Alarm 2000 Day was held on 28th June 2000 at Fawr Country Hotel, Bodelwyddan near Rhyl, North Wales
Event Press Release announcement
To celebrate the release of The Alarm 2000 collection, Mike Peters will be hosting Alarm 2000 Day in a picturesque country house, the Faenol Fawr, just outside Rhyl, North Wales, the birthplace of The Alarm. Mike Peters will perform all the songs from each Alarm album in sequence, an acoustic marathon taking in the entire works of The Alarm, this will be an epic challenge and every performance of each album will be followed by a Q&A session with Mike whereby he will answer as many questions as possible relating to each of the five eras of Alarm history.
Tickets are strictly limited to 200
Alarm 2000 Day was a special and unique kind of day. 200 dedicated MPO members made the trip to North Wales to spend the day with Alarm lead singer, Mike Peters and listen to him spill his innermost feelings and thoughts on his Alarm experiences. It was a very emotional and uplifting day with Mike determined to sing almost every song from the Alarm catalogue. Fatigued by his recent touring exploits with Big Country and overwhelmed with recording a dizzying realm of dedications pouring in from all over the world, Mike was exhausted and fighting off a heavy ‘tour’ cold. At 11am that morning, cocooned on the top floor of the country house and location for the day, the Faenol Fawr, Mike felt for the first time that he was ‘without voice’ and the day ahead loomed ominously. It was even considered by Mike and MPO staff that maybe the day would have to be reset. Like the trooper he is, Mike decided to plunge in to the danger zone of ‘Declaration’ and test his voice to the limit. Buckets of honey and lemon later and aided by a fantastic and supportive audience Mike soon felt his vocals juicing back to life and the day of songs and recollections rolled on into the night. It is pointless to try and recapture Mike’s stories and heartfelt memories here in print as that is an experience all in itself. In the meantime read on through the setlist and imagine a one man 12 hour performance……..
Session 1: The Alarm;
Unsafe Building, Up For Murder, For Freedom, Across The Border, Lie Of The Land, The Stand
Section 2: Declaration;
Declaration, Marching On, Where Were You Hiding, 68 Guns, Tell Me, We Are The Light, Shout To The Devil, Blaze Of Glory, The Deceiver, Pavillion Steps, What Kind Of Hell, Third Light, The Stand (Prophecy), Unbreak The Promise, Howling Wind, The Chant Has Just Begun, Second Generation, Room At The Top, Reason 36, Reason 41, The Bells Of Rhymney, Bound For Glory, Absolute Reality
Section 3: Strength;
Strength, Knife Edge, The Spirit Of ’76, Walk Forever By My Side, Father To Son, Deeside, Majority, One Step Closer To Home (album playback), Caroline Isenberg, Dawn Chorus, The Day The Ravens Left The Tower, Knocking On Heaven’s Door.
Section 4: Eye Of The Hurricane;
Rain In The Summertime, Newtown Jericho, Hallowed Ground, One Step Closer To Home, Shelter, Eye Of The Hurricane, Permanence In Change, Only Love Can Set Me Free, Rescue Me
Section 5: Change;
Change I, Sold Me Down The River, Devolution Working Man Blues, Love Don’t Come Easy, Take Me Home (1 chorus only), Change II, Know Me Like I Know You/The Rock, Hardland, No Frontiers, Where A Town Once Stood, Scarlet, Black Sun, A Prison Without Prison Bars, How The Mighty Fall, Corridors Of Power, Breaking Point, Rivers To Cross, Hwylio Dros Y Mor
Section 6: Raw;
Raw, The Road, Rockin’ In The Free World, The Wind Blows Away My Words, God Save Somebody, Moments In Time, Let The River Run It’s Course, Lead Me Through The Darkness, Hell Of High Water, Wonderful World, Save Your Crying, Merry Xmas (War Is Over), Maggie May (not on CD), Only The Thunder (Due to accidental omission from Strength section), Walk Forever By My Side
Event Review :
For years we’ve all known and loved Mike Peters as singer, songwriter, rock star and general all-round good guy. Now add another to the list: Raconteur. At Alarm Day 2000 Mike treated a lucky few of his fans (though surely more than the 200 expected?) to a string of stories, some well known, some not so, between the songs. The format of the day was Mike, solo and acoustic, running through almost the entire Alarm back catalogue, with commentary, album by album, taking a short break at the end of each album’s-worth. To be truthful Mike’s voice wasn’t at it’s best. He was suffering from cold and it showed, but it didn’t really matter. His obvious love for the subject matter, along with ours, carried him through it and his voice did improve considerably as the day went on.
Taking breaks into account, Mike was onstage for around nine hours, although the stage changed location as he took us outside for the Eye Of The Hurricane section. Musical highlights were many – snippets of Take Me Home and Alarm Alarm, a beautiful Welsh language version of A New South Wales, Rain In The Summertime sung outdoors under threatening skies – and a surprising high point when he stood back and simply played the CD of the fabulous “new” electric version of One Step Closer. It received the loudest cheer of the day, and rightly so. As a toast to absent friends, it couldn’t be bettered.
The advertised question and answer sessions never really materialised, although Mike fully responded to the few questions that were posed from the floor. But it didn’t need to, as he brought up everything that any Alarm fan would have reasonably asked anyway. How the band started, how they wrote songs, what his relationship with Dave Sharp was (and is), what really happened at Brixton; All of these and many more questions didn’t need to be asked – he offered the information willingly though, at times, painfully.
Mike took us through a whole range of emotions from roaring laughter (when recounting being asked to look after a “huge bag of white powder” by one of The Stray Cats) to tears (more than one person left the room during Moments in Time). The things that stood out more than anything though was his immense love and respect for the three other band members, and his pride in the body of work that they had produced. As a backstage look into the birth, life and death of a successful rock group, the day was an eye-opener. As a celebration of the music of The Alarm, it was simply beautiful.
Fan Comments – Sam & Andy Greenley – Thanks to Mike and all who organised the day for a great event and to the people who gather to these events that make it so much more enjoyable.
Fan Comments – Travis Tiffin – Hats off to you and company for a fantastic day of looking back…a Retrospective Deluxe whose value cannot be measured, and whose rewards will continue to be reaped long after this week, month and year have passed. A life changing day.
Fan Comments – Paul Wilcox – Well – what can I say about Alarm Day? This must surely go down as one of the most impressive days of Mikes’ career. Sore throat or not, MP gave it his all and gave those few of us lucky enough to be there, one helluva day. The mix of music and stories was brilliant, despite the drunken calls from the back for another song – the stories gave a truly unique insight to the songs.
What follows in the drop down section is a transcription of part of the day up to 1987 (trying to find if the rest exists), the stories and memories of the songs and the time. The original document this is from is over 30,000 words long so has been split to try to provide smaller sections to read – but even then some will be long but worth the read.
Each of these sections are pretty long and in-depth and a lot of the stories here have also been told at events like the Gathering, Alarmstock and Big Night In broadcasts so some may be familiar.
Alarm 2000 Day Transcription – Session 1 Unsafe Building to The Stand
Welcome to Wales, please welcome to the stage for Alarm 2000 day, Mike Peters!
Who was in Manchester last night then? Bet you feel as bad as I feel this morning… Well, where to begin eh? Begin at the beginning I suppose.
Yeah, I’ve been working on this whole Alarm collection now for a number of years. I started about 3 years ago, started making the first approaches to get all the catalogue back under our own control. It took a lot of hard work and I’ve been all over the world scouring master-tapes and all that kind of thing and I had to do a lot of detective work to find a lot of them cause IRS records, our record label (laughs from the audience). Yes I know, I can hear the laughs there. They were a bit of a joke, but a lot of it was that IRS had a policy they never made copies of anything. They were too tight to do that, so they used to package all the master-tapes off and send them off to be made in Japan into cd’s and things like that. Some of them were made on to compact disc at the wrong speed, particularly the Eye Of The Hurricane album, which is a little bit slower than it should be, just a hair…
But I managed to find a lot of them in a storage room in Islington, London, why they were sent to Islington I’ll never know. I spoke to probably every member of staff who ever worked for IRS trying to find them, and then it was a bit like Raiders Of The Lost Ark. I got down in all this dust and there was just masses of boxes, and they all had The Alarm written on it and I thought “Yes! Got them all” And some I found, I went to Los Angeles as well, there’s a lot in the tape library, in the EMI tape library, and I found a lot of them there. I actually found a version of A New South Wales there which we’d recorded for Eye Of The Hurricane and there was no mix of it, so I actually got the 2 inch and went into a studio in Los Angeles and started to mix it.
But when the tape arrived at the studio this guy who picked it up from reception said “Oh do you know John Porter?” and I said “Yes, he produced the album” and he goes “Well he’s the manager of this studio”. So when I brought the tapes he actually came into to the studio and made a really nice connection, cause John Porter actually produced the original version of Eye Of The Hurricane that’s never been released actually, cause the record was sent to America and mixed by somebody else. I’ll get into all that a bit later on. I’ve got a million stories to tell you, and a few million songs to play as well.
So on that note I think we’ll get to the business of it all. So this song was probably the beginning of all things Alarm. I remember writing this, I had a little clothes shop in Rhyl called Riot Clothes. “We pose till we close” was the catchphrase. Not many people came in to buy the clothes, I can tell you that. They were a bit weird. I used to sit there all day waiting for someone to come in and usually, the only people who came in were the guys out of The Alarm and they bought their stuff off me out of sympathy. Probably explains why we looked so bad.
We had this song going round, me and Eddie, and it started like that (plays starting riff of Unsafe Building), that was the riff, and that just started it. I wrote the lyrics for that one afternoon and it was good. I went off to London for a couple of days and Dave came home. Dave was living in Rhyl at the time and he went round to my mum’s house and nicked my acoustic guitar off my mum. My mum gave Dave the guitar, being the kind lady that she is and when I got home to Rhyl after I’d been to London a couple of days, it was all mangled. It had been stripped, put all these electric pick-ups in it and he played me his new riff and it was Across The Border and it sounded pretty good.
I just knew then we had The Alarm going and I said “I’ve got this other new song ” and I played him Unsafe Building and that was it. That was the rocky road to ruin right there. So anyway let’s get down to business of all these millions of songs. So feel free to sing along and join in on the choruses, cause it’s going to be a long day and I’ll need as much help as I can get. This is called Declare Yourself An Unsafe Building
Ok, so let’s have a look her. I’ve got loads of… I actually, in putting together the whole Alarm 2000 reissue catalogue, have actually commissioned about 72000 words for the sleeve notes so you get that kind of whole book. And it’s been a lot of work from a lot of people and everybody’s made a contribution, some more than others. The whole band’s been involved in the whole thing. And it was great fun communicating with everybody again. I was on the phone with Mr Sharp for about 12 hours from New Orleans. He was giving me his contribution for the sleeve-notes, witch amounted to one quote (big laugh from the audience) he wanted to put one quote in, he wanted to knock a song out, but to put one quote in. I’ll tell you his quote later on in the day shall I? But it was great fun.
Actually, on the Electric Folklore album there’s a load of remixes, well mixes of tracks that are coming out with that album that are not on your brochure that you initially heard about it all. We found a load of extra tracks that Dave had mixed back in the day, so they’re all coming out with the Electric Folklore album, it’s been expanded to a full album.
Me and Sharpie, we met actually first when I was in a band called Seventeen, and Nige had come to live in Rhyl from Manchester. Dave was his mate from Manchester and he used to come and stay at the weekends, he was apparent shit hot guitar player basically. Actually the first time I ever saw Dave playing guitar, he didn’t just go like this (strums a few chords) you know, he went (does Pete Townsend arm circles) , all this kind of stuff. But he hit it, I missed it. And I thought “Wow, got to have him in the band”, so we did.
When we were in Seventeen we got to tour with the Stray Cats, they were a big influence on our whole band. We had some great times, we managed to blag on this tour with the Stray Cats. We turned up in London and we were staying at a mate of our’s flat, and they were on the front cover of NME and really hip and happening. We decided that we should be supporting them cause we were hip and happening too. They were playing at this place called the Crystal Palace Hotel, in Crystal Palace, in case you don’t know.
We managed to get hold of the promoter and we pretended to be the support band. And we said “Oh, we’d just seen the Cats, man, in this place last night and they said we could be the support band as long as you don’t mind having a third band on the bill”, and he said “No, I don’t mind”. And then we phoned up the band who were supposed to be the support band and said “Ah we’ve seen the Cats, man, last night, and they said we could play” And we said to this second band “Do you mind if we use your drum kit? It’d make it dead easy on the soundcheck”. And they went “Nah, no problem, guys. See you at the gig”. I was thinking “Great! We’re in!” and then the phone went and it was the manager of the Stray Cats. (In rough American accent) “What the hell are you doing, boy?” And I said “We just think the Cats are great and we’d love to play with them”. And he said “I’ll tell you what”, in this American accent, he said “We’re actually recording in a studio with this other Welsh guy, Dave Edmunds. Why don’t you come along and we’ll meet and we’ll talk this thing out”.
So we went up to this studio in north London, and the Stray Cats were there making Runaway Boys with Dave Edmunds. And we sort of hit it off with the band straight away, it was really lucky. They were from America and they didn’t know anybody, we were from Wales and we didn’t know anybody. And we kind of got on really well. So we got the gig, they let us play at the Crystal Palace Hotel, and in the party afterwards we got on great. And they invited us to go on the whole tour, which we did.
And we did this whole tour with the Cats and they had all the quiffs going on. Dave particularly loved the quiffs. And he really got into the big quiff, and we were having a laugh about it the other night. He was reminding me, we played up in Bradford, and on the Stray Cats tour all these Teddy-boys came out from nowhere, and they were all about 50. They came along and they were really into like Rock-a-billy, Elvis and you know, really into it. And Dave had got the old Stray Cats brothel creepers. And he was walking around in Bradford before the gig with these creepers and these Teddy-boys came up to Dave and said, (Rough voice), “What are you doing with those creepers on, man?” and Dave would go “I’m really into it”. But they took real offence cause Dave wasn’t a proper Teddy-boy and they pulled out these blades on him and all sorts, dead heavy. And there was another night we played with them in Newcastle, in The Mayfair or was it the Mecca? Somewhere down in Newcastle (Comment from the audience) Oh right, in Sunderland is the Mecca, yeah? Trainspotters over there I see.
We were playing in Newcastle and all these teddy boys saw this band supporting the Stray Cats called Seventeen and they thought “sounds like a doo-wop group”. So they all came down expecting Showaddywaddy or something and in come all these spiky haired Welsh guys who launch into this punk rock. Well we lasted about 30 seconds and then the next second it was like a hail of bottles hammering the stage. We made it through one number and then we scarpered, it was too dangerous to stay on the stage. In the gig in Newcastle the dressing room was just of the right of the stage and the door from the dressing room went into the audience. We were off stage barricading the door while all these teds were trying to kick it down and kill us. It was outrageous.
The last night of the tour, and it was covered in Melody Maker at the time, was in the Norbreck Castle in Blackpool. This was all late 1980. We played our set and because it was the last night there were all these high-jinx going on. During our set, the Stray Cats ran onto the stage with all these fire extinguishers, filled the whole room with fire extinguisher foam. I’ve got these great photographs of Gaz Top, our roadie, running around the stage with Brian Setzer of the Stray Cats on his shoulders, and we’re all on stage going mad, but can’t see a thing. The Cats came on to do their set and they were absolutely smashed out their minds, but there were all these heavy duty teddy-boys in the front row giving it loads. The Cats were just playing to all the girls in the audience and these teddy boys didn’t like it and it just started getting heavier and heavier as it went along.
I probably shouldn’t be telling the rest of this story with my mum being here, but I’m going to laughs. After the gig we were all having a few drinks, and the Cats were into drugs. We’d never seen anything like it coming from Wales. After the gig all these teddy-boys were trying to kill the Stray Cats, and they had this bouncer called Andy, a bald-headed bloke with a pony tail, looked a bit like Craig Adams on acid. He was trying to get all the Cats in the car to get them away, and he’d got Brian Setzer in the car and he was trying to get Lee Rocker in, but he couldn’t get Lee Rocker in as he was surrounded by teddy-boys. He finally broke Lee out and got him in, and then couldn’t find Slim Jim Phantom anywhere, but Dave says “I know where Jim is, he’s in the toilets”. We all thought “wonder what he’s doing then!!”. So we all barged into the toilets to try and get him in the car and all we could hear was (two deep snorts) behind the cubicle. We said “is that you Slim?” , “It’s us”. So he opens the door and just then, all these teddy-boys burst in trying to kill him.
