2019 was quite a year for the U.K.’s The Alarm with their new album Sigma, following the quartet’s 2018 albumEquals. Additionally, their 1985 album Strength was re-released in an expanded format as a double CD, with two flip sides added to the first CD along with a second CD of studio cover songs and outtakes. “Strength” is one of The Alarm’s six singles, on the I.R.S. label, to reach the U.S. Top 100 from 1984 through 1989.
In August, our Goldmine Fabulous Flip Sides interview with the group’s lead singer, guitarist, songwriter and founding member Mike Peters, highlighted songs from Sigma and Strength along with a discussion on his Love Hope Strength foundation, with a mission to save lives one concert at a time, and to increase marrow donations to fight cancer. He was awarded the MBE, which is the Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, at Buckingham Palace by Prince Charles.
As we celebrate The Alarm's Sigma topping the Fabulous Albums of 2019 (see lists below of 2019 albums and songs), Mike shares with us 10 albums that changed his life.
Various Artists, 22 Dynamic Hits Vol. II
The first album that really changed my life, it sounds strange, was a compilation album on the K-Tel record label, with Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, Blood, Sweat & Tears, and others. Right at the end was a song called “Get It On,” known as “Bang A Gong” in America, by T.Rex. As soon as I heard that, there was no turning back. I asked myself, “What is this?” It made me want to dive into music. The album was advertised on television and I bought it at a supermarket.
David Bowie, Aladdin Sane
This was the next record that I bought. “Drive-In Saturday” was on the radio. I heard all these mysterious names of T. Rex, David Bowie and Slade while traveling to watch soccer in Manchester and bought David Bowie’s album that day at a record shop.
I looked at the back side of this album at the record shop and saw Alvin Lee and John Sebastian listed in addition to Slade and I thought I already had a compilation album, and I didn’t want these other artists, I wanted Slade. I didn’t know that these were songwriter credits, not the performing artists and I passed on it and just bought the David Bowie album. Then when I played Aladdin Sane at home and heard “Let’s Spend the Night Together” and saw it listed as Jagger/Richards, that was an a-ha moment for me, learning about songwriter credits, so I went back to the shop the next day and bought the Slade album, too.
The Who, Quadrophenia
On BBC radio was a show called “The Rock Show” with the DJ Alan Freeman playing classical music between tracks. He played Rachmaninoff and Beethoven and then cut away to The Who and it made The Who sound ten times more powerful with Keith Moon’s drum fill on “Bell Boy,” and then announced it was from The Who’s new album. I made my mum and dad take me to the record shop to buy my first ever double LP and justify it as a birthday present, including that massive booklet.
The Clash, The Clash
This is the first album I bought that captured the energy of punk rock. I saw The Sex Pistols and The Clash not far apart from each other in concert and had a new energy flowing in my veins. I ran into The Clash in the bathroom, asked about their music, and Joe Strummer told me, “The future is unwritten, kid.” Where The Sex Pistols were threatening and challenging, The Clash had this positivity and that spark began The Alarm.
Bob Dylan, At Budokan
This may not be people’s first choice Bob Dylan album. I was lent it by a friend and told to take it home, read the lyrics and it will change your life, and he was right. I bought the album and still have it with the poster. This is the Dylan that I fell in love with, featuring full band versions of his compositions. This was acoustic based music amplified, which is really what influenced The Alarm’s approach to songwriting and recording. Bono has described us as The Clash meets Bob Dylan.
Woody Guthrie, Dust Bowl Ballads
I knew that Bob Dylan had been influenced by Woody Guthrie, so I bought some Woody Guthrie albums. I was surprised that his voice was small and the guitar sounded tinny. You had to reposition yourself to listen to his old recordings and try to understand what he was putting across. This taught me that music doesn’t have to be massive to have a massive impact.
Bruce Springsteen, The River
This was the first CD that I got. His music took awhile to connect to me. I first saw him perform live in Philadelphia in 1984 on the Born in the U.S.A. tour and from the moment he entered the stage, I finally understood what the fuss was all about. I got my first CD player when CDs were new and quite scarce. I played The River over and over again. I devoured it and liked the diversity.
Dylan Thomas, Under Milk Wood
You hear the poet on this spoken word record. Hearing his voice almost sounds like music. The words come alive, more than on a page. My children are studying his Welsh sarcasm in school and have listened to this. They hear the rhyming structure, equate it to today’s rap and relate to it. They listen intently to the beat and cadence of the poet’s own voice.
Richard Ashcroft, These People
This is a newer album from Richard Ashcroft of The Verve. The music really spoke to the band. It powerful and quite liberating. It makes us feel alive and encourages us to continue to create new music.
Warren Kurtz is a Contributing Editor at Goldmine, writing the In Memoriam and Fabulous Flip Sides series. “Warren’s Fabulous Flip Sides” can be heard most Saturday mornings, in the 9 a.m. hour, Eastern time, as part of “Moments to Remember” at wvcr.com or iHeart Radio – search WVCR.