damian o'neill

The Undertones. Derry Singles Farmers.

The most pop punk band from Derry, Northern Ireland? The punkest pop band? Can there be any doubt? Admittedly, I’ve never tooled around Derry’s sectarian streets looking for a better band. But I’ll venture a guess that there’ll never be another single cranking machine from up there who’s any better.  Have a look for yourself. Bear in mind they’d spot a poser like you in a flash and box your ears.

This short canary cage liner of an article will explore my fascination with the first Undertones long player. A gift from God to the world from guitarist bruvvers Damian and John O’Neill, bassist Michael Bradley, Billy Doherty on the sticks and a concave-chested  gent named Feargal Sharkey on lead warble. I once said Mr. Sharkey was the poor man’s Bryan Ferry and nearly got punched in the mouth. I stand by it as long as the goons are gone. Sure, one’s more of a quivverer and the other a warbler. But still, nobody knows how either of ‘em does it.

Let’s get into the thick of it. First off, the record you see above is the second pressing of the band’s first LP released on Sire Records. God bless you Seymour Stein (the Sire Records genius responsible for signing The Ramones, The Dead Boys, The Flamin’ Groovies and on and on.). I guess he signed them to Sire because “they got sawngs.” You see, Seymour loves bands that have songs.  More on that another day. My copy came out in October 1979 and has two front covers. Sort of. You can flip it and both sides have a cover photo. Either that or no back cover. My head hurts thinking about it. Most import, however, is the fact that the October ’79 copy has two additional tracks including a real life saver – Teenage Kicks!

Teenage Kicks is the best single ever recorded according to John Peel. It was the BBC radio impresario’s favorite song until his untimely death a few years back. Think about it. Of all the songs John Peel heard in his life, he considered Teenage Kicks the ultimate. The numero uno. Boggles the mind. Makes me want to wolf a Mars bar right now!

But this album is packed with singles even if they weren’t released as such. In addition to the two listed above, you gotta love the sweet surround of songs coming at you on this record – Family Entertainment, Girls Don’t Like It, Male Model (!!!), I Gotta Getta, Jimmy Jimmy, Here Comes The Summer, and more! My guess is you’re not going to find too many records from 1979 with as many two minute masterpieces! If you do, prove it. Tell me about it. I want to hear it.

Click this sentence for proof that John Peel is right about Teenage Kicks.

For weirdos only: The first pressing of this record came out a few months earlier – May 1979 – and has a black and white photo of the band. Here’s a case where it’s better not to be the early bird. The second pressing has the first beat by two full songs – Teenage Kicks and Get Over You. Two serious singles, m’friend! Curiously, the October pressing sports a re-recorded version of Here Comes The Summer. Not sure why. Both versions are very similar. I know because I have a compact disc (blasphemer!) reissue of the album with all kinds of bonus tracks. Worth it, punters.