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