He went “Mike, hold this for me”. He gave me this big bag with white powder in it. I put it in my pocket, as you do, nice boy that I am. This massive fight broke out, Dave & I were scrapping with all these teddy-boys and Andy was pulling Slim Jim out and it got dead heavy. One of these teddy-boys ended up with a knife in his leg off this bouncer, who was not a nice guy. And off the Cats go.
Then it gets to Christmas Eve, December 1980. We’re all in Nigel’s house, getting ready to go out for a few drinks in Rhyl, and there’s this knock on the door. It’s about 5 to 8, we’re going out at 8 to meet all the boys . We open the door and it’s Slim Jim Phantom. “Alright lads, I was in London, didn’t know who to go to, I’ll just go to Rhyl and see the boys.”
I said “Oh Jim, I’ve got something for you”. I went back home and got this big bag of white powder. He was like “Whoa. Christmas has come and it’s snowing!”. He was happy, but we didn’t touch any of that kind of shit, well some of them did, as I’m sure Mr Twist has made a few references to.
This is probably the song that was most influenced by the Cats really. This was one of Dave’s first ever contributions to Alarm-world and it’s a song called “Up For Murder”
Up For Murder
Unsafe Building and Up For Murder, as you know, are the first ever records we put out under the name The Alarm, and we actually recorded them in a place called Pluto Studios, which is in Manchester. We chose that studio because it was a) close to where we lived and b) because The Clash had recorded Bankrobber in there. One of the things we were very influenced by was The Clash and we all used to love the book “Before and after by The Clash”, which was a collection of photographs by Penny Smith and it was kind of like our image bible. We used to scour it and we copied things like motorbike boots out of there and all sorts of things, cowboys boots etc.
When we got to the studio (4th September 1981) we actually took a load of pictures in exactly the same poses that the Clash had done in there. We spent most of our time doing that rather than recording records. It was a great day out for us, we really had a great time in there.
One of the things on Unsafe Building is it has the whole “I (I)” thing. To get that effect we had to run a whole tape delay, none of this digital stuff then. This is Nige who reminded us of this story. We had to splice all this tape together and run it down this corridor. We had this one tape machine at one end and one right down there and this tape was just going round and round and round so we could get an echo. And we had to move the tape decks closer to each other until we got this delay (must have been doing some of Slim Jim’s stuff I think laughs). It worked anyway.
What had happened is we’d started The Alarm out of the sort of ashes of Seventeen. Seventeen had come to an end really in the December of 1980, during that Stray Cats tour. One night we were playing in The Marquee in London, it would have been the 6th of December I think, and it was the night that we had pinned all our hopes on trying to get a record contract. Nige’s dad was our manager at the time. Peter Buckle, and he’d been on holiday before the gig, so hadn’t been able to go and see any record companies. We played this gig, the big gig of the tour, and pinned all our hopes and ambitions on this night. We got on stage and there was one man and his dog in the front row, and that bloke was from Rhyl, so we knew him, “he’s not going to give us a record contract”. So when we came off we were all dejected . We had a lot of mates who were living in London, at art college and things, and we were staying with them. We agreed to meet in central London the next morning, and I got on the tube to come in and the guy sitting opposite me had the Standard, the London paper, and it had the headline that John Lennon had been shot dead. It was a really strange day after that. We all met up and were driving back up to Wales. We were sat in the back of the van listening to Lennon all the way home, and we were all sat in our own space really. No one was saying anything , we were kind of moved by all this stuff, and it made us realise that we were applying ourselves to the group in the wrong way. We were trying to get record deals instead of thinking “lets just write good songs”.
Excuse me I’m rambling, but I’ve just remembered something else. Another Seventeen story before I move on, that shows how naff we were when we were Seventeen, but we thought we were the bees knees. This probably explains the press reaction to The Alarm. One day we were London, we decided that if we could get this journalist to come and see the band, and he’d realise how good we were and put us on the front cover. So we went to the NME offices. (Do you read the Daily Mail? no Hah, Sun readers I know.) If you read the Daily Mail, there’s a guy in there called Adrian Thrills and he writes the pop column every Friday). Well he used to write a Clash fanzine called 48 Thrills and that’s where he got his surname, which was a Clash song. We thought he’d be into what we’re doing. He was writing for the NME at the time, so we went up to see him. We went up to reception and asked if we could see Adrian Thrills. The receptionist says “I’ll get him for you now”, and we thought “wow, great”.
He comes out to see us and we said “We’re this band from Wales called Seventeen and we think you should come and see us. We’re playing tonight at the Half Moon in Dulwich”. He was like “Oh I’m too busy tonight” so it was “Right lads, let’s get him”. We tried to manhandle him into the lift and get him downstairs. It got a bit ugly really, all these guys trying to get him in the lift. And then this guy called Roy Car, who wrote all these books (Beatles books, Bowie books) came out, he was the editor at the time. He kind of brought a bit of sense to the occasion and he stopped us and calmed the whole thing down. Adrian Thrills legged it back to the office and Roy Car said something profound to us, he said “Look lads, you can’t drag people to see your music, but if your music is good enough, it will bring people from all over the world to come and see you”. What he said to us then really hit home and we went off to do the gig with our tail between our legs.
The whole point about Seventeen was that we were trying to make it on those sort of levels. We weren’t dedicating ourselves to our songwriting, our lyric writing and just being a better band. This night after the Cats tour and nothing had happened, the Lennon thing had happened, all these events really hit home to us and really gave us all individually a grounding we might never have had. Seventeen split up in the January of 1981. We went up to Scotland to do a tour and we were playing the last song we ever wrote as Seventeen which was called 68 Guns.
Our last gig after the Scottish tour was at the Half Moon in Dulwich and we decided to rename ourselves Alarm Alarm for this show. We were going down for this gig and were were trying to let all our fans (we did have a few fans as Seventeen) that we were called Alarm Alarm. So we decided to write to John Peel and get hime to announce our gig. So we wrote to John Peel and said “We’re playing at the Half Moon, can you plug our gig”. So the night before the gig we were driving down from Scotland and we were tuning into the radio and John Peel goes “I got this letter from this band, they’re called Alarm Alarm”. We thought “Great, we’re on the radio”. And then Peel goes “Funny that, there’s a lot of bands around with double names, Duran Duran, Talk Talk, Alarm Alarm. Perhaps I should change my name to John Peel John Peel”. We thought “Ah shit”. So that’s why we decided to call ourselves The Alarm.
Audience question: Why The Alarm?
Well, it was a song that I’d written, I was in a band called The Toilets before Seventeen. Obviously not destined for success early on, was I. Alarm Alarm was a song I’d written for The Toilets and Eddie was a big fan of The Toilets.
Anyway, Eddie came to see The Toilets and he really liked Alarm Alarm as a song. And when we were trying to change our name from Seventeen we had a sort of group meeting in Nige’s house and we all sat round, had a cup of tea and we were saying “What to call ourselves?”. We all threw ideas in the hat, but names always sound naff when you’re sat in there with the band. We’d go “Let’s call ourselves The Black Sheep”, then “Nah…” you know, everything sounds terrible. Then we started to have a sort of brainstorm, we just started speaking about how we all got into music, and hoping that some way somebody would say something in a phrase or a word that would become the name of the band.
Then Eddie said “I remember coming to see the Toilets and you had that song called Alarm Alarm”. And it was like “Ah, that would be a good name”. And that was it. And we thought it was good because it was something we’d created ourselves and it’d come from within. It wasn’t just “Let’s call ourselves the Boomtown Rats after a book” or something like that. Cause they did call themselves after a book. And we thought “Oh well, that’ll do”, but then John Peel kind of scudded it straight away, didn’t he. And we became The Alarm.
The actual confession to make… You know the flexidisc that came out on the Absolute tour, and we do play Alarm Alarm on that track. Well, that’s not the original version of Alarm Alarm. That was the second version of Alarm Alarm. The original version was something that goes like (plays an intro and bit of a verse) something like that. Then the chorus like (plays chorus) You know, it was a real punk rock song. Something like that it went anyway. And then we did a kind of Stray Catsy kind of version, it was like the Stray Cats meet The Sweet on the Absolute flexi. And you can hear that, cause I’ve put that on the rare CD. If you’re getting the box-set you’ll hear that. Our attempt at it that night anyway.
So once we’d sort of got a name, The Alarm. When we came home from all that kind of disappointment, we decided that once we’d got Unsafe and we’d got Up For Murder and Dave had written Across The Border. We had Third Light and all these other songs had started to come, all these early songs. We decided, well, we’d actually got together to start rehearsing again and it felt real this time. We’d sort of had an education. All these sort of things, trying to kidnap journalists and seeing the Cats had been a hell of an education. We knew when we had The Alarm we had something that could fly, it meant something to us. We had a policy then, “Would we actually go and buy the record by this band?” And when we stared playing Unsafe Building we though “Yeah, I like this” And that meant something to us. And rather that stay in Rhyl and play to holidaymakers and all that kind of stuff, we decided that we’d move to London. Take a risk, give it a-what-not, big shot.
You know, the other thing was. When you got to London, when you were from Wales and you were trying to phone The Rock Garden in Covent Garden and get a gig. As soon as you said you were from Wales it was like “No chance”. You know, in London they book you if you’re unknown because they think “You’re from London, you’ll bring all your workmates, all your friends will come down”. They give you all these free tickets, you get all your mates in, and it’s busy and the guy makes money on the bar. When you say you’re from Wales they think “Oh, there’s going to be one man and his dog turning up to see them” And he’ll be from Rhyl as well. The dog’s all right though!
So we thought that when we moved to London, we could go in and say cockney accent “Alright mate, we’re from London” and get a gig like. We moved to this place called 13 Emu Road, in Battersea and we took it over from a mate of ours, Simon Shaw, who designed the Unsafe Building cover. He was at art college in Camberwell and he arranged our first ever gig in London. We’d recorded Unsafe Building and Up for Murder, because we knew we had to go down armed with a single. In 1981, every band that presented themselves, they presented themselves with demo tapes, so we that out if we’ve got our own single that would be good. We’d seen how Pete Wylie from Wah Heat, he’d made a single, I remember buying it off him in Matthew Street in Liverpool, outside Eric’s. All of a sudden he wasn’t just another fan at the gigs, he was like in a band with a record and it put him up there somewhere. We wanted to have that same thing and we knew that if people bought our records, that’s when you become fans.
So we moved to London armed with all this stuff and we actually got a gig at Camberwell Art College and we managed to get a gig at Ronnie Scott’s. There was a place Upstairs at Ronnie Scott’s, the Jazz club in London, called Upstairs At Ronnie’s. Me and Dave used to spend days and days walking round London with rucksacks of Unsafe Buildings on our backs and calling in all these music business establishments, trying to get gigs, or trying to get recognition. We managed to get this gig at Upstairs At Ronnie’s, and there was another guy that we knew from Rhyl, who’s name was Louis Parker. Unfortunately, Louis is no longer with us, he passed away this year sadly. But Louis invented Miss Wet T Shirt, it all started here in North Wales. He went to London to set up this agency, based on his success with Miss Wet T Shirt. He’d gone out with this page 3 girl in the late Seventies and been in all the tabloids and made a name for himself. And we knew him.
So when we got to London, as well as agenting Miss Wet T Shirt around Britain, he’d picked up this band called Shakatak and he was into clubs & nightclubs. I phoned him up one day and said “Louis, have you got any gigs you could help us get”. He said I’ve got this band that I don’t know that much about, but nobody else would be their agent, they’re called The Fall. Usually they have like drag acts as their support, but if you phone up their manager, who’s a girl, you can try and get a gig. They’re playing at The Venue in Victoria, which is kind of a very prestigious gig in London at the time. I was detailed the job of phoning the manager. I got in the phone box outside the flat, it was a girl called Kay Carroll. She picked up the phone and I said we want to try and do a gig with The Fall, we’ve seen that they’re playing at The Venue, and Louis Parker said we should call you. She said, “Do you sound anything like The Fall?”. I thought “Hmm, should I lie and say yes so we get the gig, or should I be honest?”. I thought no, I’ll be honest, “No actually nothing like The Fall”. She said “Thank god for that, we hate bands that sound like The Fall” and we got the gig.
And then we were seen by a journalist from Sounds at that gig, and also by a secretary from Wasted Talent saw us playing there. They all liked the band. As soon as we finished the gig, we leapt into the audience as we had all these tickets for Upstairs At Ronnie’s and we were giving them out. This journalist from Sounds stopped us and got our number, gave us a call next day. We got a call from Wasted Talent as well and said “We’d like another of our agents to come and see you at this gig”. So they came again to this Upstairs At Ronnie’s gig and that sort of triggered it all off. This agent, whose name was Miles Newby, wasn’t really an agent. He was just the guy who made the tea for all the other agents, but he pretended to be the big shot agent and he invited us down for a meeting the next day and he was like “I wanna be your manager!”, smoking a cigar.
We didn’t fall for that, but he said “Look, I can get you a gig”. So he phoned up the Rock Garden and got a gig within the minute, ’cause he was from a top agency. We thought “that’s why we can’t get gigs in that place”. We played about three or four days later, and Ian Wilson, who became our manager, came to see us at that gig. The buzz had gone out in the industry and a lot of A&R men came to see us. It happens really fast like that. The secretary and Ian Wilson, they barricaded the dressing room so none of these other guys from other record companies or managers could get in to see us. They waited there until they’d all gone home. We were sitting in the dressing room thinking we’ve just played a really good gig, how come nobody’s come in to say hello?
We met Ian the next day and we got on really well with him. It must have been about 21st of December, something like that, and we were all getting ready to go back home to Wales for the Christmas holidays. We got back to the flat and he phoned us up and said “Do you want to play with U2 tomorrow night?”. What do you say? At the time, we had a policy that we’d never support another band again in our lives. So I put my hand over the phone and said “It’s Ian Wilson, he wants us to play with U2 tomorrow night. What about our philosophy that we’d never support another band? Shall I tell him we can’t do it?”. Nige says “Fuck that, let’s support them!” So we did.
I’d better play a song here hadn’t I, I’m like Billy Connolly. And that’s another story!
This is another early song from our history. The first song we ever played live was Shout To The Devil and the next was probably For Freedom, second or third, it usually was. And it goes like this.
Well I’m going to play a song that I don’t think I’ve ever played live on acoustic guitar before. This is a song Mr Sharp wrote. Dave was probably the most politicised member of the band when we got together. Dave had been in the merchant navy and traveled the world and he’d been to South America and all over the place on ships. When I first met Dave, he was playing in a local band with Twist called Quasimodo. The other member of the band was actually Karl Wallinger, who you may know from World Party. Karl was from this part of the world and he was a brilliant keyboard player, brilliant musician and still is. The first time I saw Dave play a gig was with Karl and they were supposed to go down to London and try and make it. I remember being a little punk rock kid and I could play about three chords on the guitar and they were like these brilliant musicians. Dave and Twist were in this band and they used to do The Who and everything. They were really good, a bit hippyish, but really good.
So they were going to go to London and try and make it. I remember being sat outside Nige’s house, we used to go round there because that was where all the musicians were. They were supposed to go to London the next day and Karl Wallinger turned up with all these suitcases and it was all happening. Then Dave’s dad came from Manchester and was really upset about it all. I remember him steaming into the house and all the doors banged shut. They must have been chatting in there for about two hours while we sat outside. I felt like a Sun reporter, waiting for the news outside. When they all came out, Dave and Nige’s dad and Karl’s parents, it was all off and they weren’t going to London. Dave’s dad wanted Dave to pass all his exams and join the navy and become a sort of “Ay Ay Captain”. That was the end of Quasimodo really.
Dave went of and joined the navy and got this massive education. When he’d come back on leave, he had all this equipment, all these amps and guitars. He’d saved up his money and he was good to know because you got all this gear off him. He had a PA and you could rehearse with it. He used to leave it at Nige’s house. I managed to get Twist in our band, because he had nothing to do, and we used to go off and be a punk band. But he was a hippy and I used to think “How the hell do you square this with Johnny Rotten and the boys”.
