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Behind the Music
A VH1 Special
premiere date: June 21, 1998

Rick Allen - Def Leppard drummer
Stacey Allen - Rick Allen's wife
Tony Beavis - police officer
Doreen Billington - retired nurse
Vivian Campbell - Def Leppard guitarist
Barry Clark - Steve's father
Steve Clark - Def Leppard guitarist (deceased)
Phil Collen - Def Leppard guitarist
Kathleen Daly - Rick Allen's mother
Joe Elliott - Def Leppard lead singer
Ian Flint - friend
Ross Halfin - photographer
Robert "Mutt" Lange - producer
Brian May - friend, guitarist for Queen
Malvin Mortimer - friend and tour manager
Marjorie Pheaton - attending nurse
Rick "Sav" Savage - Def Leppard bassist
Lorelei Shillist - Steve Clark's ex-fiancee
Mick Wall - Music journalist
Pete Willis - ex-guitarist
Pete Woodruffe - producer


(chorus to "Pour Some Sugar On Me")

Narrator: They were the biggest selling rock band of the 80's. They held the center ring of the rock and roll circus through a frenzied decade marked by stadium-sized excess.

Joe Elliott: When you're the next biggest act to Michael Jackson, and you've come out of nowhere, you can't expect to be level-headed; it's impossible!

(bridge riffs to "Work It Out")

Rick Savage: We were young enough to be naive enough to use that as an excuse for everything that we did.

Joe: It was like we'd been let loose in a sweet shop!

(chorus to "Women")

Ross Halfin: And under the stage it would be like Sodom and Gomorra. There'd be 60 naked girls, and I mean with nothing on them.

(riffs to "Work It Out")

Nar: But for Def Leppard, every successful high was undercut by staggering lows.

Joe: We weren't going to die. That wasn't going to happen to us, you know. We learnt the pitfalls - supposedly.

(riff to "High 'N' Dry (Saturday Night)")

Nar: But the partying took its toll. Alcohol drove one member out of the band ...

Pete Willis: I felt I needed to have a drink, to go on stage.

Nar: ... and drinking drove another to an early grave.

Joe: The alcohol in his blood was double what killed John Bonham.

Nar: Def Leppard's horrific bad luck took another brutal twist with the near-fatal car crash of their drummer.

(opening acoustic riff to "Tonight")

Rick Allen: ... and it was almost like .... some .... weird .... nightmare, standing up in this field, and just saying, you know, well, I've lost my arm, and I'm a drummer.

("Animal" plays)

Nar: Served a double shot of success and misfortune, Def Leppard may be rock's most blessed and cursed band. Tonight, the tragedy and the triumph of Def Leppard, on Behind the Music.

End of Introduction

(Theme to Behind The Music)

Start of First Segment

(intro riffs of "Armageddon It")

Nar: In the fast and furious 80's, they blazed at the center of the stadium-rock universe. Signed in their teens, pin-up pop stars by their early 20's, Def Leppard smashed box office records wherever they played.

("Work It Out")

Joe: We sold Detroit out faster than Led Zeppelin did. We were talking in telephone numbers now instead of like pocket money.

Sav: It wasn't that such a long time before that we were still working in factories and things like this, to all of a sudden becoming the biggest thing since sliced bread.

Phil Collen: It was just really weird! And then multiple shows, you know, 20,000 a night for three nights in a row, and it was like, "Whoa! Where did this come from?"

Rick: I'm barely out of school, barely even out of diapers, and I'm sitting up there, playing a, you know, playing drums, in a grown-up business. My childhood got condensed.

(chorus to "Bringing On The Heartbreak")

Nar: They're popularity sky-rocketed with the explosion of MTV. They were the first young rockers to aggressively market themselves through music videos; and like many hard rock bands, Def Leppard scored big with female fans.

