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.
On 31 December 1984, on the way to a New Year's Eve party at his family's home in Sheffield, England, 21-year-old Allen was driving his Chevrolet Corvette 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 seatbelt was not properly fastened. The car ended up upside down, with his girlfriend Miriam Barendsen secure in her seat. She was not seriously injured, and found Allen in the field. They were helped by a passerby, who was a nurse, and Allen was taken to a hospital. Doctors initially reattached Allen's arm, but because of infection it was removed again. He left the hospital three and a half weeks later and was back with Def Leppard in the Netherlands two weeks after getting out of the hospital 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, stopped by to see Allen in an attempt to cheer him up. Soon after, Elliot and Allen sat down with some engineers and started to design a drum set to assist Allen's drumming. After all of this, he could still play some drum beats with one hand, using his left foot (typically for hi-hat pedals in common drumsets), to play the snare drum. Former Status Quo drummer Jeff Rich was a source of help and encouragement during Allen's 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 onetime 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. In August 1987, the band released their fourth album, Hysteria, which, after a relatively slow start in the U.S., ultimately became another huge success, selling over 20 million copies worldwide.
Allen used Pearl Drums from 1978-1980. 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.
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".
Most 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 undisguisedly 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's current setup uses 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 Rick 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.
Rick Allen and 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.
Richard John Cyril "Rick" Allen (born November 1st 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".
Allen was born in Dronfield, Derbyshire, England, to Geoff and Kathleen (Daly). He started out drumming with his mother's kitchen utensils when he was five, using a tambourine as additional percussion. At about the age of 10, he persuaded his parents to get him a drumkit; by agreeing to take lessons and paying half of the cost of the set. He got a red sparkle Del-Ray drumset; after six months of lessons he began playing with his first band, Smokey Blue. Later on he played with bands called Rampant and the Johnny Kalendar Band.
When Allen was 15, his mother replied on his behalf to an ad placed by a band called Def Leopard looking for a drummer to replace Tony Kenning ("Leppard loses skins" was the ad's headline), and on 28 November 1978, Allen joined the band.