I managed to get us an audition at Eric’s in Liverpool, and it was the same day The Clash were playing in the evening. We were playing at lunchtime. I’d gone up and got my ticket for The Clash, I’ve still got in in my scrap book, No 1, I got the first one. I saw Roger Eagle and managed to blag us a gig on this lunchtime audition. Eric’s was full of punk rockers and it was brilliant, but if you’d never been, it could be a bit “Whoah”, a bit freaky. Twist didn’t like it at all, he had his red flares on and all that. We had to go shopping and bail him out, get him some drainpipes. So we got him punk rocked up and he felt a bit happier. We played this gig with this other band called the Shattered Dolls. We played our set at a hundred miles an hour, probably lasted about two minutes, twenty five songs you know. This bloke walked on with an Irish accent and went “That was great that”, and it was Bob Geldof as the Boomtown Rats had played the night before. That was my first meeting with Bob Geldof, there’s another one to tell you about later, if I remember.
Roger Eagle who ran Eric’s came up and said “That was great lads, do you want to play with The Clash tonight?”. We went in the dressing room afterwards and Twist was like “I’ve got to go home, I’m having my tea at five o’clock”! I said “Look Nige, I’ll buy you a beer”. He said “OK, I’ll stay!” So we stayed and we got to play with The Clash. We were so eager to please, Roger Eagle said “go on at 8 o’clock, The Clash will be on half an hour after you”. We went on bang on at 8 o’clock, but he thought ’cause we were punks we’d probably go on at 9 o’clock really. But we went on and it was a brilliant gig. The Clash arrived about five hours later.
I’m losing it now – where’s this all leading?
That was my introduction to Twist. I got him into the band and then Dave used to come home at the weekends. Dave used to stay with Twist. His first introduction to punk rock was through me and Nige, and Eddie, cause Eddie was into it and was hanging about. Dave started a punk band of his own after that called Chuck Burial and the Embalmed. Dave was Chuck Burial. What a great name. I used to live in Kinmel Bay at the time and I remember being asleep about 2 in the morning one night and I could hear all these stones hitting my bedroom window. I looked out and I could see this like fag (makes sound like smoking) This little red light going on. “Who is it?” (in cockney accent) “Mike, it’s Dave, got you the gig tomorrow night at the Place” He’d been down to this club and got us a gig. He didn’t have a cockney accent, but I just kind of slipped into that one. He’d got us a gig, so the first ever gig we did as The Toilets was agented by Mr Sharp. Our first gig as The Toilet, he’d set it up and we’d borrowed his PA. This other guy came to do the sound and he brought all these firebombs and smoke with him. We hammered into the first riff, Nige was hammering into the drums, all these smoke-bombs went off and you couldn’t see anything. It was full of smoke, it was brilliant! We got going with Sharpie then and he really wanted to be in our band, we were a three-piece. The Toilets caved in, we ran out of places to go.
Eddie and I had formed this relationship, we were into a band called The Rich Kids, started by Glenn Matlock who used to be in The Sex Pistols. We really liked the fact that it was a song band, Matlock had been kicked out of the Sex Pistols because he could actually play and write songs and they replaced him with an idiot who couldn’t play and couldn’t write songs and ended up topping himself, Sid Vicious. But we liked Glen Matlock and that was a big influence on me and Eddie as song writers. We both found out that we loved The Rich Kids and I’d been to see their first ever gig. It was a secret gig in Eric’s and Eddie had seen one in mid-Wales somewhere, where his brother lived, while he was down there. We had this thing going about The Rich Kids, so when The Toilets had finished we decided to start a band and we called ourselves Seventeen, cause it was the title of one of the songs on the Sex Pistols album Never Mind The Bollocks.
Anyway, Sharpie used to come home and stay with Twist. When this whole thing had gone on with Carl Wallinger and their dads had stopped them going to down, Dave used to come in the navy and by this time we’d got Seventeen going. We were a three-piece and we got Dave to join because he was the brilliant guitarist. He fitted in great, but also he’d picked up a lot on his travels and had become greatly politicised. He knew a lot about what was going on in the world, much more than we did living in Rhyl. When he started writing for The Alarm he started to pour that out. There was a song by The Stray cats called Storm The Iranian Embassy. It was one of their great numbers, it was like a punk rock, political rock a billy number. Sharp was really into that and Across The Border was heavily influenced by that and also by Dave, when he was in the navy, had docked in Belfast and had some experiences in the Falls Road. He really wanted to see and experience what Ireland was all about. And this is the song he wrote of his experience in the middle of the troubles. It was was of the first things he ever did for The Alarm, so I’m going to have a go at playing it now. It called Across The Border
Across The Border
Excuse the Jake Burns impersonation there… It’s high that one. My voice will get warmer as we go along, I promise you. I’ve been pushing it hard lately. A long, hard 6 months, so join in and help me out, cause it’s a long day.
Only got 88 more songs to go. (comments from the back of the audience) I ain’t gonna do it? You just watch me mate. I’ll get better as we go along.
This is a song called Lie Of The Land. It’s a very early song. When we actually got down to London, we started getting a lot of interest from record labels and things like that. One of the first things we did when we were starting to play with U2 and all that, we started to get some interest and got to make some demos for Polygram and all these other kind of record labels. At the time we were just 3 acoustic guitars and a drum kit. We had no bass, but we had this theory that if we mic’ed up the base drum that’d be enough. But when we made these demos it sounded terrible and all the interest we had started to evaporate. We just didn’t get anywhere. Eddie took on the bass role because he was a good guy basically. He gave up a lot of his guitar aspirations to fill a hole in the sound of the band.
Then we got to make these demos for EMI and that started to turn it round for us. I’ve actually included the demos that we did for EMI, they’re included in the first part of the box-set in “The Alarm” titled album from 1981 to 1983. It was the first thing we did where we had proper bass going on. We actually got offered a singles deal by EMI and we agreed to do it. It was for two singles and we thought “Great!” and then we went out to celebrate and got drunk and talked ourselves out of doing it cause we wanted to make a proper album. We though “Let’s bin it and we’ll get a proper album” but we never got another record company after that interested in us until Miles Copeland came along. A guy called Steve Tannett, who signed The Alarm to IRS records, he’d seen us playing with The Boomtown Rats in Exeter. He organised a rehearsal in Brixton, no was in Notting Hill Gate. He organised a rehearsal in Notting Hill Gate, and brought Miles Copeland who was the manager of The Police and had this record company called IRS, to come and see us. We played 68 Guns for him. I can remember playing the last cord and my guitar strap broke and went “pong”. I though “Blood hell, we’ve blown it here” Then Miles went away and gave Steve the go ahead to sign the band, so Steve did. Years later I asked Steve Tannett what had actually Miles said to him after he’d seen The Alarm for the first time, you know “What did he say to give you the go ahead to get the record deal?” And he said “Oh you can sign them as long as they’re cheap” And we were at the time.
So this is one of the songs that we did on the EMI demos. Probably wrote this one when we got to London. One of the very early songs we wrote. When we got to London, I’d kind of got into Bob Dylan by this time and the harmonica and all that kind of stuff. This is one of the songs that we wrote in London, it was probably influenced by Subterranian Homesick Blues all that kind of stuff. It’s called Lie Of The Land
Lie Of The Land
One of the good things that Miles Copeland brought to the band (probably the only good thing he brought really) was that he was connected in America. Probably the main reason why we signed to IRS, at the end of the day, was because they were an American driven record label, and Miles had broken The Police in America. A lot of British bands in the seventies & into early eighties never made it in America. America never got punk and they didn’t get the early eighties stuff until much later on. The first band to break America in a long long time were The Police and they were driven by Miles Copeland. He engineered the whole thing, funded them going to America. He got them a van & Sting and all that lot drove round America in a van and powered their way through as many gigs as they could get, and they started making it in America, creating a name for themselves.
When Miles saw us, he kind of understood about America really, so when we got offered the chance to go and play with U2 in America, Miles could grasp the concept that it would be good for the band, even though we had had no discernible success in Britain at that point. It was very unusual for a band to go to America as early in their career as we did and we were unknown. We got the U2 tour because they’d been on tour so long that they were homesick and wanted some people that they knew to come and join them on tour. We’d built up a relationship with them during the beginning of the War tour and Ian our manager happened to be their agent (which kind of helped as well), Ian and their manager Paul McGuinness had a conversation while we were playing a gig with U2 at Hammersmith Palais. He’d asked Ian if we’d be up for touring with U2, and Ian said yes. But he didn’t tell us until it became something definite.
When we got to go to America, we’d put out three singles in the UK. We’d done Unsafe Building and we’d released Marching On and The Stand for IRS. The Stand had got to number 8001 in the charts, but when we got to America, our first gig with U2 was in San Francisco at The Civic Arena. We’d played a tour supporting The Stand in the UK and we’d actually played two nights in The Marquee before we left. They were a brilliant two nights, packed to the roof and we tried to stay up all night after the second gig. We thought if we stay up all night, we’ll sleep on the plane and when we get to America we’ll have beaten the jet lag. No problem!
We didn’t sleep all night, but when we got on the plane, we were so excited at going to America for the first time, we didn’t sleep on the plane either. And then we got to America, we were so excited that we didn’t sleep then either. We were staying in the hotel called The Tropicana, which was a bit of a legendary place and Iggy Pop, Jim Morrison and all this lot had stayed there. The first thing we did when we got in the hotel, we all phoned home to say we were in America and how great it was. And then Miles Copeland called to say I’m taking you out for dinner tonight. We thought rather than have a shower, we’ll go in the swimming pool. Hotel with a swimming pool, we’d never stayed in one of those before… We all went in the swimming pool, the four of us and Gaz and Red Eye and we all had similar haircuts, and we only went in this far (indicates chest height) and we were all stood in this swimmimng pool, with the hair out here, going “It’s great in America isn’t it!”
And then we went to dinner with Miles Copeland. It was our first trip to America, but instead of taking us to McDonalds, he took us to a Turkish restaurant. By this time we were knackered and the sat us down , but you didn’t sit on seats at tables, you sat on these cushions. Within two minutes we were all fast asleep – Miles Copeland’s thinking “Is this the future of Rock & Roll or what?”.
Anyway, it turned out to be a great tour for us the whole America thing and there’s a billion stories that are all great and I could tell you them all. Should I tell you them all? I’ll tell you the funniest, there’s so many, I don’t know where to start. OK, I’ll carry on telling the stories.
We got to America, the first thing any American ever said to us as we were coming through immigration was “Oh My God”. We had to go from LA to San Francisco to play with U2, and we had a day, it’s 250 miles, we thought “no problem, about three or four hours, hammer it up there”. We get in the hire car, hit the highway, giving ourselves enough time to get there for the soundcheck. It won’t go past 50, it’s got a limiter on it. First gig in America, we’re late. We get to the gig in San Francisco and Bono & The Edge are waiting for us. They’re excited that we’re coming . We get all the gear out, pile all the gear on stage, we didn’t have a soundcheck and the next minutes the house lights are out and we’re due to be on stage. We get the guitars on and think, shit these strings have been on for like five days. We start in (Declaration) and my strings go “boing, boing, boing” and Dave’s are going as well. It’s like “Mike, tell some stories”. I thought “What do you say?”.
So it’s “Hello San Francisco” and I get a little applause. I said “It’s our first night ever we’ve played a gig in America” and the Americans cheer. I thought this is good this. On the way over I’d been playing a Bruce Springsteen bootleg called “Live in San Francisco, Live in the promised land”. So I was going “It’s really nice to be in San Francisco, really great to be in the promised land”, and they’re going wild. By that time I’d got my guitar back on and wham off we go into the set. It was a brilliant first gig and all the record company were there, and they thought “Hey, these are alright”. So they went back to LA and cobbled together a release of The Stand, and made this EP. We didn’t even know that first EP that came out in America and did well for us, we never saw it until a fan came along to a gig and said “Can you sign this” and we thought “What is it? Is their another band from America called The Alarm?”. It turned out to be us.
We actually were at Red Rocks when U2 did that kind of famous gig. The gig itself got called off because there was so much rain during the day that the gig was blown out. In the sleeve notes, I’ve got some pictures of us all backstage, of U2 on the day looking a bit tense. They’d flown, at their own expense, all The Tube camera crew from Newcastle to film the event. So the gig was off and it was chucking it down with rain and they put out an announcement on the radio to say the gig was off. What happened was that in the evening, so many people turned up who hadn’t got the message, that two or three thousand people were at the gig. On the video it looks like there are billions of people there, but actually they weren’t that many. There was break in the rain and U2 went on to do one or two songs just to get a bit of footage on the video and they arranged a show the next night in Boulder, Colorado. During the first number, the sky changed, and Paul McGuinness was like “Keep Going” and sending out messages to keep the camera’s rolling. We were supposed to go on for the second number, to do Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall by Bob Dylan. But the gig went on for the full gig.
It was really funny, there were some brilliant bits. If you’ve got the Under A Blood Red Sky album, first of all, there’s only one song from the gig on the album, the rest were recorded in Germany. When you see the video, it’s got Bono with a big flag, with all the red sky behind him. Well you don’t see that in the video because when he actually did that, it was in Electric Co and he did this whole thing with the flag. Because there wasn’t that many people there, he did the whole thing, but they cut it out of the video. He actually went off stage and under this tunnel and comes up in the middle of the gig at the mixing desk with his flag, and they’ve got all these lights coming off the mountains and all these helicopters appear beaming down on him. But there’s nobody around him, everybody’s down at the front waiting for him to come back. It looked good for the album cover, but it didn’t look good for the film, so that’s not in it.
The next day was a day off and it was like Labour Day weekend. Eddie took a while to get used to America and he had a bit of culture shock and wasn’t really enjoying the first few days. We all decided we’d go and see Return Of The Jedi, because it had just come out in the cinema. But Eddie didn’t want to go, he wasn’t into it like we were, he wanted to go and fix his shoes. We’re like “we’re in America, Return Of The Jedi’s out and you want to go and fix your boots? See you later mate!”.
So we all went to the cinema, and it was a long film, so when Eddie got back from having his shoes fixed, he sat in the van with all the air conditioning on to keep him cool. When we’d got to the cinema, the theatre manager took one look at us with all our barnets out here and he just thought “you’re not coming in here, you look like you’re from the film”. So he put us upstairs in the circle so we wouldn’t freak out all the kids in the front row. So while we were watching the film, Eddie was in the van. When we came back and Nige got in to start the van up – the engine just blew, Eddie had flattened all the batteries and we couldn’t get an engineer our because it was Labour Day, like a bank-holiday. We were snookered basically. We went in to use the phone in the theatre & the manager there took pity on us & put us up for the night. Eddie felt really bad, all of a sudden got over his culture shock & became one of the boys again.
We were driving off to the next gig. The next gig was in Wichita, Kansas, but this is what America is like. U2 were massive, and first gig was to 8000 people in San Francisco Civic, but four days later they were playing Wichita in Kansas and they were having to cancel shows because they were only selling 70 tickets. It was really weird and we couldn’t get our heads round it. So we had a day off because they’d cancelled one of these shows, so we decided we’d have a scenic route trip round America and go off the highway. We stopped in this place called Craig, Colorado, we came in our little van & it was dead silent. There was a fairground going on, with all of these Ferris wheels, so we wound the window down. You know like in British fairs you have Abba’s Dancing Queen pumping out usually – well this one was dead silent and all you could hear was these “Whoop, Ye-haa”. We pulled into this little café and we walked in, all the spurs going and chains and things. This guy says to me “Hey! You boys have picked the wrong town”. We just did what you’re doing and burst out laughing ’cause it was straight out of John Wayne. Once he’d heard our accents and realised we were from outer space or somewhere he served us and we had a brilliant time.
On that note…
When The Stand was out in America, we started getting our first TV shows, and our first ever appearance was on a show called The Cutting Edge, which was an MTV show. We wanted to make it look good so I got them to put these white sheets of paper up and I got the spray can out and painted the red poppy on it and that became our first ever thing. We were interviewed and it was our first thing on TV, but the video appearance stuck. IRS bought the TV footage and turned it into our first ever video, and it was called “Come On Down And Make The Stand”
Alarm 2000 Day Transcription – Session 2 Declaration era – Declaration to Absolute Reality
When we got home from America… What happened next?
