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The Undertones

The Undertones slam-bang punk-pop drew its strength from one simple fact: you didn't need a secret handshake to enjoy it. John and Damian O'Neill mated infectious guitar hooks to '60s garage, '70s glam rock, and Feargal Sharkey's signature vocal quaver. Those qualities came together on their breakout hit "Teenage Kicks," whose simplicity harked back to '60s ideals of when the song was king. The Undertones formed in Derry, Northern Ireland, in 1975. However, they avoided references to their hometown's sectarian strife for "more songs about chocolate and girls," as their second album phrased it. But gigs were scarce in a scene dominated by show bands, and the boys felt sufficiently discouraged to consider quitting -- until Belfast record shop owner Terry Hooley released the Teenage Kicks EP on his Good Vibrations label in September 1978. The song captivated Britain's top DJ, John Peel; suddenly, as Damian O'Neill recalled, people were asking for autographs at the job. The frenzy attracted a deal from Sire Records, which released the band's rough-and-ready debut in April 1979. That fall, the Undertones earned kudos as a support act on the Clash's American tour. So did Hypnotised, which showed a band already straining against the Ramonesy thrust of earlier singles like "Jimmy Jimmy" and "My Perfect Cousin." However, the Undertones entertained some notions of growing up, which started when they switched to EMI. Positive Touch (1981) unveiled exotic instrumental flourishes like horns, slide guitars, tack pianos, and even xylophones; its brief residency in the U.K. Top 50 provided the first inklings of trouble. The band returned after a lengthy lay-off with The Sin of Pride (1983), which flirted with '60s soul and psychedelia. But its singles -- including a slick remake of the Isley Brothers' "Got to Have You Back" and the grungy "Love Parade" -- made little impression, and the album peaked at number 46 on the U.K. charts. Sensing a thankless competition with their younger, cheekier selves, the Undertones split up in the summer of 1983 after a series of summer festival gigs. Sharkey launched a short-lived solo career, while John and Damian O'Neill won critical plaudits -- but little sales -- for their tough-minded political band, That Petrol Emotion. Hopes of re-forming the original lineup for John Peel's 50th birthday fell apart after the O'Neills' father died. The band mulled an offer for five gigs in 1994, but blamed Sharkey's skittishness for scuttling the deal. The boys skirted their former frontman's reluctance by recruiting Derry's Paul McLoone for two hometown gigs in 1999, and haven't looked back. The reissues kept coming, while the Teenage Kicks (2001) documentary gave fans a fond review of the band's history. Get What You Need, the first new album in 20 years, earned a thumbs-up from fans on its September 2003 release. Twenty-five years after "Teenage Kicks" put the Undertones on the map, the pride of Derry seem more ubiquitous than ever. ~ Ralph Heibutzki
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Stations Featuring
The Undertones

    Classic Punk

    Classic Punk
    1 song

    Punk U

    Punk U
    1 song

Albums by
The Undertones

Top Songs by
The Undertones

  1.   Song
  2.   Teenage Kicks
  3.   You've Got My Number
  4.   Get Over You
  5.   Wednesday Week
  6.   Let's Talk About Girls
  7.   Smarter Than You
  8.   I Know a Girl
  9.   Jimmy Jimmy
  10.   Hannah Doot
  11.   Under the Boardwalk
  12.   Casbah Rock
  13.   Life's Too Easy
  14.   The Positive Touch
  15.   One Way Love
  16.   Whizz Kids
  17.   Girls Don't Like It
  18.   Top Twenty
  19.   Emergency Cases
  20.   Smarter Than U
  21.   Wrong Way
  22.   I Gotta Getta
  23.   Sigh & Explode
  24.   His Good Looking Girlfriend
  25.   Boys Will Be Boys
  26.   See That Girl
  27.   Julie Ocean
  28.   It's Going to Happen
  29.   You're Welcome
  30.   Luxury
  31.   Bye Bye Baby Blue
  32.   Conscious
  33.   Untouchable
  34.   Listening In
  35.   Shut Down
  36.   Joyland
  37.   Winter Sun
  38.   Oh Please
  39.   Cruellest Thing
  40.   Girl Like You
  41.   Touch
  42.   Enough
  43.   You Can't Say That
  44.   Ride the Rough Escalator
  45.   Everything But You
  46.   I Need Your Love the Way It Used to Be
  47.   Love Before Romance
  48.   Valentine's Treatment
  49.   Save Me
  50.   Chain of Love
  51.   She Can Only Say No
  52.   (She's A) Runaround
  53.   Jump Boys
  54.   Fairly in the Money Now
  55.   Beautiful Friend
  56.   Boy Wonder
  57.   I Don't Know
  58.   Crisis of Mine
  59.   Fascination
  60.   True Confessions
  61.   I Don't Wanna See You Again
  62.   Nine Times Out of Ten
  63.   Hard Luck
  64.   There Goes Norman
  65.   Soul Seven
  66.   Forever Paradise
  67.   When Saturday Comes
  68.   Hypnotised
  69.   Family Entertainment
  70.   Billy's Third
  71.   Here Comes the Summer
  72.   Girls That Don't Talk
  73.   Tearproof
  74.   What's With Terry
  75.   The Love Parade
  76.   The Sin of Pride
  77.   Male Model
  78.   Mars Bars
  79.   My Perfect Cousin
  80.   The Way Girls Talk
  81.   I Told You So
  82.   Really Really
  83.   Turning Blue
  84.   Window Shopping for New Clothes
  85.   Thrill Me
  86.   Kiss in the Dark
  87.   Got to Have You Back
  88.   Twenty
  89.   Way Love
  90.   More Songs About Chocolate and Girls