into account the unique and unconventional way in which certain guitar chords and notes were recorded, layered, multitracked and overdubbed. Steve and Phil would record pieces of music string by string and note by note to achieve the ultimate in clarity.
Those hours of sweating blood and tears in the studio produced some of the most mind-blowing and mystifying sounds and tones that have ever been captured on a record. The ultra clean, warm, liquid sound of the solo on “Love Bites” for example is something I have never heard any other guitarist get close to tonally. The album is awash with a plethora of guitar parts and tones to keep six-string fanatics busy in their attempts to re-create them.
Thanks to the recent release of his book Fabulist Icons – A Fragment of Rock and Roll Life, Mike Rogers, a former guitar tech for Def Leppard from 1982-1987 shared his story of living and working with the band through the “Hysteria Sessions” – one of the most painstakingly difficult and frustrating times of their career. He explains about many pieces of the puzzle that make up the ‘sound jigsaw’ for this album through the pages of this book, accompanied by some gloriously fascinating photographs provided by photographer Una Williams.