The Alarm back in the UK singles charts? Then anyone can do it...

 by Martin Belam, 21 February 2004
"Ageing post-punk band The Alarm have scored a top 30 UK chart hit - with a stunt disguising themselves as an unknown younger group."

So runs an article on BBC News. My first thoughts were "Brilliant - respect to them", but, excuse the pun, the alarm bells started to ring when I read these two lines from the report:

"the band, from north Wales, are at number 28 after selling more than 4,000 copies of 1970s-style punk single 45RPM."

"[Mike] Peters said they worked largely 'underground', often avoiding the music business and using the internet to reach their loyal following"

So I thought I would follow the link on the BBC News story to The Alarm's website to check out this use of the internet to reach their loyal following. Now the BBC article says:

Singer Mike Peters said it was done to prove how much image affected sales.

"We decided we would do something where it was judged purely on its own musical value," Peters, 44, told BBC News Online.

He said The Alarm, most famous for their 1983 hit 68 Guns, were not always taken seriously by DJs because of their age and an image perceived to be outdated.

"The Alarm as an entity have been going for 20-odd years and history can go against you - we wanted to break the barrier down."

"We wanted the song to be judged on its merits and stir up the water a little bit, break the mould."

Call me a spoilsport but this seems in marked contrast to this news story posted on The Alarm's official website on February 17th, which looks to be recycling a newsprint story but has a quote from an official spokesman:

Steve Fulton, a spokesman for Peters, said, "The idea was that due to the amount of people in our fanbase, we have a serious chance of a chart position if all fans purchase the three formats of the single.

We have been humbled by the response so far and the incredible amount of pre-orders that have been made all over the country and from around the world.

Now we have our fingers crossed we can score a hit."

They do appear to have proved something about the UK singles chart at the moment. Not, though, as they claim that the chart is biased against unfashionable bands or overly-slanted towards image, and that if only you can get around that singles will be judged on their "musical value". Instead they have shown that if you can convince around 1,500 people to all order the same single in three different versions to be shipped from the UK in one day you can now get a top 30 hit.

Watch this space for the currybetdotnet campaign to get my debut single into the top 75...


You have (partially) hit on a truth here, but only partially. Yeah, the web site got fans to go out and buy the single, but it was much less than 1500. By all counts, we sold only about 150 from the website, and those were mostly to USA fans. However, the fan-base in the UK went to the shops and bought many copies.

So yeah, you can get into the UK charts by getting everyone you know together, and getting them to buy singles. However, it took about 10 years worth of work to get enough loyal people to the site to make this happen, so it's not an easy task.

However, the REAL story is not the single or the charts, it's the worldwide press afterwards. THAT sold more copies than anything I, or the band did.

I think on reflection this came across as a lot harsher in tone than I intended - I imagine it was no mean feat to co-ordinate.

It was meant to be more of a dig at what I perceived to be some pretty sloppy research on the part of BBC News, who appeared to have swallowed the party line without looking into the whole story - which would have made a more interesting story IMHO.

And as ever I am always keen to have a dig at the way the record industry attempts to hold the singles chart up as a mirror on the taste of society. I used to work in a chart return record shop many years ago, and I'm well aware of the pressure and lengths record industry reps would go to bend the chart.


Nice take. Steve Fulton (above, who runs, and I discussed this yesterday). If the press jumps on something and runs with it, there is no turining back. What we tried to accomplish was to get a single in the charts and get some recognition for a talented artist who is generally ignored for the music industry as a whole. Mission accomplished.
Even if the press took one small angle and ran with it...

i think the alarm are fantastic so carry on boys

Thanks for your coverage of THE ALARM's latest bid for a singles chart hit. You pointed out that this story is more complex than it first appears in all the headlines, and you are right. There are plenty of angles that the press could have covered better than they did, but all they're usually interested in is a soundbite and a single issue to put in front of their consumers for all of 10 seconds.

I hope you saw in some of the later articles over at site that the response of the dj's & music industry insiders to the MUSIC itself WAS key to deciding to present it as a "new band". I mean, even the title to your article was rather derogatory in it's tone. As if it would be IMPOSSIBLE for THE ALARM to ever produce anything Joe Public would want to hear, therefore, if *they* can get a "hit" anyone has a shot at it. So, you can understand that they'd be a little gun-shy when it came to putting that name out there again.

You're right, there were definitely 2 stories being covered in most of the 45RPM HOAX articles I saw - first, the reason behind Mike's marketing strategy (to prove the ageist/prejudiced musicbiz angle) and, second, the way the fans supported the single (by making sure their voices were heard at chart return shops) to get it into the charts. But it doesn't mean they have to automatically cancel each other out just because every article doesn't cover all of the angles of this story.

Both pieces were necessary parts of the whole, and as you said, make for a much more interesting story when you know the details of each.

I guess we'll see just how successfully the band and the fans have done their jobs when the next single comes out in March. Looking forward to reading your review of it, right here on currybet(dot)net...

"Looking forward to reading your review of it, right here on currybet(dot)net..."

This is the kind of challenge I can't possibly ignore!

Of course this is a tried and trusted technique for bands with loyal fan bases. Usually its just a marketing ploy first exploited by Iron Maiden who had a most unlikely #1 in 1990 with "bring yr daughter to the slaughter" on first week sales of only 27,000 but got to the top cos it was the first week after christmas.

But the best previous example of something like The Alarm was long forgotten old 'punk' singer songwriter John Otway. In Oct 2002 he had a #9 hit (17,500 sales apparently) and a top of the pops appearance 20 or so years after his last hit following an extensive campaign by his mad but loyal fanbase. This was organised through comprehensive sites such as:

Here are the reasons why John Otway did it

The key to the whole thing was John Otway himself. He really, really wanted that hit and was the one with the vision and the creative ideas all along. Of course, lots of people are desperate for a hit and have their fair share of creative ideas to help achieve it. The unique thing about Otway is his extraordinary charisma, which drew a large group of people around him with different but complementary talents, so besotted with their hero that they were absolutely determined to help him reach his goal.

Don't know what ever became of Wild Willy Barrett though.

"This is the kind of challenge I can't possibly ignore!"

Clearly, it turned out that I could...

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