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The Alarm are an Welsh alternative rock/new wave band that formed in Rhyl, North Wales, in 1981. Initially formed as a punk band "The Toilets" under lead singer Mike Peters the band soon embraced rock, displaying marked influences from Welsh language and culture. By opening for acts such as U2 and Bob Dylan, they became a popular alternative rock band of the 1980s, retaining a loyal following to the present day.
The Alarm's highest charting single in Britain was 1983's "Sixty Eight Guns", which reached number 17 in the UK Singles Chart. Their 1984 album, Declaration, which contained "Sixty Eight Guns", peaked at number six in the UK Albums Chart.
Mike Peters: Vocals, guitars, harmonica - born Michael L. Peters, 25 February 1959, Prestatyn, Wales.,
Dave Sharp: Guitars - Born David Kitchingman, 28 January 1959, Salford, England.,
Eddie Macdonald: Bass - born 1 November 1959, St Asaph, Wales.,
Nigel Twist: Drums - born Nigel Buckle, 18 July 1958, Manchester, England.,
A punk band was formed in Rhyl, Wales, in 1977, billed as "The Toilets". It contained Mike Peters (aka Eddie Bop), Glyn Crossley (aka Steve Shock), Richard "O'Malley" Jones (aka Bo Larks) and Nigel Buckle (aka Des Troy). In 1978 the band ceased to exist and a new group was formed named "Seventeen". with both Mike Peters and Nigel Buckle alongside Eddie Macdonald (who had been Mike Peters' next door but one neighbour in Edward Henry Street, Rhyl). Seventeen began as a three-piece but were soon joined by guitarist David Kitchingman (who changed his name to Dave Sharp) and were a power pop mod band who released a single ("Don't Let Go" / "Bank Holiday Weekend") in March 1980 and toured with the Stray Cats later that year. They played their last concert together under the new name of "Alarm Alarm" in January 1981 at the Half Moon, Herne Hill, London, but this would also be the last time this name was used.
The band soon reformed under the new name of "The Alarm" (with Nigel Buckle changing his surname to "Twist"), and played their first gig at The Victoria Hotel, Prestatyn, North Wales, on 6 June 1981, opening with "Shout to the Devil", which would later appear on the Declaration LP.
They moved from North Wales to London in September 1981, and the band recorded a one-off 7" single. One thousand copies were pressed that month, featuring "Unsafe Building" on the "electric" side and "Up For Murder" on the "acoustic" side. The single was noticed by Mick Mercer, who featured it as his single of the month in his ZigZag magazine. The band played a show with The Fall in December 1981, where a journalist from Sounds noticed them. This journalist attended the band's next show, at Upstairs at Ronnie's in London's West End. Also at this show was a representative of Wasted Talent, who arranged a meeting between the band and Ian Wilson, U2's agent. Wilson arranged another show in order to assess the band's quality, was impressed, and became the band's manager soon after. To celebrate, The Alarm played with U2 at the Lyceum Ballroom on 22 December 1981.
In 1982, the band began to record demos for various record labels, but had little success. At this point, they were playing with three acoustic guitarists. The band were eventually offered a deal by I.R.S. Records. This forced them to make a decision on who was to play which musical instrument, and it was decided that Peters would concentrate on singing, with Sharp on guitar and Macdonald playing bass.
"Marching On" was released as a single in October 1982, and the band's sound started to become clear. On stage, they would almost always begin gigs acoustically, before finishing with electric guitars. Constant gigging in London helped the band build up a following, and in December 1982, they played four shows with U2. These shows were the first time that Bono joined The Alarm on stage.
A new song, "The Stand", was recorded in Battersea in April 1983, and was released in the UK as a single. The song's lyrics were inspired by Stephen King's novel of the same name. Outside the UK, the song was released as part of a five-track EP, entitled The Alarm. The EP was released to coincide with The Alarm's first tour of the U.S. in June 1983. Following the success of the sessions that produced "The Stand", I.R.S. picked up their recording option on the band, signalling the start of work on an album. Another session with producer Mick Glossop was arranged to produce a new single, with "Blaze of Glory" recorded and released.
