Houston Calling

One of the problems with growing older…

February 19th, 2006 · 1 Comment

…is that your favorite musicians, most of which are undoubtedly older than you when you first started liking them, are growing older too.

Frequent Houston Calling readers know that one of my favorite bands from my childhood (see, growing older makes you refer to your teenage years as “childhood”) is the Welsh band The Alarm. I am sure I have written about their influence on my friends and me before. I have been following Mike Peters’ solo career once he dissolved the original Alarm line-up in the early nineties, and was able to catch the band live in Austin in 2000. They were supposed to play in Houston a couple of years ago with Psychedelic Furs and The Pleased, but Peters’ wife had a baby and he chose to leave the tour.

I recently found out the band — now christened Alarm MMVI — released a new single, “Superchannel,” earlier this month (it has reached #1 on charts in the UK) and have a new album, Under Attack, out on February 20th (probably the 21st in the USA, but you can order it from HMV online here and get the VAT refunded). They’re also supposedly playing in March at SXSW, which is great news. Some bad news, however, is that while doing some searches I came across an article that indicates Mike Peters is battling cancer again.

I recall his first battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 1995 — I learned of it during some “Where Are They Now?”-type segment on VH1 back when I had cable. This past December, though, he was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Cancer (CLL), apparently the most common type of leukemia. According to the article, it mainly affects people over 60 and is rare in people under the age of 40. Peters (now 46 years old) says, “The good news is that although my illness is not curable, it is treatable. It is a disease I will probably die with, rather than of.”

Well, that’s just not good (understatement of the year). As I have written before, one of my best friends from high school died in a freak accident while we were in college. The Alarm’s music meant a lot to us — we saw the band play live in the DFW area every chance we got, met the band, and their music was the soundtrack of our lives, to coin a phrase. Around the tenth anniversary of my friend’s death, Mike Peters came out with The Alarm 2000 box set, which I bought and got Mike Peters to record a dedication track to the memory of my friend Lance Linscott [feel free to download the song here].

Read more about my thought on Mike Peters and The Alarm below.

Hearing that Peters is again battling cancer — this time 10 years older — affected me. I am sure it was a mortality moment, which is probably inevitable when someone close to your heart is dying. Now, I haven’t bought everything Peters has released in the past 15 years, don’t know him personally, but I own a lot of his music and it still means a lot to me when I hear the dedication track. I always enjoy hearing his new music — he’s been going it pretty much on his own since he quit The Alarm and has often found making it in the music business rough.

Staying relevant is, of course, difficult for many bands saddled with the “Eighties music” tag. U2 is one of the rare few that made it through to superstardom. The Alarm, whose early work was arguably as good as their Irish counterparts, often found themselves playing second fiddle to Bono and company (they toured the U.S. together in the early eighties). U2 may be more successful, but in my opinion they lost their real spark around 1987. Feel free to bash at will for that last statement. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that much of The Alarm’s output doesn’t hold up over the years, and that U2’s early efforts, for the most part, do — but their impact on my life is unmistakable and irrevocable. I hope and pray that Mike Peters makes it through.

If you recall, in 2004 Peters created a fictitious band, The Poppy Fields, and released his new song, “45 RPM” under that moniker and passed it off as a young Welsh punk-pop group. Peters intended the ruse to make a point about the ageism rampant in the industry.

It worked.

According to the ICWales, the official website of Wales, article:

“We thought we had nothing to lose,” said Mike. “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 proved a valid point. Why must new music necessarily have to made by new bands? I’m 46 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.”

The Alarm’s In The Poppy Fields showed a return to form for the band. The more I listen to The Jam, it seems like Peters had always intended for The Alarm to be like The Jam — maybe I am wrong, but I get that feeling the more I get into The Jam’s catalog. But I’ll write about The Jam some other time.

“45 RPM” reached #28 on the charts in the UK, proving Peters’ point, garnering his new line-up (which includes James Stevenson, Craig Adams, Steve Grantly, and Mark Taylor) a ton of worldwide press (including this site), and eventually got The Alarm a new record deal with EMI, which will release Under Attack.

Annually, Peters hosts The Gathering — which draws The Alarm and Mike Peters fans from around the world. The event, now in its 14th year, gives fans the chance to not only spend time with Peters and his band, but also with special guests, which have included former Alarm band members, plus The Cult’s Billy Duffy (Peters’ bandmate in the short-lived Coloursound) and Spear of Destiny’s Kirk Brandon.

You can read the articles on Mike Peters from ICWales by clicking the links below:

“Mike Peters: My Cancer Fight” / “Mike Peters: Fans and Family” / “Mike Peters: A Musical Rebirth”

Visit The Alarm’s website to buy their new album, Under Attack. To help out the band, order the Alarm 2000 box set, which includes:

All of The Alarm’s albums up to 1991 (plus demos and B-sides), with all tracks completely remastered by Mike Peters. This means 150+ Tracks. Nearly every song The Alarm ever recorded. / Extensive and insightful liner notes / Complete Live history of the band / Lyrics for every song / Tour and studio diaries / Programming information to re-create orginal albums / Your very own dedication CD — you choose one Alarm song that Mike Peters will personally record for you, and add a personal dedication that you create.

At $168 (includes shipping), this is a steal. Definitely worth it, in my opinion. I hope more bands begin to do things like this.

Similarly, Peters offers The Gathering DVD Collection, which is an 8 DVD box set with a personalised visual dedication by Peters. The following is taken from The Alarm’s webstore:

From G9 to G12, everything performed has been recorded and captured on film. Over 200 live performances of songs from every single album Mike Peters has ever recorded. From The Alarm and back again, via The Toilets, Seventeen, Coloursound, Dead Men Walking and The Poets. From the first unveiling of ‘In The Poppy Fields’ to the eventual homecoming of G12. Authored onto eight DVD’s, everything is here. 181 songs from four
electric Saturday performances from G9-G12 plus two Acoustic Fridays from G9 and G11.

This is also $168 (plus $15 shipping). I don’t have it, but will get it sometime.


Now Playing: WolfmotherDimensions EP

Tags: Music

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Gary C // Feb 22, 2006 at 5:08 pm

    Thanks, for the info. I also liked The Alarm back in the day.

Leave a Comment