It’s 30 years since the sound and the fury of The Alarm was first ignited. A fire that has burnt intensely since the band’s first ever gig in lead singer Mike Peters’ Welsh hometown of Rhyl on June 6th 1981. The band’s first independent single ‘Unsafe Building’ declared them unsafe, and since then the band has forged a unique path, sound-tracked by amped-up acoustic guitars, harmonica and passionate vocals that has invited the enduring description “Bob Dylan meets The Clash”.
The Alarm has been heard around the world ever since with 17 Top 50 UK singles, a host of successful albums and over 5 million sales worldwide. (The Alarm’s most recent chart success ‘Three Sevens Clash’ (Guerilla Tactics 2008), rose to number 3 in the Alternative US Radio Charts). Lead singer Mike Peters has performed with such rock and roll luminaries as Bob Dylan, Neil Young, U2 and Brice Springsteen. Another all together darker dimension was added to this ever evolving Alarm story when Mike Peters was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL), just before the release of ‘Under Attack’ in January 2006. Despite having to undertake a heavy schedule of chemotherapy, Mike Peters carried out all his duties as front man of The Alarm. In between monthly chemo sessions, Mike played every show booked in the UK and even two tours of the USA (including an emotional performance at The Joey Ramone Lymphoma Research Benefit Concert in New York City). Whilst in New York, Mike Peters received the news that his family and Alarm fans worldwide had been hoping for, when he was declared to be in remission. BBC cameras had been allowed to capture Mike’s cancer battle from the beginning, and a powerful and revealing TV documentary ‘The Road To Recovery’ was broadcast in August 2006. Since then Mike Peters has formed his own cancer charity, the Love Hope Strength Foundation taking the fight against cancer to new heights, including leading a team of musicians to 18,500 feet on Mt. Everest and breaking the then record for the world’s highest concert on land.
Throughout it’s history, The Alarm has continually defied the odds, going on to survive the break up of the much loved original 1980’s Alarm line-up by re-building a new and equally respected reputation for all-out shows based on contemporary and challenging music completely in tune with modern times. The modern line up of The Alarm features Mike Peters, James Stevenson (The Cult) on guitar, bass player Craig Adams (Sisters Of Mercy / The Mission) and Smiley (Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros) on drums, together with longstanding pianist and keyboard player Mark Taylor (Simple Minds / Echo & The Bunnymen).
The seeds for the modern day Alarm renaissance were sown in 2004 when the newly reconstituted Alarm released the controversial ’45 R.P.M.’ under the pseudonym ‘The Poppy Fields’ which entered the UK charts at number 27 and immediately became the subject of an international news story. The furore centered around the fact that The Alarm’s identity had been kept hidden from the media and instead a stand-in group of 18 year old musicians appeared in the video. ’45 R.P.M.’ was played throughout the UK and championed by unsuspecting DJ’s and critics as the first release by a brand new band. It was only after the song entered the charts that The Alarm revealed the true identity of ‘The Poppy Fields’, thus causing a storm of worldwide media speculation. The band even featured on prime time America’s CBS News with Dan Rather.
The Alarm scored a first chart success in the USA in 1983 with ‘The Stand’, before flying back from America to appear on their very first UK Top Of The Pops, notching up their first British chart hit with the rousing ‘Sixty Eight Guns’. ‘Where Were You Hiding When the Storm Broke?’ hit the Charts in early 1984 before the release of their debut LP, Declaration’, which went Top Five UK on week of release. The Alarm’s second album, ‘Strength’ (the title track becoming The Alarm’s first U.S. Top 40 hit) was released in 1985 and spawned Mike Peters’ autobiographical ‘Spirit of ’76’. At this time, The Alarm also made history by playing the world’s very first global satellite concert, the ‘Spirit of ‘86 Concert’ which was performed to an audience of 26,000 fans at UCLA in California and screened live around the world by MTV. ’Eye Of The Hurricane’ (1987) sported the international hit, ‘Rain In The Summertime’ and a series of world tours (including a critically acclaimed US outing with Bob Dylan), further enhanced The Alarm’s reputation.
‘Change’, The Alarm’s fourth album (1989), proved to be a hit on both sides of the Atlantic, with ‘A New South Wales’ reaching the UK Top 40 and ‘Sold Me Down the River’ becoming a U.S. Number 1 Rock Hit. The Alarm saw out the 1980’s in New York City were they were joined on stage by Neil Young to perform ‘Rockin’ In the Freeworld’. ’Raw’ (their first record of the 1990’s), was the last record to feature the original line-up of the band who played their final show at Brixton Academy in June 1991.
In 1992, The Alarm became one of the first bands to have a dedicated internet site www.thealarm.com and in that same year, founded The Gathering, the annual ‘Alarm’ event held in North Wales which now attracts fans from all over the world. Mike Peters took a step back from the Alarm throughout the rest of the 1990’s beginning with the release of ‘Breathe’ in 1994 (which debuted at number 5 in the U.K. independent charts). The second album, ‘Feel Free’ (1996) documented Mike Peters’ first battle with cancer (Non Hodgkins Lymphoma). Rejecting conventional treatment, Mike Peters went to see of a faith healer instead, and continued to tour. Upon being told that ‘green’ was a powerful colour in his life, Mike Peters wore green combat fatigues every day until he eventually went into spontaneous remission in 1997.
