herald

Wednesday 26 November 2014

We're still getting our teenage kicks... 35 years on

In one of the key scenes from the 2013 film Good Vibrations – one of the year's best and due out on DVD soon – label proprietor Terri Hooley gets to hear a studio playback of a song by cocky upstarts The Undertones. Crucially, Hooley listens to the song on headphones while the audience are denied the privilege, leaving us to register the epiphany he encounters via the changing facial expressions of lead actor Richard Dormer. It's a truly wonderful moment in a movie packed with them and the song, of course, is Teenage Kicks.

ANNIVERSARY

Fans of a certain age might want to sit down and take a breather at the news that The Undertones' debut EP, featuring that classic song, celebrates its 35th anniversary this summer. Ah yes, who could have predicted back in 1978 that well into the next century people would still be extolling the virtues of a song written by John O'Neill in his bedroom in the Bogside.

I recall first seeing The Undertones supporting the Radiators from Space on a summer Sunday afternoon in the Baggot Inn in 1977, back when singer Feargal Sharkey was calling himself Pish Fish, and while I'm sure they played the song, it didn't stick in the memory.

All that changed the following year when Billy Doherty's distinct drum intro kicked off one of the most joyous celebrations of youthful exuberance ever recorded.

WORTHY

We all know the story of how John Peel played the song twice in a row on Radio 1 – another moment brilliantly captured in Good Vibrations – and while it may have only reached No 31 in the singles charts, it's become a staple of practically every punk/new wave compilation worthy of the name.

Hell, the song is so sturdy it survived a battering by Jedward and a mauling by One Direction. With Sharkey long gone, lead vocals are now supplied by the estimable Paul McLoone, who's been leading the line for well over a decade, and The Undertones' catalogue, like Teenage Kicks, hasn't aged a day. What a song. What a band.

> George Byrne

The Undertones play the Village tonight

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