Teenage Kicks: The Undertones celebrate song's 45th anniversary

The Undertones play Brighton (contributed pic)
The Undertones play Brighton (contributed pic)

Undertones drummer Billy Doherty admits: “It’s a long time ago but it doesn't actually seem a long time ago really. But if you had said to me when I was 20 that 45 years later we would still be playing it, it would have just been absolutely incomprehensible. But we have been very, very lucky and we really appreciate the fact that we can still do this and the fact that the song has stood the test of time.”

The Undertones are on the road to mark the anniversary with a date at Brighton Chalk on September 28.

Having emerged from Derry, Northern Ireland in 1974, The Undertones learnt their trade by listening to mail-order records, reading one of the few copies of NME that made it to Derry and listening to John Peel’s BBC Radio 1 show. Practising in their bedrooms eventually led to the release of Teenage Kicks on Terri Hooley’s Good Vibrations label in Belfast.

“The record was released in 1978 and we had formed in 1975. John O'Neill wrote the track. He was the main songwriter in the band and we had a few versions of it before it became the track that everybody knows now.”

Crucial to the band’s emergence was Hooley and his record label, but it was John Peel who so famously championed Teenage Kicks: “We sent the record to him and he played the record. He told us he was going to play the recording, but then when it finished he instantly played it again. He played it back to back. We were just absolutely astounded. You never ever heard records being played back to back.”

And that was the breakthrough: “It meant that we could get a record deal and it meant that we could travel. It was the tail end of punk and the record labels were snapping up all the up and coming new wave type bands.”

But Billy insists: “We never really had success and we never really had a profile, certainly not compared to people like Duran Duran. And we never felt that we were in a particular category. We were oddball guys. We never had a particular path that we followed. We were never ever out and out punk and we were never ever out and out glamour. We were a mixture of all those and we still are and we never thought ourselves punk anyway.”

Now, just as then, it’s the live work that really counts: “We are a really powerful live band. I think we're really strong. It's the real energy and I don't think that's ever really come across on our records. I think it just feels a bit squashed. We are first and foremost a live band, and that's great. Record companies always want to sculpt you in a certain way and we've always had difficulty with that. There are things that we should have done but we didn't do even if they would have been to our advantage but that's just the way we are. But we're lucky that we don't actually depend on it and it's great that we have stood the test of time.”