The Alarm's Great Rock & Roll Swindle Reaches Silver Screen via Wales and Costa Mesa

Categories: Film
Vinyl's fake real band, Weapons of Happiness
While attending Estancia High School in Costa Mesa during the 1980s, Jim Cooper loved the punk-influenced North Wales band the Alarm, which broke up in 1991.

Reading the Los Angeles Times in 2004, Cooper discovered Alarm frontman Mike Peters pulled a hoax on the record industry. An idea for a movie was born, as Cooper revealed Saturday night after the Newport Beach Film Festival screened his hilarious and biting first film Vinyl at Fashion Island Cinemas.

Peters re-formed the Alarm in 2004, cut a song and shopped it to the band's old record label, only to be told the group was too old for today's audiences. The script Cooper co-wrote with director Sara Sugarman includes a line similar to what a record exec told Peters: "Signing a band over 30 is like watching your parents have sex."

Vinyl's fake phony band, the Single Shots
So, Peters hired five 17-year-olds in Wales to pose as a band that would lip sync his song. And the music business actually fell for it before Peters wickedly exposed the lie as a comment on the industry.

Vinyl changes the name of the Alarm to Weapons of Happiness, the real fake band the Poppies Fields to the Single Shots and Mike Peters to Johnny Jones, who is played to the hilt by Phil Daniels, who you'll remember (depending on your age) as Jimmy in the Who's Quadrophenia or from his singing with Blur. One Weapons of Happiness member is played by Keith Allen, the father of Lily Allen., while another, Perry Benson, was Paul Cook in Sid and Nancy, which Sugarman also appeared in.

Standing in front of the Island Cinemas screen with Sugarman, a ratdog in her bag and co-producer Steven Berger, Cooper claimed the real story was so unbelievable it was decided to fictionalize it. During the latter-day Alarm's run, one band member fought cancer twice, and Peters was later recognized as the 11th most important person in Welsh history, two rungs up from King Arthur.

However, you get a sense that the low-budget indie project was also never in a position to secure the rights to the Alarm and its music, which included 16 Top 50 hits in the U.K. and sales of 5 million records worldwide. Sugarman mentioned that a "$2 million soundtrack" of punk classics from the U.K. and U.S. was ultimately abandoned. Mike Peters wrote new music and used an old song from his pre-Alarm band the Toilets for Vinyl.

The Alarm guitarist and vocalist had been high on the film since Cooper first pitched it to him over the phone.

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