Strength An Oral History [Part 11]

The Alarm Strength – An Oral History [Part Eleven – The Aftermath]

“UCLA should have been a huge turning point for The Alarm as it turned a lot of new people on to the spirit of the band. It should have been the foundation of the next phase of our development and, if we had worked hard to build on this success, I believe The Alarm would have reached even greater heights. Instead, it marked the last tangible moment of a band working together towards one common aim.” Mike Peters

July 5th 1986 The Alarm BBC Radio One – “My Top 10” – Mike Peters

Wembley-Advert-1986

QUEEN_NEWS

The Alarm finally returned home to the U.K. playing two ‘warm-up’ shows in Manchester and Nottingham, before making two special guest appearances for British supergroup Queen (starring Freddie Mercury), at Wembley Stadium on July 11th and 12th 1986.

July 8th 1986 The Alarm The Haçienda, Manchester
July 9th 1986 The Alarm Rock City, Nottingham
July 11th 1986 The Alarm Wembley Stadium, London

andy_searle_july_11_1986
– Ticket Stub provided by Andy Searle
“Going to Wembley Stadium to perform almost a year to the day after being there at Live Aid in the audience, was an incredible experience. I was so hyped up when I got up on that first morning to go and play the first of the two shows. We were all picked up nice and early by mini bus and the last person to be collected on route was Nigel Twist. When we got there, his wife told us that he’d only just got in from a night out at the Limelight Club in London where he had met up with Michael Hutchence from INXS (INXS were also playing on the bill). Explaining that, as Nigel had been involved in all kinds of late night shenanigans involving nefarious substances and copious amounts of alcohol, it might take her a while to get him out of bed and into a cold shower! I was far too excited to want to sit around for an hour while Nigel was exhumed from his bed, and so I decided to head up to Wembley on the tube train. Mark Taylor (our keyboard player), came with me and it turned out to be an amazing journey. The tube train was packed full of Queen, Status Quo and Alarm fans all heading in the same direction and they all stopped to wish me luck and take photos as we disembarked from the train and headed down Wembley Way to the Stadium, with its famous twin towers. I was overwhelmed by all the well wishes from people who were obviously as excited as me. It was great to arrive early and in such a way that helped mark the day as something very special and gave the event a meaning that might have escaped, if I had just arrived in the van and ushered through security at the back gate. Also, because Mark and I got there early, we were able to have a kick about on the hallowed Wembley turf – the scene of so many famous sporting battles of my youth including the time when another famous member of the Peters tribe (Martin), scored for England in the World Cup Final of 1966.” – Mike Peters
“Word came down on to the pitch that the band had arrived and so Mark and I headed back to the dressing room. I was shocked to see the state Nigel was in. He was lying flat out on the floor and looked half dead. I couldn’t see for the life of me how he was going to be able to go on stage and perform in front of 75,000 people. It was going to be a tough show as it was, and we all needed to be 100% if we were going to win the day and leave an impression on an audience who were mainly there to see Queen. Somehow, a mass intake of super strong black coffee got Nigel back on his feet and we hit the stage. It has to be said, that Nigel was not at his best that day and nearly lost it all together during ‘Where Were You Hiding’, but somehow we all managed to pull a great show out of the bag and the picture of 75,000 people clapping along to ‘Spirit Of ’76’ tells it’s own story.” – Mike Peters
Strength-Wembley
– Photo by Ian Wilson using Mike’s Dad’s Instamatic Camera from the side of the stage.

– Mike Peters discusses playing with Queen At Wembley arena (From The Story Of The Alarm DVD)

July 12th 1986 The Alarm Wembley Stadium, London

“After the show we all went to the ‘Its A Kind Of Magic” party at the roof gardens in Kensington. We had all ben given these invites which were rolled up inside magic wands. It was very decadent and all the waitresses were completely naked except for clothing that had been painted on to their bodies. Freddie Mercury was holding court and wearing an outrageous green hawaiian shirt. He called me over and said he had love the fact that The Alarm had been the show and said thanks for helping to make it such a memorable event. He was such a lovely affable person and very gracious with an incredible zest for life. I can’t believe I never saw him in person again.” – Mike Peters

 ‘The UCLA gig should have been our finest moment to date. But as it turned out, the Queen gig at Wembley Stadium was the winner. A truly amazing experience!’  Eddie Macdonald

“Today, I still meet so many Alarm fans who say ‘I was at Wembley when The Alarm supported Queen’. It was a defining moment in the history of the band in the UK.” – Mike Peters

July 18th, 1986 The Alarm “Singled Out”” interview”

“Because there’d been producer trouble and a massive delay between ‘Declaration’ and ‘Strength’, we had a two-week break and then got straight into it. We felt we had a lot of things going for us, we’d done really well in America, we’d played at Wembley, we’d played at UCLA. As a band we had the world at our feet. That’s why rather than go on a holiday I just wanted to work on songs. Eddie and I had been writing a lot of material on the Strength tour. We used to do that a lot, we’d get together after shows, in hotels and work on songs at soundcheck and in the dressing room.” – Mike Peters

