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The Alarm

With idealistic spirit, a powerhouse live show, and bigger than big hair, the Alarm were part of an early-'80s wave of bands (the Call, Big Country, and the Waterboys among them) who dealt in soaring anthems inspired by the righteous idealism of punk. Clearly influenced by the impassioned political fervor of the Clash, the Alarm also worked in a mostly acoustic, folk-punk vein that provided a counterpoint to their hard-driving guitar rockers. Their stage look was unquestionably a product of the '80s, with enormous spiked-up hair accompanying a cowboy/old-time cavalry wardrobe. Yet the numerous comparisons to U2 in the press were not unfounded; despite a more conservative sonic palette, the Alarm had much the same earnest intensity, the same messianic ambitions, even the same vague spirituality. Likewise, the Alarm seemed to covet a mainstream breakthrough in the vein of The Joshua Tree's conquest of the pop charts, and polished up their sound accordingly, with mixed creative results. The British music press habitually savaged their records as derivative and pretentious, but this meant little to their zealous following who supported the band to the tune of over 5 million sales worldwide and 16 Top 50 UK singles.

The Alarm was formed in Rhyl, Wales in 1981 by vocalist/guitarist Mike Peters, who'd started out in a local punk band called the Toilets along with Alarm drummer Nigel Twist (b. Nigel Buckle). When that band broke up, Peters -- then playing bass -- formed a new outfit called Seventeen (after the Sex Pistols song) with guitarists Eddie MacDonald and Dave Sharp (b. Dave Kitchingman), both local scenesters and longtime friends. Seventeen was initially influenced by the Pistols, the Clash, the mod-revival punk of the Jam, and the punk-pop of ex-Pistol Glen Matlock's Rich Kids. As their songwriting interests grew more socially conscious, and in early 1981, the group reinvented itself as the Alarm, taking the name from a Seventeen song called "Alarm Alarm." Later that year, they moved to London and self-released their debut single, a Peters/MacDonald-penned political rocker called "Unsafe Building," backed with Sharp's folk-punk tune "Up for Murder." By this time, MacDonald and Peters had switched instruments, with Peters taking up rhythm guitar and MacDonald moving to bass.

In 1982, the Alarm signed with IRS and issued another single, "Marching On." On the strength of their live shows, U2 tapped them to open their 1983 supporting tour for War, which helped make the group's next single, the Stephen King retelling "The Stand," into an underground hit. The Alarm's self-titled debut EP appeared later in 1983, compiling previous single releases, and setting the stage for the release of their first proper album, Declaration, in 1984. A Top Ten U.K. hit, Declaration spun off several popular singles, including the Seventeen holdover "Sixty-Eight Guns" (which made the pop Top 20), "Where Were You Hiding When the Storm Broke?" (which just missed), "The Deceiver," and the live staple "Blaze of Glory." Non-LP singles followed in a cover of "The Bells of Rhymney," the new wave dance tune "The Chant (Has Just Begun)," and the British Top 40 hit "Absolute Reality."

The Alarm's sophomore effort, 1985's Strength, was another U.K. success, and brought them into the Top 40 of the U.S. album charts for the first time; additionally, the single "Spirit of '76" was a Top 40 U.K. hit. Strength displayed greater subtlety and maturity in both their songwriting and arrangements, and was often hailed as the group's best overall album. The Alarm took a break after the supporting tour, and returned in 1987 with Eye of the Hurricane, which featured more polished, mainstream production reminiscent of U2. The gambit helped them gain some rock radio play in America with the singles "Presence of Love," "Rescue Me," and especially the more danceable "Rain in the Summertime," and they landed a tour slot supporting Bob Dylan. A concert EP, Electric Folklore: Live, followed in 1988.

