The world works in many ways and for any life to hit various plateaus, along with the skill and work are the stars lining up and it all just comes together. This is especially true in entertainment.
The Alarm is a band I’ve always thought was/is a special one. I put them in that exclusive place not many reside: The Beatles, The Stones, The Kinks, The Doors, Motorhead, Van Halen, U2, INXS, Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, Megadeth, Nirvana. The difference is it didn’t go quite the way I had hoped for the Alarm. Now, the Alarm were successful, very much so overseas and to an extent here in America. I just thought they could have been/should have been bigger. Many times the do’s and don’ts have nothing to do with anything other than the people around them to push them in a major way with marketing and promotion AND the radio, plus, at the time…MTV. Both aired them, but probably not as much as they should have.
The Alarm hit the scene at a time when things were very interesting. The 80’s was a time when things were really taking off and getting huge. It was the Big 80’s after all. The radio was the thing that helped develop artists and make hits. Now, MTV comes along and changed the landscape, both radio and tv were perfect for the Alarm. The 80’s saw artists begin their journey into superstardom: Bruce Springsteen, Duran Duran, Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Prince etc. The 80’s was the time for hard rock/metal…and hair bands too, before the 90’s grunge. Along with all that came the fresh thing that was called everything from variations of punk, new wave, college rock, modern rock, indie and most often just called alternative. Now, it’s all quite mainstream. Many times, it’s all just rock in various shades…some leaning pop, some more rock. There’s good and bad. I dislike labels more than like them.
As someone who spent years around the radio world, here’s what I think played a huge part in why the Alarm, although doing alright, never quite hit that major plateau that should have happened. I love my radio people, but the people that program radio stations may only add one-three songs a week. Sometimes none, sometimes more. It varies. They only have so many slots. You have to remember, at this time, acts like U2, REM and INXS didn’t get a ton of hit radio airplay until later. Those early years were mainly MTV and a few smart radio stations that understood modern rock for the time. Radio people are usually paranoid and outside of a handful are never risk takers. The Alarm was beginning to make their mark at a time when others doing hip, interesting tunes were doing the same. You have to remember, it was a little different and not the first thing PDs (Program Directors) were jumping on. If they have three slots to add a song and one of the three is for an alternative type of song, they’re going to go with the ones who are a bit more popular or have more of a history to look at, so if you have something from U2, INXS, REM and The Alarm in front of you to add, which do you pick? Me… I go with which one sounds better, period. That’s not always the way most PD’s formula worked. It was more of who has more of a name. I do get it, but it is frustrating. That’s some competition for a tiny slot on a radio station. Acts like those had it a little tougher in those times, because they weren’t the huge mainstream artists they became and it was a different thing at the time. As 120 Minutes gained popularity and people became aware, it all grew.
I want to be clear: The Alarm had hits in America. I just believe they didn’t get the acclaim they should have. So fucking great.
I love all their stuff, but Strength is my favorite.
Mike Peters and The Alarm website is here. The Alarm is still doing great stuff! I am and forever will be a fan. Always.