July 25th, 1986 Mike Peters appears at “Radio One “Roadshow (from Rhyl, Promenade),  on BBC Radio 1

“Myself and Eddie Macdonald wanted to follow up “Strength” as soon as possible after we had finished touring and had we done this, I believe the band would have achieved a lot more than we actually did. “Strength” was a major success all around the world and an album released in early ’87 soon after the career pinnacles of UCLA in America, and The Wembley Shows with Queen in the UK would have established the Alarm as a major world-wide act. As it was, Dave Sharp and Nigel Twist instigated an internal song writing war which fatally wounded the band and started rumours of a split echoing around the world. When we finally got back together to work on the follow up, instead of writing from a position of strength (excuse the pun), we were trying to recapture lost ground and the spirit of the band was never quite the same again. Also “Hurricane” came out after U2’s “Joshua Tree” and INXS’s “Kick” and we ran into all those comparisons which we would have avoided if we had worked in the way our previous albums had been created and got the follow up out sooner.” Mike Peters

July 28th 1986 The Alarm E-Zee Hire Studios, London (approximate date).

“A few weeks after the Queen shows, I was back in London ready to start rehearsals at E-Zee hire studios. I was staying with Eddie at his apartment in Archway and we were really excited about working on all the new songs we had floating around in various shapes and sizes, some finished and some work in progress. I can still vividly remember Eddie and I walking into the big room (Studio 3), and could see that all The Alarm’s gear had been set up in advance by the crew. Dave and Nigel were already there and a girl that I didn’t know was sat on top of Dave’s amplifier. After some hello’s and how are you’s, Dave turned the conversation around to songs and stated quite bluntly and with a certain amount of aggression, that he was “no longer prepared to work on any more songs written by either myself or Eddie”. “From now on,” he continued, “he would only work on songs written and created by the band as a whole” and then introduced us to ‘Nardia’ (the girl sat on the amp) as being “the person who was going to be doing sound for us from now on”. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, I was absolutely stunned,it was like I had only ever met Dave for the first time that morning and I had no idea who this new ‘sound’ person was either . Everything he said, was spoken like he was reading from some prepared statement with absolutely no room for negotiation. I became really upset and argued that Eddie and I had “already written loads of great new songs that we had been working on during the Strength tour and that there was and always had been, room for Dave to write within the framework of our creative process”. Dave would not back down or enter into any reasonable discourse. Nigel tried to de-fuse the situation and pulled Eddie and I to one side and said that he would have a word with Dave and that we should both go home and come back again tomorrow….. which we did.” – Mike Peters
“Eddie and I arrived into the rehearsal room the next morning expecting things to have calmed down only it was even worse. Nigel, who had offered to broker the peace, was now fully on board with Dave and his demands. It was like we had two new members of the band calling the shots, as if all the hard work we had put in to create the success of the ‘Strength’ album had been for absolutely nothing. I was hurt and upset. The mysterious girl who had been introduced the previous morning as ‘Nardia’, was still there looking on and obviously talking it all in. It ended with Eddie and I leaving and it felt to me, like the end of the band. I was distraught, confused, angry and upset and so was Eddie. We went straight round to see Ian Wilson our manager who was equally distressed. There were lots of phone calls backwards and forth, but Dave and Nigel absolutely refused to back down and even worse, they had already started working on all of Dave’s new songs (from hereon in credited as Sharp and Twist co-writes), with some other session musicians in our rehearsal space. I just didn’t know what to do.” – Mike Peters
August 14th 1986 Downtown Club, Rhyl
“While Ian Wilson and IRS Records tried to mediate between the warring factions. Eddie Macdonald and I found a demo studio in Rotherhithe, London called Waterfront. During the week, we would recorded demos together using a Roland drum machine, acoustic guitars and a Mirage Synthesiser. We cut a lot of new songs such as ‘Newtown Jericho’, ‘A New South Wales’, ‘Abolition’ and ‘The Profit Margin’. At the weekends, I went home to Rhyl and on a night out at the Downtown Club with Redeye and other friends, I met my future wife – Jules. We were engaged to be married a week later.” – Mike Peters

August 30th 1986 Mike Peters Greenbelt Festival “Castle Ashby Grounds Northamptonshire, UK

Mike Peters first ever ‘solo’ show. 5000 people crammed into a big top intended to hold 3000 with Mike backed by a hastily arranged band of festival organisers & various members of the bands ‘Talking Drums’, ‘The Crooked Rose’ & ‘Jump The Nile’.

Set included:  ‘Blaze Of Glory’, ‘The Stand’, ‘We Are The Light’, ‘The Deceiver’, ‘Strength’, ‘Walk Forever By My Side’, ‘Sixty Eight Guns’, ‘Knocking On Heaven’s Door’ and ‘This Train Is Bound For Glory’.

