Tuesday, 31st December 2019
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DEF LEPPARD And RICK ALLEN Recall His 1984 Car Accident (Videos)

Def Leppard 1998. Screenshot

Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen lost his left arm in a car crash 35 years ago today and band quotes about the day are available to read.

33 years have now passed since the tragic accident that took away his left arm.

Rick was driving back from the Ladybower Reservoir outside of Sheffield, England on the A57 road with girlfriend Miriam Barendsen when the accident took place.

Read more about the accident as told by the band in their own 1987 biography book.

Rick and the rest of the band have talked at length about the crash and his recovery in the years since it happened and many quotes are included below. Along with contributions from others who work with them or were at the scene of the car crash.

The story of that day as told by the band in various TV documentaries and interviews. Plus links to a playlist of tribute videos.

Note - Pete Hartley who helped make Rick's first makeshift foot pedals passed away in late 2014/early 2015. He ran the Hartley Electric Music store in Sheffield.

View the announcement of his passing on a Facebook post in January 2015 which includes a photo.

Behind The Music 1998 - Def Leppard Interview Quotes

Rick Allen - "When I was driving down the road in the Corvette this red Alfa Romeo came screaming round the corner. He slowed up to the point where I started having to slow up. I tried to pass him and every time I tried to pass him, this guy, he would speed up again. I lost my temper to the point where I don't even remember going round the corner."

"I guess as I rolled this car the seatbelt was the thing that took actually my arm off, because I remained conscious I tensed to the point where I almost didn't bleed at all."

(Voice-over) - "Luckily for Rick two people who lived nearby where Doreen Billington, a retired nurse and Tony Beavis, an off duty police officer."

Def Leppard 1998. Screenshot

Doreen Billington (retired nurse) - "I couldn't find anyone at first. And then I saw this girl running around in the field. Looked over the wall and saw this boy. He said, his first words were 'I'm a famous drummer and I've lost my arm'. So I got a handkerchief and some towels and just pressed on and the clots were starting to form around the area which had been torn off."

"The next friendly voice over the wall was Anthony and I just looked up and said 'Oh thank god Anthony. Can you find his arm?'."

Tony Beavis (police officer) - "I crawled inside the car which was upturned and there I found, underneath the actual dashboard, the chap's arm which had been severed from here right the way through."

Def Leppard 1998. Screenshot

(At the scene in 1998) - "It was quite some distance to be thrown from any vehicle. That he survived was quite honestly a miracle."

(Voice-over) - "Rick was rushed to the hospital where an emergency team performed an emergency four hour operation in which doctors reconnected Rick's severed limb. Still it would be days before they would know if the operation was successful."

Rick Savage - "New Year's Eve of all days around about two of three in the afternoon I got a call from Peter Mensch our manager explaining what had happened. Just didn't sink in."

Def Leppard 1998. Screenshot

Joe Elliott - "He said that Rick's had a car crash he's lost his arm. Now this is not in the agenda. This doesn't make sense."

Rick Savage - "You forget about him being a drummer. You forget about him being a band member. You're worried whether the guy's actually gonna live."

Kath Daly (Rick's Mother) - "I could see his hand and I thought you know they've done it."

(Voice-over) - "But to everyone's horror Rick's reattached limb became infected. Reluctantly the surgeons removed his left arm. This time for good."

Joe Elliott - "It's almost like giving you something back and then taking it away for the second time. It seemed very cruel."

Rick Allen - "That was one slight hiccup and then the thing that really got to me was when they said that if I didn't clear this infection. Th at there was a real possibility that I might lose my right arm as well and that's when thing's got all dark and serious again. It was like no way."

(Voice-over) - "But Rick refused to accept the idea that his terrible injury would end his musical career. He resolved to play the drums again."

Def Leppard 1998. Screenshot

Phil Collen - "Me and Steve had seen him in hospital and he was all done up like a Mummy you know with like blood seeping out. Just laying in the bed and he said I've been practising I'm gonna play drums. And we're like - it was almost the first thing he said and we thought medication."

Rick Allen - "Things were exciting again. Things were really you know kinda, I've got a goal. I've got a goal in life. I've got something to work towards."

Def Leppard 1998. Screenshot

Kath Daly (Rick's Mother) - "Richard said that life was too easy. He was doing exactly what he wanted. He was travelling the world and this was the kick up the backside that he needed. And I said Richard, it had no need to have been such a hard kick."

(Voice-over) - "In a show of loyalty the band hesitated to replace Rick Allen. They decided instead to remain on hiatus until Rick might return."

Joe Elliott - "There's no way he's gonna get fired. I mean he's like a brother. He's part of the family. It's up to him to tell us that he can't play."

(Voice-over) - "With Rick in the hospital Def Leppard returned to the studio to continue work on the Hysteria album. Then just six weeks after his accident, Rick rejoined the group determined to keep the beat with one arm."

Def Leppard 1998. Screenshot

Joe Elliott - "It was very emotional when he came back. There were a lot of tears and what have you. But we locked him away in a room with a drum kit."

