In 2004, the band The Alarm released a single, “45 RPM,” under the pseudonym, The Poppy Fields. The group — best known for ’80s rock anthems such as “68 Guns” and “Spirit of ’76,” revealed the real identity of the band only after the song became a hit.
The idea of the hoax — which inspired the 2012 movie, “Vinyl” — was to fight against the music industry’s assumption that The Alarm was no longer relevant, because they had had their biggest hits so many years ago.
It’s tempting to see the band’s current participation in the Vans Warped Tour — they signed up to do about a dozen shows, including one at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, July 15 – in the same light. But frontman Mike Peters sees a difference.
“That was making a point,” said Peters, 58, on Tuesday, from a tour stop in Virginia Beach. “This is about staying alive: playing music, and being on the front line.
“What’s happened to the band in the last couple of years is we’re starting to get re-accepted for what we do, on our own terms. So we’ve been playing (festivals) at Glastonbury and Isle of Wight, and now (Warped organizer) Kevin Lyman invited us to play the Warped Tour. One of the first gigs he ever promoted was The Alarm, in the ’80s, and he always wanted to remake that connection. So we accepted.
“I thought it was a challenge for us to play the Vans Warped Tour, because we’re not the youngest kids on the block, but we’ve still got a lot going on, and our charity (the rock ‘n’ roll cancer foundation, Love Hope Strength) is at every show, saving lives. It’s a great opportunity to show people what we do.”
The tour coincides with the release, on iTunes and Video on Demand, of “Man in the Camo Jacket” (see trailer below). Directed by Russ Kendall, thes documentary explores the history of the band, and also Peters’ personal struggle with cancer and his role in the creation of the Love Hope Strength.
“When I met Russ,” says Peters, “he came originally to shoot a TV show for BYU called ‘The Song That Changed My Life,’ and he saw how much stuff I’ve collected over the years, about my life and the band. I started out keeping a scrapbook when I was 16, and never stopped. And when video cameras came out in the ’80s, I invested in that, when they were just about affordable, and started capturing and documenting things.”
So Kendall had an almost unlimited amount of raw material to work with, and “Man in the Camo Jacket” packs a lot into its 77 minutes. Of course, since it tells both the band’s story and Peters’ story, many details had to be left out.
Kendall “obviously had to make some tough decisions,” says Peters, “and think, ‘Let’s make this film for people who don’t know who The Alarm is, and don’t know who Mike Peters is, and don’t know what Love Hope Strength is all about, so let’s answer that with this film.’ And now, hopefully, if they want more, they can go to the records, they can watch ‘Everest Rocks’ (a 2008 documentary about Peters and others climbing Mount Everest for charity), they can watch ‘Vinyl,’ or go to thealarm.com or lovehopestrength.org.
Peters beat lymphoma in the ’90s and leukemia in 2005, though the leukemia returned about two years ago.
“I live with the disease,” he says. “I manage it with daily chemotherapy, which I carry with me: Oral chemotherapy, I take it twice a day. Right now, my blood count is right where it needs to be, and I’m in robust health. I’m part of a generation, now, of people who are living with the disease, and getting on with life.”
The Alarm will perform at the Vans Warped Tour at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, July 15. The set times will not be announced until the day of the show. Visit vanswarpedtour.com. The band will also be at the Gramercy Theatre in New York, July 22, with doors opening at 7 p.m.; visit venue.thegramercytheatre.com.