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Phil Collen Looks Back on Rick Allen’s First Def Leppard Show After Losing an Arm

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Thirty-one years after Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen lost an arm in a car crash, guitarist Phil Collen shared his memories of Allen’s first show back with the band.

Collen’s recollections came during an interview with Metal Talk, which you can watch above, and they return fans to a time when the future of the multi-platinum hard rock legends was decidedly uncertain. Allen’s first post-crash gig, on Aug. 16, 1986, took place at the Monsters of Rock Festival, and found Def Leppard at a crossroads where they felt they needed to prove themselves all over again.

“I think, unfortunately, because Rick had had his accident, that’s the only reason that a lot of people were prepared to listen,” said Collen, adding that it’s “kind of a bit lame, when you think of it.” But the show, which debuted a unique electronic-assisted kit allowing Allen to compensate for his missing arm by triggering certain sounds with his foot, offered immediate proof that the band were ready to soldier on.

“It actually worked out really well,” Collen said. “They actually gave it a chance, and they went, ‘Wow! These guys are really good.’ And, obviously, Rick was amazing. It was a big deal. For him, it was something very special.”

There was obviously a lot of uncertainty surrounding the new technology, which Collen admitted contributed to some additional nerves in the moments leading up to their Monsters of Rock set. And in Allen’s early years, there were occasionally problems with the kit — yet as Collen pointed out, there isn’t a musician on the planet who doesn’t have his gear fail him at some point, or commit an embarrassing flub at an inopportune moment.

“It happens to everyone. I think you get past that,” said Collen. “It meant something very personal to him as well — overcoming that disability and changing one thing for another. So it was more than just a drum kit. It meant a lot.”

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