RICK ALLEN Remembers Watching VAN HALEN Open For BLACK SABBATH In 1978: 'They Should Have Been The Headliner'
June 17, 2021
DEF LEPPARD drummer Rick Allen, who has been expressing himself in recent years through his artwork, spoke to Pat's Soundbytes Unplugged about his "Legends" series, which consists of lifelike-yet-impressionistic portraits of musicians who have influenced him, from Jimi Hendrix to Freddie Mercury to John Lennon.
On the topic of how he gets the inspiration for his "Legends" paintings, Allen said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "I remember over a year ago now losing Neil Peart [of RUSH], so it was obvious. My way of paying homage to one of the greatest drummers of all time was to paint him, and that's exactly what I did. And then the same with [VAN HALEN guitarist] Eddie Van Halen more recently."
Allen went on to reflect on the first time he heard VAN HALEN's music back in 1978, shortly after the release of the band's debut album.
"My best friend, he calls me and he says, 'I want you to come and listen to this record,'" Rick said. "So I go to his house and listen to 'Van Halen I' for the first time and was completely blown away. A couple of months later, they're coming through town with BLACK SABBATH — they're opening for BLACK SABBATH. And quite honestly, VAN HALEN owned that show. The BLACK SABBATH camp, you could see the wheels kind of coming off. But, yeah, VAN HALEN, they should have been the headliner.
"And then, I moved to the States in '91, became really good friends with Steve Lukather from TOTO," he continued. "He called me one night and he said, 'We're having a get-together. We'd love for you to come. I'd love to introduce you to my friend Eddie Van Halen.' So [as] this huge VAN HALEN fan from way back, I actually got to meet him. [He was] very unassuming. You wouldn't have thought he did what he did for a living, and especially play guitar like he does. So, again, my paying homage to Eddie was, really, to paint him. And my thoughts really went out to his family and, obviously, all of his fans worldwide."
Last month, Allen told CBS12 that he "really looked up to" Eddie Van Halen as a musician. "I think he changed guitar playing forever," he said. "I think between him and Jimi Hendrix, they inspired other musicians. It's just a massive loss."
As for his painting of Eddie, Rick said: I just wanted to capture that smile. He just seemed to be in his element. It's really paying homage to him. And I really felt for his family as well, of course."
In a 2018 interview with The Hype Magazine, Allen, who started painting at an early age before he ever picked up the drums, stated about his use of light or some sort of bright object in his art: "Reality is very difficult to do, but it's my attempt to painting the object or whatever it is. It's a study of how the light bounces off of the object. Some of the more recent pieces — there was one that I did of [late DEF LEPPARD guitarist] Steve Clark; then there was one I did of John Lennon; I did one of Jimi Hendrix, the 'Legends' pieces — that, to me, was a study at how you're really not painting the person's face, you're painting how the light bounces off of the person. If you look closely at some of the pieces, they make no sense when you look at them up close. When you stand back and you start to view it from a distance, it's almost like your mind fills in the blanks and it creates the illusion of reality."
Two years ago, Rick told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about his artistic process with his paintings: "I take a photograph I really like of the person, and I'll poster-ize it and sketch the poster-ization onto the canvas, and that's when I can come up with my whites, blacks and grays. After I do the under painting, I'll start to choose colors. When I do the 'Legends', I normally listen to the music of the artist I'm painting."