Back in 1979 through to 1983 at school I was a massive fan of three things. West Ham United FC. 2000 AD comics and punk rock! SLF were my favorite band and without me blatantly plagiarizing “barbed wire love” and “suspect device” in exam papers I would have probably never have passed my English Language and Literature “O” levels with B grades (Hanx Jake!)
By 84 SLF were finished (or so we thought!) I was out of school and as a veteran of way too many local YMCA punk rock gigs including The Adicts, Special Duties, Blitz, Abrasive Wheels, The Partisans, 4 skins and UK Subs to name but a few and I finally had a reason to make the short train journey into London from Essex to catch a “big gig”. Jake Burns & The Big Wheel (featuring some dude called Steve Grantley who would play a big part in Alarm-land for many years) were playing the Hammersmith Palais supporting a bunch of spiky haired Welsh cow-punks I had heard on the radio singing something about ’68 Guns’. The Big Wheel were everything I hoped they would be and then retreating towards the back of the venue the main band came on stage I recall the hall going completely dark as the monitors hummed and the crowd worked themselves into a frenzy before a note had even been played. All of a sudden the biggest spotlight I still have ever seen burst into life directly behind the drum kit and silhouetted in front of me were two guys, hair touching the sky, back to back, banging away on their acoustic guitars. All of a sudden one screamed “2..3…4” and “marching on” exploded into life as two additional spiky characters sparked into life. One behind the drum kit and another brandishing a bass guitar. Considering what they were playing the sound was amazingly deep, tough and solid. I watched entranced the next 90 minutes as they switched instruments, shared vocal duties and powered through what I of course now known as one of the 20 best albums of all time (in my humble opinion). I was hooked instantly. I left that night sweaty, energized, excited and determined to find out more about this band that had just blown my head off. The journey home was strange as I was on my own, desperate to share my discovery, keen to know who else knew how awesome this band were live and over the next 28 years I have press-ganged so many friends, co-workers and pals to see shows everyone in my circle at least knows of The Alarm.
I never had any interest or desire to meet the band during the 80’s. Always wary of the “don’t meet your heroes” scenario despite reading everything to the contrary in fanzines that sprouted up over the years. I continued to regularly attend shows and started to recognize and be recognized by some of regular faces but was happy to do my thing all the way through until that fateful night at Brixton in 1990 when the ground fell out from under our collective feet. What a shock that was however looking back it had to happen I guess, especially as the story came out in future years and now I give MP kudos for having the courage to stop “living with a lie to get to the truth”.
In many ways the MP solo era opened a new door for me personally as well as for Mike. It was grass roots again. DIY. Everyone pitching in. It sometimes confused (and angered) me why The AlaRm went from attendances of 2000+ to MP getting 200 at solo shows within a short space of time but that’s the music biz I guess. However those absent were missing out on some great shows. The smaller venues made everything accessible. Mike looked you right in the eye when he hit the stage as always only now we could meet his gaze. His set list was new and fresh and after a while the occasional “old one” would be thrown into the set list to appease us old fans. On those Poets tours I first met Danny Cohen at a Colchester show who in turn introduced me to Jules a few months later. They ragged on me for choosing to attend a West Ham game at Sheffield instead of going to Gathering II (which I regret to this day!) and encouraged me to call the MPO and stay in touch. Through this connection my namesake Peter (Jones) twisted my arm to come along to GIII with my wife Sheila. That, as they say, really was the beginning of the next phase in Alarm land for me. Suddenly I was plunged into Alarm heaven. Surrounded by people who equally loved the band with a passion. Standing at the bar drinking with people who had been at shows I had over the years. Meeting people (hello Fulton bros, Dougieieie, Don K and a hundred others) from America who shared my passion too and then I find myself meeting Mike for the first time and for the first time ever being stuck for words!!. Within a year a year or two I’m playing football versus him, being treated by Mike, Jules and Peter as an old friend and counting the days each year until the Gathering arrived. Friendships struck in those years are still so strong. Steve Varty, responsible for bringing so many of us together via the early email lists, Paul Hart aka George a great pal whom I am a proud Godfather to his son, Denis Jones who is madder now than even before, Lily, Chris and Barney. Andy and Sam, John and Heather, Katrina and Jackie. The best people, the very same people who would laugh watching George and I crash into the ballroom for breakfast at 9:59am each morning of the G. Hung-over, hungry and late!
In 2000 I moved to NY and my AlaRm life changed again. Now I was a familiar face when the band or Mike played in the tri-state area. I found myself driving MP to radio shows and interviews and getting to spend quality time with someone 10 years ago was (and still is) my musical hero. There were some surreal occasions like the two of us in Home Depot looking for door knobs or chilling on the tour bus sorting out piles of 45rpm 7” vinyl for sale on the tour after the song crashed the UK charts a month before but it was and remains a labor of love to be part of this in anyway, shape or form. One of the perks of the “job” is taking my (now 16 year old) son to sound checks and giving him his first taste of rock n roll. He caught the bug and though he follows his bands now like Green Day, MCR and Blink182 he retains a soft spot for the Alarm and has graduated to the front rows moshing and singing along with Mike.
Hearing the old and the new music still gives me a rush. Spirit and 68 still give the shivers and live, whomever is on stage next to MP the band remains a live event like no other. The quality friendships formed on the road with among others Vamp, Lyn, NY Tim, Tim NJ, Marshall, Steve Messina and many more reminded me of what Mike/The AlaRm/Poets/AlaRm mm…/DMW/BC are STILL about which is summed up in a word. FAMILY.
We are made, collectively to this day by Mike and Jules to feel like family. We greet each other like family. We miss each other like family. We sometimes fight like family but ultimately we LOVE each other like family. Mike accomplished so much professionally and personally over the years but to me his biggest accomplishment is the MPO. Thank you Mike for sharing great music, thank you AlaRm-heads for sharing great times. The biggest FAMILY in the rock n roll universe and one I have been privileged to be part of for 28 years and counting.