Joe: It was great to see 60% females at the gig, you know...they ("Rock Of Ages" plays) scream louder, they dance, and, let's be honest, there was five horny men on stage that are attracted to women. I was being dragged off into some ... bathroom by some ... dirty little girl in a miniskirt, you know, and that suited me fine! (laughs)

(video for "Rock Of Ages" plays)

Nar: Their album Pyromania sold 10 million copies, their follow-up Hysteria sold 15 million more. On tour, Def Leppard ruled the wide, wild world of arena rock and their popular success was matched only by their personal excess.

("Switch 625" plays)

Lorelei Shillist: ... you know, they had carte blanche, they had everything they wanted. Plus, they had people shoving drinks in their faces, putting lines up their noses ...

Ross: But I mean they really were the "Party Band." All these bands, eh Metallica, eh Motley Crue, you know, sorta think they were so tough, I mean, you couldn't touch Def Leppard for it. It's just the fact they hid it really, really well.

(intro to "Hysteria")

Nar: They were on top of the world, but nothing could have prepared them for the series of tragedies that would haunt them in the years to come.

Joe: "Rick's had a car crash. He's lost his arm." Now, this is not in the agenda, this doesn't make sense.

Phil: We didn't realize he'd actually .... lost it, from the shoulder, and ah, that he'd nearly died, nearly lost the other one as well!

Nar: Rick Allen had lost his limb and soon Steve Clark would lose his life.

Lor: He never wanted to face his pain, is really what it boil down to; he hurt too much.

Sav: You just see a friend ... almost ... deteriorating in front of your eyes ... its, its ... and you just feel so helpless.

Lor: ... and his heart just, you know, beating, (beats her chest) trying so hard to stay alive, but really he was really slowly trying to kill himself.

(intro riff to "Bringing On The Heartbreak")

Nar: Def Leppard's fateful journey began in Sheffield, England in 1977. Rock and roll was their chance to escape a dismal future in the steel mills.

Joe: We were so desperate to get out of that whole thing. The whole industrial aspect of Sheffield was imploding - factories were closing down, they were falling down, and we were prepared to do anything you know, bank robbing, anything, than work in a factory.

(riff to "High 'N' Dry (Saturday Night)" plays)

Nar: Joe Elliott and Rick Savage joined musical forces with guitarist Pete Willis and drummer Tony Kenning. Joe had the energy and the drive; he became the band's engine.

Sav: Joe just happened to say, "I've had this imaginary band for two years now, and I've even made posters of it," and he showed us the posters that he'd made, which were, I suppose, pretty tacky, but at the time they-they were like, "What, this is brilliant!" Great, we've already got the name, and it was like ..."We're off!"

Nar: The spelling of their name was soon changed ironically mimicking that of Led Zeppelin. But it was the addition of guitarist Steve Clark that helped Def Leppard create a sound all their own.

Joe: His audition was "Freebird" by Lynrd Skynrd and he just did the whole thing on his own, and it was like, "WOW! This guy's amazing!" And he looked great; he wore his guitar too low, he was too thin, and he had really long blonde hair, denim jacket with no shirt on, and he had a waist about this wide, and it was like, just amazing!

(riff to "Let It Go" plays)

Nar: By day, they held down blue collar jobs; after work, they rehearsed. For nine long months they rocked the night away in an abandoned spoon factory on Bramall Lane.

Steve Clark: (in a 1989 interview) At one point, it got very desperate, because I wanted to play so bad live and that these guys just wanted to keep rehearsing and polishing it and polishing it, and I said, "Well, I can be here in 10 years time and still be rehearsing in this ... bloody spoon factory." (laughing) I said, "Joe, if we don't do a gig soon, that's it, I'm going to find another group!"

(intro of "All I Want Is Everything" plays)

Nar: July 18th, 1978, Def Leppard's first public appearance before a crowd of 150 kids, mostly 14 and 15 year old girls. It set the tone for the many wild years to come.

Ian Flint: They smuggled alcohol in a bass drum, to loosen their nerves a little. Only got to play about five numbers, but got such a response that they ended up playing more. The DJs who were running the evening had to unplug them and quiet the audience down, because they kept screaming for more.

(intro to Retro Active's "Ride Into The Sun" plays)

Nar: But Joe Elliott wasn't content to be a local hero. He was looking for a fast track to rock and roll stardom.

