Houston Calling

45 RPM? 68 Guns?

February 20th, 2004 · No Comments

It seems one of my favorite musicians has taken it upon himself to teach the record industry a little lesson. Mike Peters (The Alarm) has created a band and had a single top the charts in the UK. Only no one knew it was him.

Read about it below.

The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle Part II

Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?

Today we can expose a brilliant hoax dreamt up by The Alarm’s Mike Peters which has had everyone fooled–the charts included!

Sometime between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. today a song will enter the top 40 by a new young punk pop outfit who have appeared from nowhere with their debut single.

The song is “45 RPM,” the band is The Poppy Fields. Except The Poppy Fields are a fictional group that exist only in the mind of the Welsh music legend.

The Poppy Fields, aka Mike Peters and The Alarm, are expected to score their first chart hit for almost 13 years thanks to the singer, his music industry buddies and an unprecedented internet campaign by his huge worldwide following.

It means they’ve pulled a fast one on:

— Major record chains HMV and Virgin who have been selling out of the single
— Radio 1 DJs such as Mark and Lard and Steve Lamacq who have been taken in by the stunt
— Music reviewers that have been raving about The Poppy Fields based on them being a bunch of punky teenagers
— Record company executives desperately wanting to find out more about this unheard band
— Music channels who have been playing a video of a fictional group

More importantly for Mike Peters he will have felt he’s proved a point, exposing the music industry for a sham built on youth, image and hype.

By releasing the single under a pseudonym Peters had his record judged purely on its musical merits.

“We thought we had nothing to lose,” said Peters. “If we had put out a single by The Alarm, there would have been a negative feeling, because whether record company executives and music journalists admit it or not image is rated far higher than the music nowadays.

“I hope we’ve proved a valid point. Why must new music necessarily have to made by new bands. I’m 44 but I’m writing new songs as fresh and as vibrant as anything I’ve ever done. In Britain we’re too quick to want to find the next big thing. If you’re over 35 you’re dismissed as over-the-hill.

“Look at Steve Lamacq playing The Poppy Fields single. He wouldn’t have entertained playing a track by The Alarm. There is no way he would have touched it because he would dismiss us as not being the right demographic for his show. It’s crazy that a song has to be passed over because a band is in their forties.

“I think record companies, radio stations and music publications insult the intelligence of kids. I’ve been on tour in Europe and have seen teenagers buying the latest records by The Strokes and The White stripes as well as records by Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones. Sadly in the UK everything has to be seen to fit into neat little boxes.

“We just wanted to open up the debate and ask why does rock ‘n’ roll music have to be invented by 17 year-olds? Novelists and artists produce some of their greatest work in later life, why not musicians?”


August 2003–A demo of “45 RPM,” a three-minute killer punk pop song, is sent to rock music stations and pluggers. Nowhere in correspondence is The Alarm mentioned. Feedback is encouraging. Mike Peters is told that he could have a hit on his hands.

November 2003–Peters attends a gig in New York by mates Rancid – one of America’s coolest punk pop bands. The next night he plays “45 RPM” to an ecstatic crowd in the Big Apple and tells them about attending the Rancid gig. He is subsequently inundated with enquiries by fans about “45 RPM,” many of whom think he’s played a Rancid cover.

December 2003–Convinced that the new song will chart, a plot is hatched to release the single using a virtual band. His record company Snapper, distributor Pinnacle and plugger Anglo Plugging decide to instigate the elaborate hoax.

January 2004–Members of the singer’s Mike Peters Organisation are tipped off about the single. Over a thousand members of the fanbase are encouraged to pre-order the two CD formats and 7″ single versions of the 45 RPM single. Young Chester band The Wayriders–whose average age is 18, pose as The Poppy Fields and mime to “45 RPM” in a video shot to promote the single. The video, single, and press release about The Poppy Fields–“a new young band from Chester who cite their influences as The Pistols, The Clash, The Buzzcocks, Rancid, Less Than Jake and Good Charlotte”–is sent to radio stations, music media and TV channels.

February 2004–With hundreds of pre-orders being taken by HMV and Virgin, the record receives priority positioning on record shop shelves. Staff at the MPO go out and buy singles for foreign fans at chart return shops in North Wales in order to help secure a chart position when the singles chart is announced.

9th February 2004–“45 RPM” is released, a midweek chart placing puts it at number 24, with over 5000 copies sold. The single receives great reviews and a buzz begins to build among kids wondering who this new band is. The single has to be re-pressed due to phenomenal demand.

15th–“45 RPM” smashes into the UK charts and heralds the return of Mike Peters to the top 40.

So congrats to The Alarm for pulling it all off! Just wish we knew more
about what we were doing it for at the time.

taken from an article by David Owens

After doing a bit of research, I am not sure how much of the British press actually fell for it. But I still think it’s funny, although Peters is probably just shooting himself (and the band) in the foot by making the people who liked the single out to be morons. Only time will tell.

Peters does make a very valid point. Why should music just be a young man’s (or woman’s) game? Discuss the great rock’n’roll swindle–part 2, here.

Order your copy of “45 RPM” direct from MPO here.

Now Playing in my iPOD: BRMC — Take Them On, On Your Own

Tags: Music