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

There were many reasons Steve Clark gained recognition and praise from music critics and fans during and after his lifetime. The guitarist proved himself to be one of the wildest players in rock music throughout his tenure with Def Leppard. Clark joined the band in January 1978 after auditioning with Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Free Bird.’ For the next 13 years, the guitarist appeared on the band’s albums and toured with them.

However, Def Leppard lost its beloved guitar player after Steve Clark was given six months off from the band to focus on himself. About his absence from the group, Elliott said in a 2018 interview with Classic Rock, “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.”

While the band’s intentions were good, this time away from his friends didn’t exactly help the musician. Instead, Clark was found dead on January 8, 1991, when he was only 30 years old. The cause of his death was determined as a respiratory failure caused by a mixture of alcohol and prescription drugs. After this tragic loss, his Def Leppard bandmates were shocked, and Elliott blamed himself for some of it.

“I tried to ring him the day before he died, and I got his answering machine,” said the singer during the ‘Adrenalize’ album promotion in 1992. He then expressed his sorrow and anger about not hearing from Clark for weeks, “I hate that. That killed me for weeks, the fact that I never got to talk to him.”

Elliott then continued, “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.”

Though the frontman had regrets about his actions during the last weeks of his bandmate, there was nothing he could’ve done for the past, as he stated, “Anyway, February never came. He died in January.” Still, Joe Elliott said Def Leppard did their best to save Clark, but the situation worsened. Around that time, the band also couldn’t record an album.

Further reflecting on that period, the musician revealed, “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.”

After the devastating news, Def Leppard returned to their studio, but their efforts were in vain for months. Eventually, they decided to pull themselves together and accept their loss. As a result, the band released their fifth studio album ‘Adrenalize’ on March 31, 1992. They dedicated ‘White Lightning’ from the album to the memory of Clark, who has writing credits on six of the album’s ten tracks. Rest in peace Clarkie.