Richard John Cyril "Rick" Allen (bornNovember 1, 1963 ) is the drummer for the English hard rock band Def Leppard. He is famous for overcoming the complete amputation of his left arm and continuing to play with the band, which subsequently went on to its greatest popular success worldwide. His fans now call him the Thunder God.
When Allen was 14, his mother replied on his behalf to an ad placed by a band called Def Leppard looking for a drummer to replace Tony Kenning ("Leppard loses skins" was the ad's headline), and on 1 November 1978, his fifteenth birthday, Allen joined the band. In 1979, he dropped out of school (other band members quit their jobs around the same time) to concentrate on a career in music. In September of that year, they opened for Sammy Hagar at London's Hammersmith Odeon and in October and November played shows as a support act for AC/DC. Allen celebrated his 16th birthday with a performance at the Hammersmith Odeon. On 14 March 1980, the band released their first album, On Through the Night. Since their first album, Allen still continues to record and tour with the band.
Accident and recovery
On 31 December 1984 Allen was involved in a street-racing accident. The 21-year-old was driving in his Chevrolet Corvette on the way to a party at his family's home in Sheffield, England, when an Alfa Romeo passed him. Allen claims that the driver had been egging him on and that he would not allow him to pass. In his rage to pass this driver, he became reckless, did not see a turn up ahead and lost control of his car, which sailed over a stone wall and into a field. He was thrown from the car, with his left arm severed because the seat belt was not properly fastened. The car landed upside down and Allen's then girlfriend Miriam Barendsen stayed secure in her seat. She was not seriously injured and found Allen in the field. They were helped by two passersby (one was a nurse and the other an off-duty police officer), and Allen was transported to a nearby hospital. Doctors initially reattached Allen's arm but, because of infection, it had to be surgically and permanently removed again. He left the hospital three and a half weeks later and was back with Def Leppard in the Netherlands two weeks after his release with recuperation expected to last six months.
Allen thought that he could not continue drumming for Def Leppard and became very depressed, so Def Leppard's lead singer, Joe Elliott, visited Allen in an attempt to cheer him up. The band was on a break, so soon after, Allen met with some engineers and started to design a drum set to assist Allen's drumming. He could still play some drum rhythms with one hand and used his left foot (typically for hi-hat pedals in common drum kits), to play the snare drum. Former Status Quo drummer Jeff Rich helped and encouraged Allen during his convalescence, and they designed an electronic kit Allen could play using only one arm. (The Ludwig acoustic drum kit he used on earlier albums High 'n' Dry and Pyromania was later given away by Def Leppard's one-time management.) Electronic drum manufacturer Simmons created a kit to their specifications, and Allen made his post-accident debut in 1986 with a well-received set at the "Monsters of Rock" festival at Castle Donington.
Allen's drum sets and gear
Allen used Pearl Drums from 1979–1980. From 1980–1984, he used a Ludwig drum kit and Paiste's RUDE and 2002 cymbal lines during the High 'N' Dry and Pyromania recording and touring sessions. It was this that allowed Allen to add the iconic "doof-doof-doof" ending to the original Eastenders theme tune.
His setup for 1980–1982 consisted of nine pieces: Black Beauty Super Sensitive snare (6-1/2" x 14"), bass (16" x 22"), four rack toms, (as seen of the videos from the album High & Dry), (12" x 13", 13" x 14", 14" x 15", and 15" x 16"), two floor toms (16" x 16" and 16" x 18") which were suspended by a Ludwig cymbal stand, and a gong drum (18" x 20"). In early 1983, he removed the gong tom and two of the rack toms from his kit. The reason when asked at a Meet & Greet was that the 14" x 15" tom broke and so Rick replaced that with the "gong" drum. Also, when asked why he removed the rest of the drums from the kit, Rick replied, "I got tired of lugging them around on tour".
