From Derry City a group of school lads formed The Undertones in 1975 with a love for all sorts of music. The band would practice everyday in their livings rooms, bedrooms and even in a garden shed. With so much hard practice their efforts would soon pay off.
Describing the sound of The Undertones would always prove difficult for many, some stated they were post-pop-punk with others saying they were simply Irish Rock but one thing that cannot be debated is their music has a very distinctive sound. With songs such as Runaround (She’s A), I Know A Girl, and their famous Teenage Kicks they were unlike no other band on the music scene.
Doing what they loved best, playing music, they spent all their free time practising after school and listening to their favourite records escaping the reality of the troubles in the north of Ireland. Their first performances was in Youth Clubs playing in front of young children and teenagers but this would be the start of creating a cult following. As time marched on they started playing in pubs around Derry with the Cashba being a popular venue for the band to appear in.
The release of Teenage Kicks
In 1978, independent Belfast label Good Vibrations recorded and released their debut EP called “Teenage kicks” which today is still their biggest hit. The late BBC Radio DJ, John Peel, said he cried when he first heard the song which led him to promote it heavily on his Radio show in the UK. John Peel was a highly respected music DJ in the UK and nominated the track as his all-time favourite recording.
With the help from John Peels radio coverage of Teenage Kicks, The Undertones landed a five-year recording contracted with Sire Records who re-released the song. By 1979, the band leaped into Top20 Charts with another great song “Jimmy Jimmy” but did better again with “My Perfect Cousin” reaching Number 9 and “Wednesday Week” at number 11.
As they continued to write and perform songs, their cult fan base grew bigger and became known as the as the Rocking Humdinger Club.
The rough, tight chunky sound of The Undertones is also what gives their music such a kick that is loved by many. It wouldn’t be fair to say that one member was a better performer than another as each of The Undertones brought a unique sound to the music table and offered their own influences into the creation of each song.
Unfortunately, the band split in 1983 with the lead singer, Fergal Sharkey, going solo and became internationally known for his hit “A Good Heart” . The O’Neill brothers went on to form That Petrol Emotion with singer Steve Mack and had released 6 albums from 1985 – 1993. After That Petrol Emotion John O’Neill went onto perform in a Derry Based band called ‘Rare’ but after a number of a singles and only one album the band decided to call it a day which was unfortunate as Rare’s sound was indeed a unique sounding band that performed brilliantly live.
The Undertones Reunited
In the late 1990’s rumours started that The Undertones were to be reunited after so many years that many people dismissed as how could they perform without the unique vocals of Fergal Sharkey (who turned down their reunited offer), in stepped Paul McLoone who was a member of another popular band called The Carolines.
The Undertones decided to reunite for fun and to only play one or two gigs but what they seen was that many of their old fans were still very much in the love with their music but they also started attracting younger fans.
People were sceptical that Fergal’s new replacement wouldn’t be the same but with Paul’s talented vocal singing he proved to be a perfect fit for The Undertones.
Today The Undertones are performing stronger than before picking up a huge following as they travel the globe packing out venues when playing gigs. They have successfully toured Ireland, UK, the rest of Europe, Canada and America and also performing on many radio shows.
It can safely said that these Derry lads are ultimate performers when it comes to playing music but yet they still manage to remain humble and very down to earth of what they have achieved. If ever given the chance to see The Undertones live it is highly advisable to see them when you can, you will not be disappointed.
Albums by The Undertones
- The Undertones (1979)
- Hypnotised (1980)
- The Positive Touch (1981)
- The Sin of Pride (1983)
- All Wrapped Up (1983)
- John Peel Sessions (1989)
- Teenage Kicks – The Best Of (1993)
- True Confessions (A & B side sides) (1999)
- Get What You Need (2003)
- The Best Of The Undertones – Teenage Kicks (2003)
- Listening In Radio Sessions 1978-1982 (2004)
- Dig Yourself Deep (2007)
- Anthology (2008)
This article was first published on 11-09-2014 and last modified on 19-03-2017.