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