To Celebrate the anniversary of The Alarm’s first ever gig in America on June 1st 1983 at the San Francisco Civic. 21st Century’s intrepid reporter Steve Fulton revisited the period and has come up with this fascinating and insightful article which brings together unseen photos and recollections from the band members themselves. Read on….
The Alarm – Wake Up America 1983 [On the War tour with U2]
In May 1983, The Alarm were embarking on a short UK tour to support their new single The Stand, released in April of that year. With Ian Wilson as their manager, they slowly, but steadily built a following across the UK. Wilson, once U2’s agent, helped The Alarm gain multiple support slots with U2 throughout late 1981 and 1982. Both bands had a similar energy and spirit that made them compatible touring bands. Now with their new single released on IRS Records, The Alarm were embarking on a headlining tour of their own. Still without any real commercial success, The Alarm had become a legendary live act. It was not long before U2 came calling once more.
“U2 were soundchecking at the Hammersmith Odeon in March 1983. Backstage Paul McGuinness took me aside and whispered “We want you to play with us on the US leg of The War Tour. Can you do it?’. Without a penny to our name or the prospect of a proper record contract to support us, I confidently answered ‘Yes, of course!.’
– Ian Wilson
The Alarm had to cancel their “The Stand” single support date tour dates in Glasgow, Coventry and Bradford for the tour with U2. While The Alarm were garnering a small but enthusiastic word-of-mouth following, they had still not broken through to mainstream in the UK. They were game for anything, and a tour with U2 in the USA seemed like too good a chance to pass-up, even if it meant cancelling already scheduled tour dates.
“One of the good things that Miles Copeland brought to the band (probably the only good thing he brought really) was that he was connected in America. Probably the main reason why we signed to IRS, at the end of the day, was because they were an American driven record label, and Miles had broken The Police in America. A lot of British bands in the seventies & early eighties never made it in America. America never got punk and they didn’t get the early eighties stuff until much later on. The first band to break America in a long long time were The Police and they were driven by Miles Copeland. He engineered the whole thing, funded them going to America. He got them a van & Sting and all that lot drove round America and powered their way through as many gigs as they could get, and they started making it in America, creating a name for themselves.
When Miles saw us, he kind of understood about America really, so when we got offered the chance to go and play with U2 in America, Miles could grasp the concept that it would be good for the band, even though we had had no discernible success in Britain at that point. It was very unusual for a band to go to America as early in their career as we did and we were unknown. We got the U2 tour because they’d been on tour so long that they were homesick and wanted some people that they knew to come and join them on tour. We’d built up a relationship with them during the beginning of the War tour and Ian our manager happened to be their agent (which kind of helped as well), Ian and their manager Paul McGuinness had a conversation while we were playing a gig with U2 at Hammersmith Palais. He’d asked Ian if we’d be up for touring with U2, and Ian said yes. But he didn’t tell us until it became something definite”.
May 30 1983: London
“To the strains of ‘68 Guns’ sung by our ever-present , ever-faithful, self-titled Family of Fans, we left Heathrow Airport at midday bound for America. Our plan to beat jet lag failed miserably as we were too excited to even blink, never mind sleep. As we flew over North America, with all of us looking out of one porthole at the back of the plane, we imagined what The Beatles must have felt as they flew over for the first time.”
-Mike Peters Tour Diary
“When we got to go to America, we’d put out three singles in the UK. We’d done Unsafe Building and we’d released Marching On and The Stand for IRS. The Stand had got to number 81 in the charts, but when we got to America, our first gig with U2 was in San Francisco at The Civic Arena. We’d played a tour supporting The Stand in the UK and we’d actually played two nights in The Marquee before we left. They were a brilliant two nights, packed to the roof and we tried to stay up all night after the second gig. We thought if we stay up all night, we’ll sleep on the plane and when we get to America we’ll have beaten the jet lag. No problem! We didn’t sleep all night, but when we got on the plane, we were so excited at going to America for the first time, we didn’t sleep on the plane either.
