The 5th February 1984. A date I will never forget.
I was playing a game of pool at the local youth club and ’Where Were You Hiding?’ was playing over the PA system. The friend I was with said, “this band are playing at The Limit (a well known Sheffield venue) next week, do you fancy going?”
I was only 14. I had heard ‘68 Guns’ and thought it was a great song. I loved ‘Where Were You Hiding ‘as it blasted out from the youth club PA but I had never been to a gig and it was over 18’s only at only at The Limit. Would my mum and dad let me go? Did I even tell them or just pretend I was at a friend’s house? After much soul searching I came clean . I got the ok as long as my dad gave me a lift home afterwards. Not very rock ‘n’ roll!
As I descended the staircase the to basement club my heart was pounding with anticipation (and worry that the bouncers would not let me in!)
What happened next quite frankly blew me away. The spiky hair, the guitars held aloft for Declaration, the smell of stale beer, the heat from the bodies in the crowd. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced, I was hooked.
Very, very quickly I got a copy of Declaration and played it over and over again until I new every single word. And so by default did my whole family! I lent it to all my mates. They did the same and very soon we hand a gang of Alarm fans at school.
Later that year The Alarm played Sheffield (The Leadmill) again, supported by Mick Jones’ new band later to become Big Audio Dynamite. A huge gang of us from school went along that night and sang every word to every song. I particularly remember a raucous rendition of Bound for Glory.
Over the next few years I went to as many gigs as I could bought as many records as I could. 7” singles, 12” singles, LP’s, EP’s, imports , live bootleg recordings ,you name it I got my hands on it.
I remember a memorable night at The Hacienda as the band played warm up show for their appearance with Queen at Wembley. The Alarm and The Hacienda was a perfect match. I went with my sister to the Hammersmith Odeon on the Strength tour. She had never seen The Alarm but came away an absolute fan especially after MP had an altercation with the security who were trying to stop people standing up at the front. I am sure I saw a tear in her eye!
By 1987 me and my mates had gone our (temporary) separate ways to University and some how I lost touch with The Alarm. I’ll be honest I felt the music lost its spark a little with the last couple of albums although there were a couple of classics on both of them!
Shoot forward to 1994. I was living in Newcastle with my girlfriend, We were sauntering down Northumberland Street and wandered into HMV. Stood before me was Mike Peters. I could not believe it. “Why don’t you get his autograph?” my girlfriend suggested. Don’t ask me why but I couldn’t ask him so I got her to do it for me! MP mentioned to her that he was playing at the Riverside that night. We went down and the old Alarm magic returned for me instantly. The crowd was sparse and there was a new band around him, but that didn’t matter as soon as the familiar refrains of Marching On or Spirit of 76 rang out.
Again I lost touch with The Alarm not long after that. I ‘experimented’ with bands like the Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets and the Stone Roses but the music of The Alarm and Mike Peters was never very far from the surface.
Messing around on the internet in the early 2000’s brought me back into contact with The Alarm via thealarm.com. I was not going to lose contact again, The new music and the new band was to me ,in my early 30’s, just as exciting as those days back in 1984/1985. The music was fresher and more relevant than ever and the new band members were a fantastic musical unit. I set out again, 20 years after my first contact at The Limit Club, collecting the material from the new band and MP’s solo work (whilst converting my vinyl collection to CD!) and attending as many gigs a possible
I rounded up the old Alarm gang from school. “ Do you realise a new Alarm are touring?” The emails and texts went round. Countless Saturday Gigs, Gatherings ,Acoustic sets and Dead Men Walking shows later, the gig count Is approaching 50 for me but it is not just about the music anymore. We all have our own lives. Kids, wives, jobs around the country but when The Alarm play or The Gathering comes round we get there together.
14 years after failing to ask him for his autograph in Newcastle I did eventually meet Mike Peters .People say don’t meet your heroes because they will disappoint you. There is an exception to that rule – Mike Peters.
Matt Brumpton October 2012.
After writing this I went to the first night of the Red Poppy Tour at the Gassienda in Keighley last week. The show was a masterpiece. A perfect mix of old songs and new. In the close to fifty shows I have seen a night has never ended any other way. A crowd not wanting the songs to end, singing every word. The night ended with a raucous version of Bound for Glory. Memories of the Leadmill 28 years before came flooding back.
Long may it continue…