On Saturday, April 12th 1986 The Alarm made history by headlining ‘The Spirit Of ‘86 Concert’ – the first ever live satellite globalcast, performing live to an audience of 26,000 fans from the campus of University College of Los Angeles (U.C.L.A.) and watched by an audience of millions who had tuned in to the concert via MTV. The concert was a triumph.
“In an atmosphere suggesting either a pep rally or an anti-apartheid demonstration, and in a setting suitable to either, the Alarm performed an inspiring free concert to more than 10,000 rock ‘n’ roll fans gathered at UCLA on Saturday afternoon.It was appropriate the Alarm — a young band from Wales performing in the biggest event of its career — would stage this concert on a college campus. The group’s unapologetic idealism and rousing, impassioned style of rock ‘n’ roll make them appropriate to this setting.It seemed altogether appropriate that among the large banners held aloft during much of the concert — to the chagrin of the people standing behind them — there were ones linking the Alarm to the anti-apartheid struggles in South Africa while another preached a connection between the Alarm and Jesus. “ – Jonathan Taylor, Daily News Rock Critic, Monday, April 14, 1986
“April 12th 1986. A red letter day in the history of The Alarm. “The Spirit Of ‘’86 Concert” was a free gig organised by IRS in conjunction with MTV who had arranged for this to be the first ever live worldwide satellite television concert broadcast. We were expecting about 10,000 fans, but instead 25,000 turned up. The day before the concert our manager Ian Wilson had an argument with IRS about the effectiveness of the barrier, IRS felt they had already invested enough money into the show and refused to come up with the few extra dollars required to make it more secure. About ten minutes before we were due on stage, the barrier gave way and I had to go out onto the stage and ask everyone to move back from the stage to allow the security team to make the front row safe for the show to proceed. It was touch and go but the California Fire Marshalls eventually gave us the go ahead. The gig was brilliant, if a little nerve racking, I recall someone throwing a football onto the stage during the first number, it knocked the microphone out of Twist’s bass drum pedal. It nearly ruined the whole sound but for some quick thinking by our crew members Redeye and Bobby Troman. It was the first time I had ever experienced a show with a ‘mosh’ pit and it became very intense down at the front, I was concerned for the fans, many who had travelled from all over North America. In the mobile studio, the television director C.D. Taylor, was having to rethink the whole show, as the collapsing of the barrier had meant he had lost a lot of his fixed camera positions. The show was held in daylight to take advantage of international viewing times and the fact that there was so much chaos only seemed to heighten the drama of the event. In the end, from adversity came triumph and the show won us a whole new audience all over the world.” – Mike Peters
“I Was There” – That phrase seems to stick out in my mind, twist around, and implode every time I see it on the “Spirit Of ’86” stickers that I have tucked away in one of my Alarm scrapbooks. Not just because, truth be told, I was there on April 12th, 1986, but also because of the bittersweet irony that it represents. I remember that day, 31 years ago, as vividly as any day in my entire life. It was a day, when the biggest rock ‘n roll event in the world was centered around The Alarm: two Welshman and two transplanted Englishman who created the most unbelievably inspiring music I had ever heard. April 12th 1986 was the day I witnessed, what I believe, was the finest moment of The Alarm, but also the beginning of their end. The Alarm had chosen UCLA for their “Spirit Of ’86” concert because of the timezone, and it’s close to proximity to both satellite resources, and the home office of IRS Records. As far as I was concerned though, it was sheer destiny that my favorite band of all-time would choose my hometown for such an incredible event. Just turned 16, and still in high school, I remember the buzz around school about The Alarm the week before the show. An advertisement had been taken out in the L.A. Times, inviting people to the free concert, and requesting they bring decks of playing cards (to throw out during “Where Were You Hiding When The Storm Broke”). Radio stations hyped the show all week, and it seemed like everyone in L.A. was planning to go. My brother, a couple friends, and I arrived at UCLA at 8:00 am, a good 4 or 5 hours before the show was supposed to start. Already, throngs of people mulled about, many of which were crammed up against the stage, where they would remain for a good part of the day until the concert started. As the crowed swelled larger and larger, I was amazed at the cross section of people who had come to see The Alarm. There were punks and heavy metallers, hippies, mods, college kids, and tons of just average people. It seemed that The Alarm had struck a chord among among many different groups, all of whom had shown up for the free show to give their support. There were a lot of people who didn’t really even know who The Alarm were, or what they were about, and I’m sure those were the people The Alarm was trying to reach the most that day. They had taken on the burden of a free show, where an estimated 20,000 people