And then we got to America, we were so excited that we didn’t sleep then either. We were staying in the hotel called The Tropicana, which was a bit of a legendary place and Iggy Pop, Jim Morrision and all this lot had stayed there. The first thing we did when we got in the hotel, we all phoned home to say we were in America and how great it was. And then Miles Copeland called to say I’m taking you out for dinner tonight. We thought rather than have a shower, we’ll go in the swimming pool. Hotel with a swimming pool, we’d never stayed in one of those before… We all went in the swimming pool, the four of us and Gaz and Red Eye and we all had similar haircuts, and we only went in this far and we were all stood in this swimming pool, with the hair out here, going “It’s great in America isn’t it!”
And then we went to dinner with Miles Copeland. It was our first trip to America, but instead of taking us to McDonalds, he took us to a Turkish restaurant. By this time we were knackered and they sat us down , but you didn’t sit on seats at tables, you sat on these cushions. Within two minutes we were all fast asleep – Miles Copeland’s thinking ‘Is this the future of Rock & Roll or what?’.
– Mike Peters Alarm 2000 Day, May 28th, 2000
“I remember landing in LA and having our first meal in a Persian restaurant, I could hardly stay awake. Incidentally, a young girl came up to us and asked us for our autographs. She now works as an attorney in my office! “
The original touring party that first flew in was: Mike Peters, Dave Sharp, Nigel Twist, Eddie Macdonald Simon Watson – Tour Manager and Sound Engineer Redeye (John Selwyn Edwards) – Backline Tech and in house comedian Gaz Top (Gareth Jones) – Backline tech and also in house comedian (and photographer) They were joined by Georgia (Red’s girlfriend of the time) from the LA Arena show onwards and then by Ian Wilson (The Alarm’s manager and U2’s European booking agent) from Florida to New York.
June 1, 1983 :The Alarm, Civic Auditorium, San Fran., CA
This was the first date of the 18 date U2 support tour. The Alarm landed in Los Angeles and had to deal with culture shock before making their way to San Francisco for the first date of their support tour with U2. They almost didn’t make it.
“San Francisco : After an eight hour drive from LA, we had our first taste of what we had all imagined was America. Driving over the Bay Bridge into S.F. , the view was unreal – the high-rises all reached up for miles, and with Alcatraz prison on the right and behind it The Golden Gate Bridge, you’ve got to be there to really feel the power of the view. We headed for the Civic Centre, an almighty venue with a capacity of 10,000. As we prepared to go on stage for our first ever gig in America, the tension in the air was tremendous, especially as we had not had time to soundcheck or change our guitar strings. The light of experience filled the hall and we ran out to the largest audience we had ever faced in our lives. The feeling of performing in front of all those people, who had never heard a note of music by The Alarm, was a great experience. It was such a challenge to reach to the farthest corners and try to win every single soul.”
-Mike Peters Tour Diary 1983
“We got to America, the first thing any American ever said to us as we were coming through immigration was “Oh My God”. We had to go from LA to San Francisco to play with U2. It’s 250 miles, we thought “no problem, about three or four hours, hammer it up there”. We get in the hire vehicle (a U-Haul Truck), hit the highway, giving ourselves enough time to get there for the soundcheck. It won’t go past 50, it’s got a limiter on it. First gig in America, we’re late. We get to the gig in San Francisco and Bono & The Edge are waiting for us. They’re excited that we’re coming .
We get all the gear out, pile all the gear on stage, we didn’t have a soundcheck and the next minute the house lights are out and we’re due to be on stage. We get the guitars on and think, s***, these strings have been on for like five days. We start playing (Declaration) and my strings go “boing, boing, boing” and Dave’s are going as well. It’s like “Mike, tell some stories”. I thought ‘What do you say?’.
So it’s “Hello San Francisco” and I get a little applause. I said “It’s our first night ever we’ve played a gig in America” and the Americans cheer. I thought this is good this. On the way over I’d been playing a Bruce Springsteen bootleg called “Live in San Francisco, Live in the promised land”. So I was going ‘It’s really nice to be in San Francisco, really great to be in the promised land’, and they’re going wild. By that time I’d got my guitar back on and wham off we go into the set.”
