For some strange, inexplicable reason, the Welsh have always done well in America. Dylan Thomas, Richard Burton, Tom Jones � they�ve all packed in the punters one way or another in this strange land, and now Mike Peters reckons it�s time for The Alarm to do the same
Not that we�re continuously plagued by autograph hunters as we chat on our Saturday morning flight from Philadelphia to Boston, but there�s something in the air (apart from us). The Alarm have the scent of major success in their nostrils and they�re not about to let it slip away from them. This is their strength, and this is their sixth Stateside jaunt.
�First time we came over here there were nine of us packed into one Dodge van,� Eddie MacDonald had reminisced the previous day as we trundled out of New York in the band�s converted Greyhound bus. �nine of us, and we travelled 2,000 miles in two days to play one gig!� America, as they say, is a whole different ball game.
�I suppose our standing over here is about the same as back in Britain,� says Mike, sipping his regular Coke as we fly back over Manhattan. �But over here, the consequences are so much bigger. We�re just starting here with the new LP and it takes about a year to build a record to it�s full potential. �Strength� has already done what �Declaration� did � in half the time � and we�ve got a whole tour ahead of us>�
And what a tour it�s turning out to be. Sure, last night�s gig at the Tower Theatre in downtown Philly wasn�t a sell-out, and at the moment it�s still possible for the avid American fan (they�re the ones in the �Strength� T-shirts, straight haircuts and desert boots) to leap on stage and join Mike, Dave, Eddie and Twist as they raise the excitement level once more. But as we came in to land at Boston, an Alarm stronghold, the gig�s already sold out, despite the fact that it�s being broadcast live on the radio.
�I like it over here,� says Mike. �I enjoy the time we spend here. First time was with U2 and that was tremendous because so many things happened to us and it was like a pioneering adventure for us. It was very exciting. I don�t find America that different, people-wise, from Britain, not when you dig underneath. People still have the same values and feel the same things, and I know it all seems very different on the surface, but it�s not really, not as far as I can tell.�
I�m almost tempted to believe him until we walk along the airport concourse and pass a tank of live lobsters for sale. What, it occurs to Mike and I, are you supposed to do on a plane with a live lobster! And we�re not talking your usual nine-inch lobsters here. These are bloody huge rascals. They�d give your local doberman a run for its money.
Boston is a beautiful, almost European city with its tree-lined streets and softer New England accents, but Mike isn�t overwhelmed by the obviously more glamorous aspects of this huge nation.
�It�s quite easy to miss the other side of things over here,� he says. �You don�t always notice those people who are not so fortunate. But as a band we�ve come over here and played a lot of the tiny places in America like Omaha, El Paso, Albuquerque � places most bands wouldn�t dream of going to � and we�ve seen some quite amazing things. We�ve been through the farmlands, and that�s a tough place to be right now. All this Farm Aid business, there�s a lot of de-privatisation because of the drought and things.�
Before tonight�s gig there�s yet more promotion to be done, so Mike and I are driven from the airport to what must be among the smallest TV studios in the world. Station V66 (in stereo) is Boston�s own MTV, where not only does the grinning VJ dash around loading up the ten video machines himself, but he also operates the camera by remote control as he chats to the city�s music fans.
A brief chat with Mike Peters and an airing of the first Alarm video, �The Stand�, which is a big favourite here, only goes to prove that the band look ten years younger now than they did then. I don�t know what it is they�re doing, but its doing them good.
Maybe it�s Mike�s daily run, which led to his competing in this years New York marathon, or Dave Sharp�s ability to sleep anywhere (preferably not during photo sessions, Dave!). It�s more likely, though, to be the fact that The Alarm have a long way to go yet, a lot more to sing, play and say.
�Very much so,� agrees Mike. �These are early days for us. We�ve got an awful lot to offer as a band and it doesn�t come easy to us. We need to take time, and I think that�s the best way, because so much pop music is over and done with in five minutes, and I don�t want us to be like that. I want to do something that�ll last.�
Would it be an understatement to suggest that The Alarm were pissed off with some of the reviews of the �Strength� LP in Britain? After all, most British journalists still regard The Alarm as a bunch of 18 year-old Welsh cowboys.
�I don�t think people who reviewed the LP gave us a chance,� says Mike, resignedly. �They judge us on our image and just think of us as being The Clash or U2, and don�t give us credit for the things we are ourselves. I could tell that most of them had only listened to the record once, if that, and they�re still saying, �It�s all this armchair rebellion stuff�, and they come to the LP with these massive preconceptions.
�This LP�s a very mature record dealing with real things and reviewers didn�t even look at the lyric sheet. We worked hard on the record to come to terms with how our fans reacted to the new songs when we played them on the British tour. I�m very proud of the album, and disappointed that people have dismissed The Alarm and are not prepared to give us another chance.�
Nothing could be further from the truth as far as Boston is concerned. The Alarm�s gig on Saturday night is one of the most atmospheric occasions I�ve witnessed this year. The band was quite simply electric, delivering a stormer of a set fleshed out with one or two theatrical touches that seem certain to propel them into the big league, at least on this side of the pond. Highlights of the set were �Spirit of �76�, which has rapidly become a new Alarm anthem and seems set to be the band�s next British single, and my personal favourite, �Deeside’; – pure rock �n� roll courtesy of Dave Sharp�s ace guitar playing.
After bringing the house down, playing themselves into the ground and leaving the Orphium theatre with the crowd still screaming for more, it�s back to the hotel and then on to Boston�s Spit club for a celebratory party. I�m still singing �Deeside� to myself as the cab crawls through the traffic.
��Deeside� is just a story of what happened at Shotton Steelworks in one day,� explains Mike. �It put the whole community out of work, basically. We got taken there when we were at school and the careers officer said �This is where you�ll end up working�. But I thought, �This doesn�t look like the future to me,� so I got into computers instead. So many people walked into that place with the promise of a job for life, and it was taken away from under their feet. I thought the commendable thing about the people of Deeside was that they didn�t wish that redundancy on others, they just got on with rebuilding their lives, and now there�s new investment in the area.�
You�d think that Mike would steer clear of admirers at The Alarm bash after playing his balls off on stage and talking to Boston�s youngsters for an hour when the rest of the band was waiting at the sound check, but not a bit of it. The one thing that Mike Peters never forgets is that a few years ago he would have given his right arm to be where he is now, and he�s not going to become complacent and play the �rock star�. He seems to have an unlimited supply of energy when it comes to his band, and he�s also at pains to remind people that he�s one of four in the group.
�I think that Dave Sharp has been really overlooked as a guitarist and Eddie as an all-rounder because he plays everything and writes a lot of the music. A lot of people just talk about the lyrics and me, but Dave, Twist and Eddie all give massive contributions to the band. My ambition for this group is to get Dave Sharp into the polls as a guitarist and Eddie as a songwriter.�
As if to prove his point, next day as we head off to Hartford, Connecticut, when you think they�d just want to get their heads down, the band are huddled around a tape recording of the previous evening�s show � tearing it to pieces.
The Alarm will always have their doubters in Britain, but over here in the States they seem to be on the verge of ramming some of that bitching criticism down people�s throats. Their British tour starts in December, and if you haven�t seen them before, make the effort � I guarantee it�ll shut you up!