The Undertones emerged from Derry in 1976, the result of five friends (John O’Neill, Damian O’Neill, Feargal Sharkey, Billy Doherty and Michael Bradley) learning how to play basic rock and roll.
Even by the standards of that decade Derry was not the rock and roll capital of anywhere. With no live bands worth watching, they learned by listening to mail order records, reading one of the few copies of NME that made it to Derry but most of all from listening to John Peel’s wonderful show on BBC Radio One.
Practicing in their bedrooms eventually led to the band recording John O’Neill’s ‘Teenage Kicks’ in 1978 on Terri Hooley’s Good Vibrations label in Belfast.
DJ John Peel received a copy and liked it so much he played it twice in a row on his radio show.
The Undertones signed with Sire Records and ‘Teenage Kicks’ was re-released, resulting in the band’s first appearance on Top Of The Pops.
Over the next five years, John O Neill crafted further pop gems such as `Here Comes The Summer`, ‘Jimmy Jimmy`, `You’ve Got My Number (Why Don’t You Use It)’ and ‘Wednesday Week’ whilst Damian O’Neill and Michael Bradley contributed ‘My Perfect Cousin.
They also recorded four highly acclaimed LPs. Indeed, they almost enjoyed the life of professional musicians. In 1983 Feargal Sharkey left the band to pursue a solo career and the remaining members decided to call it a day. The Undertones were to remain silent for the next sixteen years.
In 1999 The Undertones reconvened, without Feargal Sharkey, to once again perform their two-minute, three and a half chord songs to a new generation of fans in Derry.
Fellow Derryman Paul McLoone replaced Sharkey on vocals and his vocal prowess and electric onstage presence soon convinced any doubters that he was more than capable of doing the job.
They released an album of new songs called `Get What You Need’, and in 2003 ‘Thrill Me’ was released as a limited edition 7” vinyl single and found its way to John Peel’s turntable.
He introduced it on his show commenting, “And these are words I thought I would never be saying on radio again, a new single from The Undertones”. He liked it so much he played it twice, just as he did with ‘Teenage Kicks’ in 1978.
Now back on the road for a few select shows to see out the year, the band arrive at Northampton’s Roadmender this Saturday (November 18).