In 2000, ‘The Alarm Complete Collection’ box set was released to widespread critical acclaim. The collection brought together The Alarm’s entire 1980’s musical output into a nine-CD box set, along with a unique bonus ‘audio dedication’ CD personally recorded by Mike Peters.
To coincide with ‘The Alarm Complete Collection’ release, Mike Peters reconstituted The Alarm for some low key shows supporting ‘Big Country’ with a line up that featured Peters alongside original Alarm member Eddie Macdonald. Headline shows were demanded and soon The Alarm was on the road again throughout 2000/2001 (although Macdonald decided not to continue). Energised by the tour and accepted by the fans, the new four piece Alarm, released five ‘internet only’ brand new studio albums entitled ‘In The Poppy Fields’ (recorded in as many months from September ‘02 – January ‘03), and reintroduced themselves to America via ‘The Alarm Make A Stand In The USA Tour.’ Throughout the month of November, the members of The Alarm flew backwards and forwards across the continent as they fulfilled their engagement of playing shows in the four major US cities of New York, Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles on a weekly basis. It was whilst the band were in New York that the seeds of the ’45 R.P.M.’ scandal was originated. On a rare night off, Mike Peters went to see American punk band ‘Rancid’ at the Roseland Ballroom in Manhattan. At The Alarm show the next night, Mike Peters was talking from the stage about meeting Rancid prior to playing ‘45 R.P.M.’ for the first time live. Some fans mistakenly thought the song had been written for The Alarm by Rancid guitarist -Tim Armstrong. This rumour persisted on the internet for months. Upon their return in 2004, the band who had remade the best twelve tracks (as voted for by fans) from ‘In The Poppy Fields’ with producer Steve Brown (The Cult, Manic Street Preachers), released ’45 R.P.M.’ as a single under the pseudonym ‘Poppy Fields’, a chart act that made the whole world sit up and take notice of the band once again. ‘In The Poppy Fields’ was also the title of the album that followed. “IN THE POPPYFIELDS might well prove to be one of the best “comeback” records of the century-so-far”. U.S. Goldmine. Following the release of the 2006 album ‘Under Attack’ – the Alarm cut ‘Counter Attack’ (another ambitious internet-only Alarm project that saw the release of 6 mini albums and one album throughout the latter half of 2007), providing the basis for 2008’s ‘Guerrilla Tactics’ (Mixed by Gilby Clarke of Guns N’ Roses), which was launched with an audacious acoustic concert in New York’s Times Square. March 2010 saw the release of The Alarm’s ‘Direct Action’ which became the band’s second best selling album of all time via iTunes and other online stores, backed up by appearances at many UK / European & US music festivals including Isle Of Wight, Electric Picnic and Union County Music Festival.
On the 31st of December 2010, Mike Peters took on the challenging role of singing for Big Country and picking up up on a musical relationship that began in 1983 when Mike and his friend, the late Stuart Adamson, were introduced to the stage of U2’s ‘War’ tour by Bono, as being “part of the new breed’.
The Alarm also continued to perform in 2011 celebrating it’s 30th anniversary with the release of the acoustic driven ‘Sound And The Fury’ album.
In 2013. The aforementioned ‘Poppy Fields’ story hit the movie screens entitled ‘VINYL’ starring Phil Daniels (Quadrophenia) and Keith Allen (Trainspotting) which premiered in Leicester Square, London and went on general release powered by The Alarm’s anthemic ‘Free Rock And Roll’ (with guest vocals from Phil Daniels of Blur – ‘Park Life’ fame). The ‘Vinyl’ soundtrack UK tour finished with a show at London’s Islington O2 Academy with the band being joined on stage by Richard Archer from Hard-Fi.
In 2014, Mike Peters launched the year of ‘Declaration’ a celebration of the 30th Anniversary since the release of The Alarm’s debut album. A re-imagining of the album that highlighted the original alt-folk, acoustic punk protest roots of the songs that formed the core of the album’s original intent was recorded and released on The Twenty First Century Recording Label followed by a unique ‘one man band’ Alarm World tour that took Mike and The Alarm’s music across the UK, USA, Europe, Japan and Australia.
During the tour, The BBC broadcast a unique concert from the Millennium Centre in Cardiff that featured Mike Peters performing ‘Declaration’ with the BBC National Orchestra and receiving a surprise video message from all four members of U2 acknowledging the impact The Alarm’s music had on them as a band and closing their message with an impromptu version of the song that still closes most, if not all Alarm shows to date. “Going Out In A Blaze Of Glory”.
In 2015, Mike Peters will once again tour the globe with The Alarm’s music in a contemporary 30th Anniversary presentation of the bands biggest selling album – ‘Strength’.