– Mike Peters Alarm 2000 Day, May 28th, 2000
Along the tour route, Mike Peters sent several post cards home to his friend, and friend of The Alarm Rob Bevis. Several of those post cards are included in this article.
June 3, 1983: The Alarm, Salt Lake City, UT
The Alarm toured in a Dodge Ram mini bus that was driven at various times by Simon Watson, Nigel Twist and Mike Peters. U2 kindly transported their equipment. At one point, U2 even let The Alarm use their tour bus for some of the mid-west dates: after it had broken down on route to Salt Lake City and the Irish rockers flew to a few shows to catch up on some rest.
“ Salt Lake City : We drove all night from SF to Salt Lake City and I took the wheel at about midnight. A terrific thunderstorm lit up the sky and I was so taken by its beauty that I ended up driving all the way into Salt Lake. On arrival everyone went straight to bed, except Redeye (part of The Alarm roadcrew) and myself, who decided to get something to eat. We set off up the road but had to turn back after only 200 yards due to all the locals freaking out over our haircuts. In Britain, people may be conservative but over here they’re wild.”
-Mike Peters Tour Diary, 1983
June 4th, 1983: Day Off
“The next day was a day off and it was like Labour Day weekend. Eddie took a while to get used to America and he had a bit of culture shock and wasn’t really enjoying the first few days. We all decided we’d go and see Return Of The Jedi, because it had just come out in the cinema. But Eddie didn’t want to go, he wasn’t into it like we were, he wanted to go and fix his shoes. We’re like “we’re in America, Return Of The Jedi’s out and you want to go and fix your boots? See you later mate!”.
So we all went to the cinema, and it was a long film, so when Eddie got back from having his shoes fixed, he sat in the van with all the air conditioning on to keep him cool. When we’d got to the cinema, the theatre manager took one look at us with all our barnets out here and he just thought “you’re not coming in here, you look like you’re from the film”. So he put us upstairs in the
circle so we wouldn’t freak out all the kids in the front row. So while we were watching the film, Eddie was in the van. When we came back and Nige got in to start the van up – the engine just blew, Eddie had flattened all the batteries and we couldn’t get an engineer our because it was Labour Day, like a bank-holiday. We were snookered basically. We went in to use the phone in the theatre & the manager there took pity on us & put us up for the night. Eddie felt really bad, all of a sudden got over his culture shock & became one of the boys again.”
– Mike Peters Alarm 2000 Day, May 28th, 2000
June 5, 1983 The Alarm, Red Rocks, Denver, CO (Show cancelled due to rain)
The Alarm continued their tour with U2 to Red Rocks, Colorado. U2 were scheduled to film a concert that night. The Alarm’s opening set was cancelled due to rain, but U2 later went onstage and filmed their “Under a Blood Red Sky” concert video.
“We actually were at Red Rocks when U2 did that kind of famous gig. The gig itself got called off because there was so much rain during the day that the gig was blown out. In the sleeve notes, I’ve got some pictures of us all backstage, of U2 on the day looking a bit tense. They’d flown, at their own expense, all The Tube camera crew from Newcastle to film the event. So the gig was off and it was chucking it down with rain and they put out an announcement on the radio to say the gig was off. What happened was that in the evening, so many people turned up who hadn’t got the message, that two or three thousand people were at the gig. On the video it looks like there are billions of people there, but actually they weren’t that many. There was a break in the rain and U2 went on to do one or two songs just to get a bit of footage on the video and they arranged a show the next night in Boulder, Colorado. During the first number, the sky changed, and Paul McGuiness was like “Keep Going” and sending out messages to keep the camera’s rolling. We were supposed to go on for the second number, to do Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall by Bob Dylan. But the U2 carried on and ended up playing a full set. It was really funny, there were some brilliant bits. If you’ve got the Under A Blood Red Sky album, first of all, there’s only one song from the gig on the album, the rest were recorded in Germany. When you see the video, it’s got Bono with a big flag, with all the red sky behind him. Well you don’t see that in the video because when he actually did that, it was in Electric Co and he did this whole thing with the flag. Because there wasn’t that many people there, he did the whole thing, but they cut it out of the video. He actually went off stage and under this tunnel and comes up in the middle of the gig at the mixing desk with his flag, and they’ve got all these lights coming off the mountains and all these helicopters appear beaming down on him. But there’s nobody around him, everybody’s down at the front waiting for him to come back. It looked good for the album cover, but it didn’t look good for the film, so that’s not in it.”