showed up, to thank the fans who had supported them, and to also attempt to win the rest of the crowd over to their side. In the notoriously fickle city of Los Angeles, that was no easy feat. With overcast clouds threatening rain, and after a not-to-well-received set by the Long Ryders (who never-the-less played brilliantly I might add) it was time for The Alarm to take the stage. First Rodney Bingenheimer from KROQ came out and introduced the show, then Martha Quinn stepped out and introduced it again, and then came the introduction music, and then finally, The Alarm jumped on stage and started strumming the beginning chords of “Declaration”. My brother and I were jumping up and down and yelling the whole time, and it seemed to take only a couple songs until most of the crowd was doing the same. The Alarm went about their business, winning over the crowd in the only honest way they could, with their music. The set went on the include: Declaration, Marching On, Howling Wind, Knife Edge Blaze Of Glory, Absolute Reality, Where Were You Hiding When The Storm Broke?, Walk Forever By My Side, 68 Guns, Spirit Of ’76, Strength, The Stand, Knocking On Heaven’s Door and We Are The Light. The band played the final song, “We Are The Light” for just the UCLA audience. When the final chord was struck, I instantly realised we had witnessed something very special: The Alarm at their peak. Exhausted, sweating, and clutching stacks of “I Was There” stickers, my brother, my friends and I, marched off that UCLA field and went home. The feeling I came away with after that show was incredible. It was like the world had finally seen what I had seen all along in The Alarm. I had a feeling about what was going to happen next. I seriously believed that The Alarm would become one of the biggest bands of all-time. All they needed to do was follow up their “Strength” album with a like-minded rock and roll effort that would solidify their status as the best rock band in the world. -Steve Fulton, Alarm Fan
“Although the Alarm often has sacrificed craft for fervence and commitment, it seemed appropriate in that environment Saturday afternoon. The group earned its warm response on incendiary songs like “Going Out in a Blaze of Glory” — during which much of the audience sang along — “Howling Wind,” and “Where Were You When the Storm Broke?”Lead singer Mike Peters was especially appealing Saturday, with his frequent references to the friendships within the band and to his own idealism. It was surprisingly touching to hear him say, as he faced the huge crowd and the television cameras, ‘It feels as if my dreams are coming true tonight.'” – Jonathan Taylor, Daily News Rock Critic, Monday, April 14, 1986
“Much has been said of The Alarm’s show at UCLA on Saturday on April 12th, and almost all Alarm fans will by now either have seen it, heard it, or read about it. Suffice it to say that I felt immensely proud for them, rising to the biggest occasion in their lives with grace and style, putting in what seemed to be an almost spotless hour-and-a-quarter show that served its purpose as both a thank you to fans and as a chance to be seen worldwide. As Mike introduced the seminal ‘Spirit Of ‘86,’ telling the audience what this day meant to The Alarm and how they’d worked for it over the years, I was reminded of the Mott The Hoople song (a somewhat underestimated influence on The Alarm, I believe), ‘All The Way To Memphis,’ and its almost perfect apt chorus line for the day: “It’s a might long way down rock’n’roll, From the Liverpool Docks to the Hollywood Bowl”. Rock’n’roll is an unreliable animal, frequently promising salvation and cleanliness, yet all too often delving into the worst depths of self-indulgence and excess. The West Coast — of which Los Angeles is capital — is usually the most vivid example of this deviation and disrespect of rock’n’roll’s roots. The UCLA show had featured the odd smattering of the great rock’n’roll machine, partly attributable to MTV’s presence at the event, but the backstage party was modest and the atmosphere far from decadent. I have been acquainted with The Alarm long enough to know that they are in this business for the music, and the pleasure it gives to people, rather than the frills attached to that communication, yet even so, I was immensely surprised by the modesty of the celebrations that evening. With their wives and girlfriends present (the group and crew had already been two months away from home), and the city of Los Angeles theirs for the taking after the most important show of their lives, they elected instead for a quiet evening in the hotel bar, celebrating with loved ones and close friends. A residential r’n’b band pumped out their inconsequential music for an hour or two, but the sight of instruments and amplifiers proved too much for some of the group to bear, and by the end of the evening one could spot various members of The Alarm along with their old close Stray Cat friend Slim Jim on-stage hammering out any tune they could think of. The Alarm were celebrating in the only way they knew how.” – Tony Fletcher
A week after the UCLA show, The Alarm were in studio for an episode of Rockline guest hosted by Saturday Night Live’s Joe Piscopo. In the interview the band discussed their level of success, comparisons to U2, and the general state of the band at the moment. It’s a great time capsule of The Alarm at the what was possibly the height of their success as a band.
