One of the flashiest guitarists (both visually and instrumentally) to emerge from the '80s rock scene was Steve Stevens. Born in Brooklyn, New York, on May 5, 1959, Stevens first picked up the guitar when he was only seven years old, and later became an avid prog rock fan, especially the likes of Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Yes. Honing his craft while playing in Manhattan, Stevens recorded an unreleased album with his band, Fine Maribus, and also played as a session guitarist on Peter Criss' best forgotten second post-Kiss solo outing, 1982's Let Me Rock You (although Stevens did earn a songwriting credit for the track "First Day in the Rain").
It was also during the early '80s that Stevens hooked up with ex-Generation X singer Billy Idol, who had relocated to New York in hopes of launching a solo career. Idol found the perfect foil in Stevens, and with ex-Kiss manager Bill Aucoin backing them, Idol's career skyrocketed. Combining Idol's punk and Stevens' hard rock backgrounds with dance music, Idol became one of MTV's early video stars, as such albums as 1982's Billy Idol and 1983's Rebel Yell became blockbuster hits -- spurred on by Stevens' shredding guitar licks (and outrageous glam rock looks). It took an extended period for Idol and Stevens to offer a third album, 1986's Whiplash Smile, and although it was another big hit, Stevens longed to launch his own solo career, and exited Idol's band by the end of the decade.
Stevens also remained an in-demand hired gun, as he guested on recordings by Michael Jackson (Bad), Ric Ocasek (This Side of Paradise), Thompson Twins (Here's to Future Days), and Robert Palmer (Don't Explain), among others. Additionally, Stevens appeared on the mega-selling 1986 soundtrack to the Tom Cruise movie Top Gun, for which he collaborated with keyboardist Harold Faltermeyer on "Top Gun Anthem" (which earned Stevens a Grammy Award for Pop Instrumental Performance that year). In 1989 Stevens formed his own group, Steve Stevens' Atomic Playboys, but despite all the hype, the band only lasted for a single release, Atomic Playboys.
The early '90s saw Stevens keep up his busy schedule, as he attempted to form a new group with ex-Hanoi Rocks singer Michael Monroe, named Jerusalem Slim, which to the dismay of fans never got much further than the planning stages. In a strange twist of fate, Stevens then signed on to back ex-Mötley Crüe singer Vince Neil, the same man responsible for the dissolution of Monroe's previous band, Hanoi Rocks. Stevens hung in for an album, 1993's Exposed, and its supporting tour, before departing for greener pastures.
Stevens finally got his chance to show off his lifelong appreciation of prog rock when he united with bassist Tony Levin and drummer Terry Bozzio in the bombastic outfit Bozzio Levin Stevens, issuing a pair of releases thus far -- 1997's Black Light Syndrome and 2000's Situation Dangerous. Around the same time, Stevens reunited with Idol, appearing alongside the singer on 2002's VH1 Storytellers, and also found time to issue another solo release, Flamenco A Go-Go. ~ Greg Prato