Wednesday, July 25, 2007

True Confessions...The Undertones Story & Show # 155

Undertones formed in Derry (in Northern Ireland) in 1975. The bands influence would come from bands such as Ramones, The Stooges, MC5, Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers, and the like. Influence would also come from 60s Garage Rock bands. The band would have five members, John and Damian O'Neil (both guitarists), Michael Bradley (bass), Billy Doherty (drums), and Feargal Sharkey (vocals). The band would play at clubs in Derry blasting out their form of punk and pop, usually at a place called The Casbah. Upon hearing their demo tape in 1976, Terry Hooley (a record shop owner) signed the band to Good Vibrations Records, which was his label. Teenage Kicks EP would come out in 1978, and it would contain four tracks, "Teenage Kicks", "Smarter Than You", "True Confessions", and "Emergency Cases".

"Teenage Kicks" the song was a fast, loud energetic song that starts off with Billy Doherty hitting the drums three times, then the buzzing guitars coming in. The song was also unique due to Feargal Sharkey's singing style, which was very high. Upon hearing this track John Peel a DJ for BBC radio immediately declared how much he liked the song, saying it was his all time favourite and even playing it twice in a row on his program. This publicity caused the band to get a record deal with Sire Records. Undertones, would come out in 1979. The album would be an excellent debut for the Derry band, it would originally feature 16 tracks, all simple, loud, and full of Rock and Roll energy. "I Gotta Getta", "Get Over You","Jimmy Jimmy", and "Listening In" all are perfect examples of the bands unique blend of Pop and Punk that sounds like a mix between Ramones, The Clash, and Buzzcocks. The band would then support the Clash on their American tour in 1979.

1980, saw the release of Hypnotised. The album would be similar to their debut, but it would also expand on their previous sound. The first song "More Songs About Chocolate and Girls" was a song taking a hit at the band Talking Heads (they had an album called More Songs About Building and Food). Still the album contains many great moments as did the bands debut. "There Goes Norman" features climbing guitar riffs from the O'Neil brothers, "Hypnotised" is a fast paced song with angry, impatient filled lyrics from Sharkey, and "My Perfect Cousin" (a single from the album) was a sarcastic clever song. "Wednesday Week" was a mellow acoustic song sounding influenced by 60s pop, and was also the second single from Hypnotised. It went to # 11 on the UK Charts ("My Perfect Cousin" went to # 9). The band would then go to EMI Records.

In 1981 the bands third album, Positive Touch was released. This album went in a different direction, the album would feature horn sections, and piano. "Julie Ocean" is a good example of their new direction. Some of the bands old pop and punk mix cracks through on songs such as "It's Going to Happen" (which also features a horn section and is about situations in Derry), "Positive Touch" is a definite song that sounds close to the bands earlier sound, but the band was drawing in different influences at this point such as soul music. Sin of Pride would be the bands final release with its original line up. Coming out in 1983, Sin of Pride was more of a change that Positive Touch. The album experimented with 60's psychedelic music, soul, and Motown. The album would feature two cover songs "Got To Have You Back" (Leon Ware) and "Save Me" (Smokey Robinson). The bands change and experimentation was evident on tracks such as "Conscious", "Untouchable", "Love Parade", and "The Sin of Pride". The band would split up in 1983 after touring for a bit due to disagreements about the musical direction of the band.

After the split the band went their separate ways. Feargal Sharkey went on to pursue a solo career. His career was brief. He would realease two solo albums and have a number one single with the song "A Good Heart". The O'Neil brothers would go on to form the politically charged band The Petrol Emotion, that would last until 1994. In 1989 a collection of Undertones BBC sessions were compiled onto a CD titled Listening In. The bands albums would also be re-released and remastered in CD form in the early 2000's, all containing bonus tracks. The band would attempt to reunite with Sharkey in 1999, but he did not want any part in a reunion. The band got Paul McLoone to take over on vocals and even recorded a new Undertones album titled Get What You Need in 2003. In 2001, a documentary titled Teenage Kicks was also released pertaining to the bands history. The band released Dig Yourself Deep in October of 2007. The album, which failed to chart featured fourteen tracks including the song, "Here Comes the Rain" which they have been playing live since 2005. In September of 2008, Undertones released an Anthology featuring one disc of studio tracks, and one disc of unreleased material. More information about the anthology can be found here.

For more information about the band visit their official website or

Play List:

1. The Nerves – hanging on the telephone
2. Sex Pistols – new york
3. The Jam – a bomb in wardour street
4. Count Five – psychotic reaction
5. Standells – riot on sunset strip
6. Velvet Underground – head held high (alt mix)
7. Ugly Ducklings – hey mama
8. Demics – the grey and the black
9. 49th Parallel - citizen freak
10. The Stooges – loose
11. Neon Boys – love comes in spurts
12. Fun Things – when the birdmen fly
13. Cosmetics – guilt
14. K-Tels – where are you?
15. Gruesomes – ain’t got nothing
16. Spys – machine shop
17. Sturgeons – forward disorder
18. Buzzcocks – friends of mine
19. The Saints – one way street
20. Johnny Thunders – dead or alive
21. Undertones – jimmy jimmy
22. Undertones – I told you so
23. Undertones – it’s going to happen
24. Ramones – chainsaw
25. The Damned – sick of being sick
26. The Furies - what do you want
27. Dishrags - I don't love you
28. Ian Dury - sex & drugs & rock & roll
29. Television - untitled instrumental
30. Ramones - now I wanna sniff some glue


Here Comes the Summer (TOTP 1979)
Jimmy Jimmy (OGWT 1979)
True Confessions (OGWT 1979)
My Perfect Cousin (Live Something Else Show 1980)
There Goes Norman (Live Something Else Show 1980)
The Recording of Teenage Kicks
Teenage Kicks Promo Music Video
It's Going To Happen Promo Music Video

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