April 14th 1986 Knife Edge Released as a single.
The 3rd single released from Strength in the UK (but not the USA) was “Knife Edge.”“Knife Edge” showcased the Strength album’s sound. “Baba O’riley”-esque synthesizer opens the track followed by crashing guitars and an intricate, varying rhythm. The UK 7″ single, packaged in a gatefold sleeve, included the forgettable b-side “Caroline Isenberg.” The UK 12″ included 3 b-sides: an acoustic version of “Howling Wind” , an acoustic guitar/harmonica gem named “Unbreak The Promise” and “Caroline Isenberg.” The “Knife Edge” single failed to chart in the UK. -Steve Fulton, Goldmine 1995
-Mike Peters discusses the final lyrics of Knife Edge with Jimm Ladd (from Innerview with Jim Ladd)
“Other events over the week in Los Angeles gave me both further insight into the machinations of the American music business and The Alarm’s attitude towards said industry. For example, there was our trip to the radio station KLOS, a major rock station that was hosting a nationwide phone-in featuring Mike and Twist. Eddie and manager Ian Wilson also accompanied them, so I went along for the ride, imagining a trip of no more than an hour. The success of the UCLA concert only a couple day before proved self-evident as Alarm fans old and new phoned in from across the States and Canada. Mike and Twist handled the calls with customary professionalism, but meanwhile, Eddie, Ian and myself were subject to the type of hangers-on with their fawning attributes that find a home anywhere in the music business, but particularly here at a prestigious LA rock station. When the phone-in finished, I prayed to be out of the building soon, but instead found myself alone with these people. Where were the band? I wondered consistently for half an hour, until I found Mike, Twist, Eddie and Ian in a separate room, courageously attempting to answer every single caller who was still hanging on hoping to speak to them. The task was insurmountable, as every time one call was taken the light on switchboard simply filled up again with another one waiting, but even so, the quartet remained for a good hour after the show, speaking to a few hundred people across the country on a personal level. Not much of an achievement in a nation of some 200 million, but undoubtedly a sight more than most groups would consider. Later in the week we had a far more accurate chance to witness the American music business as it best/worst/most typical, in the form of a Simple Minds show at the outdoor Greek Theatre. Some time ago, Simple Minds decided to grab the American market by the ball, a campaign that started with the #1 success of ‘(Don’t You) Forget About Me’ and was now culminating in an enormous three-month tour across the States to make the most of their ‘Once Upon a Time’ album. Even so, tickets for that night’s show (one of two at the 7,000 seater) were still being advertised on the radio that afternoon. However, the event seemed pretty well sold-out by the time we all arrived, and the Minds put in exactly the sort of performance one would expect from them. This was the third time I had seen them on their current World Tour, and in the environment of an open-air theatre in the cool evening breeze of a Californian spring, it was the most at home that the music had seemed. That I remain strangely unmoved by it all is neither here nor there. The Alarm had gone along to see and to be seen, as is an important requisite in this game (and what would you do if 8,000 miles away from home — offer to stay in and watch the telly?), mainly at the backstage lavish party. The stars were out, including such names as Donny Osmond(!) and Feargal Sharkey, a gaggle of beautiful Hollywood starlets and no doubt many other famous names I either failed to see or failed to recognize. Most surprising partygoers were the Trashing Doves, known, I believe, to quite a few Alarm fans (some might recall their previous incarnation The Climb), and here in Lost Angeles recording with Simple Minds producer Jimmy Iovine, who, as everyone knows, opted out of working with The Alarm on ‘Strength.’ It is only regrettable that the Trashing Doves’ singles have failed to make any impact as of yet. But back to the party. If they went along to be seen, The Alarm failed miserable, for I soon found myself in a corner with Mike, Eddie, Midge and Salty, discussing the impending close of the English football season. As Mike commented in the more formal confines of an interview later on, “The rock’n’roll circuitry has never attached itself to the band. You never see at our gigs tons of celebrities, they don’t know what’s going on, they can’t picture what The Alarm is. It’s not a heavy metal band, it’s not mainstream rock, it’s not pop, it’s not disco, and they know it’s not going to be a free party with loads of cocaine.” For that we should be grateful.” – Tony Fletcher
April 17th : Final Part Of Spirit of ’86 Tour Begins
After the ‘Spirit of ‘86’ concert, the Alarm undertook an extensive headline tour of America with opening act The Long Ryders.
