’80s British Trio: The Alarm, Modern English, Gene Loves Jezebel

This article first appeared in Regional Music Journal on July 20, 2019.

To say that the band The Alarm has a long and winding musical history would be contrite. The Welsh pop band survived the eighties, nineties and now, almost 36 years after their first appearance on Britain’s Top of the Pops, The Alarm is touring the United States with fellow-Brits Modern English and Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel.

Image: The Alarm

The Alarm, who were initially known as The Toilets, regrouped under their current name in 1978 and embraced alternative rock instead of the punk sound they were headed towards, thus sealing their indelible place as one of the true great bands to emerge from the eighties.

Their 1981 debut single ‘Unsafe Building’, was described as “Bob Dylan meets The Clash” because of its mixture of amped-up acoustic guitars, harmonica and passionate vocals. From their appearance on the U.K.’s Top Of The Pops in 1983 with ‘Sixty Eight Guns’ and their chart success in the U.S. with ‘The Stand,’ The Alarm’s signature electro-acoustic sound has been echoing globally ever since.

Following their initial chart success, The Alarm went on to tour extensively throughout the U.S. and Europe through the 1980s into 1991. In 1983, The Alarm was put on the map and their popularity soared as the opening act for U2, a band they were often compared with musically.

The Alarm – Photo By Stuart Ling
The Alarm – Photo Stuart Ling

In 1992, The Alarm became one of the first bands to have a dedicated internet site http://www.thealarm.com when Mike Peters registered the domain and to coincide, founded ‘The Gathering’, an ‘Alarm’ event held in North Wales that continues attracting fans from all over the world. Throughout the rest of the nineties, Peters went on to establish himself as a respected solo artist but continued to keep The Alarm never far from his heart.

In 2004, The Alarm decided to release their music but created a fake band, The Poppy Fields, to conceal their identity as a result of DJs who wouldn’t take them seriously and a media focused on playing brand new bands and brand new music. Their real identity was eventually revealed by the BBC on Top Of The Pops and instantly triggered a rush of global media exposure, culminating in a U.S. TV appearance on CBS Headline News with Dan Rather.

Today, The Alarm features founding member singer Mike Peters, keyboardist Jules Jones Peters and Mark Taylor (Simple Minds, Elton John, Echo and the Bunnymen), guitarist James Stevenson (Gen X, Gene Loves Jezebel, The Cult), bass player Craig Adams (Sisters Of Mercy, The Mission, The Cult), and drummer Steve ‘Smiley’ Barnard (Mock Turtles, ​Archive).​

With 17 Top 50 UK singles, a host of successful albums and over 6 million sales worldwide, The Alarm are proving their music withstands the test of time and are bringing the awesome sounds of the 80s into 2019.

Touring with The Alarm is new wave/post-punk band Modern English best known for songs like “I Melt with You,” “Hands Across the Sea,” and “Ink and Paper”.

Formed in Essex, England, Modern English​ made their album debut in 1981 with “M​esh & Lace,”​ which reflected a strong punk-influence similar to J​ oy Division.​ In 1981, their sophomore album, “A​fter the Snow,”​ proved to be more keyboard-oriented and was often compared to the ​synthesizer-infused sound of, ​this writer’s all-time favorite group, D​uran Duran​. T​he stand-out single “I Melt With You,” which was also featured in the movie “Valley Girl,” ​received heavy rotation from newly established M.T.V. The song made its way through the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the U.S. to number 76

Singer Robbie Grey said of the album, “We used to think ‘God, we’ll never make a pop record. We’re artists!’, but things don’t always turn out as you planned and when you actually create a pop record, it’s so much more of a thrill than anything else.”

The band relocated to N​ ew York City​ and worked on a third album, “​Ricochet Days​,” which again made the top 100 in the U.S. In 1986, following the release of their fourth album, “​Stop Start,”​ the band decided to part ways.

In 1989, Grey reformed Modern English with bassist Michael Conroy and Aaron Davidson to record a new album “Pillow Lips,” featured a re-recorded “I Melt with You” and, the band was seen yet again in the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Modern English split up for a second time in 1991, after contractual problems with their record label. Grey then formed Engine and in 1995, with the legal issues sorted out, Engine evolved into the next incarnation of Modern English and recorded the 1996 album “Everything’s Mad.”

In 2010, Modern English’s original lineup regrouped with Robbie Grey on vocals, Stephen Walker on keyboards, guitarist Gary McDowell, bassist Michael Conroy, and ​newest member, Richard Brown playing drums.

Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel

Gene Loves Jezebel is a British rock band that was formed in 1980 by identical twin brothers Michael and Jay Aston and Ian Hudson. Their best-known songs include 1986’s Sweetest Thing’ Heartache” and “Desire (Come and Get It)” and 1987’s “The Motion of Love.”

Original Gene Loves Jezebel members James Stevenson (left),  Jay Aston (center) and Pete Rizzo (right) 

It wasn’t until G​ene Loves Jezebel’s fourth album,“T​he House of Dolls,” in 1988 that the singles,”20Killer Hurts” and “The Motion of Love,” broke U.S. pop charts. “Motion of Love” was also the band’s biggest UK hit single at number 56. Their third single “Suspicion,” witnessed Gene Loves Jezebel’s first appearance on the US ​Billboard Hot 100.

Due to a falling out between the Aston brothers in 1997 and ongoing legal issues, there are currently two versions of Gene Loves Jezebel with the brothers’ names incorporated into each of their respective band’s name. Touring with The Alarm is Ja​y Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel.

Catch these three amazing bands who are touring throughout the summer and into September where the ​Sigma LXXXV TOUR comes to a close in Florida.

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