THE ALARM – Biography
As The Alarm continues into it’s 25th year, the band still commands worldwide attention since being formed in 1981, by lead singer and guitarist, Mike Peters. The Alarm have scored hit records in each of the three decades since, 16 Top 50 UK singles, a host of successful albums and over 5 million sales worldwide. The band’s most most recent chart success of 2004 was the controversial hit single �45 R.P.M.�.
’45 R.P.M.’, originally released by ‘The Poppy Fields’ [a psuedonym for The Alarm], entered the UK charts at number 27 and immediately became the subject of an international news story. The furore centered around the fact that The Alarm’s identity had been kept hidden from the media and instead a stand-in group of 18 year old musicians appeared in the video. ’45 R.P.M.’ was played extensively throughout the UK and was championed by unsuspecting DJ’s and critics as the first release by a brand new band. It was only after the song entered the charts that Mike Peters and The Alarm revealed the true identity of ‘The Poppy Fields’, thus causing a storm of worldwide media speculation. This raised the band�s profile higher than it had been for many years. The band even featured on prime time America’s CBS News with Dan Rather.
The story of how The Alarm fooled the British Music Industry has also become the inspiration for a major motion picture which will be shot in the U.K. during the summer of 2006 by ‘Shrek ‘ producer, John H. Williams and British film director Sara Sugarman.
The Alarm scored a first chart success in the USA in 1983 with ‘The Stand’, before flying back from America to appear on their very first UK Top Of The Pops, notching up their first British chart hit with the rousing ‘Sixty Eight Guns�. ‘Where Were You Hiding When the Storm Broke?’ hit the Charts in early 1984 before the release of their debut LP, Declaration’, which went Top Five UK on week of release.
The Alarm’s second album, ‘Strength’ (the title track becoming The Alarm’s first U.S. Top 40 hit) was released in 1985 and spawned Mike Peters’ autobiographical ‘Spirit of ’76’. At this time, The Alarm also made history by playing the world’s very first global satellite concert, their own now legendary Spirit of 86′ Concert which was performed to an audience of 26,000 fans at UCLA in California and screened live around the world by MTV.
‘Eye Of The Hurricane’ (1987) sported the international hit, ‘Rain In The Summertime’. A series of world tours (including a critically acclaimed US outing with Bob Dylan), enhanced The Alarm’s reputation for all-out live shows.
‘Change’, The Alarm’s fourth album (1989), proved to be a hit on both sides of the Atlantic, with ‘A New South Wales’ reaching the UK Top 40 and ‘Sold Me Down the River’ becoming a U.S. Number 1 Rock Hit. The Alarm saw out the 1980�s with a sellout concert in New York City were they were joined on stage by Neil Young to perform ‘Rockin’ In the Freeworld’.
‘Raw’ (their first record of the 1990’s), was the last record to feature the original line-up of the band who played their final show at Brixton Academy in June 1991. Since then, the band’s legacy has been continued by Mike Peters.
In 1992, The Alarm became one of the first bands to have a dedicated internet site www.thealarm.com and in that same year, Mike Peters founded The Gathering, an ‘Alarm’ event held in North Wales which now attracts fans from all over the world (currently in it’s 14th year and completely sold out).
Mike Peters solo’ career began with the release of ‘Breathe’ in 1994 (which debuted at number 5 in the U.K. independent charts). The second album, ‘Feel Free’ (1996) documented Mike Peters’ first time battle with cancer (Non Hodgkins Lymphoma). Rejecting conventional treatment, Mike Peters went to see of a faith healer instead, and continued to tour. Upon being told that ‘green’ was a powerful colour in his life, Mike Peters wore green combat fatigues every day until he eventually went into remission in 1997.
Mike Peters celebrated his return to health with the release of the critically acclaimed ‘Rise’ album which indirectly lead him into his musical relationship with current band members James Stevenson, Craig Adams and Steve Grantley.
In 2000, ‘The Alarm Complete Collection� box set was released to widespread critical acclaim. The collection brought together The Alarm�s entire 1980’s musical output into a nine-CD box set, along with a bonus �audio dedication� CD personally recorded by Mike Peters. Never before had such a gesture been undertaken by a recording artist. Mojo magazine were so excited by Mike�s inspired idea, that they requested their own dedication � what else but �I Got My Mojo Working�!
Guitarist magazine awarded the collection a full 5/5, describing it as �superbly remastered� a staggering achievement and beautifully presented� so tastefully done that hopefully it will inspire many other bands to take control of their own recorded past� while Q magazine called the box set �immaculately packaged� to keep diehard fans in raptures for ever�. Classic Rock praised it as �amazingly comprehensive”.
To coincide with ‘The Alarm Complete Collection’ release, Mike Peters reconstituted The Alarm for some low key shows supporting ‘Big Country’ with a line up that featured Peters alongside original Alarm member Eddie Macdonald, current guitarist James Stevenson, bass player Craig Adams and drummer Steve Grantley. Headline shows were demanded and soon The Alarm was on the road again throughout 2000/2001. (although Macdonald decided not to continue). The band even found time to put together and release a live CD/DVD of the last night of the tour from Shepherds Bush Empire.
