The Alarm

Mike Peters can still recall the moment, in 1980, when he came to realize precisely "what direction I wanted to move in life." At the time, Peters was an ex-member of Seventeen, a Mod revival band from the Welsh town of Rhyl, who'd managed one single and a tour with the Jam before their ambitions went all pear-shaped. Since then, he'd been running a club and a clothing stall in town, but the band members didn't fall out of touch. A few months after Peters' Marquee epiphany, in April of 1981, Dave Sharp, Nigel Twist and Eddie MacDonald were all back rehearsing together. Just two years after that, they were preparing to take their first steps into American soil supporting their close friends, U2.

Within six months of forming, the group was recording their first single; within a year, they had a major label deal. And in between, they came to the attention of U2 manager Paul McGuiness, who promptly arranged for the group to tour Britain with Bono and company. The partnership gelled from the outset. Though they made no secret of their love for U2, the band had taken that initial inspiration into a whole new realm of musical insurgency. Their sound was rousing, marching, disaffected — an impassioned roar that turned every chord into an anthem, every word into a battle cry. Their amplifiers ate electricity for breakfast, but they spat it back with an almost unplugged air, not too surprising as Peters often wrote and composed with an acoustic guitar. It was fierce music, it was fighting music, and U2 - who weren't beyond a bit of the old rabblerousing themselves - knew instinctively that they'd found their musical soulmates.

Still, the American tour, which lasted through June of1983, was a challenge for the band. "We had to prove ourselves every night in front of thousands of U2 fans," Dave Sharp recollected. "But we liked the fact that the audience could decide for themselves what to think of us." Every night, the roars for the Alarm were still echoing even as U2 prepared to take the stage for themselves, and overnight, with both KROQ is Los Angeles and WBCN in Boston pledging their support to their unique excitement, a five-song EP comprising the band's best loved anthems slammed into the Billboard chart and stayed there for the next four months.

Known best for their concert performances, even The Alarm's staunchest supporters admitted that the group's records rarely caught the full impact of their live show. After their first Top 20 hit in England, "Sixty Eight Guns," they were back in America for the third time in less than a year. They offered listeners something to believe in - and those listeners took it with open arms. The story, of course, did not end when that tour ended, and the last delirious fans set off for home.

The band continued playing with the same strength and conviction they had started with, releasing albums and touring into the '90s until Peters and Sharp departed to embark on solo careers. Though there were several reunion appearances through the decade, it wasn't until 2004 that a revamped lineup released a new album, In the Poppy Fields.

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