Here’s a band that has been unfairly derided, criticized, and just downright ignored. This is a classic case of being on the wrong side of the “media darling” fence and suffering for it. My pet peeve is music “critics” and radio station business suits who dictate to me what I should like and what I should listen to. The upshot of that nonsense is simply having missed out on some tremendously gifted 80’s bands and artists in favor of the flavor-of-the-month mainstream dreck like Cher, Michael Jackson, and (*gag me with a fork*) Madonna, just to name a few of the usual suspects.
When I first seriously started to listen to the Alarm, it was a good 20 years after they released their first LP. I couldn’t recall hearing any of their songs during the 80’s in the southeast region of the US. Back then, if it wasn’t the aforementioned crap on a stick passed off as classic 80’s music, heavy metal, or the requisite “you live in the south, so here’s some twangy country” pablum, it simply wasn’t aired. Occasionally, I would catch a glimmer of something really good on early MTV, before music politics and money-based bottom line drove that venue into the ground faster than you could say “AOR.”
But, I digress; back to The Alarm. Comprised of Mike Peters (vocals, guitars, harmonica), Dave Sharp (guitars), Eddie Macdonald (bass), and Nigel Twist (drums), the band formed in Wales in 1981, evolved from a punk band named The Toilets that had been kicking around since 1977. One of the reasons this band has been unfairly criticized is due to their chance meeting with Ian Wilson, then U2’s manager. Wilson liked what he heard and became The Alarm’s manager as well, arranging a show with The Alarm as the opening act for U2. Several more appearances supporting U2 were born from this success.
Two years later, The Alarm became the opening act on U2’s US tour. In my humble opinion, the close proximity to U2 both in sharing a stage and a manager led to the constant assessment of how they stood up to U2. Rather than stand on their own merits, the ubiquitous comparisons were a lazy way for critics to find a baseline for what they were writing.
Do yourself a favor: Listen to The Alarm with an open mind and remove the U2 connection entirely from the equation. What you will hear is a great 80’s band who could more than stand their own against other tremendous bands of the day including Big Country and yes, even U2. It’s a good thing I believe in the philosophy of “better late than never.” Otherwise, given the limited on-air music selection deep in the bowels of the southeast US, I would have lived my entire life without hearing some of the greatest bands/ artists the 80’s had to offer, including The Alarm.
“Strength” via YouTube user backporchvideos:
“Rain In The Summertime” via YouTube user coconuthodges:
“Presence Of Love” via YouTube user elizaanddarcy:
Purchase The Alarm music here.