I guess the fact that I am moved to even write a story, such as the one I have just begun, might be the most fascinating angle of this tale…
Let me start it all off this way. I am a man of many lists. For some odd reason, I just like to create, maintain, and share lists. I like to create them, read them, edit them… There’s something about the organizational side of me, that is attracted to lists.
Now, often in the last “x” amount of years, friends of mine and I have shared many lists with each other, including our respective, “Top Ten Favorite Bands” lists. Ten years ago, on my “Top Ten Bands” list, “The Alarm” would not have been found. They would not have been in my top ten. You would not have found them in my top twenty. They would not have received an “honorable mention”. You could have looked as long as you wanted, but, “The Alarm” would have found no home on my “Top Ten Bands” list. Shortly thereafter, though, that would all change…
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you this, but, for the sake of being totally unassuming, in very early 2004, the US television network, VH1, began a new series of shows, entitled, “Bands Reunited”. The first episode of the show was so well-done, so thorough, and so interesting, I decided I would tune in every week, and be a loyal follower of the show. One week, during a particular episode of “Bands Reunited”, a promo ran for the following week’s episode, which was to feature The Alarm. “Oh yeah, I remember them. They did that `68 Guns’ song, I think…” That was my reaction. My only reaction. That simple statement pretty much covered my entire education of The Alarm. I mean, I wasn’t counting down the days ‘til that Alarm show was aired, I wasn’t calling all my friends, telling them to tune in. Rather, I was just excited that the next episode would indeed be a new one, and, as always, with the format of the show, I was anxious to see if “The Alarm” were going to be successfully reunited. (I’m sure you know how that turned out!…)
Anyway, for some reason, the particular episode on The Alarm captivated me. I sensed genuine love between these four guys, with whom I had been almost completely unaware of beforehand. The brief clips of the reunion show that were aired during the broadcast just….had me. The show ended, and I thought, “O.k., I need to find out a little more about these guys.” I had ignored for them for pretty much my entire “career” as a music fan. It was time to do a little investigatory work.
The next day, after having watched the show, I called my great friend Joe. Joe and I have been friends for over twenty-five years now, and, we have shared our musical lives with each other since the moment we met. Of course, the text of the phone call was not dictated, but, I imagine it must have went something like this…
“Hey, Joe- did you see that show on The Alarm last night? I need to find out about these guys…”
“Ray, I’ve been a fan of theirs for a long time. In fact, they’re playing here in Buffalo next week. Wanna go?”
What luck!! I mean, when I thought, `I need to do a little investigation’, I had anticipated that would have meant going out, and buying an Alarm cd or two. Instead, though, my introduction to The Alarm would not be on CD, but rather, in a small, dirty bar, live on stage.
The night in question was March 4th, of 2004, at the Continental, in Buffalo, New York. Let me make this clear, though; yes, I live in New York, but, Buffalo is no where near New York City. I am on the complete opposite side of the state. Buffalo is an absolute blip on the radar screen. Downtown Buffalo, it’s safe to say, has seen better days.
Anyway, at the Continental that night, I walked in a definitive Alarm virgin. I had never seen an Alarm show. I owned a total of zero of their CD’s. I could probably name one, maybe two of their songs. Heck, before that “Bands Reunited” show a couple weeks beforehand, I couldn’t even tell you the names of any of the band members, past or present. But man,… That night, all that changed.
Mike led the band through the crowd, from the rear, up on to the stage. Heck, they had me right there!! I thought their entrance itself was unique, walking through their fans. They hit the stage, opening with (a song I later found out was called…) “Coming Home”, and for the next “x” amount of hours/minutes, they totally captivated me. The passion, the pace, the urgency, the feel, the heart, the love… Man, they just had me. I knew a total of zero of the songs they were playing, but man, I knew I had work to do. Right there, I wanted it all. I wished I knew all the lyrics. I wished I knew the story of each one of those guys up on the stage. I wish I had every album, knew every song title, had every poster, tour book, t-shirt… You name it. I wanted to jump in, and fully immerse myself in the world and work of this band, who had just blown my socks off while watching them onstage. When the show ended, though, that immediate rush that I felt, was exponentially multiplied…
As Joe and I headed to the rear of the bar, we saw that Mike Peters himself, had taken up a space at the bar. I couldn’t believe it! I mean, isn’t he a rock star? What’s he doing, hanging out right there at the bar, amidst all the common folk? I decided to take the plunge, and approach him. Now, it needs to be noted; I’ve had my fair share of brushes with “rock stars”. Some have handled the exchange beautifully, and some,… Well, let’s just say, it was less than ideal. Again, though, I had no idea who the real Mike Peters is/was, but, I was willing to take the chance. The brief exchange between he and I, has been indelibly stamped on my brain ever since. It was, as follows…
“Mike? Hi, I’m Ray. That show was incredible!! You played that show like it was the most important show of your career!”