I’ve got a good story about America actually. When we were doing the U2 tour thing, the whole thing kind of took off in America. We came back and started making what became the beginnings of Declaration. We started recording with Alan Shacklock for the first time. For some reason, I don’t know what went on, but we’d really liked making The Stand with Mick Glossop, I thought it was great, we all did. It worked for us. It had been a hit in America and all that.
We tried to make a follow up record, we recorded Blaze Of Glory. The Blaze Of Glory that we recorded with Mick came out as the b-side to Absolute Reality in 85. For some reason when we made that recording, Miles Copeland had decided that we should work with another producer. I remember being in America, and we loved that particular recording of Blaze Of Glory. I remember playing it on an American radio show. I was doing this interview on the show and Bono was late getting there, so they kept me going. We only had 5 tracks on our EP and we played all those and they ran out of that stuff to play. So I said “I’ve got a recording of our next track” and I went down to the van and got Blaze Of Glory out and played it off the cassette. Bono came in during the recording.
When we got back from America it had been decided that we should work with another producer, Alan Shacklock. He came to see us playing a gig. We all got on well with Alan, but I spoke to Mick about the re-issues and he didn’t even know why we never got to work with him again. That’s one of the things I regret about The Alarm in a way, was that we never got to make a full album with Mick, cause we all got on brilliantly and I think he really caught that early sound of the band.
When we made 68 Guns with Alan, it was kind of traumatic for us because during the whole period of making Declaration we were always on the road, doing gigs here, there and everywhere. We were recording in the daytime sometimes and then going off to play a show at night. Then we’d come back the next day it was things like “I don’t remember that bit going on the record” Alan was starting to put stuff like trumpets on 68 Guns and things like that. The arguments that went on were frightening. Eddie in particular had a short fuse and he’d go “Poff”. I remember when we came in to hear the mix of 68 Guns we were all “Is that us?” It was kind of a shock. We had all the label there going “It’s going to be a hit” and all that, but we were like “Don’t know”. At that time in our creative side of the contract with IRS, we didn’t have that much control. We didn’t understand the process that much. We were only young and when you’re making your first record you don’t really know what’s going on. We just thought “We’ve got to do a gig”. You couldn’t finish the argument cause you had to go on the road again, we were off to America and these kind of things.
So we kind of gave up on that and went to America. It (68 Guns) was scheduled to come out as a single. While it came out in Britain we were on tour in America. I remember we played in this place called The Ritz, early great gig in America. It was the first proper gig we’d ever sold out. We came back and we were doing two nights. The first night was a brilliant gig and the second night Bono came down to see us play. We’d already done a couple things with Bono, so we didn’t want him to come on the stage this time. But while we were on stage, the gig was going off, it was brilliant. It was really happening and we were buzzing away. The next minute we invited Alan Shacklock up on stage to play a bit of Hammond organ on Knockin’ On Heavens Door. Bono had seen us doing all this and he thought “I want a bit of that!” So he’d sneaked into the dressing room while we were on stage and he got one of my fringe jackets on. And Dave had just bought, in the Mid-west this brilliant hat. You know that blond hat he wore in a lot of photographs with the feather sticking out? Well, he’d just bought that. It was his pride and joy, he’d spent all his money. He had it in his dressing room, on his peg. Well, we’re battering away doing Knockin’ On Heavens Door and next thing this Irishman strolls on with Dave’s hat on, my fringe jacket and he’s looking brilliant. Next minute the gig goes berserk, all the fans are trying to get on the stage and then the hat comes straight off into the audience. And Dave’s on stage … (makes a threatening fist) It was great. After that I remember there were all these books out on U2 and they’ve always got photographs of him from that gig. And it’s always like “Bono in one of his amazing stage outfits” Oh well… He’s a good lad, old Bono. To be fair to U2, they gave us a lot of early breaks and we became really good mates with them. When we were on the tour with U2 they would go in to promote their own shows that night and they would always, every radio station they ever went into they made them play The Stand or Marching On. And they’d say to all their fans “Come down early and see this band called The Alarm” They did us a lot of favour and we’re always grateful to them for that. I’m playing Dublin on Monday night so hopefully they’ll be down at the gig. You never know. Maybe I’ll get them on stage, do Knockin’ On Heavens Door again. I’d better take a hat as well.
So let’s play the first track. This is Declaration and Marching On
Declaration /Marching On
This is called Where Were You Hiding When The Storm Broke
Where Were You Hiding When The Storm Broke
The old vocal isn’t up to scratch today. Hopefully it’ll get better as it goes along. I don’t usually make excuses, but I think I’ve picked up a bit of a cold over the last week while I’ve been out on the tour. But I’m going to battle on as long as you are, alright? I’ll keep you going with stories and all that.
I hope you’ll help me out on the chorus on this. I’ve remastered all the albums as you know and I’ve been able to tweak with the track listings to make them slightly more interesting for you. Cause, well you’ve all got the original albums anyway, so why don’t we mix them all up and create some interesting patterns with them. What I’ve done is sort of sneak in all the b-sides in within them. This is called 68 Guns
This is one of my favourite songs from Declaration and I’ve brought it forward a lot earlier in the track listing. It’s a Dave song, and it’s called Tell Me. I remember him writing it at 13 Emu Road. It’s quite high, so stick with me OK.
This is a song which I wrote in the corridor of 13 Emu Road, probably a Sunday morning. I was probably the first one up, had a song in my head and didn’t want to disturb the boys. This is called We Are The Light
We Are The Light
The first song we ever played live was called Shout To The Devil, and it was actually written before we made our first ever live appearance, which was a pub in Prestatyn called The Victoria Hotel. It was June 10th 1981. We only had four or five songs, but we thought that was good enough. We wanted to hammer into it, but the promoter of the gig wanted us to play for half an hour, but we only had like 25 minutes. So we thought “better write another song then!”. I just came up with this riff and Sharpy started jamming it, and I thought, “I’ll make up the lyrics when I get up there” – well being doing it every night ever since! We launched into it and it became the way we started most of our gigs throughout our early career. We used to come onto this music by Georgy Zanfia – all these pipes – and Twist would hammer into the tribal drums and off we’d go. Early on it felt like it was kind of a sound check in a way. Often we’d be playing in gigs where there were like 10 bands. There’d be no soundcheck, pile your gear on and we’d give the sound guy a bit of a chance by starting with the drums, then putting one of the acoustics over the top and then the other one, and Eddie would be bashing away at the tambourine and then he’d join in on guitar on the next number. So this is it, Shout To The Devil, but with proper lyrics this time.
Shout To The Devil
Now this next song is called “Going Out In A Blaze Of Glory”. It started out life as a Dave Sharp song, Dave came up with the original chord sequences for the verses, and then Eddie came up with the title “Going Out In A Blaze Of Glory”. I sort of added the bridge & the lyrics to flesh it out, Eddie came up with the line “It’s funny how they shoot you down when your hands are held up high”. That was a line inspired by seeing U”, and seeing Bono do the whole “Surrender” thing from the “War” album. We were good mates of the band, and we got a first hand look at how the press can turn on a band as soon as they become successful. We’d seen how U2 had been embraced by all the press un the UK, but as soon as they had any sort of success, they just really turned on them and stuck the knife in. This song was written about that – it’s called “Going Out In A Blaze Of Glory, My Hands Are Held Up High”
Blaze Of Glory
Q. Why was that not a single?
I agree with you there. It was always going to be a single, we recorded it originally as the follow up to The Stand, as I said earlier, but that recording got canned by the recording company. When we first started working with Alan Shacklock we went in to do two tracks, kind of a trial period to see if we’d all get on well. We actually recorded Sixty Eight Guns and Blaze Of Glory at the same time, and one of those was going to be a single. When we first heard the mix back, Eddie was totally … Eddie left the band when he first heard the mix. He was like “What’s the point of trying to make records if they’re going to sound like that.”
He’s quoted in the sleeve notes about when we first met Alan Shacklock. We all eventually got on well with Alan Shacklock, but at first it was like a real hard relationship. Alan was a very musical producer, he could write, arrange, score, he could play every instrument we could better than us. When we had sat down and said what kind of record we wanted to make, Eddie had said “Born To Run” by Bruce Springsteen, we want to sound like that. And I think that it does sound a bit like that actually.
But when Eddie first heard it, it kind of freaked him out. Eddie was quite a perfectionist in the studio. I think all musicians are never that happy with their records because you never know when it’s really finished. Whenever you’ve recorded a track, you’re always one more down the line. We recorded Sixty Eight and Blaze as potential singles, and we went with Sixty Eight as the first single and the Blaze Of Glory was going to be the second one.
When we went back to America on tour, we wrote “Where Were You Hiding When The Storm Broke?” and it was kind of a last minute decision to have that as the new single in the January of ’84 and not have “Blaze Of Glory”, and that was going to be the third single. I think, we all think in the band that that was not the right thing to do, at the end of the day, we should have put Blaze Of Glory out as a single. I remember us playing on the “Oxford Road Show”, Peter Powell’s show at the time, and we played Blaze Of Glory and were thinking that’s going to be the next single. In some ways, I think because it didn’t come out as a single, it meant more within our circle, because it’s not got the “yeah yo” bit. So that was the reason it never came out as a single, it should have done. I think it probably suffered because we’d recorded it once and the record company had had fears or misgivings that it wasn’t going to be a hit record. I think it probably would have been actually, but there you go.
So the next one was the third single we put out from the Declaration album. It didn’t become a hit, unfortunately. I think there’s always this pattern with albums that you put two hard hitting singles out, and then you go with the ballad, but we didn’t really have any ballads in The Alarm. The label wanted to put out The Deceiver, which had a lot of support at airplay, but the reason it didn’t really become a hit was not so much to do with the fans or the airplay, but because IRS as a record company were partners with other record companies. Initially they were partners with A&M records who had The Police and all that kind of thing. During the Declaration album cycle, the relationship between IRS and A&M came to an end, and they moved from A&M to MCA records. So when The Deceiver came out as a single, that relationship was all over between IRS and A&M, so A&M didn’t really support the single. IRS tried a lot to do it, they put out mustard vinyl seven inches and double-packs and all that, but it didn’t really motivate the legs that we’d hoped for. Also as a band, we were on tour in America as well, so we weren’t able to do all the interviews and all that kind of thing, but it’s one of my favourite songs, one of the better songs of The Alarm.
Q. Why did the second single in the double-pack have the White Cross label on it?
We wanted it to appear like it was part of a relationship with Unsafe Building and Up For Murder and that kind of thing, so that’s why it came out on our own label, our own “boutique” label as you might say.
Any way, this is The Deceiver
This is a song which was written by me and Mr MacDonald and it’s a song which has it’s roots in a building which was on the sea front in Rhyl. It was called The Pavilion, a big Victorian building with a big dome on it. In the seventies, they decided that the dome was unsafe and they were going to take it down, knock it down, against the wishes of everybody in the town. It was a big day when they’d taken all the support away for this unsafe dome and they blew all the support away and were going to crash it to the ground. They were going to crash it to the ground and have it all break up, because that’s what was supposed to happen to it. So when they blew it away and the whole thing crashed to the ground, nothing happened. It just stayed there as it was. So it wasn’t unsafe in the end.
Eddie and I, we met on the steps of The Pavilion. My mum and his mum, we used to live in Edward Henry street in Rhyl, we were next door neighbours, and they had taken us to the paddling pool in Rhyl, we were only four. We met on the steps while we were making sand-castles and all that stuff that young kids do. We quickly wrote this song about two minutes later, and it’s called “Never Again Shall I Stand On The Pavilion Steps”
This is a song that was originally one of the B-sides to “Where Were You Hiding” and it was one of the original songs we did as a band. It was probably played in the first rehearsal we ever had, and it’s called “What Kind Of Hell”
What Kind Of Hell
Now this is a song which I’ve never played live before, or sung live. I have played bass on it live a few times. According to some, it’s one of the rare songs I’m going to play today. It’s actually a song which Eddie used to sing in the early days. It’s a song which we wrote together. I wrote most of the lyrics as well. The lyric route is in something my granddad used to tell me. He fought in the First World War in France, and he was a field gunner there. He told me this story one day when I was a kid, about something which used to go on in the trenches at night. It sort of became a symbol of bad luck for his generation. Often, when they were in the trenches at night in the dark, they’d have a German sniper out in no-mans-land or in the fields in a tree, and he would be waiting, looking over at the British trenches to see the troops there. He’d wait for someone to start lighting a cigarette and then he’d home in on that. So the first light of the cigarette, he’d see you. Whoever got the second light, he’d take aim and whoever got the third light of the cigarette – bam – he’d be gone. That was what this whole song was about, in case you didn’t know.
The Stand (Prophecy)
That was The Stand (Prophecy). This next song has it’s routes in an early song I wrote for Seventeen, a song called Hear Me Out, which itself was a title from a Toilets punk rock song. We wrote a new song and nicked the title really, and then when we got to The Alarm we nicked it all again & wrote another song around it. The first line of the song is all that remains from the early Seventeen song. When I was looking through all the vaults to find all the master tapes, I’d got sent a list of all the material that was in storage at Abbey Road Studios in London, which is owned by EMI, and the place where we made Declaration. They sent me a computer print out of all the stuff they had in their vaults, and on it, it said, “Unbreak The Promise”. I thought, “Wow, I don’t remember recording that for Declaration”. I remember telling the stories at the time about having this great version of Unbreak The Promise that we never recorded. Anyway, I had the masters sent up to where I was working, and put it on the reel. It actually wasn’t Unbreak The Promise, it was me going “I, I declare, to unbreak the promise”, it was just the vocals from the middle of Sixty Eight Guns.
We actually had recorded it (Unbreak The Promise) during the Declaration album sessions; we’d gone up to the BBC Studios to make a recording for Kid Jenson. Because we were at the studio and all our gear was set up & all our amps, we didn’t really want to break it down. We decided that we’d go in and make an acoustic session. But because we were only going in there with our acoustic guitars, we thought, we’ll just turn up 20 minutes before we record it. So when we got there, the BBC were not happy that we’d turned up so late, they had expected us to walk in with the drums, but we just turned up with the acoustic guitars. We decided to use it as an opportunity to record what were then some brand new songs. One of them was Walk Forever By My Side, and it was also the first occasion I first ever heard Dave sing One Step Closer to Home. That was a real powerful moment for me and Eddie, sat in the control room, we thought, “Wow, this guy is getting even better than we are”. He really blew us away with that song. We recorded this song, Unbreak The Promise, and we had a few of our mates down from Rhyl at the time. Modnus Modnerson was there, he who runs the quiz at The Gathering. His name is Richie Mod and he was our first ever fan. His name’s Richard Jones really, but we call him Richard Mod because he first came to see us when we were Seventeen. It was bank holiday weekend, he was only about 13, but he had this two-tone suit and this little pork-pie hat. So he was always Richie Mod to us. So there was all the band and Redeye and Gaz Top, Bobby – all these cronies who used to hang around with us. I put down an acoustic version of the track, and then we got them to play down the track over the speakers, and we all got on this BBC trolley and started to go (stamp,stamp – clap, stamp,stamp – clap) and got them to record that and it was all part of the track. I think at the end of the track, we all fell about laughing, but that bit’s been lost – thankfully! This is called Unbreak The Promise.
Unbreak The Promise
This is a song which closed Declaration, this is called Howling Wind
So then, that was the main body of the Declaration album, and we were initially going to start recording the new album, but because of all the … We weren’t quite sure whether we should continue recording with Alan or not, so we actually went in to record a couple of singles with Alan. One of them was this next song, called The Chant Has Just Begun.
It started off as a song written during the American dates that we’d been playing. When we were making the video for The Stand, we made it at A&M studios. It was actually in a film lot that was owned by Charlie Chaplin, we’d recorded the film there. Behind the studio, there was this wall with a mural on it, and all these images of Los Angeles and the culture, and it said, “The Chant Has Just Begun”. I thought, “That’s a great idea for a song”. I started writing the song, Dave liked it, joined in and it sort of became a song written by me, Eddie & Dave.
