Most bands chop and change their line up regularly, with new people coming in to take over for various reasons. But Rick Allen, a drummer who was with Def Leppard since its beginning, has not let anyone take over from him. In fact, even the traumatic event of losing his arm was not enough to stop him drumming for the band.
How did Def Leppard’s Rick Allen lose his arm?
Rick Allen was the band’s second drummer, joining Def Leppard in 1978.
When Allen was 14, his mother replied to an advert to replace the band’s former drummer, Tony Kenning, and by November 1, 1978, he had joined the band.
Allen was just 15-years-old at the time, and in 1979, he dropped out of school to concentrate on a career in music full time, which saw him performing onstage, opening for AC/DC on his 16th birthday.
However, these glory days were set to change when a terrible accident saw his life completely change.
On December 31, 1984, Allen and his then-girlfriend Miriam Barendsen were driving on the A57 just outside Sheffield, from which the band hails.
According to Ultimate Classic Rock, Allen misjudged a curve which saw the car crash through a stone wall and flip car several times.
Allen’s seatbelt was not fully fastened, therefore he was ejected from the vehicle.
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He told the BBC: “I think my arm was left in the car,” though someone who lived nearby packed his arm in ice, in the hope of reattaching it.
The arm was reattached in hospital, but due to infections, it was forced to be amputated, while his right shoulder was badly broken.
Barendsen is reported to have suffered from severe whiplash after the accident, and had some head injuries.
Allen began a lengthy recovery programme from then, which saw him return to the stage in August 1986.
Speaking of this time, he said: “Getting back to a place where I could re-join the band had been a very tough process.
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“At first even walking was a trial, but I locked myself away in a room at my parents’ house in Dronfield and just played and played.
“There were times when I thought I just couldn’t do it and wanted to curl up into a ball and give up. But I persevered.
Allen continued to practise on a specially designed electric kit, often in a separate studio to his bandmates, who at no point sought a full-time replacement for him.
Jeff Rich, another drummer, acted as a stand-in for Allen, playing alongside him at gigs and in rehearsals.
According to Allen, Rich missed a flight to join them for a gig in Ireland, so Allen played alone, showing his bandmates what he could do.
From then on, he performed as their only drummer, making a triumphant return at Monsters of Rock, a festival in 1986.
While Allen has openly spoken about the darker side of his recovering, which included self-medicating and PTSD, he also hopes to try and help those who are suffering in similar ways to him.
Speaking to ABC News in 2012, he added: “I didn’t know what my life would be like after that terrible day. It was the darkest time in my life…
“My desire is to encourage a support system for warriors, de-stigmatize PTSD, share their stories and offers alternative ways to pave the road to resiliency and health.”
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