“DENVER: With songs that fall into the optimism-in-the-face-of-a-lost-world category, the Alarm has drawn comparisons to U2 in the past few years. But the Welsh quartet also has gained a reputation as a searing, passionate live band that communicates better in concert than on record. Now the members of the Alarm – Mike Peters (vocals), Dave Sharp (guitar), Eddie McDonald (bass) and Nigel Twist (drums) – are phasing out several career-launching traits as they take on a new direction. They will have some strong new material to play when they join the Long Ryders for a May 17 concert scheduled at Chicago’s Riviera Club.” – G. Brown, Chicago Sun-Times
April 19th 1986 The Alarm Keene State College in Keene, NH
April 20th 1986 The Alarm Ithaca, NY
April 21st 1986 The Alarm Memorial Auditorium, Montclair State College, NJ
April 22nd 1986 The Alarm Clarion
April 25th 1986 The Alarm Bryant College in Smithfield, RI
April 26th 1986 The Alarm Providence, RI
April 27th 1986 The Alarm Storis
April 29th 1986 The Alarm Charlottesville, VA
May 1st 1986 The Alarm County College of Morris in Morristown, NJ
May 2nd 1986 The Alarm Buffalo, NY
May 3rd 1986 The Alarm S.U.N.Y. in Albany, NY
May 4th 1986 The Alarm Stonybrook Univ, Long Island, NY
May 6th 1986 The Alarm Orpheum Theatre, Boston, MA
“I met up with The Alarm again in Boston on the East Coast. With its strong British feel, Boston has always been a first outpost for States-bound British acts, and it is still possibly The Alarm’s US base. I was drawn to it…. by the Rock’n’Roll Expo organized by WBCN, the city’s primary rock station. Here, organizations as diverse as the US Navy, the Peace Corps, and Lizzie Borden & The Axes took out stands to advertise their wares, and in the hangar-like concert hall, The Long Ryders among others, got to play to a large audience. As American fans will know, it is they who supported The Alarm across the States through April and May, and as a sign of harmony, Mike and Dave felt compelled to get up early and join The Long Ryders onstage during their midday performance. I know they could have partied the entire night before, or simply chosen to sleep in late, but really, I shouldn’t have expected anything else from them.” – Tony Fletcher
May 7th 1986 The Alarm Orpheum Theatre, Boston, MA
May 09, 1986 The Alarm Beacon Theatre, New York, NY
– Dave Sharp And Mike Peters Interviewed on WNEW, New York
May 10th 1986 The Alarm Tower Theater in Philadelphia, PA
“TEAMING 2 OF FOLK’S VERY FINEST : Tomorrow night, the Tower will be the site of another show, when the Alarm and the Long Ryders perform.” – Tucker, Ken. Philadelphia Inquirer 09 May 198
“One of the best Alarm shows I ever saw. Talk about a great show!!! I remember I met one of my friends there. He had never seen The Alarm before. I had always told him how great they were and there live shows were even better. He had gone just to see The Long Ryders. After the show I caught up with him and he just said wow you were right. The Alarm was incredible live!!! The Long Ryders were also incredible.” -Frank Heffelfin via The Alarm.com
May 11th 1986 The Alarm Malibu Nightclub in Long Island, NY
May 13th 1986 The Alarm Philadelphia, PA
May 15th 1986 The Alarm Cleveland, OH
May 16th 1986 The Alarm Detroit, MI
May 17th 1986 The Alarm Chicago, IL
May 22nd 1986 The Alarm City Coliseum, Austin, TX
May 23rd 1986 The Alarm Bronco Bowl, Dallas, TX
May 24th 1986 The Alarm San Antonio, TX
May 25th 1986 The Alarm Lubbock, TX
May 29th 1986 The Alarm San Francisco, CA
May 30th 1986 The Alarm California State University, San Luis Obispo, CA
“The SLO show was interesting in the fact that the stage collapsed during the second song of the set. The band left the stage while the facilities people nailed the stage back together. After about a half hour, the band came back out and played a great set which included Pinball Wizzard. Even though Mike forgot the words about half way through the song, it was still a great show.” -John Clements via TheAlarm.com