Joe: It took literally six shows for me to turn around to everybody else and say, "I don't want to do these tiny little ... doss holes for the next three years at the hope that an A&R man spots us. There has to be a short cut!"

Nar: Joe borrowed $250 from his father to make their own record which sold an amazing 24,000 copies. Good fortune continued to smile on the band when a fifteen year old drummer named Rick Allen saw an article entitled, "Leppard Loses Skins."

Rick: I'd been playing since about 9 or 10, and I was getting really fed up with the local scene. After throwing a bag full of cymbals down the uh, down the ... the steps outside, um, I read this, and I asked - I asked my mum to ah to call and she did, and I got to meet Joe and Steve.

(riff to "High 'N' Dry (Saturday Night)" plays)

Nar: With Rick providing the beat, Def Leppard burst onto the hard rock scene like seasoned veterans, though their average age was only 18.

Joe: For a band our age, there's nobody to touch us, that was our thing. And, and in fairness, I still to this day don't think there was.

("Let It Go" plays throughout)

Nar: By August 1979, just 12 months after their first gig, the boys signed a record deal and released their first album, On Through The Night. Touring in support of bands like AC/DC and Sammy Hagar, their high energy stage act was an immediate hit.

(Clips from video added in here)

Mick Wall: They were absolutely brilliant: very colorful, very energetic. There was all action. In fact, in a way, it kind of pre-figured a lot of ... the kind of rock bands that we got used to in the 80's, you know, in the 70's they tend to stand fairly still, and ... and Leppard clearly weren't like that, they were really like puppies just let loose.

(intro to "It Could Be You")

Nar: In early 1981 Def Leppard began recording their second album, High 'N' Dry, marking the start of their collaboration with producer Mutt Lange, a studio perfectionist who became the unofficial 6th Leppard. But trouble was brewing and as they toured the US with Ozzy Osbourne, guitarist Pete Willis found himself increasingly out of step with the band.

Joe: Pete was small, and had what we call "Small Man's Syndrome," which is like, they get a lot taller when they've been drinking. They become ten foot tall, bullet-proof, and invisible. Pete, back then, would readily have gone in the ring with Mike Tyson after a few pints of beer.

(bridge to "Rock Of Ages")

Nar: With Pete Willis on the brink of self-destruction, the group spent several months in 1982 recording their third album, Pyromania. Producer Mutt Lange set the pattern for the group's workaholic recording routine. A painstaking process of re-writes and re-takes.

Joe: There was a lot of ... tears shed on that record, and a lot of drumsticks thrown, and a lot of guitars slammed down and a lot of "I can't sing anymore! I've lost it!" Because, "Do-do it again." Mutt was like a train, "Do it again, do it again, do it again ..." (laughs)

Nar: As the grueling Pyromania sessions wore on, (intro to "All I Want Is Everything") Pete Willis' problems with the bottle could no longer be ignored.

Pete: I just really got out of my brains one night, you know, drank a bottle of brandy or something like that, and I was very ill. I shouldn't have gone in to the studio the next morning ...

Mutt Lange (in an 1989 interview): ... and uh ... we thought he was joking because we tried the take again and I said, "Pete, listen, you're gonna have to go back to Sheffield and to just ... cool out and come back when you've actually got yourself together."

Joe: We gave him what we call the "Spanish Archer" ... elbow ... he had to go ...

Pete: ... and in some ways it was a relief. Don't get me wrong, you know, it sorta broke me in two really, and destroyed my confidence quite a bit, but ... in ... in a ... you know, in another way it was quite a relief to get out of it.

(chorus and bridge riff to "Photograph")

Nar: The band picked up Londoner Phil Collen from the glam rock band Girl to replace Pete Willis.

Sav: Phil came in like a breath of fresh air. It did us the power of good, it gave us a new injection of life.

Nar: Finally, in 1983, after a long year in the studio, Pyromania was released and began a 92-week run on the US charts, where it remained locked at number two for six months, behind Michael Jackson's Thriller.

