Def Leppard's Joe Elliott Talks Originality & Late Guitarist Steve Clark

In a new interview with Guardian, Def Leppard frontman Joe Elliott picks out his favorite songs from their back catalog and recalls late guitarist Steve Clark's personal strife leading up to his untimely death in 1991.  Clark was dealing with alcoholism, which Def Leppard gave him time off to try to overcome, but Clark succumbed to alcohol abuse.  Elliott spoke about rooming next to Clark stating, “By coincidence or torture, I often got the room next to Steve.  I could hear through the walls the pain he was in. I remember the night before one tour started, he was trying to smash his knuckles on the sink so he wouldn’t have to play, because he was scared to death of getting up on stage.  And then we did the gig and he was like: ‘I’m fine.’ With bruises everywhere. 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.”

Elliott also spoke about originality in their songs.  "Man Enough," a song from their latest self-titled studio album, began with a bass riff by guitarist Phil Collen that sounded so similar to Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust," that even bassist Rick Savage questioned it.  Elliott shrugs it off stating, “But why not?  They’re not making records anymore.  It doesn’t matter anymore.  The rules have changed.  It’s OK to sound like somebody else because your own identity will come through.  Everybody sounds like someone else sometimes.  Why did I pick up a guitar in the first place?  Because I heard someone else playing it.  And what was I gonna play?  What they were playing, until I learn to write.”

Def Leppard are currently on a U.S. tour playing arenas and stadiums.


Jennifer Minor