I first saw the Alarm live, supporting the Boomtown Rats at Leicester University in December 1982. I don’t recall the gig making that great an impression on me. I certainly never imagined that this was the first of countless live performances I would see from what would become my all time favourite band. In fact I don’t even recall the band telling the crowd who they were!!
Six months later however I instantly recognised the same distinctive lead singer fronting the band on Top of the Pops when 68 guns hit the charts and as I knew the Leicester Uni Ents officer, I was able to confirm that it was the same band I had seen the previous Christmas.
December 1983 I saw the Alarm again, this time supporting the Police at the NEC. Clearly the huge sell out venue didn’t daunt the band at all and they performed a set including Declaration/ Marching on, Blaze of glory, Where were you hiding (which was released as a single a few months later) and of course 68 guns.
Next up was the Sound and Fury tour to promote the forthcoming single and album and the finale concert at the Hammersmith Palais was rightly broadcast on Radio 1s ‘in concert’. At subsequent Alarm concerts over the next few years I could always tell who the die hard Alarm fans were because like me they must have got hold of concert bootleg tapes and hence we were the only ones who could sing along to ‘One step closer to home’ because we were the only ones who knew the words.
The next live gig I saw was at the (now defunct) Mr Keisas Club in Leicester the earliest gig for which I still have the entrance ticket. (It is someone on the attached photo). The show was great because the band performed the entire Declaration album; a number of the great B sides (2nd Generation, What kind of Hell, Knockin on Heavens door) and Dave even performed the rarely played ‘Black side of Fortune’. For me these were real gems because several years and albums down the line there would be no space for such great songs on the set list.
The following May (1984) I saw the Alarm on successive nights of the ‘Absolute’ tour at the Birmingham Odeon and the Hammersmith Odeon. The latter gig was broadcast on Radio 1 however the compilation did not do the concert justice as the one hour selection left out some of the real highlights. For me this was probably the best tour the original line up undertook. The guys shot straight out of the starting blocks, opening with the powerful ‘Majority’ (why this was not included on the Strength album is still beyond me) before firing into Marching on and the Chant has just begun without any breaks between songs. A few of the tracks that would appear on the Strength album were aired and the Hammersmith Show finished up with a rare rendition of ‘Up for Murder’.
Subsequent gigs I made it to included one of the only 2 gigs on the ‘Spirit of 86 tour’ at Nottingham’s Rock City; the 2 tours before/ after the release of ‘Eye of the Hurricane’ and the ‘Change’ and ‘Raw’ tours. I loved the electric feel to ‘Hurricane’ as well as the added keyboard. Change wasn’t my favourite album and I was one of the unlucky ones who went to the Aston Villa Leisure Centre gig only for Eddie to come on to stage to inform us all that the gig was off as Mike had received severe burns while performing the night before. Eddie’s only solo performance chance gone!! I did make it to the rescheduled gig although many of mates couldn’t.
I got into the habit of buying the tour T shirt at the first show I attended on each tour only to need to replace it at the tour end because in those days jumping around to 100 minutes plus of live Alarm music resulted in the shirt becoming a torn sweat ridden rag. One fact that I liked most about the original line up was that they were very much a four piece. Mike was the front man of course but Dave performed lead vocals on enough songs to more than fill an album. Eddie chipped in with a couple of leads and Twist also co wrote a number of the songs.
Following the 1991 split I saw Mike and Dave live several times with their respective solo projects and have followed the current Alarm line up on most of their tours since, only missing shows when I myself travelled round the world for a year and following the birth of my twins in 2007. In the case of the latter my son (appropriately named Michael) & daughter already know the words to 68 guns!! Interestingly the Mike Peters/ Alarm name and music has outlasted many of the venues in which I have seen them perform (Dudley JBs, Birmingham’s Powerhouse, Edwards no.8, Que club to name just a few)
Now 30 years on it is amusing to observe that the average age of an Alarm concert goer is probably somewhere around 49 and few if any of us have the energy to jump around to the music like we used to in the early days. When interviewed I recall Mike saying that he couldn’t say what the best Alarm song(s) are because he likes them all. So, for the record and in no particular order here are my all time six of the best favourite Alarm songs from the pre 1991 era.
Room at the Top
One step closer to home
Walk forever by my side
I can’t compile an all time favourite list for the current line up because they are still churning out great albums even quicker than the original line up!
What’s left? Well I lost touch with all of my Alarm friends from the pre 1991 years as we went our separate ways after Uni to different work locations so I have still to get to a Gathering event but hopefully sometime soon who knows. Additionally, probably unlike most of you I have still to succeed in persuading Mike to perform my request on his ‘request’ tours. Then again that is probably my fault for choosing the most obscure Alarm songs that Mike probably hasn’t played in years and would need to access the internet to relearn the words!!