STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
@brianbingaman on Twitter
A crowd of 20,000 UCLA students, plus those watching a live satellite broadcast feed of the free concert on MTV and across the globe, saw an impassioned performance by up and coming Welsh rock band The Alarm.
Thirty years later, Alarm singer/songwriter/guitarist Mike Peters will simultaneously look back and update that finest hour with his “The Alarm — Spirit of ’86” (a take off on the signature song “Spirit of ‘76”) one-man band show at Sellersville Theater Sept. 9.
“We were invincible as a band at that point. It’s interesting to see how far we’ve come since April 12, 1986,” said Peters in a phone interview, noting that apps like Facebook Live and Periscope allow anyone to broadcast anything live worldwide.
The original concert mined the two IRS Records albums The Alarm had released up to that time. The stirring, anthemic, idealistic songs included “Marching On,” “Howling Wind,” “Knife Edge,” “Blaze of Glory,” “Absolute Reality,” “Where Were You Hiding When the Storm Broke?,” “Walk Forever by My Side,” “Sixty-Eight Guns” and “The Stand.”
“The songs still stand up and have meaning,” Peters said. “People can close their eyes and go back there (to that time), or they can hear a modern context. It’s a real celebration of the best that The Alarm had to offer.”
The band would play another particularly inspired set warming up a Wembley Stadium crowd for Queen’s landmark July 1986 London concert, then began getting notable rock radio airplay. However, said Peters, The Alarm was “never the same after that” appearance in Los Angeles because internal tensions, members getting married and moving away began to affect the band’s chemistry. They would break up in 1991.
When Peters sang in The Alarm’s 1985 song “Strength,” “will you donate the life blood coursing through my veins?,” he had no idea how chillingly literal and personal that line would become.
A three-time cancer survivor thanks to “a network of family, friends, fans and supporters,” Peters co-founded the Love Hope Strength cancer foundation in 2007. The charity promotes music-related outreach and awareness programs for cancer patients and their families. Since 2010, Love Hope Strength has been hosting donor drives at concerts and festivals, and has registered more than 150,000 people to the International Bone Marrow Registry. Through those registrations, the foundation has, to date, provided more than 1,800 life-saving matches.
“There were tough times, when I’ve been laid low in hospitals. I was lucky I didn’t lose my hair (after undergoing radiation therapy),” laughed Peters, who rocked out with a mullet back in the day. “Everyone’s cancer is unique to everyone individually … and that’s the challenge to the doctors. There’s real hope for everybody now, especially if you find it early. The right mental attitude, that’s part of the (healing brought by the) drug.” Even if the cancer is terminal, he said, “by staying positive, you can buy one more day or one more hour.”
Make an auction bid at www.thealarm.com to support Love Hope Strength, and you could join Peters on stage to play or sing the Bob Dylan song “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” which The Alarm played to close that UCLA show. “It makes for a great little moment,” commented Peters, who for years wanted to offer fans something more personal than an autograph.