– Mike Peters Alarm 2000 Day, May 28th, 2000
“I remember Red Rocks, U2 had painted the stage right after our sound check and it was still wet before our show so we couldn’t play that night. It was probably the best show on the tour. Edge broke a string on Adam’s bass so they borrowed Eddie’s, you can see it on ’40.’
June 6, : The Alarm, University Events Center, Boulder, CO
After their opening set, The Alarm joined U2 during their own set for an encore of Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall”. However, for the final verse Bono kicked them off the stage, while saying The Alarm were “the future of rock and roll”.
“We were actually starting to get a few ideas of how things might pan out for us in America and so at this gig we decided to make a grand entrance. We approached Pete Williams U2’s lighting designer with an idea for the start of our set which involved us walking onstage to the music that was the theme tune for the classic movie ‘Once Upon A Time In America’. We came up with the idea of walking down to the stage from the top of the arena while the intro music was playing. The only thing wrong with the plan was that we didn’t rehearse it. We had not realised how difficult it was to walk down the steps of an arena with only a spotlight to light the way, especially Nigel Twist who had to do it in his dark glasses, we were trippng and stumbling and it took a lot longer than we imagined. We also had not allowed for the fact that we had to walk behind the stage to get on stage and by the time we got there the audience were slow hand clapping us. When we came off stage after our set, Pete Williams was waiting for us with a big grin on his face. He knew all along that our grand plan was destined for failure but you can only learn from those sort of mistakes for yourself – by trial and error. When Bono called us up to play ‘Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall’ (which we had planned to do the previous night at Red Rocks), some of the audience started throwing coins at me when it was my turn to sing. Bono came and stood next to me so that they would stop which was a really great gesture. The version we played was pretty terrible as we had all forgotten how to play it to be honest. We had learnt it in the dressing room at Red Rocks but by the time we got on stage at Boulder it was all a blur and that’s why Bono sent us off…. and that included Larry Mullen Jr.!!
June 7, 1983: The Alarm, Wichita, KS
“We were driving off to the next gig. The next gig was in Witchita, Kansas, but this is what America is like. U2 were massive, and first gig was to 8000 people in San Francisco Civic, but four days later they were playing Witchita in Kansas and they were having to cancel shows because they were only selling 70 tickets. It was really weird and we couldn’t get our heads round it. So we had a day off because they’d cancelled one of these shows, so we decided we’d have a scenic route trip round America and go off the highway. We stopped in this place called Craig, Colorado, we came in our little van & it was dead silent. There was a fairground going on, with all of these ferris wheels, so we wound the window down. You know like in British fairs you have Abba’s Dancing Queen pumping out usually – well this one was dead silent and all you could hear was these “Whoop, Ye-haa”. We pulled into this little café and we walked in, all the spurs going and chains and things. This guy says to me “Hey! You boys have picked the wrong town”. We just did what you’re doing and burst out laughing ’cause it was straight out of John Wayne. Once he’d heard our accents and realised we were from outer space or somewhere he served us and we had a brilliant time.”
– Mike Peters Alarm 2000 Day, May 28th, 2000
June 8, 1983: The Alarm, Kansas City, MO
June 10, 1983: The Alarm, Norman, OK
“The excitement of going to America for the first time…driving to LA on a freeway, going to a posh Turkish restaurant with Miles Copeland and falling asleep at the table (Jetlag for the first time), truck stop shops, driving a Dodge Ram all across the USA (8/10 of us crammed inside), U2 letting us use their tourbus to sleep on the way to Texas.”
