Saturday night, my oldest son Andrew and I flew to Houston to see Def Leppard in concert. I’ve been a fan since I first heard them back in the early eighties and hadn’t seen them perform live since their Hysteria tour in 1988. It was a great show and brought back a lot of memories.
Several of the songs from the set list came from that Hysteria album. This was an incredibly successful release for the band. Seven cuts made the U.S. Hit 100 chart and the album itself has sold over 20 million copies.
But the album almost never got recorded. In fact, the band’s rise to Rock ‘n Roll stardom was nearly cut short by an unforeseen crisis.
In December of 1984, drummer Rick Allen was involved in a car accident that severed his left arm. The group was stunned. Allen was a core member of the band and an accomplished drummer. To replace him was unthinkable. But how could he perform with only one arm? The band was unsure how to recover from the setback.
Organizations are hit with crises every day. Out of the blue, an external event or internal oversight can send you into a tailspin. When that happens, most experts will start talking about “managing” the crisis – that is, figuring out how to minimize the damage and return as quickly as possible to the status quo.
But some organizations choose not to play it safe. Instead of managing the crisis, they seek to capitalize on it. They choose to see opportunity where others see disaster. And thankfully so. History is filled with new innovations and leaps in thinking that resulted from some sort of catastrophe. Not that anyone would willingly seek out a crisis in order to jumpstart a new technology or line of business; but faced with a roadblock, pioneers will adopt a progressive mindset over a conservative one. And it tends to pay off.
The members of Def Leppard decided to do that, and when Rick Allen said he wanted to continue as drummer, the others backed him 100%. Allen reached out to Simmons, a manufacturer of electronic drum kits, who jumped at the chance to collaborate on a customized set up for the band. Within months, Allen summoned the rest of the guys and showed of his new drums and new way of playing. An array of foot pedals allowed him to simulate the actions of his missing left arm and even allowed for new percussion combinations that hadn’t been possible before.
The band spent three years recording Hysteria and embarked on a 15 month tour that showcased Allen’s abilities by using a rotating stage – another innovative approach. The critics and fans were blown away. I, for one, bought tickets to see them twice during that tour.
Saturday’s concert would never have been possible had the group not decided to press forward in the face of adversity. Fortunately for fans like me, they are still going strong. A new album is due to be released later this year. By nature, crises are unpredictable. Our response to them, however, doesn’t have to be. When the chips are down, how will you respond?