We actually recorded it in a weird way. Computers had started to come into music, and technology. At the time, everybody was doing it, there was the sort of Frankie Goes To Hollywood records, and they were sounding good, and all this new ideas and new thinking about how to make records. When we came to make The Chant Has Just Begun, Alan Shacklock wanted to implement this new way of making records. This meant bringing this massive thing into the studio called a Fairlight, it was just massive and they had to have this guy to work it. You’d record your drums into it, and then move them all around. Sort of like a massive version of Pro Tools which we have in computers these days. As a band, we were always up to experiment, and we didn’t really understand what this meant. We’d written this song The Chant as like a folky version of The Stand. We thought it was going to sound like The Stand, and it came out sounding like Frankie Goes To Hollywood, basically! Needless to say, it wasn’t a hit, it kind of confused everybody, and us as well. It was an experiment that didn’t work out for us at the time, but I think the song is pretty good. Here it is, The Chant Has Just Begun.
The Chant Has Just Begun
The B-side of The Deceiver was a song called Second Generation, and this is it. Our second ever gig was in St. Asaph, on the roundabout as you come off the A55, at the Talardy Hotel. It was a CND benefit concert and there was a lot of literature about the banishment of nuclear weapons & nuclear power in this country, and I got the idea for the title of this song while I was there, and this is it, Second Generation
Now this is a song… we were trying to recover from The Chant Has Just Begun thing and we’d already started work on what was going to become the Strength album. We’d written a lot of songs and recorded a lot of demos, and we’d actually gone out to New York to meet Jimmy Iovine, who we hoped would make the Strength album with us. He’d agreed to work with us, and we went to New York City and played him all our demos and did about two or three days working with him. We all got on great and it was agreed that we’d come back to the UK and we’d start work on the album on the first of January. When we actually got to January 1st and we turned up in London to start rehearsals on the Strength album, there was no Jimmy Iovine, he didn’t turn up. We kept phoning his office in New York and kept getting this sort of smoke screen that he was dealing with a personal thing. Anyway, he never actually turned up and we sat around in the rehearsal studio waiting for two weeks, but he never came. In the end, he told us that his father had passed away, or his father was ill and that was the reason he’d never turned up. Although that was true at the time, he did start working on a Simple Minds album a few weeks after that, so obviously we’d been “gazumped” in the producer market.
We actually had a recording of Absolute reality recorded with Alan Shacklock that we liked the recording of, and we decided to put it out as a record and we put together the Absolute Tour. That originally was booked to be the tour that would go with the Strength album, we were going to make it before that tour started in the April. We had no album to go with the tour, but we decided to press on and put the single out. That was a good idea of Ian Wilson really, it meant we could go out and play all our new songs and get a bit of confidence back in the band. We decided to put Absolute out as a single, so while we were waiting for Jimmy Iovine, we recorded two songs that we thought would make good B-sides. They were never really written as part of any album, they were just written to go with Absolute Reality, and Eddie wrote this song, called Room At The Top, and Dave wrote one that I’ll play for you in a moment, that I’ve never ever played before, called Reason 36. So this is Room At The Top.
Room At The Top
Now this is one or Mr Sharp’s tunes. When I was putting the sleeves together, I actually referenced this book, The Stand lyrics book, but when I was mastering the record, I realised that the lyrics in the book are completely different to the lyrics in the song. It took me quite a while to work them out and I had to phone Dave up and ask him what he’d actually sung on a couple of parts. He couldn’t remember! It goes sort of like this, Reason 36 (and the reason it’s called Reason 36, I’ll tell you later).
Now, the reason that that song was called Reason 36, is the same reason that this next song is called Reason 41. When I asked Dave why, he said Reason 36, when you look at the lyrics, has got 36 lines, and Reason 41 has got 41. I thought that was great me! This is called Reason 41.
Now then, this is a song which I first heard on an old folk compilation album and I first heard it sung by Pete Seeger, who’d written the music with a Welsh poet from South Wales called Idris Davies. We’re also aware that The Byrds had done a cover of it, and they all sang it as The Bells Of “Rhymney” (pronounced as it reads). Now this is in the days before S4C and BBC Wales was a kind of national thing, and coming from North Wales, we didn’t really understand the intricacies of the South Wales dialect or how they pronounce some of the names of their towns. So we kind of took Rhymney from The Byrds and we got this Welsh name of the valley via the Byrds in America. The first version we did, kind of hoping that we’d make the connection with all the Welsh people that we know & love, we got it completely wrong, sang it as Bells Of Rhymney.
Audience: “I wrote to you and told you as I live a mile away from Rhymney”
Mike: I know you did. So when we met chaps like Mr Ahearn hear, we got a telling off, that we’d got it wrong. Luckily we managed to record it twice, once acoustically, and once electrically when we played at Cardiff Arms Park, and we were able to sing it as The Bells Of “Rumney”. And it goes like this.
The Bells Of Rhymney
Now one of the things that we got into early on was that I was a big fan of Bob Dylan. Now I only really got into Dylan because Red Eye who was our roadie actually works for Dylan now, he’s the stage man for Bob Dylan. Red was the original Dylan fan in our gang, and he turned me onto Bob Dylan via the Live At Budokan album, and that’s where I started wanting to play the harmonica and play the acoustic guitar. It was something I introduced into The Alarm fairly early on. When I was reading a book about Dylan by Antony Scaduto, it made a lot of references to Woody Guthrie, who’d been a massive influence on Dylan, and Dylan had nicked a lot of his whole thing from Woody Guthrie. I started reading into Woody Guthrie and trying to get some of his music, and it was quite hard to get on an old “Folkways” label from America. I finally got some music and it was quite hard to listen to, because it was all scratchy and it was made before proper recording studios came into being. I found this song called “Bound For Glory” and I suggested to the band that we should play it. It just came out of soundchecks and we recorded it to go with The Chant Has Just Begun, but it only ever came out in Europe and Japan, it never came out here in Britain. I’ve added it into the Declaration sequence. It kind of goes like this – you can help me out if you like.
This Train Is Bound For Glory
OK – I’m going to take a little break after this song and come back and then we’ll get into the whole Strength thing. This is a song which closes the Declaration period, but it’s probably a song which was destined as the first song of the Strength album that we wrote. It’s called Absolute Reality.
Alarm 2000 Day Transcription – Session 3 Strength era – Strength to Knockin’ On Heavens Door
Now this album, the Strength album, as I was saying earlier, started out with the intention of recording it with Jimmy Iovine, who’s worked with John Lennon and Bruce Springsteen and U2, he’d done some work with them, he did Rattle & Hum with them. When he didn’t come, it was a blow to our career because the timing was out for us and we had to think on our feet. We created the Absolute tour & we went out & played quite a lot of new songs, like Knife Edge & Dawn Chorus. In late 1984, we’d actually spent two days recording what would be most of the songs that went on the Strength album. We spent two days recording them in North London at Ezeehire recording studios, which is where we used to rehearse as well. We cut about nine tracks that were demos & one of them was Absolute Reality. We always sort of thought that Absolute Reality was the beginning of Strength and that’s why we included it on the American version of the album. When you get the CDs over the next couple of weeks, included in the sleeve notes I’ve put in a lot or reprogramming information, so if you program your CD, you can put the albums into the original sequence that they were first put together. It gets very trainspottery, you can put Absolute Reality in, or you can take it out, create an English or a US (North American, for the Canadian people here) version.
When we were out on the Absolute tour, we had a good idea what was going to be on the Strength album, but it was a good platform for us because we could jam things out in sound checks. This next song, which became the title song of the album, was written one night after we’d played at Newcastle City Hall. I’d gone to bed at night (seem to remember telling this story once before and it involved pyjamas, but I can’t remember that bit, or I’m going to choose to forget that bit), I got the idea for the song when I couldn’t get to sleep after the gig (it was a good gig), I’d just got this chorus going round in my head “Give Me Love”, it sounded like I should get it down on tape or get the guitar out. The guitar was in the van so me and Redeye (I used to room with Redeye on the road), so me and him sneaked down to the van in the middle of the night, in our pyjamas, and we got a guitar out and then I stayed up all night working on the song. A day or so later, we were in Manchester playing at the Apollo, and I showed Dave how it went in the dressing room, then we went out on stage for the sound check and showed it to Eddie & Nigel, and we had a rough version of it that we played there. In fact it was left on the video of the second Gathering, when I did that acoustic set, you can hear a bit of a rough take of the sound check from that gig. When we recorded the song we felt that the song threw up a really good word to be the title of the second album, and because we had to weather a few storms to get to the second album, that Strength seemed to be an appropriate title. This is the song.
What I’m gonna do, just so you know, is after this whole Strength session, we’re gonna set up a little PA system downstairs and we’ll do the “Eye Of The Hurricane” set out on the lawn. Just in case we get some “rain in the summertime” and all that. The other thing that I’m gonna warn Mikey Jones of is.. During this album we actually did record an electric version of “One Step Closer to Home”, witch I’m sure you all look forward to hearing when you get your CD’s. So Mike, if you can find the reference disc of the “Strength” album, we can play “One Step Closer To Home” back to everyone in a little while. When we couldn’t get Jimmy Iovine, we had to look for another producer fairly quick. And a lot of producer you have to book months up ahead, because they’re trying to work on other albums and things like that. So we actually, when we’d finished the Absolute tour there was really no producers that were available that we could use. We tried to get back with Alan Shacklock, but he was doing a Meat Loaf album. He likes Meat Loaf. Alan was helping out in rehearsals when we were doing Majority and stuff like that, but the only producer we could work with was a guy called Mike Howlett. Mike used to be the bass-player in a 70’s hippie band called Gong, with Steve Hillage. We went to meet him in a restaurant in Notting Hill and we got on really well with him actually and he was a good producer for us, because a) he was available, b) he liked to work with the sound engineer that did our gigs and the other thing that is a bit weird about him is that his main production credits were like Blancmange and Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, and we weren’t quite sure if it was going to work. So we booked a recording session in the Roundhouse studios, witch is in Chalk Farm road in London, and we went in again to do a sort of trial session and we recorded Knife Edge and Dawn Chorus. And the whole sort of jam session that’s on the Absolute tour flexi-disc, that all came out of us in the first night in the studio while we got the sounds set up.
The guy we were working with was a guy called Nigel Luby, he was the recording engineer. He’d done all our gigs for a couple of years and we felt really comfortable working with him and we tried to get that live-sound, so we thought we’d use our live-sound engineer in the studio. Made sense to us anyway.. So we felt very comfortable. So when Nige got the sounds up we were just jamming away, doing like “Alright Now”, but I’ve actually still got a tape of the whole jam-session, cause we did a bit of Golden Earring, “Radar Love”, “Alright Now”, but I’ve been researching more stuff for The Alarm for in a couple of years time, but what I came across on this tape of this jam-session, was a brilliant version of “Maggie May” witch was pretty good that night, so you might get to hear that one of these days. But not tonight.. Although I do sound like Rod Steward today, I must admit.
This is a song that we cut early on and in the post-production I’ve done recently for this album, ..I think when you get this song home and you play “Knife Edge”, it sounds a million times better than the one from 1985, cause I was able to do a lot of things with the modern technology we have now, to improve the recording. Again, Eddie actually, I’ll tell you the story about that later on, but he actually didn’t like the mix of “Knife Edge” cause the drums weren’t loud enough, but I’ve been able to fix that for him, so he likes it now. Basically the intro was so loud, that when the drums went “bam-bada-bam-bam” they just sounded small, so I made them lower the intro and make the whole band sound louder when it comes in so.. It does sound good. Anyway here it is, this is “Knife Edge”
Right then… You all know the words to this next song, so you’re gonna sing it for me, ok? I tried this out once, and it worked. This is a song which is about… I mentioned about Eric’s in Liverpool and growing up there musically and seeing all the great bands from the punk-rock era and meeting Pete Wylie from Wah-heat, and this is a song witch… At the time of writing it for the “Strength” album, I sort of didn’t know if I was quite equipped to write the song, cause it was very auto-biographical. At first it was just an idea for a song really, I talked to Eddie about it and he really encouraged me to write it and keep it true, so it really is the story of me and my friends going to Liverpool and the whole experience and that kind of like optimism that that music gave to us.
But somehow, when you live in a small town, unless that you’ve got an outlet for that optimism and all those hopes and those dreams, it can quite often turn inwards and be very destructive. I was lucky, I found a vehicle for all the things that I wanted to do through learning the guitar and joining a band and doing all that. But some of my friends there, the initial optimism didn’t see through the vision. They ended up getting sucked into that whole sub-culture and drugs came into play as they do, and my friend John who was really close to me. We used to get home on a Friday night from work and go to each other’s house and play all these great, unusual, weird punk-rock records. We promoted bands like Big In Japan in Rhyl and all that. But he really got into the hard drug-scene and ended up going to, got sent down to Walton jail. It rounded the whole punk gang from round Prestatyn and Rhyl, and everyone ended up in Amsterdam and dropped out of things. I still see them all and we’re still friends now, but their dreams didn’t work out like mine, and I felt kind of weird about discussing that in such an open manner in a song. But the band really encouraged me to have the conviction or what-ever you want to call it to it. And I think because it’s a real story and I knew how to get it right, so that when I met them in later life I would be able to look them in the eye, knowing that I told the story as it was, that it wasn’t like a fabricated thing. You know I see them, and they’ve been to gigs and while it might be painful to hear this song, I think they get it and know what it’s about. Maybe, hopefully it’s renewed their optimism in some sort of way. That’s what I’d like to think anyway. So maybe you could join me in singing it. It’s called the Spirit of ’76.
Spirit of ’76
I actually got engaged to be married in this room, I had an engagement party in here and so I’d like to dedicate this song to my wife Jules who’s been behind me in everything I’ve ever done. She’s the best person that I know and this is dedicated to her. This is called Walk Forever By My Side
Walk Forever By My Side
This next song, unlike Spirit, is not that autobiographical, but is written more in observation, because in 1984/1985 we’d experienced the miners strike in Britain and it was a very bleak time for our country. The economic situation in our country had put a lot of strain on families, friendships, and all sorts of relationships and on communities as well. This is a song written about the kind of thing that was going on in a lot of households at the time; this is a song called “Father To Son”
Father To Son
This is a song which takes it’s subject matter from something that happened in North Wales. There used to be (well there still is) a Shotton Steel Works over in Deeside. This is a song which is inspired (inspired is maybe the wrong word), it is written in response to one day the government announced the closure. They released 8000 people who found themselves out of work in one day, overnight, and that was a massive blow to a great community.
That song, when I asked Eddie if he wanted to nominate his favourite Alarm song, that song is one he reckoned was one of the better ones we wrote together. Me and Eddie, we wrote Deeside during the recording on the Declaration album. Some of you might have been to Abbey Road when we did a thing there once, but the control room is above the recording studio and they used to store the tapes in this little room, I guess it’s as big as this stage, it’s a really small room and we wrote it in there. We’d been playing it to Alan Shacklock, who was producing us at the time, and the engineer was going that that’s the room where The Beatles actually recorded Year Blues off the White Album. Apparently they crowded into this little room, playing their guitars & recorded Year Blues. That was kind of cool.
This next song I’m going to play is Majority. We originally wanted it to be part of the album and I’m really glad to make it part of the album now, now we’ve reached 2000. When we were recording the album, because we’d lost a lot of time because Jimmy Iovine didn’t come to produce us, and we’d done the Absolute Tour, the record label wanted to put out a single as fast as possible. So when we’d finished the recording, Strength had sounded like a single, so they wanted that first. We mixed it and we needed to have a B-side, so we decided to make it a really strong single, so we put out Majority as the B-side.
It was always a favourite track of mine and we used to start a lot of the gigs with it. When we actually recorded it, Eddie was getting married the day after. The whole album, we were supposed to have finished it the day before. The recording sessions went over, we overran and there’s a good story about why we overran, I’ll get to that in a minute.
Aside to Mike Jones, “Mike have you found Sharp’s One Step?”
Mike Jones: “It’s on order but it hasn’t been delivered yet”.
Crowd & Mike all laugh.
It’s all my fault. When I started work on this whole project, it’s a lot more work than I thought it was going to be. The reason why they’re not ready today, and they’ll be ready next week is that there was just so much work and I wanted it to be brilliant, one of the best re-issues there’s ever been. I had to make sure everything was absolutely right. I scoured the world for unreleased tracks and various things. There’s quite a lot of music in there you’ll discover that’s not in the original plan. There’s 150 tracks across all the CDs, including the vocal busting dedication tracks.
Is there anyone here who requested Walk Forever By My Side?
(One hand is raised)
Mike raises fingers in the shape of a gun and makes machine gun sound, to much laughter.
I’ve done that about 30 million times in the last few weeks. It’s been a pleasure to do it (much laughter)
Anyway, where was I. Eddie right?