June 11th, Austin , The Meadows
“Austin : Saturday night in Austin, Texas, and after the gig the only place to be is Sixth Street which is packed with bars, discos and restaurants. Everyone was very friendly, even though they were taken back by our appearance, which, as I’ve explained, receives a more fierce reaction than in Britain. The advent of MTV has revitalised the grapevine in the USA, something which has been missing since the sixties. Before MTV, bands had to play America state by state, the only real exposure being the radio, which only caters for a local city or two. Obviously, it was very hard for bands to have an impact on the American public as a whole because there was no national focus like NME or Radio One. However, MTV has provided exactly this focus – and a talking point – across the nation.”
-Mike Peters Tour Diary, 1983
June 13th, 1983: The Alarm, Bronco Bowl, Dallas, TX
The day before this show, on June 12th, Mike Peters and Bono appeared together on KZEW for an interview with George Gimarc. The most interesting part of the interview (for fans of The Alarm), is transcribed below:
George Gimarc: What a terrific tune. Excuse me from interrupting it like that. Golly, Mike!
Mike Peters: That’s a track we recorded just before we came to America. It’s going to be on our album
and we’ll be finishing the album off when we get back from the States.
George Gimarc: That’s called ‘Blaze of Glory’
BONO: That is a blaze of glory. I mean you talk about a No.1. Sort of No.1 or nothing!
George Gimarc: I hate to tell you Bono, but you’re gonna have to move out if he keeps this up.
BONO: It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.
Mike Peters: I’ve got a few more songs like that up my sleeve.
“This was the show preceded by the KZEW interview with George Gimarc that featured myself and Bono. It was the first time we played the Mick Glossop recording of ‘Blaze Of Glory’. The gig was amazing and the interview made us some actual real ‘Alarm’ US fans in the Dallas area who were waiting for us to arrive and get autographs.”
June 14th, 1983: The Alarm, Houston, TX
“I remember Bono losing it a bit during this show and throwing the microphone down in temper. A lot was being asked of them and the band were playing huge shows like San Francisco and Colorado and then having to cancel some shows. The Witchita show was cancelled because of a lack of ticket sales). We were under orders to get back to Los Angeles as fast as possible and so Simon, Nigel and I dead headed the van back to Hollywood without stopping for more than a fuel fill up and some food. Between us we drove the band and crew back to California and made it in time for the gig at the LA Sports Arena”
“After our first gig in San Francisco, all the record company were there, and they thought ‘Hey, these guys are alright’. So they went back to LA and cobbled together a release of The Stand, and made this EP. We didn’t even know anything about that first EP that came out in America and did well for us, we never saw it until a fan came along to a gig and said “Can you sign this” and we thought “What is it? Is there another band from America called The Alarm?”. It turned out to be us.”
– Mike Peters Alarm 2000 Day, May 28th, 2000
The E.P. was released by IRS to capitalize on the the tour with U2. It reached #126 on USA album chart. Tracks: The Stand, Across The Border, Marching On (single version), Lie Of The Land For Freedom (USA EP: cat #:IRS SP70504, USA Cassette: cat #:IRS CS70504)
“When The Stand was out in America, we started getting our first TV shows, and our first ever appearance was on a show called The Cutting Edge, which was an MTV show. We wanted to make it look good so I got them to put these white sheets of paper up and I got the spray can out and painted the red poppy on it and that became our first ever thing. We were interviewed and it was our first thing on TV, but the video appearance stuck. IRS bought the TV footage and turned it into our first ever video, and it was called “Come On Down And Make The Stand”
– Mike Peters Alarm 2000 Day, May 28th, 2000
June 17th, 1983: The Alarm, Sports Arena, Los Angeles, CA
When The Alarm returned to Los Angeles, the crew at IRS records had booked them for an appearance on The Cutting Edge”, the first “alternative” video show on MTV. It would prove to be the first big exposure for the band outside of their U2 support slot. Not only was the band featured as new wave pioneers, but their first video for The Stand was filmed while they were in the studio.