In June 1983, The Alarm embarked on their first tour of the U.S., supporting U2 on the War Tour. The 18-date tour went a long way in establishing the band in the U.S. "The Stand" was quickly released by I.R.S. to capitalise on this, supported by TV appearances on The Cutting Edge and American Bandstand.
Following the tour, the band returned to the UK to begin working with producer Alan Shacklock on the new album. They focused on re-recording "Blaze of Glory" and "Sixty Eight Guns". After the sessions, the band recorded a video for "Sixty Eight Guns" and flew back to America to begin their first headline American tour. "Sixty Eight Guns" was released as a single on 12 September 1983, and charted the following week at number 50. The same week, the band performed the song on the BBC Television music show Top of the Pops. The song subsequently climbed into the Top 20 and remains their highest charting single, peaking at No. 17.
The band had been recording the new album from July 1983, and by the time of the Top of the Pops appearance they had recorded the backing tracks to most of the songs. After completing a U.S. tour and a headline tour of the UK in late 1983, the band returned to the studio to record the backing tracks for the rest of the songs.
On 6 November 1983, the band recorded an acoustic radio session for the BBC. This session saw the debut of three brand new songs: "Walk Forever by My Side", "One Step Closer to Home" and "Unbreak the Promise".
On 7 November, the band returned to the recording studio to finish recording the album, now titled Declaration. In December, The Alarm returned to the U.S. for a third headline tour. The weather was atrocious, and on 6 December, the car in which the band was travelling crashed, although none of the four members was injured. They returned to the UK on 17 December and appeared as part of an Anti-Nuclear Benefit Concert at the Apollo Theatre, London.
Whilst the band had been in the U.S., Alan Shacklock and sound engineer Chris Porter finished mixing the album. The band played a handful of gigs supporting The Police over Christmas, and by 5 January 1984, the album had been mixed and finalised. Declaration was released by I.R.S. Records on 14 February 1984. A week later, the album entered the UK Albums Chart at Number 6.
In November 1984, The Alarm recorded demos of nine brand-new songs, including "Absolute Reality". They played their new material to the American producer Jimmy Iovine, who agreed to come to the UK in January 1985 to begin work on the follow-up to Declaration. During this period Peters appeared solo at a number of events, including the Greenbelt Arts festival in Northamptonshire, playing Alarm material as well as some unrecorded personal songs. Studio sessions were booked for early 1985, and a UK headline tour was booked for May 1985, to coincide with the release of the new album. However, Iovine never came to the UK to work with The Alarm, eventually citing personal reasons. The band had to cancel the sessions and look for another producer. Alan Shacklock was unavailable, so Ian Wilson (the band's manager) convinced I.R.S. to release the Shacklock-produced "Absolute Reality" as a single to promote the UK dates in May. "Absolute Reality" was released on 18 February 1985, entering the Top 40 of the UK Singles Chart a week later. After a series of appearances at European festivals and a new producer (Mike Howlett), The Alarm began work on their follow-up album, Strength. The band teamed up with MTV, I.R.S. Records, and UCLA's Campus Events to present one of the first live satellite broadcasts from UCLA on 12 April 1986. On 12 July 1986 they played at Queen's Live at Wembley '86 concert.
Strength was released on 1 October 1985 and was another UK success, and brought them into the Top 40 of the US Billboard 200 album chart for the first time; additionally, the single "Spirit of '76" was a Top 40 UK hit. The Alarm took a break after the supporting tour, but returned in 1987 with Eye of the Hurricane and landed a tour slot supporting Bob Dylan. A concert EP, Electric Folklore Live, followed in 1988. They also had a hit single in the UK in 1987 with "Rain in the Summertime" (from Eye of the Hurricane), which gave them their second best placing on the UK chart.
The band toured extensively through the United States and Europe through the 1980s into 1991. They gained much popularity in 1983 when they were the opening act for U2, a band to whom they were often compared musically. On 13 March 1988, The Alarm performed at The Fillmore in San Francisco with The 77s and House of Freaks.
