John Peel’s favourite!
In 1979, punk and new wave were the things to like in the U.K., so when Northern Irish The Undertones sent John Peel a demo, the BBC DJ got all excited and ended up paying for their first recording, soon picked up by local label Good Vibrations.
Peel was so pleased with the result that he’d play their signature song and first single, Teenage Kicks, every time he was on the air, sometimes twice in a row, exclaiming: “It doesn’t get much better than this!”.
The famed radio DJ even requested that some of the lyrics should be on his gravestone and in 2001, he starred in a documentary where he travelled to Derry, the band’s hometown, to film the documentary Teenage Kicks: The Undertones.
Their debut album at first left the tune off due to the single being on a different label, but at a rerelease later the same year it was included after the rights to it had been bought by the band’s new label, Sire Records, proof that yet again, what matters the most is having a great tune!
Another interesting song included on the re-release was Casbah Rock, named after a venue the band had played at during the early days (no relation to The Clash tune). This venue was instrumental in nurturing the late 70s punk rock movement in the area and gives me more confidence in the theory that the second most important ingredient to success is a regular gig.
As the tensions between the U.K. and Ireland were at their peak around this time, few venues were open and unemployment was high. This meant nobody had any money so the scene for punk rock DIY attitude was set.
Most bands would sing about these troubled times and become part of the political resistance, not so the Undertones, they largely ignored it. Perhaps this was down to that they came from Derry, not Belfast. Or perhaps they just liked singing about teenage angst and girls.
Following the enormous noise their debut single made, largely because of Mr Peel’s championing, the band had little success.
The follow-up album, Hypnotised, actually charted better than the debut but this was most likely down to the hype that had been built around the band.
My Perfect Cousin was the most successful single from this release and the band’s only top 10 single. Strangely, they also recorded Under The Boardwalk on this album. Both have since been forgotten by the general public.
Four more albums would be released by the band before they called it a day in 1983 after their new label EMI had complained about the lack of hits for a while and internal conflict had become rife.
The Undertones reformed in 1999 with a few new members and have been seen playing festivals since. Apparently, they were supposed to play their old pal John Peel’s birthday bash but cancelled last minute.
It is unknown if John played his favourite tune at the event anyway but one would assume this to be the case.
The Undertones tunes | Related pages
| D | D5 Db5 C5 |
Are teenage dreams so hard to beat?
| Bm | B5 C5 Db5 |
Every time she walks down the street.
Under The Boardwalk
| G | G | D | D |
Oh, when the sun beats down and burns the tar up on the roof.
| D | D | G | G |
And your shoes get so hot you wish your tired feet were fireproof.