Local garage rockers the Alarm Clocks existed for close to three short years in the ’60s before calling it quits after releasing only one single.
And yet, it left such a lasting impression, that it would reunite 12 years ago to start recording and touring again.
Singer-bassist Mike Pierce can still recall the first version of the band’s last show before it broke up in 1967.
“We were at Boston Mills Ski Lodge, which was a hot spot to play,” he says in a recent phone interview. The band performs at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 20, at the Beachland Tavern. “We went out there and the crowd went crazy. People were yelling and screaming, and it was unbelievable.”
The band’s 50-year history is rather convoluted.
Initially, guitarist Bruce Boehm, drummer Tim Douglas and bassist Jeff Suveges, all teenagers at the time, formed the Perceptions, which recorded a few songs in a basement. Boehm eventually quit the Perceptions and, after a short stint in a band called Night People, formed the Alarm Clocks with drummer Bill Schwark and Pierce.
The band recorded its first (and until recently only) single "Yeah!"/"No Reason to Complain" live in the studio in 1966, and some 300 copies were made (the original pressings have since become collectors' items that sell for up to $1,000).
With its lyrics about cruising for women and walking down the streets on a Saturday afternoon, "Yeah!" isn't particularly sophisticated when it comes to the lyrics. The same goes for "No Reason to Complain," another song about looking for quick and easy love. Yet the rawness — characterized by Pierce's high-pitched yells and Boehm's abrasive guitar — is distinctive. Both tracks have become iconic. They were included on the influential 1996 Crypt Records compilation Back from the Grave,
and comedian Patton Oswalt paid tribute to the band by naming his 2004 Comedy Central special No Reason to Complain
and featuring the Alarm Clocks recording as the show’s musical introduction.
About a month after cutting "Yeah!,” the Alarm Clocks went to Sound Ideas Recording studios to cut a demo tape that it could give to local promoters. In one take, the group recorded several tracks, among them raucous covers of "Louie Louie," "It's All Over Now" and "It's Alright." At the time, the guys thought that the tape would help take them beyond the high-school party circuit.
But when guitarist Boehm left the band to work on a freighter in 1967, the group essentially dissolved.
Boehm had wanted to restart the group shortly after he returned home from the ship, but he was drafted and served 14 months in Vietnam. By the time he returned from Vietnam, it was too late to reform the Alarm Clocks. Some members of the group had moved on to the garage rock act the Damnation of Adam Blessing.
Fifteen or so years ago, Norton Records' reissued the "Yeah!"/"No Reason to Complain" single, making it the first official Alarm Clocks release since the band put the 7-inch out the first time.
The reissue, which includes that demo from the band’s first rehearsal, came to be when George Gell and Tom Fallon (who now plays in the band), two Cleveland record collectors who used to publish a 'zine called Rebel Teen
, tracked Boehm down some 12 years ago to ask him about the history of the Alarm Clocks, one of their favorite bands.
"I get this phone call from George, and this guy asked for Bruce Boeing
," Boehm told us a few years back. "Usually, if you can't say my last name, then you're a salesman, and it's goodbye. But I said, 'Yeah, speaking.' And he asked, 'Is this the Bruce that was in the Alarm Clocks?' Now, I thought it was my kid brother playing a joke. He was flipping out, because he finally found one of us. And he's flipping me out because I can't believe that somebody is actually asking about the Alarm Clocks after 20 years. He's telling me the single is one of the greatest garage songs ever recorded. I met them a year after that, and I told them about the demo tape, and I made them a copy and then made [singer-bassist] Mike Pierce and [drummer] Bill Schwark copies. Those are the only three I've ever made copies for. I was pretty protective of it."
Mark Leddy, co-owner of the Beachland Ballroom (where "Yeah!" is in the jukebox), mentioned to Norton Records' Miriam Linna that Fallon had a tape of the rehearsal. Fallon was more than happy to lend his copy to Norton for its first legitimate pressing.
Since reforming for the 40th anniversary of their single in 2006, the Alarm Clocks have played to festival crowds across the country and have recorded new original material with the same raw energy they had in the 1960s.
Pierce has also been regularly writing new material too. He's even penned a rock opera that the group has yet to record.
“I only wrote two songs in my life, which were ‘Yeah!’ and ‘No Reason to Complain,’” says Pierce. “Since we got back together in 2006, I’ve written more than 100 songs. I just started playing guitar again and started hearing things I didn’t hear before.”
While the group hit the festival circuit shortly after reforming, it hasn't played much in Cleveland. Four years ago, Pierce had hip surgery and was out of commission and Boehm had physical problems as well. But Pierce says he's so pleased the band has come back together, he hopes it'll perform more often in the future.
“It’s something I always dreamed about,” he says of continuing to play with the Alarm Clocks. “After the group split in the '60s, I thought we’d be playing on a stage again and here it is 40 years later, and I’m doing it. I went on the Internet and looked up ‘No Reason to Complain.’ There are groups all over the world playing it. There’s a group in Italy and Norway and Japan. I found like 20 different groups playing that song. When I saw that, I thought, ‘You gotta be kidding me.’”
The Alarm Clocks, Black Tights, the Dreemers, 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 20, Beachland Tavern, 15711 Waterloo Rd., 216-383-1124. Tickets: $8 ADV, $10 DOS, beachlandballroom.com.