Phil: We started that tour off playing the Marquee Club in London, which is about 800 people; we finished the tour nine months later in Jack Murphy Stadium which was ... 55,000 people or so.

(intro to "Bringing On The Heartbreak" plays)

Nar: With their star on the rise, the band soon fell prey to the pitfalls of life on the road. On-stage they were conquerors; backstage, they were under siege.

(bridge riff to "Work It Out")

Nar: Coming up next, the high speed wreck that would threaten a young drummer's life...

Rick: I guess as I rolled this car, the seat belt was the thing that ... that actually took my arm off.

Nar: ... and Steve Clark slips into an abyss of alcoholic despair ...

Mick: Steve Clark was undoubtedly the unhappiest millionaire, rock star, I ever met in my life!

Nar: ... when Behind the Music continues.

End of First Segment

Start of Second Segment

("Photograph" plays)

Nar: In 1983, with the release of their third album Pyromania, Def Leppard had taken the rock world by storm. Soon, their success met with excess.

(clip of "Me And My Wine" video)

Rick: You go and be polite and you know, have a beer at the bar, and then, when you shut yourself away in a room, that's when you get down to the serious ... ah ... drinking and drug taking.

(funky little ditty)

Joe: We'd be offered things and sometimes you just have to experiment, you know. You see a little cat see a hole in a wall, sticks his head through, maybe a dog will bite its head off through the other side, maybe not.

Phil: It was a complete hoot! I loved it, you know. Me and Steve used to get into a lot of trouble, usually involving drink and girls and the usual stuff.

Sav: Steve and Phil were a team. They were a team off the ... off the stage and, and they were a team on the stage.

Joe: Whereas Aerosmith had the Toxic Twins, we had the Terror Twins.

Sav: ... an affectionate term for the pair of them.

Joe: We never let it overtake us, we never gone on-stage incapable of playing. And Steve even at his worst never went on-stage drunk. Yeah he had bad nights, but he had bad nights when he was sober.

("Animal" plays)

Nar: By late 1983, Def Leppard had sold more than six million records and played to sell-out crowds around the world. They retreated to Ireland to work on the follow-up album, Hysteria. But old habits died hard for these rough and tumble rockers.

(an Irish ditty plays)

Joe: We went through an astonishing amount of alcohol when we lived in Booterstown, in Dublin. We started saving the bottles after about the 10th day because we thought it'd be funny to see what we'd got through. We had piled up in the corner of one room, 170 odd bottles of vodka, 150 odd bottles of scotch, and just a mountain of beer cans, you know, I mean it was just ludicrous!

Phil: For me it was all right to stop completely. I couldn't do the kind of ... social drinker, glass-of-wine thing. I'd-I'd tried that in the past and it was ... glass of wine, bottle of wine, by the end of the week it was Jack Daniels ... and um ... so I ... I quit completely.

(intro to "White Lightning" plays)

Joe: When Phil stopped drinking Steve lost his drinking partner and felt more isolated.

Rick: Stopping wasn't even ... wasn't even on his agenda.

Lor: We'd been together long enough to notice that, you know, there was a little too much drinking involved, and I went to the band and I ... I approached them about and I said, you know, I think Steve's really got a drinking problem...and they just passed it off like, "Ah, you know Steve's always like a bit of the drop and you're just having marriage problems!"

(intro to "Hysteria" plays)

Nar: In mid-1984, the band went back into the studio to record Hysteria. When recording paused for the Christmas break, they returned home for the holidays. On New Year's Eve, drummer Rick Allen and his girlfriend Mirriam Barendsen were driving near Rick's parents' home in rural England.

(upbeat driving music)

Rick: When I was driving down the road in the corvette, this red Alfa Romeo came ... screaming around the corner. He slowed up to the point where ... I started having to slow up. I tried to pass him, and ever time I tried to pass him, this guy would ... he would speed up again! I lost my temper to the point where ... I don't even remember going around the corner. (crashing noises, then tone of background music changes, becomes eerie) I think the first thing I remember was waking up ... or standing up in a field and it was almost like ... some ... weird ... nightmare. I was just standing up in this field and just saying, you know, well, I've lost my arm, and I'm a drummer, you know? I guess, as I rolled this car, the seat belt was the thing that ... that actually took my arm off. Because I remained conscious, I ... I tensed ... uh ... to the point where ... um ... I almost didn't bleed at all.