Mike smiles, puts his arm around me, and says, “They all are, mate…”
Well, that was it. Mike Peters immediately became my hero. I mean, this place- the Continental- was a certifiable dump. Buffalo is rundown. It was on a Tuesday. So, if this guy thinks playing at this dump, in this rundown town, on a lowly Tuesday night, was important? Well, then you totally have my respect!
That night changed my life. More than eight years later now, my Alarm “resume” reads as follows: (I know it’s no where near the number of shows most of you in this forum have seen, but,…) I have now seen a total of five Mike Peters/The Alarm shows. March 4th, 2004, in Buffalo. July 7th, 2007 (yes- I saw The Alarm when the three sevens clashed!), also here in Buffalo, on the Rockin’ The Colonies tour. (The photo I have attached of Mike and I, was taken the afternoon of that show.) September 8th, 2010, in Hamilton, Ontario. And, the next night, September 9th, 2010, again, here in Buffalo. I also saw Mike perform with Los Mondo Bongo, in Toronto, Ontario, on March 15th of 2009.
As well, I now own every commercial release put out under the name of The Alarm. I have since bought every cd, every box set, and every special release available on thealarm.com. I bought the Counter Attack collective, the Poppyfields bond, the Alarm 2000 collection, which came with the incredible dedication cd (for you completists out there, the song I chose for him to perform on my dedication cd is “Be Still”, from “Under Attack”). You name it, I bought it. I bought every one of Mike’s solo albums. I bought all the re-releases. I bought Dave Sharp’s solo cd’s. I bought Big Country releases with Mike’s participation. I have the Christmas card from 2009 continually on display here at my home. I have the aforementioned photo of Mike and I, as well as a photo taken with James Stevenson prior to the Hamilton 2010 gig, and one with Craig Adams prior to the Buffalo 2010 gig. I have bought back-catalog collectibles no longer in print, on Ebay. I have put in countless hours, learning every lyric, watching every interview I can find. I’ve only been at it for just about nine years now, and I still feel like I just can’t get enough.
What has driven me to become the fan that I am, is, quite simply, Mike Peters. The guy is such an incredible inspiration. Of course, his successful battles with leukemia have been well-documented. I mean, you don’t have to be a fan of The Alarm, to be inspired by someone/something like that. But, it’s more than that. It’s his love, his passion, his drive that I’m so attracted to. I realize now that those words Mike said to me on that Continental that night (“…They all are, mate…”) was such an accurate representation, of the Mike Peters that I would come to know and respect. I love how he talks with genuine love for his former bandmates, Eddie, Twist, and Sharp. I love how he holds the name of The Alarm so near and dear to his heart. I love how he makes his fans feel like they really are important, and really did- and still do- play a role in the life of the band.
Incredible. Just incredible. Ten years ago, I knew nothing of The Alarm. Now, at age 46, I can’t imagine my life without them.
I want to thank the staff at thealarm.com, for giving me the opportunity to share my “Alarm Story”. I want to thank Joe, not only for our incredible friendship, but for convincing me to go to the Continental that night. Heck, while I’m at it, I’ll even thank VH1, for airing “Bands Reunited” in the first place!!
Obviously, thank you so much, to Mike Peters, Eddie MacDonald, Nigel Twist, Dave Sharp, Craig Adams, James Stevenson, Steve Grantley, Smiley, and Mark Taylor. Please know that the music you have created, has brought so much happiness into my life, and that you have my undying love and respect…