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THE ALARM 2002
SPEAR OF DESTINY
WREXHAM CENTRAL STATION
(by Steve Allan Jones)
Friday lunchtime. I remember that the Resistance Tour is in Wrexham that night. For those readers unaware of the contents of said tour, three bands associated with that tremendous decade the 80’s have got together under the same banner. Band one is the Mighty Wah or Pete Wylie as it turns out. Band two - Spear of Destiny, Kirk Brandon’s vehicle for sonic mayhem. Band three is The Alarm 2002 – Mike Peters and a back catalogue of anthemic tunes. I telephone Mike’s wife Jules. I sort out a guest list pass and agree to meet in the venue later. Jules tells me that Pete Wylie is on at 8pm. I vow to get to the show at 8pm.
Here I am walking up Hill Street, Wrexham. I was born in this town and suddenly realise I have parked outside the cinema where I saw my first movie…. I think it was ‘Doctor Who and The Daleks’ by the way. The venue for tonight’s show is Central Station or Yales. It is a newish place built in an area of Wrexham that has seen massive changes recently. Wrexham has always been a student town and this venue looks like it could be popular with our learning friends. Up the stairs I stride, having been nodded in a by a security guy who didn’t seem that pleased to see me. I ignore his churlish attitude and make for the bar.
It is a big place this is… large bar, large standing area but small stage. I am reminded of the old Bistro in Rhyl although you could probably fit four Bistros into here. The gig is busy with a mix of age ranges and lifestyles. I see Liam, Kirk’s manager who says ‘Hi.’ I see one or two Alarm faces. I usually go to The Gathering and sometimes play so you get to see the same people a lot! I take my place near a leaning on shelf and await some live entertainment. This is strange, last night a huge arena with a little bit of Wales at the side. Here, I could be in any club in any part of the UK. the PA is pumping out punk rock. Pistols, Clash, Buzzcocks and the Slits. Now I remember Mike P. Calling me to say that he had just bought Anarchy In The Uk at the record shop in Prestatyn. I was down like a shot to buy copy number two. The year was 1976. We had just seen the Pistols in Chester and suddenly a whole new world had opened up. Mike and I had struggled to go buy a vox amp from Dawsons in Chester. New bands were springing up all over the place. It was an exciting time to be young.
And now we weren’t young, pushing middle age, still playing and writing, Mike and I, still in the music business. Still working together sometimes, still excited by music. I write music for telly and theatre and Mike still loves playing live. This punk rock over the PA still sounds as fresh as it did 26 years ago. Real people playing real instruments, playing songs they wrote themselves. I begin to understand the Resistance Tour’s ethos.
Wylie swaggers on at 8.25. He has put on a few pounds (it happens) and announces that his tour is full of lager and lemsip. No band just one man and his guitar. Song one – "Come Back" a big hit in the 80’s sung here with passion and volume. He stays on for forty minutes…. Clash songs. Gilbert o’Sullivan songs, hits, misses, album tracks… you name he plays it. He is funny too but never far from a poignant moment (dedicating one song to the victims of the train crash that afternoon) the crowd love him and so do I. In that short time, Pete states the case for this tour in so few words. This is now the underground scene – empowered by the internet, these artists have taken back control of their careers. They can play live and they speak from the heart. I wonder how Bob Dylan would have coped if he had found himself in the UK during the 90’s. Maybe he too would be rallying against corporate record companies. Imagine if you will, our Bob playing at the Breeding Ground (I will have a word with Red – you never know!)
In no time at all, Wylie is at the bar, talking to everyone about everything all the time. A loud cheer draws me back to the stage area. It’s Kirk and Spear of Destiny!. Up until recently, Kirk’s music had passed me by, he was never as well known as Wylie or the Alarm. I had seen Theatre Of Hate in 1981 (my band supported them) but I wasnt that impressed. During Dave Sharp’s last UK tour, some of the dates were with Spear. Still I resisted Kirk’s music. I recently played with the band at Kirk’s Gathering style weekend in Crewe. I had less than 24 hours to learn the songs. You get to know songs pretty well when you have to. Anyhow, I started to rather enjoy the intensity of performance. So here we are again, the band cooking up a storm of noise with Kirk’s always impassioned voice searing over the top. 40 minutes of guitar rock as powerful as any band on kids T–shirts today. He does "Mickey" & as an encore, he does "Liberator"
Mike P. Helps out on "Never Take Me Alive" the new songs sound great. The crowd at the front has grown and pretty much everyone is bouncing off the ceiling. At the end, Kirk makes a statement of intent. More of the Resistance ethic I fancy but, to be honest, I had started to ignore the politics and just enjoyed the music.
I hang around by the merchandise stand. Quick chat to Jules (prettier and smaller than last night’s model) and Jules’ dad. I become aware that I often spend as much time talking to friend’s parents as I do talking to friends. I wonder at what point this happenend until I remember my chats with Red’s dad in Manweb, and my mates chatting to my mum and dad at gigs. I decide that we are a close knit bunch and get quite sentimental about mates being mates forever.
Hey up there’s a mate now! Mike Peters my mate from Rhyl High School. He looks well and happy singing as good as ever and jumping around like the teenager he once was. He works as hard as anyone I know on and off stage and tonight he is enjoying himself. I like the way he starts his set with "Breathe" – a solo career song that has started to grow on me. Then its on with the hits. "Rain In The Summertime" – I first heard this song in a car with Gareth Top and Phil "stella street" Cornwell. We all agreed it was a hit and for some reason we were wrong. It scraped into the nation’s Top 40. Tonight it sounds a little thin but you can’t hide the hooklines. Onwards and upwards through "Spirit of 76" to "Rescue Me" Mike does his traditional speech in the middle…. more Resistance stuff and then the "I Hate A Song That Makes You Feel No Good" speech from the live album, at which point I leave. I don’t know why I just get up and go. perhaps it was the feeling that I wanted to play piano on these songs. perhaps it was the feeling that Mike didn’t need me to stand at the back. He had plenty of fans screaming at the front, maybe I was all gigged out. No, here I am walking down the stairs out into a Wrexham friday night with its rowdy crowds and shiny bars.
The Resistance Tour is marching on through May and nudging into June. I hope it achieves all its objectives. At the very least, some songs you have little or no chance of hearing on the radio will get an airing. Meanwhile, down in that London, Bob Dylan is playing to thousands and will continue on his never-ending tour until his final day.
And where am I off to? Well, driving home past the church where I had my first piano lesson, I get that feeling again. That "thank God I get paid to make music" feeling. How many musicians and songwriters better than me are stuck in crappy jobs they hate. The one thing Bob, Mike, Kirk, Wylie and me share is that we never gave up.
Never give up.
(by Steve Allan Jones)
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