35 years on, The Undertones are back in town

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Teenage Kicks, Wednesday Week, You’ve Got My Number, Mars Bar, My Perfect Cousin… how could you not love The Undertones?

And the great news for those of us that fell under their spell an awfully long time ago is that they’ve got dates coming up in Portsmouth and Brighton.

They’ve been without Feargal Sharkey since the original band split in 1983, but four at least of the founders are still there, enjoying it more than ever since they got back together in 1999 for a couple of gigs which turned into something more permanent.

They’re now on the road to celebrate the band’s 35th anniversary, as founder and guitarist Damian O’Neill explain - an anniversary which they date back to a not particularly auspicious start.

“We played this little scout hall in Derry in front of little cubs. We were probably awful. But that was our first show. I think there were probably only about 15 cubs in the audience.

“After that, we went back and started playing a few more songs, getting a few more shows. But really it all started for us once we got a residency in a pub in the centre of (home town) Derry. That was where we learnt our chops, as they say. We learnt to play and we gained an audience.”

A couple of years later, in October 1978, they were on Top Of The Pops with Teenage Kicks - a song which, was Damian says, has become iconic over the years.

“John, my brother, wrote it in 1977. He was the main song-writer and he came in with the song in July. He also came in with I Don’t Wanna Get Over You. He’d written them both in a week. We all felt that Teenage Kicks was a good song, but we didn’t think it was unique or great. But obviously we made it the main song on our Teenage Kicks EP. We knew that it was catchy and commercial. We didn’t realise just what we had captured until many years later. We couldn’t believe it when John Peel fell in love with it and said it was his favourite record ever. He played it on the radio and then played it again. After that, for days he would be playing it. And then Peter Powell picked it up as his record of the week, and that was what got us the deal.

“Suddenly the record companies that had turned us down were wanting us. We had recorded that song as our last chance. We had been around for a couple of years, and for us it was nearly the end. We were always breaking up. There was in-fighting in the band. Somebody was always leaving, and really it was that song that saved us!”

The Undertones play the Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth on December 4 and Concorde 2 in Brighton on December 10. For more information visit: www.theundertones.com.