Posts Tagged ‘The Undertones’

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The Undertones will open the 9th Rockpalast-Festival. The group was formed in 1976 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. For the five band members, this seemed to be the best attempt to be able to stand the depressing life in their hometown. The early days of the Undertones were mainly filled with playing songs from well-known rock bands, then they slowly wrote their own texts and compositions.

In the mid ’70s, there was a movement in English rock music. All at once, it was no longer necessary to play perfectly whenever possible, nor to be able to appear on-stage only with a large technically- equipped set-up. To play live concerts was important, no matter how. It also wasn’t important whether one called himself a musician or tried to prove himself as a virtuoso instrument player. These differences also had some effects on the Undertones. The members of the group decided to become pros and to write only some of their songs.

In 1978, the Undertones released their first LP on one of the many labels that existed back then. ‘Teenage Kicks’ was a sales success. Now the group was well-known everywhere and regularly completed extended club tours, to which ever-increasing fans always came.

Today, the Undertones count amongst the most successful live groups in Great Britain. At concerts, the band presents a varied musical repertoire: For one, their stage appearance and the impressive voice of the singer, Feargel Sharkey and, for another, the way the group works the dense and imaginative arrangements. The Undertones don’t waste any time on-stage. The songs are short and have no solo side-trips. The performances are played straight to the point, without forgetting to communicate with the audience. As the Undertones see it, it is very important that the audience doesn’t come out short on fun and entertainment at their concerts.

In 1975, five friends from Northern Ireland got together as the band The Undertones in order to close up the gap between punk, pop, rock and rhythm and blues. Three years later, they were in Belfast and had a first record contract. With the LP ‘Positive Touch’ in 1981, the Undertones changed stylistically and experimented with string and wind sections. They closed a big tour through North America and Europe (including Rockpalast). After a pause, the LP ‘Sin of Pride’ appeared in 1983, which did not meet expectations. Disappointed, the Undertones gave a farewell concert on July 17th, 1983, in Dublin, and then dissolved the group.

‘Rockpalast’, Essen Grugahalle, Germany 17th October 1981

You’ve Got My Number/ Hypnotised/ His Good Looking Girlfriend/ Tearproof/ See That Girl/ Girls That Don’t Talk/ It’s Going To Happen!/ Jimmy Jimmy/ I Don’t Know/ More Songs About Chocolate & Girls/ Forever Paradise/ Beautiful Friend/ Julie Ocean/ You’re Welcome/ When Saturday Comes/ Jump Boys/ Teenage Kicks/ Get Over You/ Sigh & Explode/ My Perfect Cousin/ Get It On

This show was broadcast live on both television and radio throughout Europe.  The original broadcast featured an interview with the band twenty minutes after they came off stage.  The show has been broadcast on the WDR satellite channel in recent times, minus the interview at the end.

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On this day (March. 28th) in 1980: Northern Irish punk-pop band The Undertones released the single “My Perfect Cousin”, backed with “I Don’t Want To See You Again” & “Hard Luck (Again)”; the A-side would appear on the band’s forthcoming sophomore Sire Records album, ‘Hypnotized’ while the B-sides were exclusive to the single; it would reach UK number 9, the highest chart position for the group up to that point…One of the great pop singles of the early 80s with the kind of lines `he’s got a fur-lined sheepskin jacket, my ma said it cost a packet’, `he thinks that I’m a cabbage ‘cos I hate University challenge’ and the immortal `his mother bought him a synthesizer, got the Human League into advise her’ that today’s pop stars can only dream of writing. And the video is ace — look out for the famous subbuteo scene — what we all did for entertainment in those days.

Fantastic lyrics, Feargal’s superb voice and so unpretentious and real, especially the video which probably cost all of ten quid.  Brilliant and timeless. The music video to the song was largely filmed at the home of the O’Neill brothers, and was directed by Julien Temple.The song was performed on Top of the Pops on two occasions: 10 April and 24 April 1980.

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On Record Store Day (April 21st), BMG Records will release The Undertones – Singles, a 13 x 7” vinyl box set featuring every single released by the band between 1978-1983. Currently commemorating the 40th anniversary of their classic debut single, ‘Teenage Kicks’, The Undertones are one of the best bands to have come out of Northern Ireland. Taking youth adoration from glam-rock and giving it the stripped-down simplicity and energy of punk, the band created 3-minute punk-pop gems that sound as vital today as they did 40 years ago.