“I remember coming out on to the stage and we opened up with ‘Marching On’. All the students rushed to the front of the stage and pushed up against stage. There was no barrier and the pressure of the audience meant that the supports for the stage started to give way (they had been placed wrong so that any amount of force such as that of a surging crowd meant they would fall over rather than be pushed back if they had been placed correctly). As I was singing I started to realise that the stage was actually going down. Simon Baines our guitar tech was in the pit trying his best to hold up the entire stage while we exited stage left…. it was potentially a seriously dangerous situation and we were lucky no one got hurt. Today, the show would never have gone on ahead but everyone just got it together and rebuilt the stage and after about 30 minutes we started again with everyone going crazy and it turned out to be one of the most memorable nights on the tour, albeit for the wrong reasons” – Mike Peters
May 31st 1986 The Alarm Irvine Meadows, CA
“With California’s primary elections only one day away, it’s a shame the Alarm hasn’t licensed its songs out to political candidates. The quartet’s expressions of commitment and idealism are so unspecific that they could be used equally effectively by Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians or LaRouche followers, as well as any Tories and Whigs who might still be skulking about. But that refusal to pinpoint causes or issues may be the explanation for the growing popularity of the Welsh band, which drew nearly 6,000 fans to Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre on Saturday. There’s no risk in alienating potential fans in vaguely urging them to ‘take a stand.’ That could refer to any given social issue, religious crusade or, for all we know, choosing a wallpaper pattern.” – Randy Lewis, Los Angeles Times, June 2, 1986
“This was probably the best all-around show I saw The Alarm play, at least from a musical perspective. The band had obviously learned to play all the songs from Strength in the live setting, and they all sounded great. The band were slick, rehearsed, and appeared ready for the big-time. They played an early version of “A New South Wales” as well as “Pinball Wizard” in the encore. As far as I’m concerned, they never played a better show afterwards (that I saw) as a full band. The L.A. Times never liked The Alarm, but the their review of this show was telling. Stuck in the past, it read like the reviewer had missed everything The Alarm had done in the past year. ‘Pinpointing Issues?’ What is more pinpoint that singing about ‘not hiding while world resources die’, needing specifically, ‘love, hope and Strength’, a conversation between “father and son’, and ‘8000 going down in Deeside town’? Nah, the insular, popular music press had narrative about The Alarm set when they toured with U2 in 1983, and they never broke out of it, no matter what the band said, did or when faced with mounting evidence to the contrary. As a fan, it was infuriating” – Steve Fulton, Alarm Fan.
June 1st 1986
June 19th 1986 : Spirit of ’86 Video Released
Editors Note: “The Stand” is mis-titled as “The Storm”.
June 21st 1986 The Alarm Koseinenkin-Dai Hall in Nagoya, Japan
June 23rd 1986 The Alarm Koseinenkin-Dai Hall, Osaka, Japan
June 24th 1986 The Alarm Sun Plaza Hall, Tokyo, Japan
June 25th 1986 The Alarm Shinjukukoseinenkin Hall, Tokyo, Japan
After an exhilarating 9 months on the road, the ‘Strength’ tour was over.
“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
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
“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
– 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
Strength – An Oral History. Created by Steve Fulton and Mike Peters. ©2019 www.thealarm.com
Strength Live ’85 is released today on Saturday April 13th 2019 as an official part of Record Store Day 2019 and is available as a Double LP featuring a classic unreleased Alarm concert performance from 1985 at the `Orpheum Theatre, Boston.
The release of Strength Live ’85 is out today with Mike Peters making a special live in store appearance at Generation Records, NYC ahead of tonight’s New York Gathering concert at Irving Plaza, Tickets available here.