When Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen had his arm amputated after a 1984 car accident, plenty of people told him he’d never drum again. He still bristles as he recalls one particular doctor who wasn’t very encouraging about the prospect of continuing to play with one of the world’s most popular arena rock acts. “It was horrible, he says. "Initially, my mind tricked me into thinking there was nothing wrong, and then it broke me in gently. It was like, ‘NASA, we have a problem.’
"Then you go through the grieving process and that spreads to the whole family and beyond. That’s awful. I remember this one junior doctor coming in and telling me I would never wave again. The first time I saw him when I was in outpatient, I waved to him. Sometimes, when someone tells you can’t do something, you do the opposite. Another night, he came in and told me I would never drum again. I was like, ‘Dude, you’re killing me. Give me a break.’ Obviously, it worked out. Maybe in some strange way, he had something to do with my recovery.”
With the assistance of a specially designed drum kit, Allen didn’t miss a beat (pun intended) and has carried on with Def Leppard. When he comes to Blossom this Thursday with his band, it won’t just be to blow the roof off the pavilion. It’s also an opportunity for him to promote the Raven Drum Foundation, a charity organization that reaches out to others who have suffered similar injuries.
He and his wife Lauren Monroe started the Foundation in 2001 and have used it as a way to help everyone from veterans dealing with similar injuries to anyone suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Allen will meet donors during a meet-and-greet held backstage before the show (find more info about that here).
“It’s a fantastic way for me to share my experience,” says Allen. “Lauren helped me find the language for what it was that I went through. The drum is a fantastic vehicle. It’s such an ancient form. If we go back to the not-too-distant past, we realize there was a drum circle that enabled some form of communication. It was there for us to support one another, whether that be bringing in life or mourning the loss. This [injury] has become a fantastic two-way street. I can share my experience, but what I get back in return is ten-fold.” —Jeff Niesel