The UndertonesSingles features such memorable songs as ‘Teenage Kicks’, ‘Jimmy Jimmy’, ‘Here Comes The Summer’ and ‘My Perfect Cousin’, all cut from original analogue tape transfers on 40g vinyl and includes the original single artwork replicated, a ‘Teenage Kicks’ original poster single and additional poster with photos and notes by The Undertones along with track by track comments from bassist Michael Bradley.

“The collective attitude of The Undertones to the magical power and influence of the humble 45rpm 7” single was always one of total reverence and respect. It really did matter. Back then in our Undertone world, a great single was even more important than the LP it helped promote and getting on Top of the Pops was the ultimate accolade that we were doing it right. And if you didn’t make it on TOTP, then there was always the next single,” says guitarist Damian O’Neill. “Listening again to these 13 A and B sides, I hear a great pop group who tried their best to be true to themselves and ultimately didn’t disappoint.”

“Mickey Bradley. That’s the stage name, of course. My real name is Michael Bradley.” When I knew my copy of this book was on its way, I headed for Spotify and listened to as many tracks by The Undertones as I could find. I loved most of it. “Teenage Kicks” is a given, as great a record as a record can be and John Peel (who, by the way, was 39 at the time of its release) gave it his blessing which was a golden endorsement. There is so much raw energy, boisterousness, hyperactivity and humour in the back catalogue that it is impossible not to appreciate that these kids were on to something distinctive and special.

Through his radio shows, I know Michael Bradley’s voice and presentation style and, as I read the book, I could hear him narrating it. Overall, it is conversational, nostalgic, honest and very funny.

The story starts with a bunch of Derry kids with notions of forming a band, even though they had barely a plectrum or drumstick between them. Through Provident and Credit Union loans, Freeman’s catalogue easy payments and however else a few shillings could be scraped, slowly but not always surely, a semi-equipped band emerged, as did the opportunity for a few local gigs. In addition, singer Fergal Sharkey had access to a Radio Rentals van, for transport is essential in the world of rock and roll, even in a small world. The NME was the weekly road map through the music business. McDonald’s grub became the sustenance of choice.

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The Undertones’ hangout was a prefab joint in Derry called The Casbah (“one third smoke, one third sweat, one third essence of beer spilled on carpet.”). The seemingly ramshackle repertoire comprised covers of Rolling Stones songs and a few others that took their fancy. Eventually, with some original songs, a bit of a local fan base and a whiff of ambition, they decided to find a way to make a record. Assisted by local legend Terri Hooley and his Good Vibrations venture, a 4-song (including “Teenage Kicks”) EP surfaced which found its way to John Peel who exposed it to a wider world including Sire Records and The Undertones were on their way as a proper band in the roughshod world of punk.

As seems common in stories like this, contractual and other legalities were handled badly. The band was not administratively savvy and advantage was taken. But, on the upside, there was the excitement of London, Europe and US trips, appearing on Top of the Pops, recording singles and LPs, playing gigs, posing for silly publicity photos, meeting a few of their music heroes and all the ballyhoo of being young, carefree guys in a rock band. Through it all, The Undertones wanted to be themselves, feet on the ground Derry lads.

On reflection, an older Michael Bradley says: “I’ve often thought that managing The Undertones would be a thankless task, with our lack of ambition, our accents and our reluctance to engage in the business side of things. Add to that our irrational dislike of touring and people who work in record companies. We didn’t even have any addictions to drink or pharmaceuticals. At least we’d have had something in common with other bands.”

The Undertones released 13 singles and 4 studio albums between 1978 and 1983. They still tour occasionally today. As I read this excellent book, my dislike of the generic word ‘punk’ thawed and I grew fond of The Undertones as people and as musicians. Listening to their catalogue now added to the enjoyment of their story. Michael, Mickey and Mike Bradley have together produced a wonderful book of memories told in a detailed, sincere and entertaining way. Kids forming bands today would benefit from reading this story, the ups and downs and highs and lows of showbiz, and the importance of staying true to their roots. It is nostalgic, witty and a joy to read.

1. Family Entertainment (0:10)
2. Listening In (3:08)
3. Billy’s Third (5:59)
4. Here Comes The Summer (8:21)

The complete session recorded by The Undertones on 22nd January 1979 for the John Peel show on BBC Radio 1 and broadcast on 5 February 1979.