Greetings again from the darkness. It’s doubtful any other film blends these elements: 1980’s rock music, cancer, a band break-up, a love story, In Vitro Fertilization, The Sex Pistols, Mount Everest group climbing, bone marrow donors, and an inspirational message. The convergence of these elements in director Russ Kendall’s documentary comes courtesy of Mike Peters and his life story and mission.
Mr. Peters, the iconic Welsh rock musician who first made his name in music as leader of The Alarm, has an engaging and ever-present smile, and epitomizes the term magnetic personality. He is described as a truly genuine person and one who builds bridges between folks – bringing people together for a cause.
Director Kendall filmed over an 8 year period, and of course, we get even earlier clips of The Alarm – replete with the spiked hair and spiritual bond with fans. Instincts are mentioned a couple of times by Peters in regards to his songwriting (writing about what matters) and his childhood guitar playing (possibly viewing it as a way out of a challenging neighborhood). The revolution of punk rock music is what convinced a young Peters that it was possible to remake yourself – become what you want to be, instead of what you are. His charming mother Martha mentions she was “horrified” for him.
Childhood friend and songwriting partner Eddie McDonald co-founded The Alarm with Peters, and though they never reached the mass success of some super groups, the respect of other musicians and fans was above reproach. The all-too-common inner-band power struggle (with Dave Sharp) led to the 1991 breakup of the band, and Peters simply started over – playing his music in smaller venues and reinventing himself as a solo act.
1996 brought his first cancer diagnosis, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Peters’ spirit really begins to show his true colors as he chooses to “go to war” against his cancer. As a way to display his approach, he dons a military camouflage jacket and vows to wear it until he is cancer-free. His lovely (and strong) wife Jules supports him as they balance music, health and the pursuit of kids through IVF.
The “new” Alarm band forms in 2000 and in a remarkable strategy, exposes ageism within the music industry, forming the foundation for the film “Vinyl”. It’s not until 2005 when Peters receives his second diagnosis – Leukemia. His chemo treatments and continued musical outings are documented, but it’s his Love Hope Strength Foundation that inspires an increase in bone marrow donors (“Get on the List”). One of the most fascinating segments of the film has Peters organizing the world’s “highest” gig – a musical concert at Mount Everest Base Camp after a 10 day group climb. The event also raised funds for the construction of a new clinic in Kathmandu.
The film really captures the live-life-to-the-fullest spirit of Mike Peters, and how he remains dedicated to making the world a better place and helping others fight cancer. The increase of donor pools is crucial to treatment and it’s a virtuous and vital mission … by a man who understands both the challenges of cancer and the power of inspiring through music and actions. He describes himself as blessed despite the obstacles he has faced – and battles he continues to fight.
watch the trailer: