Like John Peel I can remember my first earful of The Undertones ‘Teenage Kicks’. I was off school on a not-strictly-legit’ ‘sickie’ – and applying my trusty ‘convalesence’ technique of staying firmly tucked up in bed until middayish with a pile of comics (Whizzer and Chips, Krazy and anything Marvel or DC), a packet of chocolate digestives and my trusty tranny radio (with mono earplug).
It was during one of these recovery bed-ins that Paul Burnett cranked ‘Teenage Kicks’. Burnett, or his producer, always had healthily punky playlist – Sham 69, The Strangers, Ian Dury album tracks and the Sex Pistols/Tenpole Tudor ‘Rock Around The Clock’ (with it’s discreet effing and jeffing) were all fed to his lunchtime listeners.
However the first Undertones single I paid a few pocket money pence for was the Power-Pop meets Parka-Punk ‘You’ve Got My Number’, heard by way of Radio Luxembourg’s Thursday night New Wave chart rundown.. It’s a sizzling piece of guitar riffery that I still clonk out on my SG today -so after picking up the recent Undertones Anthology (loaded with one full disc of rarities and demos), being the cheeky blogger I am, thought I’d get in touch and fire off a few questions, and Tone me I only got a reply didn’t I ….from Mr Damian O’Neill himself….
Was there one song, album or artist that made you pick up a guitar and go from passive listener to active learner?
Quite a few actually…Van Morrison and Them doing Bob Dylan’s ‘It’s All Over Now Baby Blue’, John Foggerty’s solo on ‘I Put A Spell On You’, Keith Richards piercing guitars on Beggars Banquet, Johnny Thunders on ‘Babylon’, Wilco Johnson.
How did you first become aware of the growing punk scene, and if being Undertone hadn’t worked out, where would you have ended up?
I remember reading Neil Spencer’s review of the Sex Pistols at the Marquee in the NME in early ‘76. People forget how provocative it was then to call your group ‘The Sex Pistols’. We then heard the brilliant ‘New Rose’ by the Damned, followed by Anarchy in the U.K and I also remember cutting out an Observer article from Dec. ‘76 which talked about the English punk scene.
Was there a long term plan with the band – and did you expect to still be going in 2008?
Are you kidding! You couldn’t plan anything in the Undertones as usually someone would quit every couple of weeks/months (except me of course)
No and neither do I expect to be going in 2058
Are you listening to any albums or artists in 2008 that you wouldn’t have expected to (or admitted to) back in the seventies?
Plenty! Joni Mitchell, Fairport Convention, The Incredible String Band, Faust, Can, Brian Eno, Free (are all these people hairy enough for you?)
I can hear The Undertones influence in a ton of other bands from seventies new wavers to noughties US punks – is there anyone you’ve ever heard and recognised an echo of The Undertones tone in?
Supergrass, Blur, Ash, Sigur Ros (only joking)
Any plans for a complete album gig?
Excepting That Petrol Emotion, have you ever been tempted to do an album or selection of acoustic tracks, covers or dance tunes?
What’s the breakdown of an Undertones audience?
Supermodels, wags, A-list celebs and fat baldy old fellas with beer bellies slam dancing at the front.
The first Undertones single I bought was ‘You’ve Got My Number’ which features a blistering riff (and great cover on the B-side too) – do you feel other ‘Tones tunes get overshadowed by ‘Teenage Kicks’?
Absolutely and it’s all John Peel’s fault!
Do you know how often ‘Teenage kicks’ gets aired per day on radio or TV, and if so what’s an average day’s play?
No, maybe you should ask my brother’s accountant!
Given a second chance is there anything you’d do differently – or any advice you’d give to aspiring groups or songwriters?
Well, I wish that I gave my tuppence worth in all those dreaded group meetings I’ve had over the years instead of nodding my head in silent agreement.
What’s your most pinch-yourself rock ‘n’ roll moment?
Just recently, playing on stage again with That Petrol Emotion at the Electric Picnic festival in Ireland….amazing cos I never thought it would happen again.
The Undertones – ‘You’ve Got My Number’
The B-side of ‘Number’ was ‘Lets Talk About Girls’ – a cover of a Chocolate Watch Band tune featured on Lenny Kaye’s legendary Nuggets comp’
The Chocolate Watch Band – Lets Talk About Girls
And it’s against the law do an Undertones post without….
Teenage Kicks (1978 Demo)
A big thank you is due to Ian Peel and Damian O’Neill for their help in putting this together