We recently passed the anniversary of Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen’s horrific 1984 New Year’s Eve car crash that took his left arm, and during a chat with Jeremy White and Mitch Lafon on the Rock Talk With Mitch Lafon podcast, as seen below, Allen recalled the support he received in the aftermath, including a message from one of the world’s most famous drummers at the time.
“Phil Collins happened to be one of the first letters that I opened, a letter of encouragement while I was actually still in hospital in 1985,” stated Allen, who remembers that the letter stood out to him amongst all the well wishes that had been sent his way.
Reflecting on the letter, Allen told White, “[They were] just incredible words of encouragement. There were hundreds of thousands of letters but his stood out because he obviously knew what it would be like or he had an inkling of what it would be like to be a drummer and to be involved in something so horrific. So it just meant that much more.”
While a drummer losing his arm could have signaled the end of his career, as we have since seen the band stuck with Allen behind the drumkit and a special drumkit was designed to help him be able to play his parts despite the missing appendage.
Allen told Lafon, “I think the thing that the guys did for me, which took the pressure off, was they gave me time to make the decision whether I wanted to move forward or not. And that was really the crux of what I was dealing with. Did I just want to disappear and sort of blend into the scenery? Or did I want to go on?”
He adds, “Love of family, love of people all over the planet, I really just discovered the power of the human spirit. And that’s what really catapulted me into where I am now… Having been in a coma for a couple of three weeks, and during that time, they put my arm back on and then took it off, all during that same time period, and me not knowing a thing about it. So when I came round and started to get an idea of what had actually happened to me… I remember at a certain point, I was like, ‘I don’t want to do this.’ I felt way too self-conscious, I felt completely defeated. And then, I guess I woke up in a way that allowed me to see past the situation I found myself in.”
Allen says, “Once I started actually playing drums again, I got it, and I realized that I could actually do this. And Mutt [Lange, producer] recognized that.”
Coming off the hugely successful Pyromania breakout in 1983, it would be August of 1987 before the band returned, with Allen behind the kit, on their follow-up Hysteria. The chart-topping album yielded an amazing seven hit singles that kept them on the airwaves through early 1989 and has been certified 12 times platinum in the U.S.