I said in an earlier post that I couldn't remember if I'd seen The Alarm in December 1985. Well, for those of you who who've bitten their nails to the quick awaiting an answer, relief is at hand.
A rummage around brings to light the ticket stubs. Saw them in November 84 (I remember hitch-hiking home and listening to the American election results on the radio. Reagan re-elected. Fuck.)
And again the following May.
With another tour in December they certainly weren't slacking. And they undoubtedly did really good gigs, but by late 1985 my interest in them had waned. They were becoming a bit too straightforward, a bit - as it was known at the time - rockist.
They'd come through a couple of years earlier with several bristling singles and an aptly titled confident and earnest debut album, Declaration.
Lyrically they had broad-brush politics about justice, hope and the concerns of the ordinary person, a gift for terrace-anthem choruses, and a specific obsession with war imagery (soon adopting a splattery poppy as their logo).
Musically they had real gusto yet tempered it sonically with sweeping layers of strident acoustic guitars and emotionally with a melancholy tint.
The sound was thus intricate yet epic, bold and provocative yet ornate and even wistful, it could curl like a creeper vine or explode as big and startling as their hairstyles.
If you could repress your cynicism - or had yet to form any to speak of - then they were fresh, exciting and involving. I still stand by that first album as being all those things.
Though I'd personally lose interest as my tastes went a little toward darker and more oblique music (REM, The Church), at least The Alarm didn't go as dull as Big Country. And you've gotta respect a band that would cut their fourth album, Change, in two different vocal versions, one in English and one in Welsh. Especially a band from as anglophone a part of Wales as Rhyl.
But let's let the screen go into that heat-haze effect that tells you it's a flashback.
Before they were The Alarm they were a post-new wave mod band called Seventeen. Taking that Merseybeat brightness with a bit of solidly chuggy new-wave guitar, like The Members or The Chords or the Lambrettas, only they don't seem to have been as good as those ones. Who, in turn, weren't that good themselves.
(Before this, incidentally, singer Mike Peters was in a punk band called The Toilets. Worth doing it just for the name I reckon).
Seventeen issued a single, both sides written by the future Alarm mainstay team of MacDonald and Peters. The A-side was Don't Let Go, but it's the B-side, Bank Holiday Weekend, that catches my ear. You can see them trying to latch on to the mod iconography of bank holiday punch-ups on Brighton beach, but as its fifteen years later and they actually live in a seaside town they know that the truth is somewhat different. Bored families, tacky tat for sale, the deflation of something looked forward to being dull.
I've no idea, but I'm guessing this was their only release and quite possibly a DIY job, given that it has the catalogue number VD 001. I love that prefix. When I was in a band, our fake record company for what turned out to be our only release was Rampant Records, letting us use PANTS 001. You've got to take the opportunities for smut where you find them.
There's no clue at all that these people would go on to do anything of worth. In that way, it's opposite of the Johnny and the Self-Abusers single (a piece of slinky arty punk that, after a namechange to Simple Minds, gave way to one of the most vacuous and execrable careers in the history of eardrums).
download Bank Holiday Weekend (4.4MB MP3)
By the way, if you're some Alarm completist gagging for the MP3 of Don't Let Go as well, leave your email address in the Comments and I'll send it to you.