“Martin Wroe and Pete ‘Willy’ Williams who both worked for U2 on their communications and lighting respectively, persuaded me to come to Greenbelt Festival for a ‘look around’ with a view to playing with The Alarm the following summer. As soon as I arrived on site there was a massive buzz and it was obvious that people had been primed that I was coming and was going to play. I had never played outside of The Alarm on my own before, and so took a bit of persuading… but Martin and ‘Willy’ were very persuasive. Before I had time to think about it, I was on stage in the Big Top playing guitar with a pick up band of amazing Greenbelt musicians. The atmosphere was incredible as I sang ‘Walk Forever By My Side’. I was so taken aback by the response that I couldn’t remember the opening line of ‘Sixty Eight Guns’ and although it was strange playing The Alarm’s music with other musicians, it was also kind of liberating and a reminder that it’s ultimately the songs that carry the day. I left the stage exhilarated.” – Mike Peters

September 19th, 1986 The Alarm “Music Box”

“Instead of putting all my energy into writing a follow up to ‘Strength’, I was now fighting a battle to keep hold of The Alarm and trying desperately to keep things looking as normal as possible for those on the outside looking in. Internally, Dave and Nigel had control of the rehearsal space at E-Zee Hire with all their session musicians and (because I didn’t live in London), I was either camped at Ian Wilson’s house in St’ Albans (where The Alarm fan club was based), or at Eddie Macdonald’s apartment in Archway, trying to write more new songs and finish some of the pieces we had started on tour but not really being able to concentrate because I was so destabilised by the situation.” – Mike Peters 
“In frustration, Eddie and I discussed kicking Nigel and Dave out of the band but couldn’t do so because we were a partnership, and any vote taken had to be 3 against one. It was a real ‘Mexican’ stand off’ as the saying goes.” – Mike Peters
It wasn’t my fault that nearly all the songs on Strength were co-writes between Eddie and I (we had credited Strength to the band so that everyone could share the royalties of the single equally). As the main lyricist, I could easily have claimed 50% of all the publishing rights (which is standard music business practice), but I never did that, and we always split our songs 60-40 between the writers and band so it really wasn’t an argument about finances. I honestly thought (and still do), that if Dave felt so strongly about the songwriting then he should have had the guts to quit there and then and take his songs elsewhere, and not vent his own frustration on the rest of us.” – Mike Peters

November 22, 1986: BBC Radio Wales session – The Orange Box.

Mike Peters & Eddie Macdonald perform an acoustic set in aid of “Children In Need” for BBC Radio Wales radio show called ‘Orange Box’ peforming ‘Bells of Rhymney’, ‘Unsafe Building’, ‘Spirit of ’76’, ‘Blaze of Glory’, ‘Sixty Eight Guns’, ‘Marching On’, ‘The Stand’ and a a brand new song being heard for the first time- ‘A New South Wales’.

November 27th, 1986: Daily Mirror Newspaper, United Kingdom

Alarm-SPLIT

“Matters came to a head when an article first appeared in the London Evening Standard Newspaper saying that “The Alarm were on the verge of splitting up” or words to that effect. I remember the phrase about “The irascible Peters storming out of rehearsals” being attributed to Dave Sharp’s girlfriend. I wish I could find that piece, but I’ll always remember the dread I felt when I saw it, and I’ll never forget the use of the word ‘irascible’ to describe me. I knew as soon as I read the article, that life in The Alarm was never going to be the same again and in hindsight, it never was.” – Mike Peters
“The article immediately found it’s way on to the news wires and so this ugly story about the breakdown of our band relationship was aired all around the world in every newspaper and radio station that flashed it up as a headline – ‘The Alarm set to Split’. It killed our career in all honesty. From here on in, no record label would want to invest in us as we had literally become what we had sung about when we first started – an unsafe building.” – Mike Peters

Steve Fulton:  The Alarm went through some turmoil after the “Strength” album and tour.  What do you think would have happened if you had made another album like “Strength”?

Nigel Twist:  Alarm who?

 

Alarm Fan-Club Letter from December, 1986

A moment of hope for Alarm fans world-wide came in the mail towards the end of 1986.

fanclub

And that hope would come in the form of new album … when The Alarm found a way to “leave all the pain and the sadness behind” and reach new chart heights with the release of ‘Rain In The Summertime’.

Here is preview of what to expect during the  ‘Eye Of The Hurricane’ 30th anniversary in 2017

Strength – An Oral History. Created by Steve Fulton and Mike Peters  ©2015 www.thealarm.com

Memories come flooding back…… If you have attended any of the shows or incidents mentioned in Strength – An Oral History and have recollections and photos of your own then please share them with us at www.facebook.com/theofficialalarm

Only 1 day to go until Mike Peters and The Alarm appear at Wales Millennium Centre with The Welsh Pops Symphony Orchestra and the Morriston Orpheus Male Voice Choir. Get your tickets here.