“We recorded the very first Cutting Edge piece at the old Charlie Chaplin film studios which was on the A&M records lot just off La Brea in Hollywood. I think we went there just after we had played the Sports Arena with U2 although I’m not totally sure of the exact day. There’s a skull of a bull on one of the amps and we picked that up in the desert while we were playing Texas with U2 and the skull became known as ‘Dallas’. You can see it in that early PR shot where we are all sat down together.”
Ed Colver was the in house IRS photographer and (like Harry Murlowski in London), he took the very best early photos of the band. We met Ed on the set of the shoot which was to involve an interview and a playback to camera of ‘The Stand’. To give the set more character I asked the director if I could spray the lyrics onto some large format sheets of paper and he was totally up for it. (I had done it once before at The Clarendon / Klub Foot show in Hammersmith and it looked really effective). They filmed me spraying the red poppy to cut into the performance, I was using a badge as a guide for the perspective to get the shape and dimension correct.
The first thing we did was the interviews and these were done one by one rather than the four of us together which was interesting. In fact, when the piece was first broadcast the first person on screen talking was Dave Sharp who said that he wrote songs on his own . I think this gave a lot of our early fans the impression that The Alarm was Dave’s band to some degree. We had never been filmed before and so we were very excited. I think we performed The Stand once only like it was a gig and that was it. It was over before we knew it and because we had the acoustic guitars we went off to record a piece on the top of a building which is where we cut the Blaze Of Glory part. I seem to remember the building was once the first high rise in Los Angeles but I can’t be sure as LA was so new to me then that I can’t remember where the filming actually took place.
The Cutting Edge was broadcast on Sunday nights on MTV and was a very powerful programme for breaking bands. It was controlled and dreamt up by Carl Grasso who was an IRS Records executive. It was quite funny in places and you don’t see the likes of it on TV anymore which is a shame and rock and roll is all the poorer because of it. It really broke us across America and people still talk to me about now and where they were when they first saw it and the impact it had, and this was all before Sixty Eights Guns and Top Of The Pops in the UK.”
-Mike Peters, 2013
June 18th, 1983: The Alarm, The Club Lingerie, Los Angeles, CA
The Alarm’s first ever headlining show in the USA, on a night off from the U2 tour. Bono could not get in and The Alarm had to sneak him in the back.
“ Los Angeles : While in LA, we did our first headline show. When we arrived, at the Club Lingerie, lots of people were being turned away, including all of U2. We managed to persuade the management to let our Irish pals in but most people were being turned away because they did not have ID to prove that they were over 21. It was unfortunate that we were not informed of this in advance, but American clubs are very strict about the legal drinking age. As a result, young audiences never experience the closeness of a good club gig.”
-Mike Peters Tour Diary, 1983
June 21, 1983: The Alarm, Jai Alai Fronton Hall, Orlando, FL
“We flew from LA to Florida and picked up a local vehicle. Simon Watson (who now manages the Human League), had to drive it back to Florida after the tour finished in NYC and he disappeared for two weeks. (When he eventually turned up, he said he’d “been mugged in NYC and had the tour income stolen”!!!).
“We played in a “Jai Alai” stadium in Orlando, had no idea what it was, I remember running out to watch U2 that night and singing every song at the top of my lungs.”
June 22, 1983: The Alarm, Curtis Hixon Center, Tampa, FL
“The Edge was having some trouble with his Memory Man echo pedals and at these gigs he was trying out some more modern and stable effect units to try and replicate the sounds, I travelled with U2 on the bus between shows a few times at this point and they always had the black cutaway acoustic with them (The one Edge plays in the ‘Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ video), we would share chord structures (Bono was still only really learning the guitar at this point).”
June 23, 1983: The Alarm, Miami, FL, June 24th, 1983: The Alarm, Jacksonville, FL
“Florida : This is where we first felt the heat, with everything else paling into insignificance in the mad rush for cold drinks and air conditioning. By this stage of the tour, the travelling and gigging had begun to take its toll, and we saved our energy for the stage and the interviews that were starting to come in thick and fast as news of The Alarm spread.”