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 hit in America, "Sold Me Down the River," which also put them in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 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" had an appearance by the Welsh Symphony Orchestra and the Morriston Orpheus Male Voice Choir. Although it was popular in Wales, it did not 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.
After the release of Raw in 1991, despite their success and relative longevity, Peters announced on stage at the Brixton Academy that he was leaving the band.
"We've shared some great moments in time over the last ten years and tonight I would like to thank all the people who have supported me from the beginning to the end. Tonight this is my last moment with the Alarm, I'm going out in a Blaze of Glory - my hands are held up high". This came as much of a shock to his colleagues as to the audience. Following this show Peters signed his legal right to one quarter of The Alarm name and logo over to the other three. Peters and Sharp both embarked on solo careers.
After Alarm, Peters teamed up with a band of unknown musicians to form The Poets Of Justice (which included his wife Jules Peters on keyboards), and embark on a solo career which produced a number of singles and albums. In 2000, The Alarm released a complete collection covering all recorded material by the band. It also included sleeve notes to which all four members had contributed. This was the first project where all four original members had contributed since Peters left the band in 1991.
Following the box set release, Peters used The Alarm name on the tour to promote the complete collection release. The musicians Peters used were his backing band in the late 1990s; Steve Grantley from Stiff Little Fingers, Craig Adams from The Sisters of Mercy, The Mission and The Cult, and James Stevenson from Chelsea and Gene Loves Jezebel. The Alarm name was followed by an MM++ that indicated in Roman numerals what year the record was released. Over the past decade Peters has replaced the band members as needed when Adams, Stevenson or Grantley have pursued other projects.
In February 2004, Peters' new line-up of Alarm MM++ carried out a hoax on the British music industry by issuing "45 RPM" under the fictitious name The Poppy Fields. Peters, having garnered positive feedback for 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 UK Top 30 before the hoax was revealed, setting the stage for the album In the Poppy Fields.
The Alarm appeared together for a one-off show on the VH1 television programme Bands Reunited in 2005, and performed live in London with a subsequent expanded DVD/CD release of the episode.
In 2005, Peters discovered that he was suffering from chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. At this time, he started a cancer foundation called Love Hope Strength to help with the fight against cancer. In October 2007, Peters, along with 38 other musicians, cancer survivors and supporters, made a 14-day trek to the Mount Everest base camp to perform the highest concert ever on land to raise awareness and money to fight cancer. Other musicians included Cy Curnin and Jamie West-Oram of The Fixx, Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze, Slim Jim Phantom of The Stray Cats and Nick Harper. Peters is the co-founder of The Love Hope and Strength Foundation with fellow leukemia survivor James Chippendale, CEO of Ascend Insurance Brokerage Austin Texas .
In 2006, the new version of Alarm MM++ released a second studio album, Under Attack. It spawned another UK Top 30 hit, "Superchannel". In 2008, a third studio album entitled Guerrilla Tactics was released, followed by a fourth, Direct Action, in April 2010.
The Alarm's song "Sixty Eight Guns" has been featured in a Heineken television advertisement in the U.S. In April, 2008 Sharp launched his own version of the band, AOR - Spirit of The Alarm, to showcase the band's American set lists from the late 1980s.
2013 saw the release of Vinyl, which featured new tracks written for the soundtrack album and performed by Mike Peters and The Alarm with guest vocals from the film's main stars, Phil Daniels and Keith Allen. The film, written and directed by Sara Sugarman, is loosely based on the true events surrounding The Poppy Fields and release of the single "45 RPM." It also features a cameo appearance of Mike Peters. Vinyl is a British comedy film that has aging rock star Johnny Jones (Phil Daniels) fool the media into believing his music is that of a new fresh young rock group from North Wales. However, as the media frenzy develops the truth has to come out. The Alarm took the amazing step of touring the soundtrack album with a showing of the film at selected venues in the U.K. during March and April 2013.
Historian Martin Johnes has argued that the band are part of the contemporary history of Wales. His case is based on how The Alarm reflected cultural trends within Wales, and the band are discussed in his book Wales since 1939 (2012).
AllMusic journalist Steve Huey stated:
"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."