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HIGHER CULTURE: Why You Should Know the Alarm

Essential Listening

Off the top of my head, there are two major reasons why readers should get to know or reacquaint themselves with the Welsh band The Alarm. And only one of them is their great raft of rocking songs from the ’80s…including off “Strength,” one of the great LPs of the decade.

Here’s the iconic cover:

This was just one of those blazing tracks:

 

But in 1987, with the release of “Eye Of The Hurricane,” there was this:

 

The second reason to consider the Alarm as essential to understanding/appreciating the Eighties goes back to one of my previous VIP pieces on learning from the ‘gaps’ in knowledge we all carry around on the music we think we have covered from just living through those years. Even my music engineer/producer friend John McJunkin (he also lives in the Phoenix valley), who by nature of his profession has a vast, encyclopedic, musical mind, learned recently that he has a gap.

A brief aside, with a purpose, reader…

We were sharing YouTube videos on Facebook and chatting about the music of the 1980s, and I’d posted a song by Stephen “Tin Tin” Duffy. Now, John said he’d heard of the guy and one of his dance tracks.

Duffy falls into the group of New Wave performers who are much better known in the U.K. or elsewhere in the world than over here. For example: did you know that Duffy can claim to be the Duran Duran version of Pete Best — in a way? He was briefly the singer of the band, super-early on, before anyone in the U.S. ever heard of them or offered them a record deal.

But there was something else John learned that he didn’t know. Duffy had chart success in the U.S. under his own steam — with a slinky dance tune called “Icing on the Cake” — and he’d never heard the song before. Not even once.

I couldn’t believe it.

Anyway, aside completed. It was needed as a preface for this. John told me he loves “Rain In The Summertime” the best from the Alarm (and wouldn’t you know it — like “Rescue Me,” which I also love, it’s from the “Eye of the Hurricane” record).

 

But then this happened, too, and sent me racing to write this column: some people on Facebook and the Twitters responded to my sharing an Alarm song by saying that they had no recollection of them. This aggression will not stand, people!

Like the reviewer for AllMusic.com, I agree that” Strength” from 1985 is probably their best release, from top to bottom. If you’re going to listen to one record from them, it’s this one.

This is the title track.

 

Simply put, there was no bigger band at one point than The Alarm.

They cornered the market on the “anthem”; if anyone’s unfamiliar with that term — think of U2 circa The Unforgettable Fire. Well, this was before anyone really thought of U2 as a pop band.

Truly, this band was massive, as I said, then seemed to just drop off the planet.

Except that they didn’t really. They never broke up or stopped making new music — and that’s a point I’ve made before. You might just love what your faves are cooking up, but you aren’t aware of it. For example, in 2019, the Alarm re-released Strength, put out a whole new album after that, and embarked on a tour with Gene Love Jezebel (well, one of the Aston brothers and band) and Modern English, according to Billboard.

The Alarm have a super-busy 2019 in the works. The veteran Welsh rockers will re-issue a remastered version of their classic 1985 album Strength on March 15, followed by a new album, Sigma, on June 28

Since then, singer Mike Peters has had (and recovered from) the Chinese virus, and in 2020, put out a video for “Irish Sea,” a new Alarm song that was part of Peters’ one-man show. More on the song in a minute.

On Christmas Eve, Peters wrote a blog post to fans, in which he laments the U.K.’s new restrictions on gathering affecting the band’s upcoming tour dates. He wrote, in part: (emphasis original)

Seasons Greetings to one and all.

I hope you are all safe and well.

Here in Wales, we are once again having to live with government restrictions imposed on our daily way of life, caused by the current wave of Omicron variant and the ongoing Covid 19 Pandemic.

These new and unexpected government restrictions for Wale which were imposed earlier this week, now limit the amount of people attending indoor events to just 30, which obviously has huge implications for our SOLD OUT 40th Anniversary celebrations at Rhyl Town Hall and St. David’s Hall, Cardiff this January.

Whilst we currently do not know the length of time that these restrictions will apply; we have had to make a decision today and take all the necessary steps to reschedule the shows, which we hope to announce early in January 2022, if not sooner.

We have US dates in February and the 40th Anniversary British Tour still very much happening for March and April, and I will also be able to share some other fantastic news with you in early 2022.

Thanks for all your love and understanding.

Now, back to the song. I think it is appropriate for Christmastime, with what I reckon are Christian references in the lyrics. Peters’ forceful vocals are more akin to darker UK bands from the ’80s than what most people think of from the band. But I dig it. Hope you all do, too.

Merry Christmas, readers!

Essential Listening verdict: The Alarm is a stalwart band of the 1980s, period. At one time, the Alarm was the band you sang along to, every single time. Their music deserves more respect and recognition among fans of ’80s music than they currently do.

UPDATE: After an alert reader dropped a note to me, I realized — GASP — I left off a crucial track from the band here. 

Here’s “68 Guns.”

 

And they mentioned “The Bells of Rhymney.” This traditional, acoustic version boasts an interview with Peters beforehand, too.

This appearance on “The Tube” aired November 9, 1984.

Thanks so much, Tom White! And a very merry Christmas to you, too!