The Alarm biography

The Alarm

Last updated: 17 November 2008

Mike Peters and The Alarm went from the post-punk UK music scene to playing Madison Square Garden.

The band moved from Rhyl to London, and recorded 2,000 copies of their debut single Unsafe Building/Up For Murder. They developed their unique brand of predominantly acoustic, politically-minded anthems, and their recognisable fashion sense. The following year they signed a deal with IRS, and were offered the support slot on U2's War tour in America. U2 would continue to be a great influence on The Alarm in the years to come.

Members

After headline tours in both Britain and America, the band recorded their first album Declaration in late 1983. The stand-out track was Sixty Eight Guns, a tale written by frontman Mike Peters about growing up in North Wales at the end of the 1960s. It was the band's first hit, reaching number 17 in the UK in September 1984, and was followed by Declaration early the next year.

For the follow-up album, Strength, they left behind the acoustic punk of Declaration and tried their hands at bombastic rock. It was a winning formula, particularly on songs like Spirit Of '76, an update of their first hit.

The band took a break, and resurfaced in early 1987. Relations within the group had become strained, but they started work on a new album, Eye Of The Hurricane. Mainly acoustic-sounding, The Alarm added more instrumentation to the production, and moved away from the bold rock of Strength.

They toured the album, then in 1989 returned with a collection of new songs inspired by Wales. Around this time, Tony Visconti (producer of David Bowie and T-Rex) offered to work on the next album. Change saw The Alarm going back to basics and rediscovering "the true values of rock 'n' roll". It reached number 13 in the UK. The band also released an alternative version called Newid, with all the lyrics sung in Welsh.

Change looked like being the band's breakthrough album, but tragedy was on the horizon. In early 1990, as the band prepared to tour America once more, Mike Peters' sister suffered a brain aneurysm which left her unable to speak. Soon after, his father died of a heart-attack, and Nigel Twist found his stepfather hanged following a suicide attempt. The Alarm took a much-needed break.

They regrouped for the Raw session, which were strained and fractious, with the resulting album suffering from lack of direction. Their label IRS, keen to keep momentum, released the retrospective collection Standards, but the end was upon The Alarm. The embarked on a final tour of America, Europe and the UK, with a final show at Brixton Academy on 30 June 1991.

After the band split, Mike Peters went back to North Wales to write solo material. He later set up The Alarm's official web site, and oversaw the remastering and re-release of the band's extensive back catalogue. He has also tried his hand at radio presenting, with a Radio Wales show, Bedrock.

In February 2004 The Alarm staged a coup by releasing a single, 45 RPM, as The Poppyfields. Fronted by a teenage band from Chester called The Wayriders, it was a comment on how image dictates record sales in the present day.

As Mike Peters told The Guardian, "We noticed that a lot of bands suffer when they attempt comebacks because people generally don't believe they can ever be as good as they once were. We wanted to make sure we are judged purely on the strength of the music, and not by our old hairstyles."

The guerilla tactics paid off, and the song reached number 28 in the charts after considerable airplay. It was a taster for the new Alarm album, the excellent In The Poppy Fields, released in April 2004.

In December 2005, Mike Peters was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. Posting on thealarm.com, he said: "I want to reassure all of you that 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. They have both been incredible.

"Be reassured, my outlook for the future is still the same as for any healthy person of my age. The only difference is that now I have to learn how to live with cancer. If I respond well to the chemotherapy, I can hopefully put the cancer into remission for another ten years or even longer."

The Alarm's most recent album, Under Attack, was released in February 2006. Mike described it as "the best album I have ever had the pleasure of recording".


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