The European tour was an amazing experience for me as I had never travelled with another band other than my own before and I think this is the time when the bond that holds us together today was first forged. They say you only truly get to know someone when you live with them. Well, I was on the bus ‘living’ with them as they were ‘living’ with me, and in the initimacy of this close knit existence, I was surprised to learn that despite all outward appearances, Stuart had a real drink problem that showed itself quite shockingly, at one of the dates towards the end of the tour in Germany.
I felt for both him and the band as they struggled through the show that night. Stuart had started openly drinking after the soundcheck and Mark, Bruce and Tony showed enormous professionalism, compassion, courage and understanding to come through the performance when it was so obvious that Stuart could hardly stand up on stage and play guitar, never mind sing. On the tour bus that night, there was only care and understanding shown to Stuart by the band and management, certainly no blame was attached after what was an incredibly difficult show for them all to play. It was obvious they knew and understood that Stuart was ill.
Personally, I had never met someone who had a major drink problem or met people who have to deal with it either. Stuart always seemed to be someone who was way ahead of his time in so many ways. He was the first to be a rock star at an age when most of us were still going to gigs as fans. When some of us had caught up by 1983 and were living the rock and roll dream with no responsibilities except to play in our bands and have a great time, Stuart was loaded with the responsibilities that come with being a husband and ever so young father. Stuart was into his second marriage and living in the USA by the time of this tour and privately fighting a major drink problem that was now no longer his or the band’s secret.
This photo of Stuart and I was taken by Jules on the last night of the German Tour.
As the tour reached Holland, I received news that our then ‘Alarm 2000′ drummer Steve Grantley was now going to have to miss the first three shows because his main band (Stiff Little Fingers), needed him (at short notice), to play a festival in Nottingham. I knew that without time to rehearse never mind find a drummer, I was going to have to pull out of the shows. I was in the midst of breaking the news to the Big Country Management (which also meant not being able to play at Shepherds Bush Empire), when Mark Brzezicki stepped up and said “No worries Mike, I’ll play drums for The Alarm as well”.
I was so amazed and grateful, especially when Mark had such a responsibility to play the Big Country set also. The band and Ian Grant were all cool with it though, and so I jumped at the chance, and for the remaining two or three European tour soundchecks, I jammed with Mark on ‘Spirit Of ’76′, ’68 Guns’ and other songs like ‘Regeneration’ and ‘Breathe’ that were a part of what was happening in Mike Peters world in the year 2000. Thus began the first gigs ever played in The Alarm’s modern era with Big Country’s drummer on drums, and I hadn’t realised the significance until tonight.
The gigs themselves were great and Mark did us incredibly proud (he even refused to accept any payment for his services). At Cambridge Junction on the first night, I can still remember Stuart, Bruce and Tony looking out from stage left and watching ‘their’ drummer playing with ‘The Alarm 2000′. When I was doing some research to prepare to sing proper with Big Country in 2010, I replayed the Final Fling DVD (filmed during that same tour at the last show in Glasgow Barrowlands). For some reason, the band had decided to wear kilts and as the show played out I began to realise that Stuart was also wearing a Mike Peters logo T-shirt throughout the entire set. I did not realise this at the time, but what a strange revelation it was to discover almost 10 years later.