Born in Liverpool on July 25th, 1950, Mark Clarke grew up during one of the best times for music – especially British rock – THE SIXTIES!!
From age 15, Mark played bass in local bands in and around Merseyside (including the famous Cavern club several times), eventually ending up with The Locomotive – a kind of blues/soul band that later became the blues trio St James Infirmary. It was while performing with this band that young Colosseum guitarist Clem Clempson saw Mark play and asked him if he would like to audition for them. Mark travelled down to London and, after being put through his paces at the audition, was offered the job. “In at the deep end” as Mark puts it, as he launched into an intense touring schedule that “very nearly destroyed me”. In October 1971, when Colosseum broke up (and after just two days off), he became a member of Uriah Heep and was immediately off on one of the most gruelling tours of his life.
During his time with Heep, Mark recorded two songs for the “Demons and Wizards” album, co-writing the song “The Wizard” with Ken Hensley. He also played on two of Hensley’s solo albums.
Early 1973, after leaving Uriah Heep, Mark was back together with Jon Hiseman as a member of his new band Tempest, recording two albums over the next two years. When Tempest folded in 1974, Mark decided to form his own band, Natural Gas, with an old friend of his, Joey Molland (Badfinger) and Jerry Shirley from Humble Pie. At this point, Mark moved to the USA, where the band landed a tour supporting Peter Frampton on his “Live” tour. Sadly, Mark’s first band project turned out to be quite short lived, falling apart after two years. Once again though, fortune smiled and after just a couple of days off, Ritchie Blackmore called, inviting him out to Los Angeles to join his band Rainbow (alongside Cozy Powell and Ronnie James Dio). The band relocated to Paris to record their next album, but then, after just ten months, Mark concluded that it wasn’t working out and left.
Back in New York, Mark started doing session work around the studios. These sessions included Mink Deville, Cher (with her rock band Blackrose), Richard T Bear, Raquel Welch, Phoebe Snow, Michael Bolton and many more. Then, in 1980, Billy Squier asked Mark to tour with him, which led on to a lengthy working relationship, with Mark playing on several of his albums, notably the multi-million selling “Don’t Say No” LP.
In 1982, Mark took a break from Squier to work with Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson on an album and tour, co-writing two songs with Ian on his “All of the Good Ones Are Taken” album. During this recording, Mark was asked by Mountain guitarist Leslie West to replace Felix Pappalardi (who had recently been shot by his wife!). A few gigs became a tour and the tour led to Mark playing with Mountain on and off for nearly 16 years, culminating in the 1995 “Deep Purple / Perfect Strangers” European tour. During this period, around 1985, the manager of The Monkees (David Fishof) called to ask him if he would like to play bass and sing on a new venture starring The Monkees – a U.S tour of small theatres. After just one month, it became obvious that the ‘small tour’ was turning out to be the biggest one they had ever played!
In 1989, while touring with The Monkees, Mark was asked by Billy Squier to play on his next album and join him on tour again. He then joined Mountain back on the road, and was subsequently asked by Davy Jones to tour with him on solo gigs. “I lived on a plane for many years.” says Mark. “Non-stop touring was just a way of life.”
Jumping ahead to 1994. Mark received a call to audition for The Rolling Stones, the most nerve racking event of his career to date. “Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood were just fantastic, while Keith was just himself. I felt right then that he’d already made his decision – Darryl Jones was his pick. A great choice, borne out by the fact that he’s still with them. Soon after, Darryl came to see me at a Billy Squier rehearsal and we talked about it. He’s such a lovely guy and a great bass player.”
Then, about this time, Clem Clempson calls to give Mark the unexpected news that Colosseum were thinking of reforming and would he be interested? Would he!
Astonishingly, this second incarnation of Colosseum stayed together for over 20 years, touring frequently and recording several albums, finally calling it quits in February 2015. Now, just a couple of years later a new three piece band JCM, featuring Jon Hiseman, Clem Clempson and Mark Clarke is born, with a new album and tour scheduled for Spring 2018.