1981 in Rhyl, Wales
1991 in London, England
Earlier Band Names:
- The Toilets
- Alarm Alarm
Core '80s Band Members:
- Mike Peters (born Michael Leslie Peters on February 25, 1959 in Prestatyn, North Wales) - Lead vocals, frontman, primary songwriter, guitar
- Dave Sharp (born Dave Kitchingman on January 28, 1959 in Salford, England) - Guitars
- Eddie MacDonald (born November 1, 1959 in St Asaph, Wales) - Bass guitar, primary songwriter
- Nigel Twist (born Nigel Buckle on July 18, 1958 in Manchester, England) - Drums
Led exuberantly by frontman Mike Peters, driving Welsh rock band The Alarm made passionate music built on sinewy guitars and a distinctly working-class sensibility. Though often dismissed by the British music press as a poor man's U2 (not to mention for what even then seemed like a dated look), the band toured incessantly and released a number of idealistic, sweeping rock albums that found a modestly sized but enthusiastic audience throughout the decade in both the U.K. and U.S. Ultimately, this is an underrated early alternative rock band whose earnest mainstream rock holds up quite well a quarter-century later.
Like many other early alternative and college rock acts on the scene during the early to mid '80s, The Alarm's inspiration to form came from the rise of punk rock in Britain. The quartet, in fact, initially came together as a punk outfit in 1977 before changing names (and styles) to operate as a mod-inspired group a year later. By 1980, the band - billed as Seventeen in honor of the Sex Pistols song of the same name - released a single to some success and toured as a supporting act. However, The Alarm took off in earnest during the summer of 1981, drawing notice from the British music press that eventually led to a 1982 deal with I.R.S. Records.
Success in the Shadow of U2:
Almost immediately after forging its own rousing sound, The Alarm began a long association with Irish college rock upstarts U2 that did not always work in the former's favor. Bono and bandmates were supportive of Peters and the band, playing shows together and then leading The Alarm on its first American tour in 1983 as opening act. The comparisons were somewhat inevitable, as both groups made passionate, searching acoustic and electric rock music with an inspirational, spiritual and often righteously angry tone. For whatever reason, though, The Alarm stayed a tier below its related contemporaries, despite an incessant touring and recording schedule.
Ongoing, Consistent '80s Career:
The Alarm's first two full-length albums, 1984's Declaration and 1985's Strength, represented the band's peak of commercial success on both sides of the Atlantic. The first record, which featured concert staple "68 Guns," broke into the Top 10 on the U.K. album charts, while the next one (anchored by strong tracks like "Spirit of '76" and "Absolute Reality") just squeaked into the U.S. album Top 40. In this sense, The Alarm never quite broke through to the first tier of rock stardom, but its releases were consistent and packed with rollicking, gritty rock anthems.
Finishing Out the '80s & Then Sudden Break-Up:
Despite modest to impressive sales of 1987's Eye of the Hurricane and 1989's Change, The Alarm stayed mostly under the radar on the burgeoning alternative rock scene. Song highlights including "Rain in the Summertime," "Rescue Me" and "Sold Me Down the River" certainly pleased fans and attracted a number of new ones, but solid recordings and spirited tours failed to distinguish the group enough to approach U2's lofty heights. In 1991, Peters announced his departure from The Alarm on stage, effectively ending the band's respectable if never flashy decade-long run.
Post-Breakup - Peters' Solo Efforts & Band Legacy:
More than 20 years after the band ceased operations, The Alarm is remembered fondly by many general rock music fans of the '80s. Lack of overwhelming critical praise notwithstanding, the band has survived and withstood the test of time. Peters and the original band have failed to reunite for any significant length of time, and it's unfortunate that the former has chosen to use the band name as he's performed with various backing musicians over the years. Still, for now it remains safe to say "Never say never" to a future genuine reformation of The Alarm.