1989's Change was an homage to the group's native Wales, and was accompanied by an alternate Welsh-language version, Newid. Produced by Tony Visconti, Change spawned the group's biggest modern rock radio hit in America, the bluesy "Sold Me Down the River," which also put them in the U.S. pop Top 50 for the first and only time. "Devolution Working Man Blues" and "Love Don't Come Easy" also earned radio airplay, and the track "A New South Wales" boasted an appearance by the Welsh Symphony Orchestra. Although it was hugely popular in Wales, it didn't sell as well as the group's earlier works, and internal band dissension -- exacerbated by deaths in both Peters and Twist's families -- made 1991's Raw the original Alarm's final effort. "The Road" was their final radio hit, but with the band's impending breakup, IRS found little reason to promote it.

Mike Peters and Dave Sharp both embarked on solo careers. Sharp issued albums in 1991 and, after relocating to New Orleans, in 1996. Peters, meanwhile, issued his solo debut in 1995 and was subsequently diagnosed with lymphoma; fortunately, the "cancer" turned out to be benign, and Peters completed two more solo records before forming Colorsound with former Cult guitarist Billy Duffy. Peters subsequently reunited the original Alarm lineup for several live appearances, and then formed a new unit consisting of guitarist James Stevenson (Gene Loves Jezebel, Chelsea), bassist Craig Adams (the Cult, the Mission UK, Sisters of Mercy), and drummer Steve Grantley (Stiff Little Fingers). In February 2004, this lineup of the Alarm pulled off a masterful hoax on the British music industry by issuing a garagey punk-pop single, "45 RPM," under the fictitious name the Poppy Fields. Peters, having gotten positive feedback on the song, decided to disassociate it from his veteran band to have it judged on its own merits, and recruited a young Welsh group called the Wayriders to lip-sync the song in the video. The so-called Poppy Fields took "45 RPM" into the U.K. Top 30 before the hoax was revealed, setting the stage for the new Alarm's first album together, In the Poppy Fields. Soon after the album's release, production for a film based on Peters' manipulating of the music industry began with Shrek producer John H. Williams backing the project. ~ Steve Huey, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Save It For Later

Comments

Saw the Alarm at UMASS back in mid 80s. Unbelievable show - then again I was wasted. Anywho, they rocked.
mevysen8
U2 n Alarm r merely 2 Sides of the same coin, spirit, intregity, honesty, n an emotional connection so many share, look at the amount of conments, n the grace they we all share.
U2 is boring, Alarm rocks - I absolutely agree. Moreover, I don't know how anyone could confuse them as having been pretentious next to self righteous *!%*&% like Bono.

As an American, I nearly missed out on experiencing them, but I was lucky enough to discover them in the late 80's as a kid.