-Mike Peters Tour Diary, 1983
June 25th, 1983: The Alarm, The Civic Center in Atlanta, GA
“A great gig for both The Alarm and U2. Bono was a lot more rested by this show as the pressure had started to show during the Texas run and the band were generally tired from being on the road for so long. I think they could also start to feel that they were breaking through at this point as news came through that War had gone ‘Gold’ which was an amazing achievement given the musical climate of America at the time. Things were starting to happen for The Alarm too and ‘The Stand’ was starting to become a hit all of it’s own.”
-Mike Peters, May 29, 2013
June 27th, 1983: The Alarm, The Coliseum, New Haven, CT
“This was the gig where we opened the show to be followed by Marshall Crenshaw… We went down so well in our set that Paul McGuiness (U2’s manager), told us to go back on for an encore and paid the union fine that was incurred by us running ‘overtime’. I don’t think Marshall Crenshaw knew what he was letting himself in for going on between The Alarm and U2.”
-Mike Peters, May 29th, 2013
June 28th, 1983: The Alarm, The Centrum, Worchester, MA
“Bono and The Edge had been championing our record ‘The Stand’ during their own promo interviews and had made Carter Allen play the song on air before the show (Can you imagine bands doing that nowadays???? No chance…. which is another indication of how things have changed in the music industry since then). We then met Carter Allen and all the WBCN Radio team at this show. After our set, they invited us to play at Boston Metro as mystery guests to close out their annual Battle Of The Bands which was known as the WBCN Rumble. “
June 29th, 1983: The, The Pier, NYC
“In NYC we played at the Pier. I got to sound check and Larry, Edge and Adam were playing. Larry asked me to play his kit for him while he went out front to listen to it. I started playing New Year’s Day and Edge and Adam jammed along, then Bono got up and jammed some new lyrics over it.”
“The Alarm, which has been visiting America for the first time, was the opening act and made a decent impression, reaching for a surging anthem style it couldn’t quite achieve. But the foursome was perhaps laboring under an unfair disadvantage, because U2 is one of the finest of the younger groups, and almost anyone would have sounded pale by comparison.”
– John Rockwell, NY Times, July 1, 1983
“New York : The last night of the 18-date tour. The scene – Pier 84, Hudson Bay. The open-air gig had completely sold out. It was a marvellous setting for the last night of a tour deemed a triumph for all concerned. The Alarm went on to do three shows of their own including a sell-out gig at the Ritz Ballroom. We left New York on July 3rd, the day before Independence Day, knowing that it would take us a while to assimilate everything that had happened to us musically and personally. Flying back, we all knew that it had been the time of our lives.”
Mike Peters, Tour Diary 1983
June 30th, 1983: The Alarm, The Metro, Boston
The Alarm opened for U2 in New York the night before & then played a “surprise” show in Boston at WBCN’s rock and Roll Rumble (battle of the bands), with the show starting after 12:00 midnight.
“In addition to the Rumble competition, there’s an attractive bonus tonight. The Alarm, a young Welsh quartet who played a terrific show at the Centrum Tuesday (opening for U2), will close the evening, with a set around 1 a.m. The Alarm’s sound is a heady mix of acoustic and electric guitars, powered by riveting, martial percussion and ragged, urgent vocals. They evince a positive sort of passion, not unlike U2, with a force and feeling that recalls the early Clash.”
-Jim Sullivan, Boston Globe, June 30, 1983
The show was recorded for radio show “King Biscuit’s Flower Hour” on WBCN radio. King Biscuit was a long running series of shows featuring upcoming artists.
“This was the WBCN Rumble which was a Boston ‘battle of the bands’ type of competition that was won by ‘Til Tuesday with Aimee Mann on vocals. We played after them as the mystery guests….. no one really knew who we were except some people who had been at the Centrum and had heard ‘The Stand’ on WBCN.. You can hear the recording of this gig on the King Biscuit Flower Hour release. (Don’t be fooled by the interview disc that goes with it in which I describe a completely different Boston show from the Paradise Theatre…..typical rock and roll / spinal tap sort of stuff… Myself and the interviewer had been given the wrong concert date information…. it was only when I got a copy of the release that I realised the label had made a terrible mistake!!!).”
