Angie Knox recalls her Alarm history – 4th December 2022
I met up with the Alarm guys as a result of sharing a house in Camberwell after I finished my studies at the Royal College of Music and started working in London in 1982. There were 3 of us in the house, myself, Jane, and Sarah-Jane (Olsen) who was dating Ian Wilson who ran Wasted Talent, who had started working with the Alarm as their agent / manager. I also recently found out from Jane who I have kept in touch with over the years that at various times just before I moved into the house, they had members of U2 in the living room there, as Ian was working with them at the time. It was quite a hub in those days and served as a bit of a meeting place, seems weird to think of it now
As I was into music in a big way, it was fascinating to learn about Ian and Sarah-Jane’s activities and I used to go to gigs with them regularly, including the early Alarm dates around London, and got to know what they were about and I thought they had a real grit and originality in their sound. I once commented to Sarah-Jane about how I thought adding keyboards into their music would add a new dimension, which she then spoke to Ian about. The next thing I knew we were talking about me doing a keyboard track on their ‘Marching On’ single, which was one of the tracks on a release that was planned for promoting to record companies, as at that stage they didn’t have a record deal
At the time I had a day job working in Bond St, as a PA in Asprey’s (!), so when I got the call to go up to the recording studio in central London late one evening (it was a week day) I kind of knew it was going to be difficult stifling my yawns at my desk at work the next day – I seem to remember getting back home after the session sometime after 3am, still with adrenaline coursing through my veins
We got to the studio that evening and all the guys from the band were there, plus the sound engineer and Steve Tannett who was involved in the production. Mike Feltham from Nine Below Zero was also there to lay down a harmonica track, he was brilliant and really intuitive. There was an old Hammond organ in the studio which I had a play around with and then listened to the ‘Marching On’ track that had already been recorded. I worked out some chords and how I could add to the texture of the song, and fill in the instrumental section in the middle with some melody, it all came together quite quickly and we managed to get it wrapped up in a fairly short time. It was a bit surreal listening back to the finished track with my keyboards on, never having done anything like that before
It was fascinating seeing the dynamics of people in a recording studio and who wanted to input into what – it was quite plain that Mike was the kind of authority figure and main creative force within the band, and had a really clear idea of what he was trying to achieve; likewise with Ian who although not a musician was very focused on how they were aiming to develop the style. Also being a young girl from Yorkshire working in a very middle-class type of environment by day, it was liberating and exciting suddenly being exposed to the real and gritty type of rock music that I loved with a group of quasi punk musicians from Wales!
After we finished the recording, I was chatting to Steve Tannett and said I was looking to try and get more into keyboard session work, as my day job was certainly not what I wanted to do long-term – especially after having spent 16 out of the previous 22 years intensively studying music. He said he could get me loads of session work with the bands he knew, and I got quite excited about that prospect – needless to say nothing at all came of it and I decided after trying a few avenues that it was a bit of a lost cause, and not a great way to generate a reliable income!
We also discussed other possible ways of getting into the music biz and he mentioned that Miles Copeland (who ran IRS, the company who eventually signed up the Alarm) was in need of a PA. I knew that those sorts of jobs could be great to get into as they inevitably lead to other more exciting roles, but after discussing that one later I was told that suddenly there was no budget for the role – bearing in mind we were talking about a salary of £5K (in those days not so unusual but barely enough to live on)
So, I carried on going to Alarm gigs with Ian and Sarah-Jane, which were hugely enjoyable, and quickly realised that retaining a keyboard player or any extra people wasn’t in the band’s plans – mostly I guess due to budget and practicalities. So, I carried on doing my day job and eventually got into marketing, which is what I am doing to this day. (Shameless plug – my recently launched website is Marketing On Tap)
It was really satisfying when the record sleeve turned up a few weeks after the session, with my name on the back, and the record started to be distributed around record shops and I was thrilled to hear it played on the Kid Jensen show on Radio 1 – it proved to be the start of something really big for the band, and it was immense having been part of it
I occasionally bump into Mike at his Alarm gigs, and I found it hilarious on one occasion back in the 1990’s when I went to a gig at Fibbers in York, and one of the fans asked me for my autograph, as he was a collector and mine was the only one he was missing! The last time I saw Mike was in Colchester in 2019 just before covid. It’s great to see he’s still maintaining the connection with his fans – who are a loyal bunch – although he has some serious health issues which have sadly returned, but all of us fans are wishing him well and hoping the treatments will help him to turn the corner