Nar: Luckily for Rick, two people who lived nearby were Doreen Billington, a retired nurse, and Tony Beavis, an off-duty police officer.

Doreen Billington: It was a bitterly cold day, and there was a biting wind coming down the valley. I couldn't find anyone at first, and then I saw this girl running 'round in the field, looked over the wall and say this boy. He said ... his first words to me was "I'm a famous drummer, and I've lost my arm ........ I'm Def Leppard." Well, I'd never heard of Def Leppard. So I got a handkerchief ... and some towels ... and just pressed on. The clots were starting to form around the area, which had been torn off. He wanted his mum, I remember him saying that to me, which I thought was rather sweet. The next friendly voice over the wall was Anthony, who said, "I'm an off-duty policeman, can I give you any assistance?" And I just looked up and said, "Oh thank God, Anthony (laughs) can you find his arm?"

(Standing at the site of the wreck)

Tony Beavis: The car itself was upturned, part of it being on the actual wall here, and coming across into the actual roadway.

(back inside of house)

Tony: I crawled inside the car that was upturned, and there I found, underneath the actual dashboard, the chap's arm that had been severed from here right the way through.

Dor: ... and then the next voice over the wall was a district nurse and her husband and she was just passing, and I said, "Oh have you got any packs?" and she said yes ...

Tony: ... and we managed to go and actually bandage the wound to some extent ... uh ... and um ... certainly to go and stem the actual bleeding and what-have-you.

(Standing in field)

Tony: It was quite some distance to be thrown (laughs) from any vehicle.

Dor: Yes, yes.

Tony: That he survived was quite honestly a miracle.

("Can't Cry Anymore" plays throughout)

Nar: Rick was rushed to the hospital, where a surgical team performed an emergency four hour operation in which doctors re-connected Rick's severed limb. Still, it would be days before they would know if the operation was successful.

Marjorie Pheaton: The main reason why it was done that way was to give him, supposedly, a good stump for an artificial arm. And over the period of the night we had quite a few units of blood, to say the least ... I remember going down for them ... and just ... it kept bleeding and ... and the more we put in, the more came out.

Sav: New Year's Eve, of all ... of all days ... eh, around about two or three in the afternoon I got a call from Peter Mensch, our manager, explaining what happened. Ah ... it just didn't sink in.

Joe: He said, "Uh, Rick's had a car crash. He's lost his arm." Now, this is not in the agenda, this doesn't make sense.

Sav: You forget about him being a ... a ... a drummer, you forget about him being a band member, you're worried whether the guy's actually gonna live.

Joe: Well I just remember going into the toilet at the hospital and bursting out crying again, 'cause I couldn't stand to look at him. I couldn't stand it! His brother made me touch his hand, after they attached the arm, and said "Feel, it's warm" and it was! It felt normal!

Kathleen Daly: You could see his hand, and it was so pink, and I thought, you know, they've ... they've done it.

Nar: But, to everyone's horror, Rick's reattached limb became infected. Reluctantly, the surgeons removed his left arm, this time, for good.

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

Rick: That was one sorta ... slight hiccup (off-screen chuckle) And then the thing that really, really got to me was when they said that...if I didn't clear this, uh, infection up, that there was a real possibility that I might lose my right arm as well. And that- that-that's when things got all dark and serious again. It was like, ohhhhh .... no way.

(intro riff to "Bringing On The Heartbreak")

Nar: Coming up next, Rick Allen fights back; the return of the one-armed drummer ...

Rick: It was almost like I was running on pure adrenaline. I was just hell-bent on gettin' back in there and ... you know ... and makin' the band happy.

Nar: ... and Steve Clark loses the battle with his private demons ...

Joe: Apparently, the alcohol in his blood was double what killed John Bonham ...

Nar: ... when Behind the Music continues.

End of Second Segment

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