the undertones 2

The Undertones weren’t around for very long – just 5 years from ‘Teenage Kicks’ to their final gig in July 1983.

But their legacy is immense and one that will be celebrated tonight on BBC Four in a new documentary ‘Here Comes The Summer: The Undertones Story.’

As an Undertones fan, I’m always pleased to see or hear anything about the band.

But I was slightly surprised that the BBC has commissioned a new programme about Derry, Northern Ireland’s most famous sons.

A few years before he died in 2004, disc jockey John Peel, who played a major part in launching their career, fronted a documentary film about the band – ‘Teenage Kicks: The Story Of The Undertones.’

It was excellent – and to my mind pretty definitive too .

It even had a cinema release – I saw it at Warwick Arts Centre one evening in 2001 – and later appeared on DVD complete with extras such as the original promo videos for forgotten tracks like ‘There Goes Norman.’

Real fans stuff.

Famously, the rest of the band and Feargal Sharkey had fallen out.

But in the film, thanks to Peel, there was Sharkey sat in Peel Acres being interviewed on his own.

Whether BBC4 has managed to get a new Sharkey interview we’ll have to wait and see, but here’s the opening sequence that appeared on the programme website a couple of days ago.

Here Comes The Summer: The Undertones Story – clip

For me, the sound of Sharkey’s voice is crucial to The Undertones, and while the band have continued playing those great songs in recent years with a new singer, and even releasing new material, it’s just not the same.

The energy and sheer joie de vivre I witnessed for the first time in Blackburn (see yesterday’s post) is evident in this March 1979 appearance on ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test.’

The Undertones – Jimmy Jimmy

ps. How hot must Feargal have been under those studio lights wearing a roll neck sweater and Parka?

There was getting on for two years between my first two Undertones gigs, and in that time, the band were on to their third album ‘Positive Touch.’

It’s the first Undertones album I owned, and a couple of songs from that period are still particular favourites today.

The Undertones – Julie Ocean (live)

The Undertones – Beautiful Friend

‘Beautiful Friend’ didn’t even trouble the charts when it was released as a single, which tells you all you need to know about the decline in their commercial fortunes.

I remember reviewing a gig they did at Sheffield Polytechnic in March 1983 to promote their last album ‘The Sin Of Pride,’ but even I could see their new musical direction wasn’t working.

Feargal’s heart certainly wasn’t in it and when you’re the frontman in a band that was all about the music, that’s a problem.

Somehow, a few months later, I ended up seeing what was one of their last ‘live’ appearances supporting Peter Gabriel and the Thompson Twins at Selhurst Park in London.

Primarily I was there to see Gabriel, but by the time the gig came round, I knew the Tones were going their separate ways.

The O’Neill brothers new project That Petrol Emotion didn’t interest me, but I loved Sharkey’s solo tunes like ‘A Good Heart.’

So today I take my hat off to Feargal, John, Damian, Michael Bradley and Billy Doherty and say a heartfelt ‘thank you’ for all the great music they made together.

The Undertones – It’s Going To Happen

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