When he began working on an Alarm box set, the last thing singer Mike Peters expected to find were R.E.M. live recordings, studio masters, and outtakes. But that’s exactly what he came across, says Peters, along with recordings for his own band and Lords of the New Church. And it was all just three days away from the trash bin.
It was his obsession with finding the original master tapes for the new Alarm 2000: Complete Collection box set that led him to a London storage locker filled with tapes left by the now-defunct IRS, the indie label that was home to many influential ’80s bands. Rent hadn’t been paid on the storage lockers for years, Peters said, and he finally tracked down the tapes just before the lockers were to be cleaned out for good.
“There was loads and loads of stuff that was of interest,” Peters says. “It was all kinds of weird and wonderful things from The Fall and Lords of the New Church. There were a lot of 2-inchers [tapes] from R.E.M. I think it was Fables of the Reconstruction that they did in London. There was a lot of stuff they did with [producer] Joe Boyd there, including some live things as well, that IRS London had compiled on the band. I’m sure R.E.M. management will be interested to pore through it.”
R.E.M.’s manager, Bertis Downs, says that he was unaware of the tape find and thought the band’s masters were safely in storage in California. The band did record Fables in London, Downs said, so the band will check into it.
Peters, who came across the tapes a year ago, had received EMI’s permission to put the Alarm collection together, but his tapes weren’t the best. “I have copies of everything, but not the first generation,” he says, adding that “there were massive holes” in his collection.
The London vault contained all the missing masters, as well as outtakes that Peters had forgotten existed, such as the electric version of “One Step Closer to Home.” They were found and included in the box set, which is available only through the official Alarm Web site (www.thealarm.com).
“There was some great stuff from the live locker, as well,” Peters says. “I found a master tape of an early gig in the Marquee in London from late 1982. There was a live version of ‘Deceiver’ on there that I didn’t even know we had.”
He found other historic shows, including the last-ever Alarm show in the original lineup from 1991. “EMI has been talking to me now about doing some sort of live anthology,” he says. “That was obviously an area of the band that wasn’t represented. We never put out an official live album.”
Peters is currently on tour in the United States with a reconstituted version of the band, also dubbed the Alarm 2000, doing electric versions of the band’s songs, which he has toured acoustically on his own for the past few years. The massive nine-CD Alarm box includes everything the band released on album, as well as demos, outtakes, rarities, and a personalized acoustic version of any Alarm song recorded for each buyer of the $168 set.