Phil Collen Looks Back on Steve Clark’s Final Days in Excerpt From His ‘Adrenalized’ Memoir
The excerpt, posted by Classic Rock Magazine, picks up in the winter of 1989, when the members of the band flew out to stage an intervention after Clark was picked up after passing out in a Minneapolis bar. Describing the "very tearful and emotional experience for all involved," Collen recounts the shock he felt when Clark's doctors explained just how much trouble he was really in.
"The doctor also told us that the alcohol level in Steve’s blood was 0.59. That didn’t really mean anything to us, until he explained that it was a 0.41 level that had killed John Bonham from Led Zeppelin," wrote Collen. "Then he went into detail about just how dire it was – more statistics about alcoholism, the physiological and psychological toll on the body, everything. Then family members and friends of alcoholics at the facility came in with their stories."
Sadly, the doctors' most dire predictions came true, and on Jan. 8, 1991, Collen got the call telling him Clark passed away in his sleep after drinking heavily while taking pain medication for a cracked rib. "This was such a huge psychological blow for all of us," recalled Collen, explaining that after drummer Rick Allen lost his arm in a catastrophic car accident, the members of Def Leppard thought they'd been through the worst they'd have to face. "It’s incredible that we never prepare for death while we’re young, almost as if we have this immortal streak in us."
Even though Clark's death occurred while the members of Def Leppard were in the midst of demoing for their Adrenalize album, Collen admits he briefly wanted to pull the plug on the band, and in a moment of desperation, even told singer Joe Elliott he'd rather be a plumber than continue making music without Clark. Ultimately opting to throw himself into the album instead, Collen said he didn't truly allow himself to feel the impact of Clark's death until months later.
"I was stuck in traffic on the 101 freeway in Los Angeles and the Rolling Stones’ "Waiting on a Friend" came on the radio," wrote Collen. "I burst into tears. I pulled over to the side of the road and cried like a baby. I couldn’t stop. That was really the moment that I began to deal with the loss of my best friend. To this day, I continue to have dreams where Steve appears and we just talk as if nothing has changed. It feels totally natural, and that’s fine with me."
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