Majority, we were running late with the album sessions, because of Dave Sharp. I’ll tell you the story in a minute. We were trying to rush this mix of Majority, to get it done as it was Eddie’s wedding. Eddie was getting married and we’d stayed up all night in the studio, we’d recorded this version of Walk Forever by my side (again). We did actually do the very first ever version of Walk Forever By My Side. Eddie used to be in the Rhyl Silver Band and he used to play the trombone, I’ve still got his trombone in my storage lockup. He wanted to have a brass band on Walk Forever By My Side, as a kind of tribute to his father, who’s a brilliant cornet player and is very famous locally. So the last day of the session we had this brass band coming in. I’ve been doing all this research and the one thing I cannot find is I do not have one name for any of these guys who came in, I don’t even know what brass band it was or where they came from, nobody knows. They came in and did a great job and we mixed that one and then we had to get a mix of Majority and Eddie was getting married. The first mix at about 2 o’clock in the morning was the “Stag Night Mix” and the second mix at about 4 o’clock was the “Wedding Breakfast Mix” and then the finished mix that we got was “The Wedding Has Just Begun Mix”. Eddie had to go straight from the studio, get his suit on and go and get married while we packed up and cleared all the equipment out of the studio. Majority is dedicated to Eddie’s wedding day.
Right then… One of the reasons the album, the Strength album ran a little bit later than it should of was that we had a two week break, well a two week extension I should say. Cause we were actually playing a few gigs, we were going out… I think at one stage we brought all the equipment out and played Croke Park with U2 in Dublin. That caused a bit of chaos, you had to get all the sounds again. And then one day, we had quite a few visitors come into the studio when we were making the album. Roger Daltrey from the Who had been making records with Alan Shacklock who produced Declaration, and Roger really got into the Declaration album and came to see us play at Hammersmith Palais on the Absolute Reality tour. He’d included Where Were You Hiding When The Storm Broke in this all time top ten on radio one. He was a good visitor to have in the studio. Then U2 came down, The Edge came down one day to check out what we were doing. And then we actually got a visit from Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin. What he was doing, he was actually in the studio upstairs, there were two studios, we worked in the main one downstairs and he was in the mixing room, mixing a live album with The Firm. He came into our studio to see what we were all about and what we were doing. He got on really well with Dave straight away, they were all talking guitars. Dave took him out to the live area where Dave had all his guitars set up and then Jimmy Page got hold of one of Dave’s guitars and started playing it. And I thought “Get the tapes going, quick! We’ve got a brilliant bootleg here” much laughter So I got a bit of that down on tape, but sadly I couldn’t find that bit to include it on the Strength album. It was only him tuning up, but it sounded brilliant anyway. He invited Dave upstairs. He said “come to the control room and you can hear some of the stuff from The Firm” Anyway, Dave turns up and he knocked on the door… (some one gets up or speaks) What’s that? Here he is again… Not Walk Forever By My Side again? (laughter)
Anyway, Dave went up to the studio where Jimmy Page was and knocked on the door, and Jimmy…, the door opened just like that and then his hand came out with a bottle of Jack Daniels in it. And Dave thought “Oh…” So there he goes straight in the door. We actually never saw Dave again for about 4 days, and they never left the control room. Jimmy Page and Dave Sharp stayed in that control room for 4 days, 4 nights and all we’d see was… Sometimes the phone would go downstairs in reception, and there’d be a request for more beer and more fags. So when Dave finally emerged he looked a bit worse for wear shall we say and he still had to sing his vocals on One Step Closer To Home. And… he didn’t get it, which I’m surprised… That’s where I’ve been for the last few days, hanging out with Jimmy Page by the way. Anyway, so I’m gonna play it. Actually, I did salvage a version. Actually we had recorded One Step Closer To Home before Dave disappeared with Jimmy Page and I managed to find the rough mix of the track and it’s included on the new version of the Strength album. So rather than me sing it for you, I though we’d play it back through the speakers and you can hear Dave. This is only his guide vocals, it’s wasn’t the real, cause he never got that until we made it for Eye Of The Hurricane, but it’s the full electric version. And Mike, if you’re looking for it, I’ll tell you it’s 1-2-3-4… track 8, yeah. Let’s give it a whirl, this has never been heard except by me.
Electric One Step Closer To Home
Now that would have been a single! Should have been, shouldn’t it?
Why wasn’t it?
Well, he couldn’t do the vocals
What about your version?
I’ll do it outside when we do Eye Of The Hurricane, how’s that? See it wasn’t on the album.
This track is a song, when we went to do the demos in New York with Jimmy Iovine I got a copy of the New York Daily Post one day and there was this story about a young, teenage actress who was very promising and had a very promising career ahead of her. During the night while we were there she’d been murdered outside her apartment and the story was all over the papers. I just sort of connected to it somehow and I made a song out of the whole story. The song, me and Nige, Twist we actually demoed it while we were doing the Strength album and when IRS put out Knife Edge as the third single off the album they wanted some b-sides. So we said “well there’s that track Caroline Isenberg in the vaults”. So Steve Tannett who’d signed the band went to look for it, but when he went down to the vault he couldn’t find it, surprise, surprise. So he got the real master tape and went and did his own mix of it. He thought the drums were in it from the very beginning, so the version that’s the b-side of Knife Edge is actually completely the wrong thing all together. And I didn’t know it until, you know as you do, you go to the record shop and you buy your own record, witch we always had to do.
Record companies never send you your own record. All right kids, if you’re thinking of joining a band, just log that one alright. They never send you your own record, you usually have to go to the record shop and get them or wait until till your mum picks it up, you know. Anyway, when we got Knife Edge I put on the b-side and was looking forward to hearing it and thought… It started off with all these big drums “Where the hell did they come from?”. So one of the things I was trying to do when I was putting this whole re-issue together was actually locate the original mix that me and Twist did in the Strength album sessions and I did manage to find it. It was lobbed away in a weird bit of tape, and I managed to find it in a dusty old corner in Islington, London somewhere. So I dusted it off and it sounded really good. So the version that I’ve added to the Strength album is the mix that we all approved. So here it goes, this is called Caroline Isenberg
When Mr Twist sent over all his comments for the sleeve notes, I asked him what he thought of the songs on the Strength album and he said that he thought the songs were OK and his favourite was this one. This is called Dawn Chorus
Now then, this next song is… The title of it really is something that was suggested by Eddie. We’d been on tour and we were actually in London at the time and we were staying in a hotel. Eddie had a bit of the flu and he was kind of like on medication and all that and a bit knackered as well. He was in the hotel room and you know you stay in these hotels in big cities and they kind of have like a tourist-channel that keep looping over about the history and where to go and that kind of thing.
Well, he was staying in London, he had the tourist-channel on and it kept going on about the Tower of London and about how the ravens in the tower were very important to the superstition of the tower. There was an old folklore tale that should the ravens ever fly away from the Tower of London that would signify the fall of the United Kingdom. And Eddie started to make a song based on that as a theory and he came to me with this as a song title and he had the beginning of the song. We worked on it together and I wrote most of the lyrics, and in doing the lyrics I started to do a bit of research and I found that in the Tower they’ve clipped the wings of the ravens so they can never fly away anyway. So that’s kind of ironic. So this is the song that we came up with. Hope I can reach the high notes, you might have to help me. This is a song called The Day The Ravens Left The Tower
The Day The Ravens Left The Tower
Now then… Sound like Jimmy Saville up here or what? When the Spirit of 76 single came out we added loads of extra tracks to it cause we’d been on tour in America a lot at that time and we’d even ended up supporting Pat Benatar and all that kind of stuff. We were on the road for a long, long time and actually included in the sleeve notes of the Electric Folklore album I’ve put in the entire concert history of the band so you can see every gig we ever played. Mark Taylor who was our keyboard player for many, many years, has written a brilliant essay about what it’s like being on the road in The Alarm. All the guys who have read it, it’s a very poignant moment for them reading it, it really captures what it’s like being inside a tour bus and the dressing room and on the stage with the band. It’s a brilliant piece of literature and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on it when you’ve read it.
But the end of the Strength album period sort of culminated in us playing two of our biggest ever gigs. One was the UCLA concert in Los Angeles, we played there and then we also played at Wembley with Queen, witch was an amazing show. I’ll tell you a few stories about the two gigs.
The first one was the UCLA and we’d booked in to do a warm-up show. We actually took a two week break before we’d committed to doing that show and we flew up on a plane to play in Stockton in Northern California, just outside San Francisco. We all got on the plane, all looking forward to the gig. At the start of the Strength tour I’d actually run the New York Marathon and I’d been ill a week before really and it drained a lot of my fitness capacity. It was very hard work getting round and I’d got a massive abscess on my leg as well on the plane coming over that blew up like a balloon. I had to go to the hospital after the marathon and have it cut open. I managed to get through the whole tour, but obviously doing the marathon and the illness I’d had before it, had really taken a lot out and it had been a big strain to get through the whole tour I had to work really hard. I didn’t realise how much pressure I was putting my body under and when I went on the plane to play this show in Stockton, California, I got another abscess in my body, but this time it was right inside my nose, behind the triangle here. (illustrates on his face) And I didn’t know anything was going on. I just sat on the plane and then got off at the other end, and when I was walking off the plane everyone was looking at me really weird. And my whole face had gone up like this (illustrates on his face) and I looked like Galen off The Planet Of The Apes. And everyone was really worried, and the tour manager Dave Kiely and the lads “you’d better get to hospital here…” you know, and I said “ah, I’ll be alright, get back to the hotel, get a shower, I’ll be fine” I didn’t see anything, I couldn’t tell.
So we got to the hotel and as soon as I got into the hotel and checked in and looked in the mirror I thought “Oh my God!” I came down to join the band to go to the sound check and everyone said “You can’t do a gig like that, Mike”. So I said “Let’s go to the hospital and see what they say”. I went to the hospital and they panicked when I got there, cause apparently if you get something in this triangle here, all the blood vessels actually go to the back of your brain. And they started panicking that I had sort of blood clot, and I started like this (confused look) “What is going on?” They actually got me on the operating table really fast and actually cut into it and released all the pressure. And I had just a massive abscess on my face and it put all the blood pressure up, but we cancelled the gig and for safety reasons I was driven back to LA. And the gig was only four days away. This was on the 9th and we were playing on the 12th. When we got back to LA, I actually took a photograph in the hotel of me looking like… Galen, so I’ll put that on the record sleeve so you can see it. It’s the frontc over now! (Huge laugh from audience) It looks great, you know.
But I got back to LA and I tracked down the most expensive ear, nose & throat doctor I could find in LA, and I paid a lot of money to go for a consultation with him. And he sat me down and he examined me and I said “Look, you’ve got to get me right, cause I’ve got this massive gig coming up on Saturday”. And he goes “I’ve got just the cure for you! Go home, back to your hotel, check in, get about 3 or 4 pounds of sugar and start stuffing it up your nose” (Laughter from audience) It’s the truth! So I got back to the hotel and started rubbing all this… I thought “What the hell, shit or bust!”, you know. So I started shoving all this sugarcane up my nose, and then the evening before the show we were due to do a soundcheck, and I went via the doctors and in the car I just went (makes gushing sound) and all this crap came out, a bit like when I’m singing (laughter) And it just went all over the place and then I was given the all-clear to do the gig, but it was really touch and go. If you watch the concert closely, the UCLA video, as it goes along you can see it all start to swell up as it goes later on in the gig.
It turned out to be quite a big day out for us, even though it was very nerve-wracking cause none of us actually knew whether it was going to be on or not till the day. We were actually only expecting about 10.000 people to show up, but 26.000 people arrived on the day. (From the audience “It was a great show!”) It was the first time I’d ever seen a mosh-pit in my life, it was quite something. But on the day of the show, when we went to the soundcheck on the night before, we, me and Red, Redeye was my man on stage, and I actually used to check the whole gig out so it’d be safe for when I was doing my thing. And I believe we worked out that the barrier wasn’t that secure and we tried to get Miles Copeland and IRS to get us a new barrier. We said “Look, it’s only going to cost a few hundred bucks”. It means all the camera positions are out, but it turned into a massive argument and no-one would pay for this barrier. And everyone was going “Look Mike, it’s gonna be alright, it’s all safe, no problem…” you know. “Have a rock star tantrum, but it really is going to be alright”. So anyway, went off, came back the next day, 10 minutes before we’re due to go on, before it’s going on air in front of millions of people, the barrier goes (makes banging sound) collapses and all the audience rush up right to the lip of the stage. There were all these California fire marshals at the gig, and they weren’t going to let the gig go ahead, so I had to go on and ask everyone to step back, witch they did, everyone was really good about it. But it meant that when the cameras were filming the show and it was going out live, the director had lost all these front camera positions, so he was really having to make it up as he went along. And it was quite a scary event, and especially when there were so many people and there was no barrier.
As I was playing the show it was getting more and more intense and you could really see the beginning of this whole mosh-pit developing in the front, but it was a great gig. It was shot in the daylight so we could make the most out of European and Asian viewing figures, a bit like football, so people could see it. So it was all shot in the daylight, witch I think added to all the drama and it was a pretty massive day out for us. And that kind of got us a whole other audience, we actually went out on tour and played some of our biggest shows in America on the back of that.
And then we came home to the UK to play with Queen… And then we came home to the UK to play with Queen, with Freddie Mercury and all that. Freddie Mercury was a big fan of The Alarm and he really got into Declaration in a big way. When we were on tour we’d actually seen that Queen were gonna play at Wembley, and I said to Ian “Do you reckon we could try and get on those dates with Queen?” He said “You’re already on them!” He’d already got us on. So when we came back to play with Queen, you know what it’s like, we’re all football fans here, playing at Wembley, it’s like “Wow, it’s a holy grail” From the audience “Real Madrid!” Or Barcelona or something like that. But actually, on the day of the gig Twist, and I mentioned illegal substances earlier on in the day. Twist, you know he won’t mind me saying it cause he’s mentioned it before, he indulged now and again, very rarely, but he did. And he went out with Michael Hutchence the night before the gig, cause INXS were playing Much stirring in the audience and he went to the Limelight club in London. Meanwhile all rest of the sensible members of the band, me and Eddie, I don’t know weather Dave was there or not, but we were all tucked up in our beds ready for the big gig the next day. But not Nige, he was out with Michael Hutchence doing all kinds of stuff in the Limelight club.
We went to pick him up on our way to the gig, cause he was living in London, Twist. And we got to his house and his wife at the time answered the door and said “Oh, he’s only just come in” Laughter from audience “He’s been in about two minutes and he’s gone to bed. You’ll have to give me an hour to rouse him”. I thought “Bloody hell” I was all fired up, we were going off to play at Wembley, but me and Mark Taylor the keyboard player, we thought “There’s a tube-station round the corner, let’s go on the tube!” So we hopped on the tube and we went to Wembley, via walking down Wembley way and it’s probably the best thing we ever did because I met a lot of the people, probably some of you on the way there, I don’t know. It was all the Quo fans and the Queen fans and they spotted me on the train cause the old barnet was up, you know, and they were all “Have a great gig”. It sort of made Wembley a much more real occasion for me, rather than just turn up and play the gig. When I got to the dressing room, Twist was comatose on the floor and we had to rouse him to get him on stage. The first night, I think it was a Friday, I think it was a Friday and a Saturday, and the first show, Twist was all over the place to be honest, dropped a few beats, but he survived it all and it was brilliant. The second day was probably one of the best gigs ever for us. I’ve got this great photo that my dad took with his little Instamatic from the side of the stage and I managed to put it in the sleeve notes.
After the gig, Queen had this massive party over in Kensington, you know where Barkers is on the top, it was like a party on the top opposite Barkers in like a roof garden. You had to go there, you had these, as the Kind Of Magic album was out, little wands with Queen written on them and that was your pass to get into the party. When we got there and got in the lift, it was all over the papers that they’d had all the stewardesses were all actually completely naked and covered in body paint from head to toe. So we got in the lift with all these girls and up we go. There’s everyone in the gig, Ben Elton, loads of people we met at the gig, Rik Mayall, and we were having a brilliant time chatting to them, laughing our heads off. And then Freddie Mercury wanted to meet me and Twist, or any member of The Alarm. Oh no! Went to the bar to meet him, with our backs against the wall. He was brilliant, he wasn’t after us, thankfully. He said he’d seen part of our gig and thought it was great, he was – you know… Big sad loss to the world ’cause he was a brilliant character. We actually bought his piano off him at the gig, we bought Queen’s piano to take with us on the tour – we’ve still got it, so might see you in Sotheby’s one of these days!
