When legendary BBC Radio guru John Peel died in 2005, he requested “Teenage Kicks” by The Undertones be played at his funeral and these words from that song to be inscribed below his name on the tombstone: "Teenage dreams, so hard to beat."
When "the best band from Northern Ireland" known as The Undertones first appeared on the music scene in the late 70's, they were heralded as pop saviours by Peel and fans
alike. The lads from Derry were regarded by many as Ireland's answer to The Ramones. Their songs were all played fast and raw — priceless throwaways with boundless charm — and featured Feargal Sharkey's unique, warbling tenor singing about teenage concerns like girls, and… obnoxious cousins who were perfect at everything, and… girls, and… candy bars, and… girls…
The Undertones accused their Ulster counterparts from Belfast of sensationalizing the conflict in Northern Ireland because they sang about “barbed wire love” and living in a “state of emergency” — while Stiff Little Fingers retorted with accusations that The Undertones were guilty of worse because they simply ignored the situation. Both were half right, but of course that’s exactly what made each of them so brilliant and special: the fact that one band could musically articulate the horror of living through The Troubles, while the other could create music seemingly untouched by the violence all around.
With mangy sweaters, bad acne, and a melodic arsenal of catchy songs, The Undertones managed to embody and profess the punk aesthetic without being difficult or confrontational. Ira Robbins best described their songs as "spare and efficient pop gems that are as infectious as measles, suggesting a bridge between teenybop and punk." Unlike the Ramones, The Undertones weren't content to stay teenagers forever and that, ironically, was probably their undoing. The growing maturity in evidence on each successive LP—both in terms of song-writing and production—met with greater and greater resistance from the fans who had first championed their arrival. As horns and strings began to augment guitars and drums, (teenage) kicks kept getting harder to find and in 1983 the band broke up (although apparently you can’t keep a good band down because their website has information about them touring again). I stuck with the band throughout all their various phases and appreciated what they were trying to achieve each step of the way. Nevertheless, for a true shot of adolescent adrenaline, nothing beats the two-minute-or-less pop attacks you'll find on the first two records. The second song in the Happy Medium Song of the Day countdown to St. Paddy’s day is “Get Over You” by The Undertones.