Released today in 1985: Strength

IRS IRM104

IRS IRM104

‘Strength’ was the name of a single, an album and a tour by The Alarm. Exactly two years before Strength the single was released, The Alarm had issued a single that would go on to be their highest charting, 68 Guns. It reached #17; they would never have a Top 10 single, but then they were a band who had greater success live than with their studio-based activity. They also seemed to have a run of bad luck with their physical releases, as Mike Peters noted: “When the Strength single came out, nobody could get the 12” version at first, and some copies of the album were pressed with Bobby Womack on them!” 1

Those who got a correctly pressed copy of the album would have heard the track Spirit of ‘76 for the first time, itself later released as a single when it emerged as one of the most popular songs on the ‘Strength’ tour. “Spirit of ‘76 has won its place in the hearts of the band and our fans since that tour, and the more we play it, the more powerful a song it becomes…After the British tour went so well and we reaffirmed our relationship with our fans, I had a sneaking suspicion that the single would do quite well, and it’s also the first one for ages that hadn’t been messed up on its release,” said Peters.1 The song’s title referred to the earliest days of The Alarm’s members’ musical careers. “That year means a lot to us. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for ’76. Punk started off with a message – do it yourself. It said, ‘form a band, make your own clothes, be your own person,’ but that goodness was lost. All the media picked up was the spitting and the drugs and Sid Vicious. And the kids got disillusioned. We all did. And that’s what this song’s about, fighting that disillusionment, the drugs. Fight it! Find the good in your heart!” 2

“Eric’s in Liverpool was great,” he said, referring to the popular Liverpool club that opened in October 1976. “But then, there were places like that all over the country – The Electric Circus in Manchester, The Roxy in London – but those clubs have all gone now and that’s one of the reasons why British music’s not so good any more. In those days bands could use the club to learn how to play, to try out new ideas but there’s nowhere to do that now. Eric’s was an absolute hive of activity at the time, and you’d go and see a band who couldn’t really play, and then a few years later and they’d be household names – like Pete Burns, Pete Wylie, Holly Johnson: they all started there… Eric’s used to hold auditions on Saturday afternoons and if Roger Eagle, the owner, liked you enough, he’d put you on that night. We auditioned and I remember Bob Geldof was in the club, and when The Clash turned up they didn’t have a support band so we played with them that night.” 1

Paying their dues in venues such as Eric’s, and establishing themselves in Rhyl (where Peters grew up) and the regions, enabled The Alarm to learn their craft thoroughly and build up an audience. They moved to London in September 1981 and cut a single that they self-distributed, known as the ‘white cross single’ because of a design on the label. As indicated, their success in the charts was somewhat limited, with mostly minor hits, but their reputation as a live draw was impressive. By the mid-80s, not only were they able to sell out venues as headliners, but they were associated with some major stars as a support act. For example, the ‘Strength’ tour started in the US in November 1985 and proceeded to the UK in December, then across Europe in early 1986. From there, they joined Pat Benatar on her ‘Seven The Hard Way’ American tour from mid-February through to early April, before opening for Queen at Wembley in July.

1 Strickland, Andy. “Make my day punk”, Record Mirror, United Newspapers, 25 January 1986.
2 Martin, Peter. “The spirit of ‘76”, Smash Hits, EMAP, 29 January–11 February 1986.

NEW SINGLES on sale from Sep. 16
1983
The ALARM 68 Guns (IRS PFP1023)
Nick HEYWARD Blue Hat For A Blue Day (Arista HEY3)
Nik KERSHAW I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me (MCA MCA816)
MADONNA Lucky Star (Sire W9522)
SOFT CELL Soul Inside (Some Bizarre BZS2020)
1985
The ALARM Strength (IRS IRM104)
DEPECHE MODE It’s Called A Heart (Mute 7BONG9)

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