Anyway, around that time and probably early on in The Alarm, we were all Dylan fans and we used to do this song at the end of a lot of our shows, and we played it with a lot of people who joined us on stage, from Bono to The Belle Stars to the Boomtown Rats, Jake Burns, Stiff Little Fingers, you know everyone – and including the man Bob Dylan and I’ll tell you about that a little bit later. This is his song, Knocking On Heaven’s Door.
Knocking On Heaven’s Door
We’re going to take a little break, get something to eat and then we’ll reconvene for Eye Of The Hurricane outside on the lawn. See you in a bit, thanks a lot.
Alarm 2000 Day Transcription – Session 4 Eye of The Hurricane era – Rain In The Summertime to Rescue Me
Welcome to the great outdoors. It is a bit cold, isn’t it?
Well, Eye Of The Hurricane. A lot of the Eye Of The Hurricane album was actually written in the outdoors, in Wales. When we’d finished at Wembley with Queen, rather than going on a foreign holiday; I’d had enough of suitcases and foreign hotels, so I decided to take a break in Wales. I got a car and spent a lot of time driving round North and South Wales, discovering my homelands. I took a video camera with me wherever I went and my mate Richie came with me everywhere. There he is, Richie Mod. Still got his pork-pie hat on, look. We spent a lot of time in the local area, I think we ended up on the mountains in Blaenau Ffestiniog, filming. Mod was filming me recording songs, and a lot of them went into the melting pot to make up the Eye Of The Hurricane album. And one of those songs I suppose takes it’s inspiration from this beautiful environment we live in and it’s called “I Love To Feel The Rain In The Summertime”
Rain In The Summertime
The Eye Of The Hurricane record was actually a difficult record to make for The Alarm. Because after all the trials and tribulations of doing the Strength album, when we reconvened to start making the record I’d come back from my holidays and had a lot of songs and Eddie had a lot of tracks as well, and actually so did Dave. We got together in a rehearsal studio in London, in Ezeehire. It’s a difficult thing to talk about, because it was the start of a lot of hard times for us as a band. We’d all been growing up and going our separate ways in many ways. We all wanted the best for the band, but we all had a different version of what might be the best for the group. Maybe I won’t go into so much detail as I have on the previous records, but it’s all there in the sleeve notes. Everyone has their version of how it went.
At the time, pretty soon after we got into the rehearsals, stories started coming out in the Evening Standard. It first appeared that we’d had a big argument in rehearsals and that we were on the point of splitting up. What actually happened, this is my version of events, I turned up at rehearsals to start making the new album. It was only a couple of weeks after we’d played at Wembley and we were all on a bit of a high. Well, I was on a massive high, thinking that this was going to be; this was July 1986. We had a two-week break and then got straight into it because there’d been a massive delay between Declaration and Strength because of producer trouble. We felt we had a lot of things going, we’d done really well in America, we’d played at Wembley, we’d played at UCLA. As a band we had the world at our feet. That’s why rather than go on a holiday I just wanted to work on songs and Eddie and I had been writing a lot of material on the Strength tour. We used to do that a lot, we’d get together after shows, in hotels and work on songs at soundcheck and in the dressing room.
So when we came in we were all a bit on a high, but Dave sort of had certain ideas of his own, where he saw the band moving in a different way. He had been personally disappointed that he hadn’t been able to get the two songs he put forward for the Strength album on the record. He put in the best song he ever wrote, I think, One Step Closer To Home, and he hadn’t been able to deliver the vocals because of all the stories I’ve been telling you. So when that record came out, he’d actually demo-ed another song called Black Side Of Fortune as well, but when we went to make it album it never made the cut.
So Dave wanted to have more songs and he was developing as a songwriter, he’d just probably written the best song we ever got and he was disappointed it wasn’t on the album. He’d written a lot of other songs, but if I can look at it through Dave’s eyes for a second, once he’d written One Step Closer To Home as a singer he couldn’t quite hit it on that track.
And also Dave had to face the difficult situation whenever he played that song to anybody in the record industry or a record producer, the first thing they’d always say to him was “If you let Mike sing that it’ll be a massive hit record.” I think, that’s not a great thing for Dave to hear and it put him under a lot of pressure and it changed the way he started to think as a songwriter. I think from that moment on he started to write for his own voice as opposed to trying to write the great songs. I often analyse it why he never wrote a song like One Step Closer To Home after that, nothing that was soaring melodically in the same way. And I think a lot of it is to do with the fact that he felt insecure that we wouldn’t be able to sing the songs that he was writing. The closest he probably came to writing a song like that was probably on the Change album when he wrote Change.
So when we got in the studio there was a lot of insecurity in Dave. There was a couple of characters hanging around the band and Dave was involved with somebody who wasn’t his… he was having an affair basically. He was… He had… This girl was… (Huge laugh from the crowd) Dave’s a rock ‘n roll legend, you’ve got to give him that!
He was sat on his amps in rehearsals and when we got there it was like seeing a new person in the band. David was sat on his amps and he was going “Right, from now on Mike, all the songs that we work on has got to be written in this room together and they’ve got to be created by us all together and not by individuals.” I couldn’t accept that, because all the songs that Eddie and I had written previously had all done well and it was sort of like someone telling you the songs you’ve just been writing aren’t any good. He also introduced us to this girl, who shall remain nameless, and he said “This is the girl who’s going to be the sound engineer for the band from now on.” And it was like “Hold on Dave, what’s going on here?” And Nige was there as well, Twist, and Twist pulled us to one side and said “Look come back tomorrow Mike, I’ll have a word with Dave.”
I went back the next day to rehearsals to start work and then Dave and Nige were joined together in the same argument. Basically if you look at Dave’s songs, at that point they’ve all been written by Dave, but he then cut a little deal with Nige that Nige would be a co-writer on all his songs whether he’d worked with him or not. So it became like a Mexican stand-off, it was me and Eddie on one side and Sharpie and Twist on the other.
We didn’t fall out as such, but we all wanted the best for the band and we all had a different vision of what should be the best. We didn’t have a massive argument, but before we could really talk it all through together, man to man, and come to terms with the fact that we all needed to get something more out of the group than we’d got previously. If we’d been left to ourselves to deal with it as a four-piece we would have come to a conclusion and we would have resolved it. I have no doubt in my mind that that would have been quite simple. We could all have worked together on the creative front, writing together. That wouldn’t have been a problem for any of us.
But what made things worse was the girl that Dave had brought in to the rehearsal room sold the story to the papers, that we’d had this huge argument and that it was all about money, which it wasn’t. That article appeared in the Evening Standard, and because we were very well known around the world at the time, we were playing in Japan and everything, the story went straight around the world and really set us back two years on a creative and a career level. Because then it became sort of world news and we weren’t allowed to deal with it personally. Everybody was starting to get involved, pulling us further and further apart.
Ian, our manager, he’d been trying to keep the band together, but he was seen as being on mine and Eddie’s side. He didn’t keep his own impartiality, so he couldn’t really help us resolve what was a very difficult time for us. We sort of all ran away from it to be quite honest. What happened was that Eddie and I started working on the songs we’d been writing together, we worked in a rehearsal studio in Rotherhide. And then Dave and Nige stayed on in the band’s rehearsal room and brought in some session players and started working on demos of Dave’s songs. There’s a bootleg of a lot of them floating about somewhere.
We actually tried to resolve the argument. I called all the band together for a meeting and did the old rallying speech, “Come on boys, we’re really killing ourselves here. We should be at the forefront of the world.” I thought that collectively we were one of the best bands in the world, internally we were all very competitive and potentially all great songwriters. And I gave this whole rallying speech and nothing happened. Sharpie sat at the end of the table, not moving.
Basically what had happened was, how can I say this… Dave had gone round to our bank account, where we had all our, who ran all our business affairs and he’d stared unraveling things. He’d come across a bank mandate that he didn’t recognise his signature on. The bank mandate was basically giving Ian, our manager, the right to sign cheques on our behalf. So I came out of this meeting and I’d sort of said to Dave “Look Dave, why don’t we, if Ian has done wrong let’s prove it properly and find out what’s gone on. We’ll fire the manager, but let’s get back to working in the way we’ve always worked. Whoever brings in the good songs, they’re the ones that go on the record. We all argue our corner and have votes on what the best songs are.” But Dave wouldn’t compromise at all, he wanted all the songs to be written collectively and no one could start the songs. He wanted them to just happen in rehearsals out of thin air really.
So again we went into this period of impasse, where Dave carried on doing his songs with Nige and Eddie and I carried on doing ours. It went on for about six months; it ran right through to the December. Nige and Dave investigated Ian to see if he’d done any wrongful transactions with the power he had. After the meeting I questioned Ian about it and what he’d done was, he’d forged our names on this bank mandate and it was because we were away on tour. We needed to pay for a PA company and pay for a truck hire and rather than going through the rigmarole of getting me and Dave to countersign cheques, he’d started doing it himself. It was a big mistake, but he was completely cleared, there was no wrong doing what so ever apart from that act, witch was a wrong act in itself. The whole account was investigated, every single transaction and there was not one misappropriation of a single penny. It was a massive mistake, so by the time the Eye Of The Hurricane album came out, Ian’s position was untenable and he was fired by the band. He was fired for other reasons than that, but it was a massive hole in Ian’s credibility to be an impartial manager of the band. Once Ian had lost that impartiality really it was just the four of us, and there was no one else to cast that extra vote. We’d lost that person that we trusted, so that when we were in the position that we could not get a unanimous vote within the band, we needed that person we trusted to go to. Ian lost his trust with the band. In a way it was very difficult for us then to make joint decisions, we just had no one to turn to that we could trust anymore. That created a whole other web of mistrust within ourselves that we were never really able to resolve. We tried all sorts of ways to accommodate all our various feelings about the group.
We had a big meeting in the December of that year because the record company had spent a lot of money on the band and there was a massive audience out there that needed a record. Miles Copeland got us all together in the IRS offices. I went down to London for the meeting and Miles was pointing out to us that we were really blowing our career and there were all these other bands that we were in “competition with”, if you like. Like the U2s and INXS and Simple Minds, The Cult. They were all making albums and they were all scheduled to come out in the New Year which we should have done as The Alarm. We should have been out with a record in January 1987. We’d have beaten Joshua Tree, we would have come out before that and we would not have got so many harsh criticisms that we sounded like U2. That really did go against us, that amount of time because when the Eye Of The Hurricane did come out INXS had come out, Simple Minds, The Cult had Electric and U2 put out the Joshua Tree and we were trying to appeal to sort of the same audience in many ways. But we were the poorer cousins and our record label wasn’t as powerful as Island or Atlantic. We were Welsh for a start, always the underdogs.
So when Miles got us in the room, all the findings on Ian had come to pass and we didn’t have any grounds to fire him on a legal point of view. Ian held his hands up to that and said “I realise I fucked up, but I haven’t screwed you guys.” So we had to forgive him on one level, but we did lose the trust. So Miles suggested that we’d all submit our demos that we’d been doing for the previous six months to Steve Tannett, who was probably the only person we could turn to after Ian. The one we had some trust with because he’d signed the band and given us our first record contract. So we let Steve be the arbitrator of what were the best songs that should go on Eye Of The Hurricane. And this is another position that became very difficult for Dave and Nige. They’d submitted a demo tape of ten songs and so did Eddie and myself and then Steve arranged for us to work with Alan Shacklock, who had made Declaration, ’cause Steve wanted us to have another person that we could trust, to come back to the situation.
Probably Steve and Alan between them, they chose nine songs from Eddie and myself and only one from Dave and that was one that wasn’t even on his demo tapes. It was a song from Strength called One Step Closer To Home. I spoke about this with Dave the other day and Dave took that very hard. It was basically someone else, outside the group, saying that his songs weren’t up to it. It was very, very difficult for him to accept. It was difficult for all of us because all of a sudden Eddie and I were in the sort of golden boy position. It was kind of weird for us because we thought “Well the band will chose some of Dave’s.” and all that. It was a weird moment.
We went into the recording studio to record with Alan and we went into RAC studios at St. John’s Wood and the atmosphere was… You could have cut it with a knife in the studio. We were recording two songs that Eddie and I, well, three. There was Newtown Jericho, Lead Me Through The Darkness and Only Love Can Set Me Free which all went on to the album. But it was so hard; there was no spirit in the band. Dave was playing and he hated it, he really did and I couldn’t blame him, you wouldn’t want to be in that position. I often wondered why Dave didn’t leave the band at that point, why he stuck it out. At the end of the day he loved being in the band and he loved us all as we all did. We had a massive respect and love for each other and that was what was weird. We had all these other people getting in-between our own close knit relationship witch had been forged through all these stories I’ve been telling you all day.
The sessions were terrible and we scrapped them. There was no soul in it what so ever, it was horrible. It was the worst time to be in a band. Steve Tannett sat us down again and said “Look lads, this is terrible, you’ve got to sort it out. ” Then we decided what we’d do was, we’d go back to basics, just get into the rehearsal room with some of the songs we’d already written as individuals or in partnerships, but we’d also try to do some songs in the way that Dave wanted to do and just work as a band. We got into the rehearsal room, Eddie and I brought in Rescue Me as a song, we tried Presence Of Love. They were songs that we’d written, but hadn’t done in this awful session in RAC.
Then we worked on a song together and we wrote Shelter as a band. You could feel the spirit just coming back in ’cause we were starting to work in the way we always had. You know, one of us would come in and bring a riff or a finished song and we’d all work on it together and arrange it together. And that was the difference. I’m playing all these songs acoustically to you today, but that’s how they would start in the band. I’d go in to rehearsals with a new song and I’d have Eddie, Dave and Nige there and playing the new song. It’s a really tough thing to do, convince your mates that this is a great song. We threw out more songs than we recorded, ’cause a lot of them didn’t pass the test. Once we started working in this way in Ezeehire and getting the songs together, we cut a demo with our sound engineer and there’s a bootleg of those floating about somewhere.
We just felt it was starting to come back. Then we decided we’d go on tour and started the Electric Folklore tour as a way of rediscovering our bond together as a band. That did bring us together as a group ’cause that’s what we loved the best in The Alarm, we loved being on stage and playing to all of you guys. That’s what we were all about, we were a live rock ‘n roll group. All this other bullshit about records and stuff like that, that’s something that we didn’t understand as well as maybe other people did, but when we got on stage there was no one like us and that’s what we needed to rediscover. The support we had on that tour, that was another thing that made us realise how real the band was and how real the connection was. And I can see that’s why we’re all still here today, some of us have been on that tour and we’ve lived it and we’re still living it. So respect to that.
You know, The Alarm, we’re all still friends, Dave, Nige, Eddie, myself, we’re all still friends and The Alarm was just one period in our life when we all came together. We were all making music knowing each other before that if it was The Toilets, Seventeen or Quasimodo; we were all in the same vicinity. And now The Alarm has passed, we’re still in that same vicinity. We’ve still in our own things going on. And I know that everyone has your support, you know Eddie if he would play, you’d go and see him and Dave as well and me. I don’t think I’m breaking any confidences in telling you what’s gone on in the band because that’s all coming out within the context of the sleeve notes. But I think it’s just important that you know that, you don’t really need me to tell you, but The Alarm and the four of us, we are the real deal. Our rock ‘n roll are made of blood, sweat and tears, and you’ve just heard about the tears.
I guess one of the things about the Eye Of The Hurricane record which you should know is that the version that is being re-issued is actually a mix of the whole album which is something that we all worked on together. We actually recorded the album in Milton Keynes, of all places, we made the album in a place called Great Linford Manor – it’s a little bit like this sort of place. There’s lots of stories about the making of the album, but one of the things that happened to us was that we were a bit unhappy with the engineer.
We had a great production team making the record; We had John Porter, who used to be the bass player for Roxy Music and has made albums for The Smiths & lots of brilliant stuff. We really liked him. And also we had an engineer named Tony Platt who had worked with Mutt Lange and had been the engineer on Back In Black for AC/DC which is a top record.