Malvin Mortimer (ex-Tour Manager) - "It was just a bass drum and a snare drum and a hi-hat and a stool. And he sat there working away for about 15 minutes and and then he almost collapsed."

Rick Allen - "It was almost like I was running on pure adrenaline. I was just hell bent on getting back in there and making the band happy."

(Voice-over) - "While the band continued to labour in the studio, Rick spent eight hours a day mastering a custom built electronic drum kit that allowed him to play left handed beats with his left foot."

Rick Allen - "It was just starting back at the basics again and realising that the information was in my head. It just needed to be channelled somewhere else. Although I couldn't get it out here (points to right shoulder), you know I could get it to other parts of my body."

Def Leppard 1989. Screenshot

1989 Rock Of Ages The Def Leppard Story - Def Leppard Interview Quotes

Joe Elliott - "One of the worst things you could ever imagine happening to a band, happened to us on New Year's Eve 1984."

Rick Allen - "I took my girlfriend out, up to the Ladybower Reservoir just to show her the sights and everything. And as I was driving back down the road. Back down to the A57, down to the main road. This Alfa Romeo came flying round the corner and overtook me on the bridge. So I just sort of carried on about my own business but this guy ended up slowing down so I caught up to him. And every time I wanted to try and overtake this guy he would put his foot down. I'm going I can't deal with this at all you know. And Miriam's sitting there going 'Don't lose your temper, don't lose you temper.' I'm going 'No, I'm fine, I'm fine.'.

"But this went on for four about miles. So I kinda lost my rag a little bit. And with it being a left hand drive car. You know obviously driving on the left hand side of the road, when I finally did punch the accelerator I didn't see this left hand turn and I ended up braking my car in a big way. And that's - I think the seatbelt actually took my arm off. It came unclipped and just came across my chest and just took it off. I think the arm stayed in the car and I left via the sunroof. But apparently I was conscious for the whole thing and I think that's what actually saved my life in the end."

Huw Weekes (Yorkshire TV Calendar News) - "The accident happened on the A57 Manchester Road at Moscar on the moors above Sheffield. Rick's car failed to negotiate a sharp bend, went out of control and collided with a wall, rolling onto its roof. The wreckage of his car, a powerful Corvette Stingray, bares witness to the force of the crash. Rick was thrown through the windscreen, his left arm completely severed. His Dutch fiancee Miriam Barendsen suffered head injuries. She was dragged clear of the car by rescuers. At the Royal Hallamshire hospital surgeons spent four hours sewing his arm back on. But it'll be some days yet before they know whether the microvascular surgery has been successful."

Def Leppard 1989. Screenshot

Rick Allen (Visiting accident scene) - "God I never thought I'd be doing this again. It was a day just like today. God this place is bleak. I've got the strangest feeling in my stomach. Good job it was a soft landing eh. Hate that corner. Surprised I didn't hurt myself more than what I did. Can you get a feel for this place?."

Rick Allen - "The last thing I remember was standing up in this field and just looking down and saying 'I'm never gonna play drums again ever. Where's my arm gone?. And that was it, that's the last thing I remember.'. I'm sorry I'm kinda lost for words in a way."

Joe Elliott - "When I heard the news of what had happened, I sat down on a stool and physically cried my eyes out for about four hours till I couldn't cry any more. I rang the rest of the guys, they were all in the same boat. None of us knew what to do. We had no idea whether he'd live or die. We had no idea if he'd ever play the drums again. I mean after all, who's ever heard of a one armed drummer?."

Mutt Lange - "When I arrived at the hospital he was actually. I could see that he was really down. I mean he was trying to keep a pretty brave face but he was frustrated. I mean he was really frustrated at that point. Not knowing which limbs were gonna work at all. And then I just mentioned to him that he could concievably, if he could get his right hand to work again, he could actually play the drums by repeating the sounds on the top and the bottom."

Def Leppard 1989. Screenshot

"And he then, as he lay there, and he started just doing that thing with his limbs. And I could actually see almost the light shine, in his eyes. in terms of like he thought yeah that's actually the one way out of it. And literally from that day on, in my perception, the few times I saw him, he had a cause. And then I actually mentioned it to the band and I said to Peter Mensch, I said Rick really could play you know. If he, it's just gonna take time. We were gonna be recording the album so he had a lot of recovery time. And of course nobody was discounting that but in the back of everyone's minds they weren't quite ready to believe it."

Rick Allen - "First time I got out of bed. I sort of held on and then the first time I let go I literally flew towards the right hand side of the room and just hit the wall and that was the thing that stopped me. Whoah hang on a minute. I don't think you realise how heavy an actually, an arm is. And it was quite a strange sensation. I ended up sort of walking round the room going 'Heavy, light. Heavy, light' you know and that was it. Strange."

Mutt Lange - "All the time he was playing in his bed. In his mind he was trying to coordinate his limbs and the very first time he could actually then he got on to some local Sheffield guy who got the process going. Who got him some makeshift pedals together and everything and he started getting it right. And he would just come in to all of us every now and again and say what do you think of this and go 'da da da, da da da,da' or something and you'd go 'Great Rick'. You know but apart from just getting that together he actually had to create rhythm and be as powerful as he was ad he did it. I mean he did it on his own completely."