I was pretty disappointed with this track though. Most of their stuff sounds as good or better on live albums, but Sold Me Down the River sounds way better on the studio album.
Well known fact. Mike Peters taught Bono how to play guitar.
Soaring anthems inspired by the righteous idealism of punk ? They sound boring and pretentious to me, notwithstand i n g their 7th grade level musicianship and vocalist who sings with that annoying affectation that others of this genre seem to be afflicted with
Spirit of '76 sounds a little like Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band...
Nothing beats the 80's
Wish I had gotten to see this band. What awesome lyrics and stage presence. Love their music.
"Rain in the Summertime" is probably the Alarms best song.
Saw the Alarm open up for Pat Benatar back in March of '86 at the Nassau Coliseum. They not only rocked the big ice arena they welcomed us on their tour bus and signed our homemade poppy banner.
Meet some great friends and built friendships at those early US Alarm shows that will last forever!
davisheather i n g
U2 is boring. The Alarm rocks.
dscaplen
While I'm a great fan of U2 and seeing both in concert many times, No one can match the passion that Michael Peters puts into his writing, playing and live performances . I still get chills when I listen to the live performance at the Orpheum that I attended,was recorded and later released in 1989. I got a chance to met him many years later at a small live performance at Hard Rock Cafe in Boston. Signed the album for me. Thanks Mike for keeping the sound alive!
cswansonjd
Met my husband waiting in line overnight for Alarm tickets at the Beacon Theater in NYC. And, yes, Walk Forever By My Side was our Wedding song!!!
Got the chance to see The Alarm three times. Once in Leeds UK, once in Lawrence, Kansas and then 24 years ago yesterday in Kansas City, Missouri. What a great sound. Got to meet the boys after the KC concert and they were more than glad to talk and shake a hand. Great memories.
Saw these guys open for the pretenders.. . . g r e a t show!!
Comparing this band to U2 is such an insult!
kroper68
My Alarm was much loved, much seen, much listened to. Their following could be compared to U2's, and possibly even more devoted. Their music and live shows, even "sleeping out" for their tickets became a huge part of what ultimately shaped my life. Made friends that I have to this day bc of this band.
kitdeo
Saw them at UCLA too in '80's for MTV Special! They were awesome live! My buddy got 2 cameo's on the special! I should stayed w/ him but got lost in the crowd...YEAH , good times!!
saw them at a free concert at ucla in the late 80's....smok i n ! ! !
dpulsifer10
Wow, blast from the past. Absolutely my favorite band in high school. Saw them in NYC and Neil Young dropped in after the show, still remember my best friend said he "couldn't believe Neil Diamond was there-" I guess he was at different show the me????? The Alarm was always amazing live, I just can't believe it was so long ago. They made the music to some of my best memories - Thanks to everyone in The Alarm and IRS.
ronton617
I haven't heard this song in ages. Great song and a timeless classic. Memories of the mid to late 80's........ g o o d times.
robbirocs
The Alarm Never Sold Out their Ideals not like U2 before they became a pop band the bands best song is a tie between where were You hiding when the Storm broke and 68 Guns Go Erin Braugh !!!! I saw them in LA at UCLA for MTV special it was one of the best outdoor concerts i've ever been too
I always thought the Alarm to have more passion in their music than U2.
Hey mark.creight o n , make it three so far now.
I saw them a couple of years ago on July 4th with Psych Furs and the Fixx. easily the best of the bunch that day. i get chills every time I hear one of there songs and the volume goes to 11!
kevinfmcguir e
I found the Alarm just before I found U2. I saw them at the local college 4 rows from the stage. great concert I could have gone on stage but I did not want to get thrown out
I found one of their vinyls for $.50 a while ago and bought it, strictly because of how awesome they looked on the cover. Hadn't heard them, and to be honest, I don't think i've ever even listened to it. It's just one of those "must have, just to look at when im down" kind of thing's. Always a good pick me up.
yep..that was my wedding song!
Walk forever by my side....how many people can claim that an Alarm song was picked for their wedding song?
jpollack06
Saw them at the Paradise in Boston around 1982. They were just great in concert, esepcially in a small hall where they were like 5 feet away. I was always bumed that they never got close to being as big as U2, who came out around the same time. The Stand is a great song.
urangel262
a memory of better times that were honest. not yet in the states. love life.
saw the band countless times in the 80s. had the great fortune to meet with them many times. all of them, particularly dave sharp, were very accessible and grateful. when dave found out i play guitar and cited him as an influence, he instantly perked up and chatted with me -- ignoring a pair of groupies in the process -- as if i were an old friend. thanks for the memory, dave!
ebachar
Great band...disap p o i n t e d that selected discography does not include, Declaration, Strength, Raw, Electric Folklore, Change, and Eye of the Hurricane. The Alarm had some great songs that will never be heard on the 4 selected discs.
Underrated, and sadly very unheard of to most people. Love The Alarm!
shore62
Didn't appreciate them back in the day, but sure do now.
I was living in Butte, MT when the band was there filming the video for Sold Me Down the River, and passed them in a pawn shop one afternoon. At the time, if it wasn't Iron Maiden, I didn't want to know about it. Now that I've grown a little, I realize how great their music was/is.
schwartz510
In Fall '85 or Spring '86 I saw them in concert in Buffalo, NY. The lead singer after the show came down into the audience and walked straight up to me (with everyone else gawking at him as he passed by) and asked me where I got the shirt, which I did at The Alarm concert in NYC the previous year or two. He thanked me for being a loyal fan. A very stand-up guy and proved to me to be down-to-eart h . One of my favorite bands of all time.
the best!
dcarr5
Great Band

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