Unsafe Building – (Single)

Unsafe Building was the first release under The Alarm name in 1981. An official release date is given as 9th December 1981 which coincided with the bands gig at Upstairs At Ronnies, Soho, London W1D, England

The Alarm recorded the original Unsafe Building / Up For Murder single at Pluto Studios Manchester, on 4th September 1981. The single was produced by Scratch and The Alarm, engineered by Phil Bush. This studio was chosen for the recording due to the link with The Clash recording there. The band had saved up to record the single at the studio and used all their funds to record this single before they moved to London

Eddie Macdonald and Dave Sharp during the recording session for Unsafe Building,

This was released as a 7″ vinyl single, produced in a quantity of 2000 and self-made by the band as way to promote themselves. It has an unusual tri-fold sleeve and the singles were put together by the band and road crew (Gaz Top & Redeye) at their base at 13 Emu Road, Battersea, London SW8, England. The single was released on the bands own White Cross Records label, with artwork was designed by Simon Shaw

Simon Shaw was at Camberwell Art college, London in 1979 and lived at 13 Emu Road, Battersea where Seventeen and then The Alarm would stay. Whilst Simon was at home in Rhyl in the summer of 1981, Simon and Mike met up at The Bistro to discuss the design for the Unsafe Building cover, from an idea based on Guerinca by Picasso that Mike liked and wanted something along those lines. Simon wanted to do it as a wood or lino-cut but as they needed the design in a couple of days time did not allow it. The typesetting of the single was done on Simon’s sisters typewriter. The end result was the iconic cover that was produced – Simon Shaw and Mike Peters Big Night in 3rd July 2021

The 7″ single featured Unsafe Building on the electric side and Up For Murder on the acoustic side.

Unsafe Building was recorded with Mike Peters on lead vocals and bass guitar, Dave Sharp on acoustic guitar, Eddie Macdonald on electric guitar and Nigel Twist on Drums

Up for Murder was recorded with Dave Sharp on lead vocals and 12 string acoustic guitar, Mike Peters on acoustic guitar and vocals, Eddie Macdonald on acoustic guitar, harmonica & vocals, Nigel Twist on drums and percussion. Up For Murder was the first and last time Eddie played harmonica on a recording for The Alarm

Single Review
Zig Zag magazine – January 1982 by Mick Mercer
The Alarm have just released a single on their own unfilled label, ‘Unsafe Building’ backed with ‘Up For Murder’, which reflect both the energy and variety of their live show. When flailing frantically and passionately before our very eyes they slip through pure acoustic bliss to evocative electric chaos. Beginning with three acoustic guitars and drums, they end up in a more traditional electric line-up, but rest assured they are distinct and different from anyone else around at the moment 

Until 1990 this was the only official release of these songs on this single, at record fairs and through mail order sources it would generally change hands for between £50-£100 as a guide depending on interest in the band and how the record collecting market was at the time. It has been seen on auction websites at higher prices, but it is not always clear if they sold at these higher prices. Even after all these years the original release is still well sought after by record collectors

During the late 1980’s a bootleg pressing of this single appeared and would sell more in the region of £5-£10. This bootleg appears to be an exact replica of the recording of the original single. This bootleg appeared on both black and red vinyl. The cover would show as an image of The Alarm in a saloon bars but the labels did not say The Alarm, so that they could get through a pressing plant without being seen as a bootleg. The red vinyl has promo printed on the labels as well

7″ Black Vinyl Bootleg – The Alarm / Fire Alarm

7″ Red vinyl bootleg – The Alarm / Wildcat “promo”

The original versions of Unsafe Building and Up For Murder would appear as B-sides on the newly recorded versions of Unsafe Building (single) (1990). The first time the original recordings appeared on an album was within The Alarm 2000 box set collection as the first two tracks of the Eponymous {1981-1983} album which brought together a lot of the songs released as singles but did not appear on Declaration

15th August 2023 – 40th Anniversary Digital Single. A download of the original single recording along with original artwork was made available to download or stream on digital platforms

(Page Updated 20/08/2023)

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