The New Electronic Drum Kit

Rick Allen - "It's literally two drum kits combined. It's a series of electronic pads and a series of pedals. So I use my left foot on on all the pedals. Obviously I use my right foot on the kick drum as I always did. And with my right hand I play the pads. So you're sort of playing pretty much everything I used to play with my left arm I'm playing with my left foot now. And it's literally just playing opposites like that."

Def Leppard 1989. Screenshot

Cliff Burnstein - "He is today probably as good or better as he was before the accident. The man has never done a bad gig. He plays a great show every time he goes out there. If anything maybe because he feels the loss of the arm he plays maybe more intently now. More focused than he ever did before and when you go to see a Def Leppard show today. A live show. You may be thinking for the first 30 seconds of the first song. If you're a fan. You're thinking oh I'm gonna watch this guy who's a one armed drummer. And I guarantee you after the first 30 seconds you've forgotten about it. He's just a drummer and he's a damn good one."

Cliff Burnstein (co-manager) - January 1985 Press Statement

"Rick and a female friend were driving shortly before one o'clock in the afternoon in his Corvette Stingray. The 'vette hit a wall, and unfortunately, Rick was thrown from the car. His left arm was cleanly sliced off at the shoulder while his friend was trapped in the Corvette. Rick was in surgery for more than ten hours, and for a day or two we thought we would have a miracle. But it was not to be. The doctors knew it was useless so they amputated. It killed us, it really did. But making sure Rick survived was the most important thing. Thank god he'll make it."

AXS - Rick Allen February 2016 Interview Quote

Angels And Icons Art Inspiration

"Certain people show up in your life at just the right moment and they are angels. Roger and Eileen Pierce – an off-duty cop and a district nurse – they were the first people on the scene, and honestly, if it hadn’t been for them, I wouldn’t be here. Those people who show up in your life at just the right moment, I really do consider them to be angels."

77 WBAC/Bernie And Sid Show - Rick Allen Interview Quotes

His Accident Recovery

"It was, I mean, on the face of it you know obviously it was horrible and I didn't wanna be here. You know I couldn't stand the thought of not being able to play drums again or you know be with the band. But the guys in the band were amazing. They really gave me the time to do what I needed to do to get back."

"They just left, gave me that space to sort of get myself together. And between sort of my family and the guys in the band and people reaching out from all parts of the globe. I'm like, I can do this."

New Drumkit

"Absolutely. I had some great people around me. And you know this one guy Pete Hartley. He came to see me in hospital, I'd known him for a long time, electronics guy. And he said I can build pedals. I can get you playing again. So we put this piece of foam at the bottom of the bed. My brother brought my stereo system into the hospital room and I started playing along. Just simple to all the music that inspired me growing up. And I realised that I could play ll the basic rhythms."

Def Leppard 1998. Screenshot

Joe Elliott/Rick Savage 2012 Interview Quotes

Getting The Phone Call About Rick's Accident

Rick Savage - "There was a party that evening. And it was a fancy dress party and I'd just been to a fancy dress store with my girlfriend at the time. It was mid afternoon, probably around three or four. And we got back to the house and the phone rang and I just - it was the news that. It was Peter Mensch our manager who called and you know. I admire Peter in many ways 'cause he's a very straight talking guy and you know he calls a spade a spade as we say in Yorkshire. And he didn't say look, brace yourself for a shock. He just said. I said How ya doin'? You know compliments of the season and blah blah blah. He said yeah thanks a lot. Your drummers been in a crash and he's lost an arm."

Joe Elliott - "Mr. Subtle."

Rick Savage - "Yeah. I thought it's too heavy to be a joke. And you know immediately you don't actually believe what you've heard and then you know 30 seconds later it just hits you like a sledgehammer right in the forehead. It's you know it was one of those, one of those terrible moments in your life when you just wish there was another life that you could go to or change for everybody. And that was it. I mean it was like, it was the most devastating thing at the time that I'd ever been through."

Joe Elliott's Reaction To Rick Losing An Arm

Joe Elliott - "The first thing I thought was well, he's a drummer. Well, that's that then you know. That's over. And then there's - and it sounds very cynical to think that way that I thought more about the drumming thing than the humanity of it. But it was just the way that I reacted to it at the time. He didn't die. We know otherwise we'd have been told you know your drummer's dead and not your drummer's lost an arm. So I instantly started thinking well how's he gonna feel once he wakes up from this?. Because that's the way that we are. We try and always out think each other I suppose. But I was just trying to imagine what it would be like to be Rick. When he comes round and he takes one look down and sees that there's nothing there. It must have been an unbearable feeling for a drummer of all people to lose an arm."

Watch all the related documentary/interview footage on this YouTube Playlist

The videos include the 1989 BBC 'Rock Of Ages - The Def Leppard Story' documentary and the 1992 BBC 'Fighting Back' special. Both shows tell the story of the accident and Rick's recovery.

Def Leppard 1999 Peoria Fan Videos.

Related News - The Story Of DEF LEPPARD Drummer RICK ALLEN's 1984 Car Accident

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