The UNDERTONES – ” Teenage Kicks “

Posted: September 24, 2022 in MUSIC

On September 23rd in 1978: Derry, Northern Ireland the punk-pop band, The Undertones, released their debut ‘Teenage Kicks’ EP on Belfast’s indie label Good Vibrations label; it featured the title track plus “True Confessions”, “Emergency Cases” & “Smarter Than U”; after the band signed to Sire Records that October, the label obtained the rights to the EP & re-released it, whereupon it reached UK #31; the title track famously became known as influential BBC DJ John Peel’s favourite song of all time…

John O’Neill attributes the spark of the performance to playing Belfast on a combined Good Vibrations bill on the evening prior to the recording.

“I remember thinking that night. I’m not sure how good we are, but we’re at least as good or better than the other Belfast bands. That made us confident going in to record the next day. We called it the “Teenage Kicks” EP because obviously we were teenagers, and it just had a good ring to it – the “True Confessions” EP wouldn’t have been as good. But even when we played the song live then, I don’t think it stood out more than any other song. We obviously thought it was one of our best, ‘cos we put it on the EP. But we thought “True Confession”s was the best song on the record.”

It may be one of the most cherished recordings ever, but the story behind the release of The Undertones’ “Teenage Kicks” in 1978 is long on happy accidents. Derry’s only punk band didn’t originally plan it to be the lead track on their debut EP (a record that itself was intended solely as an epitaph) and they even had to persuade their singer to rejoin the band just to do the recording. But when DJ John Peel got to hear it, everything went a bit mad. Not that it turned the heads of our heroes. Famously ambivalent to rock-star behaviour and the trappings of fashion – “You wore what your ma bought you back then” – they would be together for a brief but fertile four-album, five-year career.

They weren’t always popular. If you inspect the back cover of “Teenage Kicks” you’ll find a photo of some arcane Derry graffiti: ‘Undertones – shit, pish, counts, wankers’.

“At the time, punk wasn’t that well known in Derry,” reflects guitarist John O’Neill. “We had a core following of 50 people or so, but apart from that we were treated with a lot of suspicion.”

John Peel’s favourite ever song and not hard to understand why. Timeless teenage frustration in 2 and a half minutes of raucous pop punk heaven. Play it loud and feel free to pogo — you know you want to.

“Teenage Kicks” EP was released on the Good Vibrations label, run by Belfast maverick Terri Hooley, in September 78.

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