All electronic drums use piezoelectric triggers which sense a hit from a drumstick or a pedal and activate a sampled or synthesized sound in response. The customized kit built by Simmons for Allen included drum pads (placed primarily in front of Allen and to his right) triggering the sound of the snare drum and toms to be played with his surviving arm, combined with multiple pedals (mainly placed on the floor to his left), duplicating many of the same sounds. This allowed Allen (after much practice) to play patterns using his right hand and left foot that two-armed drummers would typically play with their right and left hands. Allen subsequently experimented with hardware from other electronic percussion companies, such as Clavia's drum system, Forat's F/16 system, and the Hart Dynamics Acupad system.
In more recent years, as the artificial drum sound popular in the 1980s has largely disappeared, Allen has favoured a sound more like that of an acoustic drum kit, using the electronic pads to trigger samples made from recordings of Allen's acoustic drums.
Allen has used DW acoustic drums, Zildjian acoustic cymbals, Hart Dynamics Acupad electronic pads, Akai samplers, and custom-manufactured cable routing by Whirlwind. He uses four electronic pedals for his left foot to play the pieces he used to play with his left arm, which from left to right trigger sounds of a closing hi-hat, bass drum, snare drum, and a tom drum. He is ranked #7 on the UK website Gigwise in the 100 Greatest Drummers Of All Time list.
On 14 June 2009, Allen headlined Download Festival with the rest of Def Leppard. Towards the end of the set, vocalist Joe Elliott dedicated the set to Allen in scenes reminiscent of their 1986 Monsters Of Rock performance. What followed was well over five minutes of ovation from the crowd and Allen being taken aback with tears. In February 2011, it was confirmed that Def Leppard would once again headline the Download festival.
On 16 October 2009, Yamaha announced the addition of Rick Allen to their artist roster. Allen plays Yamaha Oak Custom drums with a matching subkick.
Allen used Zildjian drumsticks beginning with the formation of the band in 1977. He currently uses an Easton Ahead stick.
Raven Drum Foundation
Rick Allen and his wife Lauren Monroe are the co-founders of The Raven Drum Foundation, a charity located in Malibu, California, with a mission to serve, educate, and empower veterans and people in crisis. The Raven Drum Foundation commonly works to help individuals and communities in crisis through healing arts programs, drum circle events, and collaborative partnerships. Allen described the foundations involvement with Camp Kilpatrick in 2009:
"Rhythm is such a big part of their culture and their own way of communicating, so we were able to go in there and design a program around them. It developed into drum council, which is an ongoing program that we provided for the camp. We had tremendous success."
Recently, they have had a special focus on veterans of war through their "Veteran Resiliency Project" including support for the Wounded Warrior Project. Rick and Lauren also host "Resiliency Radio", an interactive radio show intended to help empower, educate, and inspire during difficult times.
One Hand Drum Company
The One Hand Drum Company was created by Rick to assist in providing awareness and funding for his Raven Drum Foundation. Currently, the primary focus of the One Hand Drum Company is promoting StikRick, a drawing by Rick of a one-armed drummer that he sometimes uses with his autograph. The StikRick site sells, t-shirts, hats, and other items with the StikRick drawing along with a "Life Is Great!! Be A Rockstar!!" slogan. Proceeds from the One Hand Drum Company go to support the Raven Drum Foundation charity.
- Even though he was not credited, Allen co-wrote the soundtrack to a 1998 Disney TV-movie called Brink!.
- In May and June 2000, he played two shows with the Mark Mason Project, featuring guitarist Mark Englert previously of Dramarama.
- Allen has written music with his wife Lauren as well as played on her albums.
- In November 2004, Allen collaborated with Krishna Das in the recording of a CD entitled All One.
Allen was married to his first wife Stacey from 1991 to 2000; they had a daughter, Lauren Shane (born 20 May 1997). In 1995, Allen was arrested for spousal abuse in Los Angeles International Airport when he dragged his wife Stacey into a restroom by the throat and slammed her head against the wall. He pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced on 6 August 1996 to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, seek counseling, and serve 30 days on a graffiti-removal work crew. They remained together after this incident, but eventually divorced in 2000.
Allen was married on 10 October 2003 to Lauren Monroe. On 1 December 2010, Monroe gave birth to a daughter Josefine ("Josie").
Rick Allen Drumstick Collection
Current Drumstick Count in Collection: 9.