It’s been a while since I talked about Steve Clark, but he was an incredible individual. I’ve never met him, but I wish I did. He has changed my perspective on life and the way I look at different types of music, specifically rock and heavy metal music. I won’t get into how Clark died and all that because I’ve covered that already in previous posts: Remembering Steve Clark and Happy Birthday Steve Clark! – Gone But Never Forgotten. Instead, I’ll dive deeper into how his story influenced me to live my life to the fullest and what I’ve learned from him.
Before I knew anything about Def Leppard, I thought people who did rock ‘n’ roll were scary, and they were bad influences on society. My dad used to blast his music so loud at night that I thought the house was going to explode. Little did I know, fourteen years later, I’d be doing the same thing. AC/DC’s Highway to Hell album played a vivid memory on my youth because of that album cover. Every time I walked past my dad’s stuff, I was terrified of Highway to Hell. It wasn’t until I turned twelve that I became less afraid of rock music, and I grew to like it, but I was still a little judgemental towards it.
I got into Queen during my sophomore year of college, and I was also listening to artists like Sammy Hagar and Black Sabbath, but I mostly did it for the shock factor and to pretend I was a badass. When I got into Def Leppard and heard about their story, that’s when I started getting more into rock music and taking the time to research the bands I liked. I only knew of the current lineup: Joe Elliott, Rick Savage, Vivian Campbell, Phil Collen, and Rick Allen. As I watched videos from their earlier years, I found out about Steve Clark, who he was, what he brought to Def Leppard, and how he died.
The first video I saw of Clark was a performance of theirs from 1983 on a German TV show called, Rockpop in Concert. I thought, “who’s the guy in white and polka dots, and how come he’s not with the group anymore?” Clark tested how judgemental I was because I HATE smoking, and he smoked a lot. He had long hair, drank alcohol, smoked cigarettes, and lived the stereotypical rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. But something about Clark made me curious, and part of me thought that he was more than some rockstar.
As it turned out, he was the opposite of what I thought he was. Clark was very shy and hardly spoke during interviews. He was kind, gentle, and had a beautiful smile. Not to be weird or anything, but knowing what type of person he was and how he acted played a large role in why I don’t judge rock musicians like I used to. Since Clark was different from my expectations, it made me realize that my expectations of others may be wrong as well. I think that’s why I got more drawn towards rock and heavy metal music; just because a band plays loud music, it doesn’t mean the band members are jerks.
Aside from learning not to judge a book by its cover, I also connected with Clark’s personality and what he went through. As the band grew bigger, Clark felt like he wasn’t good enough, and that took a toll on his health, mentally and physically. It didn’t help that his relationship with his father wasn’t the best either. From my early high school years to my sophomore year of college, my relationship with my dad wasn’t the best either. I couldn’t see eye to eye with him on things, and there were a lot of insults I shouldn’t have said. If it weren’t for Def Leppard and our love for rock music, my relationship with my dad wouldn’t be where it is today.
I think another thing too was Clark was afraid to speak in person, but he came out of his shell on stage. I’m still terrified of people, and I try my best to stay out of everyone’s way during group projects for school, etc., but I speak my mind through my blog. We both had that outlet that allowed us to be ourselves. There are times when I question whether or not I’m good enough to make it in the communications field or if someone thinks I’m annoying. But knowing what Clark could’ve had if he were alive today helps me remember that life is short, and I need to take more risks in life to make it as a journalist or as a future Disney Cast member.
Though, the biggest decision I’ve made in regards to Clark was to give up drinking. I was so excited to drink when I turned 21. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say this, but I’ve had a few drinks before I turned legal, and I enjoyed it at the time. I loved the taste of alcohol and not having a care for the world; soju was my favorite, specifically. However, the more I learned about Clark and his struggles with alcohol addiction and low self-esteem, I decided not to risk going down that path. I get addicted to things quickly, so I thought better safe than sorry.
I didn’t quit drinking because “I don’t want to be a screw up like Clark.” I gave it up in honor of Clark so that I can live a happy and fulfilling life, something he never got to experience. Though, I’m sure he made some lasting memories during his lifetime. He’s not a screw-up; we all have our demons and issues in life. Unfortunately for him, Clark’s problems took over for the worse. It’s sad not knowing the riffs he could’ve written with Def Leppard, how he would’ve prepared fatherhood, what other talents Clark could’ve offered this world, how he would’ve felt about the changes to Disneyland; and the memories he could’ve built upon if Clark didn’t pass away too soon.
To sum all of this up, the lessons I learned from Steve Clark include not being quick to judge others; life is too short to play things safe, and don’t be afraid to speak up if you’re not ok. No one is happy all the time, and that’s fine. Clark was sad for a very long time; that’s why he turned to drugs and alcohol. Partially was because Phil Collen quit drinking in the mid to late 80s, so Clark lost his drinking partner. So to avoid going down that dark path, do whatever you need to do to get better, whether that be through a therapist, writing in a journal, or listening to music.
Thanks to Steve Clark, I now love bands like Metallica and AC/DC, not for the shock factor, but because they’re nice guys underneath it all. I wish I could thank Clark for everything he’s taught me and tell him how special he was, but hopefully, as I type all of this out, he’s reading this somewhere!
Blast your favorite Def Leppard song in tribute to Steve Clark today!
Take care and see ya real soon!