Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched…
- Posted on Apr 25th 2008 5:00PM by James Sullivan
By 1984, Def Leppard had become one of the biggest bands in the world -- the most requested act on MTV, with an album ('Pyromania') boxed out of the No. 1 spot in the U.S. only by a little Michael Jackson success story called 'Thriller.' On New Year's Eve of that year, Allen was driving with his girlfriend to a family party in Sheffield, England, when he began racing with another driver in an Alfa Romeo. Infuriated by the other guy's audacity, he floored his Corvette Stingray to pass and couldn't negotiate a sudden bend in the road.
The car crashed over a stone wall into a field, leaving the girlfriend hanging upside down by her seatbelt. When a passerby who happened to be a nurse arrived on the scene, Allen, who had been thrown from the car, was wandering around the field muttering, "I'm a famous rock drummer." His arm had been severed by his seatbelt upon impact.
In the hospital, doctors attempted to reattach the limb, but infection set in. When nurses put a Styrofoam block at the foot of the bed to help give Allen some leverage to adjust himself, he got an idea. He began envisioning ways in which he could design a drum kit that would trigger sounds with foot pedals.
A year later, armed (ahem) with a customized drum kit, Allen returned to the stage, playing with Def Leppard on the European Monsters of Rock tour. As a safety net, the band hired Jeff Rich, drummer for the group Status Quo ('Pictures of Matchstick Men'), to supplement Allen's timekeeping. But when Rich missed a gig, Allen's bandmates realized the extra help was unnecessary.
"He drums better now than when he had two arms," singer Joe Elliott has said. Yet Allen, known to fans as the "Thunder God," struggled for years to come to terms with his accident. He move to Amsterdam, where, by his own admission, he lived a reckless lifestyle, smoking heroin and thinking, "I was doing great." Even after the 1991 fatal overdose of Def Leppard guitarist Steve Clark, it still took Allen some time to clean up his own act.
Several years ago, he found spirituality, studying Hinduism and starting the Raven Drum Foundation for trauma victims in Malibu. He now signs his name with a one-armed stick figure holding a drum stick. After recording a CD of chants with Hindu devotional singer Krishna Das, Allen has downplayed the work of his lifelong band.
"I'd say that Hare Krishna has more energy attached to it in terms of thousands of years of being uttered than 'Pour Some Sugar on Me,'" he said. Plus, those little cymbals are played one-handed.