This is the last 7″ Single I found at Mad Jack’s on the last dig I had back earlier in the Summer. This time around it is the song “Strength” by the UK band The Alarm. This was the first single off the album of the same name. The song came out prior to the album release which was in 1985. It reached #40 in the UK but didn’t chart in the U.S. However, I saw the video for this song on MTV and my brother had their prior album, so I was really in to it and in fact, the album ‘Strength’ is a personal favorite of mine.
The song is credited to the whole band which is not normal for them. The song came to Mike Peters in the middle of the night while at a hotel in Newcastle. He and his friend went down to the get his guitar out of the van so he could start writing. The next day during soundcheck, the whole band worked through the song as Mike still didn’t hav the right chords for it. And that is why the whole band got credit.
My copy is the Pinckneyville Pressing from the U.S. Pretty standard. The cool thing about it is the B-Side is a non-album track. The song is called “Majority”. You can now get it on subsequent re-issues of the album, but not back in the day. This was the only place which would’ve made this a prized single to get.
For Record Store Day April 13, 2019, The Alarm released a live album in support of their 1985 album ‘Strength’. It was a previously unreleased show recorded at the Boston Orpheum Theatre on November 9th, 1985. Since ‘Strength’ is one of my favorite albums, this was quickly added to the albums I needed to grab on RSD.
The album has 20 songs, of which, 16 have never been released before (officially). There have been bootlegs of the show, but none with the actual mixed recording which was done about a month after the show by Nigel Luby. The sound is untouched and no overdubs. It is as it was back in the day. You can hear the rawness, the crowd and you know it is truly live. It is fantastic.
With only 2 albums out at this time, the band played a ton of songs from both ‘Declaration’ and ‘Strength’ (which hadn’t been out long) and some you hadn’t heard before. Songs like “Majority” and “The Chant Has Just Begun” were not on the studio albums, but later released as bonus tracks on deluxe editions. You get to hear them live here before ever seeing the light day.
For My Sunday Song #46, I have chosen “The Day The Ravens Left The Tower” by The Alarm. The song is off the album, ‘Strength’, from 1985 and is one of my all time favorite albums from the 80’s. They were never hugely popular in the States although MTV played them a lot. The album did reach #39 on the Billboard 200 Chart.
“The Day The Ravens Left the Tower” is a very dark song and was a real jump in their songwriting lyrically. They have always been political with their songs, but the maturity and growth in songwriting really shined on this song for me. I know I read this somewhere that the song was inspired by a hallucination that Eddie MacDonald had when he was sick with the flu. I think that is cool if that is true.
What I am fascinated with about the song is actually the story of the ravens. For those that don’t know, there are ravens that live in the Tower of London. There have been ravens living there since as far back as 1660 or so around the time of King Charles II. It is believed that the ravens are there to protect the Crown. If they should ever leave the tower, the Crown and Britain would fall. I know there is a lot more to the story, but I am not a historian and the site is about music so you can look it up further if you are interested…it is fascinating stuff (also any UK readers want to add anything, please leave a comment).
I first came across The Alarm because one of my brothers had their album Declaration. This was back around 1984. I really enjoyed that album and when Strength came out in October 1985 on IRS Records, I had to get it.
The Alarm, if you don’t know, were a four piece, new wave band out of Wales. I believe at the time, the band was Mike Peters, David Sharp, Eddie Macdonald, and Nigel Twist.
This was the first album I really paid attention to how an album flowed. These songs seemed like they were meant to be in the order they were placed on the album. The songs maintained a specific sound and style throughout. There were no fillers and each song had a purpose.