Energised by the tour and accepted by the fans, the new four piece Alarm, recorded five brand new studio albums (in five months from September 2002 – January 2003). Entitled ‘In The Poppy Fields’, the task was to record ten brand new songs at a time and release them on CD each month exclusively via www.thealarm.com. This ground breaking project laid the foundations for the modern Alarm to flourish. As word spread on the internet more and more fans both old and new began to take a fresh interest in The Alarm.
In 2003, the new line up of The Alarm decided to reintroduce themselves to America via their now legendary ‘The Alarm Make A Stand In The USA Tour.’ Throughout the month of November, the members of The Alarm pushed themselves to the limit flying backwards and forwards across the continent as they fulfilled their engagement of playing sell out shows in the four major US cities of New York, Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles on a weekly basis, for three weeks running. It was whilst the band were in New York that the seeds of the ’45 R.P.M.’ scandal was originated. On a rare night off, Mike Peters went to see American punk band ‘Rancid’ at the Roseland Ballroom in Manhattan. At The Alarm show the next night, Mike Peters was talking from the stage about meeting Rancid (who are all self confessed Alarm fans), prior to playing 45 R.P.M. for the first time live. Some fans mistakenly thought the song had been written for The Alarm by Rancid guitarist -Tim Armstrong. This rumour persisted on the internet for months.
Upon their return in 2004, the band who had remade the best twelve tracks (as voted for by fans) from ‘In The Poppy Fields’ with producer Steve Brown (The Cult, Manic Street Preachers), released ’45 R.P.M.’ as a single under the pseudonym ‘Poppy Fields’, a chart act that made the whole world sit up and take notice of the band once again. ‘In The Poppy Fields’ was also the title of the album that followed. Recorded by The Alarm lineup of Mike Peters (Voice, guitar & harmonica), James Stevenson (Guitar), Craig Adams (Bass) and Steve Grantley (Drums), the album contained a number of songs which have since become an integral part of The Alarm in concert – ‘Coming Home’, ‘Right Back Where I Started From’ and ‘The Drunk And The Disorderly’ to name but three. ‘In The Poppy Fields’ has since become the band’s most successful recording of modern times. “IN THE POPPYFIELDS might well prove to be one of the best “comeback” records of the century-so-far”. U.S. Goldmine.
The follow up to ‘In The Poppy Fields’ – ‘Under Attack’ began in Peters’ converted Chapel Studio in North Wales. “The writing of this album is much more organic than any other album The Alarm ever made” says Peters. Having worked alone as a songwriter for most of the history of the original Alarm, Peters decided to let his lyrics be inspired by the music the band set about creating together. “At first, I had no lyrics to begin with, only music, I wanted the content to form during the rehearsal sessions with the band. I then spent hours transcribing recordings of the songs to find the lyrical direction”. The first single �Superchannel� is powerful evidence for the effectiveness of the process; the arrangement on the album was captured during the very first run-through.
Circumstances began to affect the outcome of the record. ‘Something’s Got To Give’ was created on the day the world gathered to ‘make poverty history’ at the Live 8 events. The London bombings of 7/7 affected the writing of ‘My Town’ and ‘This Is The Way We Are” was inspired by a film Mike Peters had made of his hometown, Rhyl, North Wales (The footage had been shot to highlight ideas for the 45 R.P.M. movie soundtrack the band will be recording when the film goes into full production this summer). “When I looked back at the rushes, I was shocked by how much the place where I had grown up had changed. I’d seen change before and had always embraced it; this was the first time I had seen change that unnerved me…it made me feel uncertain, unsafe, scared�” said Peters.
Another more shocking dimension was added to the album’s title when Peters was diagnosed on December 8th last year with Chronic Lymphacytic Leukaemia (CLL). Mike Peters (who broke the news to the world via www.thealarm.com website), said “The doctors have said to me that I may have been carrying my cancer for the last twelve months at least. My body must have known what I did not. Now I know why my instinct led me to title the album ‘Under Attack’.
Returning to EMI, the Alarm are making �Under Attack� available as an audio-visual release with a performance-based promo clip for each track on an accompanying DVD. �It�s a different way of presenting the album, and I think that�s how they�re going to be made in the future.� Produced by George Wiliams [Babyshambles], Martin Wilding [Poppy Fields, Doves] and the band themselves ‘Under Attack’ will also be preceded on Monday February 6th by the release of the first single ‘Superchannel’. ‘Superchannel’ was mixed by Charlie Pakkarri at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles.
The Alarm will be supporting the release of both album and single with a series of 12 live shows billed as ‘The Saturday Gigs’. Forsaking the traditional tour concept, the band will hold a special one off show in a major U.K. city at the end of each month throughout the whole of 2006. Beginning on January 28th at the North Wales Conference Centre in Llandudno [Sold Out] and continuing in Cardiff at The Coal Exchange on February 25th [Mike Peters Birthday]. See rest of dates below.
Mike Peters, who is currently undertaking chemotherapy, has vowed to carry on and perform at all The Alarm shows scheduled for 2006. “I will be fighting this fight with every ounce of energy I can muster. I have my wife Jules, and son Dylan beside me and they are reason enough to live for. I can’t wait to perform again with James Stevenson, Craig Adams and Steve Grantley who have all been dear and true friends to me throughout this difficult time in my life. It has often been said that The Alarm was a band built on friendship; it has never been more true than it is today”.
The Alarm MMVI – Under Attack CD/DVD will be released by EMI records on February 20th 2006. Website www.thealarm.com