-Mike Peters, May 29th, 1983
July 1st, 1983: The Alarm, Brooklyn
“We played a club in Brooklyn (I think it might have been called the Marquee), there was absolutely nobody in the room and we were all feeling really low, as if all the work we had put in and the shows we had played, had all counted for nothing. We saw someone enter through the door and our spirits raised but we soon realised that it was a fan from Holywell, North Wales, Chris Ford, who had heard we were making it big in America! I think we played to three people that night and we knew all three of them. It was quite a wake up call.”
July 2nd, 1983: The Alarm, Ritz Ballroom, New York
“One of the last things I said before leaving the stage at the Pier 84 show with U2 was “See you at The Ritz on Saturday”. I think we were all fearing the worst at the soundcheck in The Ritz and thought that the same thing that had happened in Brooklyn was going to happen again. The signs that this show was going to be different happened just before the doors opened, when a guy named Vinnie asked the venue door men if he could “come on stage and pipe The Alarm on to the stage”. We agreed, as we thought it would be something special for the last night of the tour. When we were in the dressing room, Gaz and Red who were setting up our gear after the opening band had finished came rushing back to tell us that the venue was filling up and then, just before we went on stage, Ian Wilson came back and said the venue was starting to turn people away! We walked out to a full house and absolutely rocked the place to the core. It was an amazing turn around and a huge lift for us as a band. We had a party after in the dressing room and then went back to the Iroquois Hotel on 44th street (just off Time Square…. it had the slowest lift in the world), but had been the hotel of choice for The Clash when they stayed in New York so for us, all was well that ended well!”
July 10th, 1983: The Alarm E.P. Receives a great review from Rolling Stone:
Later in July, The Alarm received their first national review in Rolling Stone. As a fresh reviewer, hearing The Alarm for the first time, Steve Pond crystallized the fan reaction to The Alarm and hit on many of the reasons those fans still follow The Alarm today.
“Alarm E.P.***1/2 This is the kind of record that could only come from a young band. Determined, committed and naive, the five songs on this EP have all the hallmarks of idealistic youth: simple, forceful music, rambling strings of earnestly poetic images and the conviction that speaking out just might change a few things. And like Bob Dylan, U2 or the Clash, these four young Welshmen pull it off. The Alarm don’t take any well-defined political stands here, despite plenty of early-Clash trappings. As their name implies, they simply ring the warning bell as loudly as they can while the world around them begins to collapse. It’s an apocalypse, though, as likely to be Biblical as it is nuclear; “The Alarm” is equal parts “Sandinista!” and the Book of Revelation. Though some lines are so self-consciously poetic you want to wince, the Alarm wisely stick to basic, rousing singalong lines in the choruses, where it counts: “Come on down and make the stand,” or “Our hearts must have the courage to keep on marching on.” Even more important is the Alarm’s bracing acoustic-guitar-based sound and their anthemic melodies. The choruses of such tunes as “The Stand” and “For Freedom” are stirring, uplifting and charged with all the infectious fervor youth can muster. Listen to the Alarm now, before they grow up.”
-Steve Pond, Rolling Stone
Written by Steve Fulton.
(Special thanks to Mike Peters, Nigel Twist, Rob Bevis, Helen Mesquita, Dirk Horst and John O’Donnell for their input on this piece)
The Alarm EP – COLLECTORS EDITION – Available to order now.
The Alarm EP is available to order now in a special collectors edition enhanced CD format.
Priced £9.99 (inc. free postage).
- The Stand
- Across The Border
- Marching On
- Lie Of The Land
- For Freedom
The original 5 track The Alarm Ep from 1983 with all tracks remastered by Mike Peters. Collectors Edition comes in a replica 5” CD wallet ( just like the original vinyl release art), with an enhanced CD that features ‘The Stand’ video plus The Cutting Edge MTV segment which introduced The Alarm to America for the first time. This historic clip also contains footage of unique acoustic rooftop performances of ‘Blaze Of Glory’ and ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’ plus interviews with the band members. Also included are the lyrics plus the legendary ‘Heed The Alarm’ television / radio advertisement recording.