Now the Eye Of The Hurricane, when it came out, everyone was saying it sounded like a pop record, which it did – there’s a lot of keyboards on it…
[audience – it was the best album ever]
Well it had the best songs on it.
[audience – it was the best album ever]
Well it’s even better now! It’s going to be even better when you hear it now.
I remember we had, we’d been recording and were about to start mixing the record and there was something going on between John Porter & Tony Platt. They both thought of themselves as being the record producer and they were falling out a bit over the direction that the record should be going sonically. We were all trying to get the album finished and John Porter and Tony Platt asked us if we, as a band, would kind of disappear for a weekend and let them do some trial mixes of the first few tracks.
We thought, yeah- OK, we’re all very close to it, we’ve all fought to get the record where it needs to be. Fought is a good word on Eye Of The Hurricane because it was a battle because all of the things that had gone on. Bands do fall out and bands have to fight to get their music made and you have to argue your corner – it’s not for the faint hearted, you have to do a lot of soul searching and you have to take a lot of criticism. But it’s a great thing to be part of.
We actually disappeared and went away for a weekend, and when we came back, I was the first back on the Monday morning, and then the lads came in later on. John Porter & Tony Platt played us their rough mixes of the album that they had done – and I thought they sounded terrible. I was like “Oh my god, this is really bad”. When the lads arrived I said, “you’re not going to like this”. They played them the tracks and they agreed with me and though it sounded not very good. So we actually had a meeting in the kitchen of the studio, and Ian came up and Steve Tannett came up, John Porter and Tony Platt, and it was me who was sent in on behalf of the band to mediate.
So I went in, and I played them a mix of Presence Of Love which they had done and I thought it sounded really wimpy. There was a record out at the time and I felt it was a similar kind of song, Is This Love by Whitesnake. It sounded like this and our record sounded like that. I played it like an A-B session in the stereo and said “look, how come our record doesn’t sound like this.” Their record came on and went “Is This Love…” – whatever it goes like – and ours came on like “ding de ding ding” – tinny and horrible. And then Tony Platt goes – “well they’re a much better band than you lot”!
I was like (lunges), decking him. It got a bit heavy as you can imagine. So we kind of reached a compromise where I would sit in on the mixes of the album and then once we’d got it to a level where I thought it sounded good, all the others, Dave, Nige and Eddie would come in and we’d work on it again until everybody was happy with the album. It was a good compromise and that’s how we went. We all got to the end of the sessions and Miles Copeland came up to hear the album. We played him the album back and it sounded great. He was like – Oh yeah, Rain In The Summertime, pity you didn’t make this album a few months earlier, but you know. It would have been great to bring it out in the summer, but it was now October.
We had a track on it called “World On Fire” which we left off the album. Before we’d done the UCLA show, Eddie and I had been invited to go to see a screening of a film called “Ferris Buellers’ Day Off”, the producer John Hughes was looking for songs to be commissioned to write for the play. We went away and wrote a song called “World On Fire”. We demo-ed it, but before we could hand it in, they changed their mind and decided to go with existing songs that had already been hits, so it never carried on.
So we recorded this song World On Fire for Eye Of The Hurricane and we tried to copy the demo too closely and it didn’t sound great to be honest, and you’ll probably know why when you hear the album. It’s a good song, but we didn’t get it right ourselves (it had a bloody synthesiser on it didn’t it!). It sounded like Human League. Anyway, Miles said “That song doesn’t sound like The Alarm, have you got anything else”. We’d actually recorded Shelter and for some reason we’d decided we weren’t going to put it on the album. We played Miles a mix of Shelter and he went “are you lads insane, this is brilliant”, So we stuck Shelter in and we’d finished the album so we all went on holiday the next day.
We took off for wherever we went, Dave probably went to France and blah blah blah. We came back two weeks later and we got into the studio to rehearse for the tour. We started on a Welsh tour, playing Pontrhydfendigaid & Panyehol and all that stuff. We’d been rehearsing for like a morning and were getting into it, rehearsing all the songs from the album and then Ian Wilson came in and went “oh lads, while you were on holiday, the record company decided to re-mix the album in Los Angeles”. They sort of agreed with you about Tony Platt, that he wasn’t getting the best out of you, so it’s been done by this guy called Tony Leonard. We thought, oh yeah, we know him, he’s done John Cougar Mellencamp and all sorts of stuff.
So I thought – sounds great – stick them on. He goes I’ve got a mix of a few of the mixes. So he put the tape on and the first track he played was Shelter, it starts of (plays intro) and then there was no guitar (plays main riff) all that was missing. And then he played Rain In The Summertime and it was all keyboards, Dave’s guitar had been cut out and he’d mixed the drums like way over there, so it sounded like a ballad. I just said – look Ian, if I’m not on the plane going to LA tomorrow, you’re dead.
I’ve got the tapes, you won’t believe what they sounded like. Well you’ve got Eye Of The Hurricane, you probably know what it sounds like, some of it. Dave & I went on the plane together to Los Angeles. We arrived there and we got off the plane in LA and went to … This event, after all the hard soul searching and all the troubles, really brought me and Dave together. We got on the plane together and went there and really got close again. We went to Miles Copeland’s house, who lived in the Hollywood hills somewhere. We got there and all of IRS were having a business meeting in Miles’ house. Dave and I were sat waiting for them to come out and we were playing our mixes of the album that we’d made before we’d gone on holiday and they sounded really good. Miles and Jay Boburg, who’s now head of MCA music in America. He comes out and goes “Hey man, these re-mixes sound incredible don’t they”. I said “That’s not the re-mix – this is” Bang, put the remix on! And he’s “urgh”
Dave and I then got to the studio and we only had two days to fix the thing. We found there was a producer there called Dennis Herring who was an A&R man for IRS, who’s since gone on to do some really good records on his own. But he was trying to reconstruct the Alarm record at the mixing stage and he was going – cut the guitars there, leave them out, put the backing vocals in over there instead of over here. So when Dave and I got to hear what was going to be our record, it didn’t sound like our record. We only had two days to fix the whole thing, because it was due to come out. Miles wouldn’t allow us to put the original mixes that we had done ourselves out because he thought that there was something wrong with them for some reason.
John Porter who had produced the album was fighting the corner saying – look it’s just the eighties and you’ve got all this remix thing in your head. They just weren’t really hearing the record we’d made and it was a driving rock record – you know it was AC/DC’s engineer & The Smiths all over the top. So Miles just didn’t listen to John Porter and he went with all these other people’s opinions. Dave and I got to sit in on the remix of Rain In The Summertime, which did come out, and we managed to fix a few of the little bits, like we did the mix of Newtown Jericho, but there was loads of other things that we had to let go, that the record company liked better than the mixes we’d done ourselves in Milton Keynes.
So when the album came out, none of us were happy at all. So what I’ve managed to do now in the year 2000 is that I’ve gone back to the mix tapes that we did ourselves and mastered that as the album Eye Of The Hurricane. So the Eye Of The Hurricane you’re going to hear now is the record that we all approved. And I tell you, if you liked Eye Of The Hurricane, if you thought it was good then – it will blow your mind now. It’s probably Dave at his best, there’s lots of Dave’s playing that was obliterated in this remix, behind all of these keyboards that were supposed to be just tucked in there somewhere that you hardly ever heard. The Eye Of The Hurricane that you are going to hear is The Dave Sharp record, he plays some of his greatest guitar, because he got in the ring and did the stuff.
So I’d better play you a song really. Then I’ll tell you some more stories from that album. As you can imagine, the sleeve notes are quite long. This is a song which was inspired by… if you go on the bottom road through North Wales you go through Moston and there’s a whole dockyards there and I wrote a part of this song while I was sitting in there waiting for some inspiration one day. This is called Hallowed Ground.
Tell you what, I’ve just got to take care of something, can you just hang on minute – I’ve been caught a bit short. Don’t go anywhere, I’ll only be a minute, I’m just going to shake hands with my best mate!
Right then, come on then, let’s do a tribute to Mr Sharp, one of the best guitar players in rock and roll. This is called One Step Closer To Home.
One Step Closer To Home
Yeah, Mr Sharp, God bless him.
Where is he?
Dave lives in New Orleans, and he’s still rockin and rollin’. Whenever I phone Dave or he phones me and I ask him what he’s doing tonight, he says “I’m going to rock a dump!” That’s what he says.
It’s no secret that me and Dave were always at war making records. Me and Sharp, I suppose we had one of those classic rock and roll relationships where we didn’t always see eye to eye, but you never do. In a band, it’s democracy and you have to fight your corner.
Audience: Like Lennon and McCartney! Are you McCartney?
No, I’m the b****d!
In some ways, I know that Dave is Dave and he has that whole rock and roll thing going on, but Dave as my mate, as the guy that I know, as Dave Kitcheman, (and I tell him this) I think Dave is supremely talented, I really believe that. And I think that through all the things that I’ve decided to tell you about, like what happened over One Step Closer To Home, I think Dave took some artistic blows really to heart and I think he’s struggled to come to terms with it. You’ve got to remember that with Dave, it must have been quite hard for him to be in The Alarm, because ultimately Dave wanted to be in his own band. When he was in the navy, he always used to say – when I come out of the navy, I’m saving all my money up to buy all the best equipment and he was really going to make it. Maybe one day he will.
Dave actually spent a lot of the money that he’d saved in the navy and he made his own video for his own song that he’d recorded, and he was going to use that to get himself a record deal. When he actually joined our band, Seventeen, Dave didn’t want to be seen as being part of the group. He was very concerned that if he appeared in any photographs as Seventeen that it would blow his chances with the record labels. So when we did our first publicity photographs with Seventeen, we got offered this tour with this dodgy agent down South and it touring the British Army bases in Germany and they were looking for a four piece. We thought shit there’s only three of us. So we got Sharpy in, that was probably the moment he joined the band, to try & do this tour. He helped us out, but he wouldn’t appear in the publicity photographs, so I had to get one of my mates to be in the photographs. The first publicity photographs of Seventeen as a four piece, there’s actually a guy called Mike “Ratty” Ratcliffe in the band, he was masquerading as Dave Sharp in the photographs.
Needless to say, we didn’t get the tour and Dave carried on in the Navy. But Eddie and I were always quite persistent, which again I think was hard for Dave, because Eddie and I always had a lot of energy and drive to try and get things off the ground. Eddie and I actually went to London armed with the Melody Maker and on the train down we spotted in the back pages “Bands wanted – we’ll make stars of you”. We were so naive we actually went to see all these guys out the back of the Melody Maker. There was a song once called “Have I The Right To Know You” by the Honeycombs, me and Eddie answered this advert in the Melody Maker and we went to see this guy who lived on a council estate in the middle of London somewhere. We walked up and there’s me, all green and naive, we go up and ring the bell, go in and he’s all yeah I’m so and so – I can’t remember his name, but he was in The Honeycombs. He said “I’ve got this record label called Starmaker records” – I’m like “Wow that sounds good!” He goes, tell you what lads, if you give me £500, I’ll make your record and get it played to all the record companies. I’m going “Sounds great” and Eddie’s going “Mike, let’s get out of here you idiot”.
Through one of these ads, we actually got our first record contract with Seventeen through a dentist in Dulwich. Dulwich has been great to us. When we got the contract, Nige said (Nige actually referred to this when he made a speech at my wedding) “Finally we had something to get our teeth into”. That’s why he was the drummer!
For Sharpy, I think he ultimately fell into Seventeen by a whole series of events and before you know it, we were making records. We got this deal with this dentist, and we went to make a record in Raynes Lane in North London. We went to make a single, and Dave actually left and gave up the Navy to come and make the record with us. I think mentally, he might have been better off sticking it out, because I think Dave could have fronted his own band and become a really massive star himself, without the complication of falling in with what I’ve put together. I think he had difficulty resolving that for himself and I think he’s gone on and made some great records himself and I think he’s a great writer. But every time I speak to him, I say “Look Dave, when are you going to come out and play with me, when are you going to come and do some gigs”. I keep throwing down the challenge to Dave that he’s staying in New Orleans and playing gigs every night, and Dave will actually tell you this himself, ’cause I think he’s hiding away out there. I think he should be out here, I’ve invited him to come along, I’ve invited him to do all the tours, but Dave doesn’t want to go back, and I respect him for that. But I still think he should come to events like this, because he’s got an open invitation, and be part of the scene. I did say to him a few weeks ago that I will go and see him in New Orleans, and I know he’s part of this gig being put together in Manchester.
Audience: When was the last time you saw him?
When was the last time I saw Dave Sharp? Physically, eye to eye in the same room – was at Brixton Academy, June 30th 1991. I haven’t actually met Dave since then, but we have spoken a lot on the phone. Me and Sharpy, we were like blood brothers, so there was a lot of blood in our relationship. I remember one night when we were making Eye Of The Hurricane was the only night Dave and I actually came to blows.
We’d recorded Rain In The Summertime, and we’d put the backing track down, which had been created by John Porter and Twist. They had the computer in John Porter’s room, and Rain In The Summertime was kind of the last song we wrote for the Eye Of The Hurricane album. We wrote it in rehearsals and there was just a very rough demo, Nige had a Walkman that was held up in the middle of the room and that was our reference to go by.
So John Porter heard this reference track and said that has the potential to be a brilliant track, but we didn’t actually believe him. So he worked on it independently and created all the drums and everything with Twist. When he transferred it onto the reels in the studio and we thought, hang on, this could be really good. I put a kind of guide vocal on it, and the riff was actually Eddie’s creation in rehearsals and Dave had learnt a version of it and jammed it over the track and expanded on it, did the Dave Sharp thing to it. When we came to actually record it, Dave wanted it to be real, Dave liked real drums, he hated technology as I’m sure you’re aware. Dave was playing the guitar, the whole of the first part of the take, he was getting to know the track for the first time again after playing it two months earlier in rehearsals. He kind of got a pass, and he came up with the middle bit, and he got to the end and just on the outro, he got the riff going and we were all this like “wow, this is going to be a massive record for us”. And Dave was “Well that’s it then!”
John Porter was saying to him, go back to the beginning and put the riff on the beginning. But Dave was “No man, that’s a bit of rock and roll history there. What you see and what you hear is what you get. I’m off to the pub”.
“But Dave, This is going to be it”. You know, all the emotions were high, but Dave was “no no, that’s it” and he went out. I’m “Oh my god” and I ran out and got him and I literally had him in a headlock against the door of the studio – “F***in finish the track!” Dave, in his classic way “Hey Man, it’s rock and roll”. So I put him down and we went to the pub and got pissed.
But he wouldn’t finish the track, so John Porter came up with this thing where he’d sample Dave’s guitar from the end and then he had a tape reel and the bit would come up and he’d hit the start button and fly the bit into the track. That’s how we got Rain In The Summertime. All these rock and roll stories, you’ll hear them about every band, ’cause every band makes records in the weirdest ways. And that became one of our most successful records, and in a way, that track is probably the most played Alarm song on radio today, more so than 68 Guns. It’s probably the record that sounds most contemporary in today’s terms, but it was the result of a lot of blood sweat and tears, and a lot of beer as well.
Anyway this is one we all wrote together, this is called “Shelter”.
It’s not getting too cold? It is Eye Of The Hurricane after all!
This is the title track “Eye Of The Hurricane”
Eye Of The Hurricane
This song is a bit unusual this one, because there’s no stories to go with it really. This is called “Permanence In Change”.
Permanence In Change
Now I’m going to play a song which is, I guess Eddie wrote a lot of this one. We were in the demo studio and he came up with the riff. We thought it was going to be a bit of an Absolute Reality, but it came out as something else, it’s called “Only Love Can Set Me Free”
Only Love Can Set Me Free
I’ve remembered something about that song. That song was originally, a very early version of that song started out when Alan Shacklock was making an album with Roger Daltrey, and Roger Daltrey was looking for some songs and Eddie and I came up with this song that had a bit of that in it. It didn’t make it with Roger Daltrey, but we kind of moved it on and it became Only Love. It was called “In The Cold Light Of Day”. Eddie and I went to Pluto Studios (where we made Unsafe Building”) and cut an acoustic demo of that song when it was Cold Light Of Day, and I actually did come across it in the tape library. Hopefully in a couple of years time I’ll be able to put together an album of all the demos that the Alarm made. There is some really interesting stuff that we just made on our own, and I’m sure you’d like to hear some of it.
After this one – all inside, part 29 or whatever. You can all help me with this one. This is called “Rescue Me”.