Here Comes the Summer: The Undertones Story


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Here Comes the Summer: The Undertones Story

Documentary about Derry pop-punk band The Undertones, who emerged during the violent troubles that tore Northern Ireland apart in the 1970s with classics such as Teenage Kicks.


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This programme contains some strong language

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'I found out some songs wrote themselves.

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'Like, Teenage Kicks wrote itself. Teenage Kicks was written,'

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it was a matter of 20, 30 seconds.

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'I remember doing it at the time and thinking,

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"Where's that coming out of?" You know?

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For the first time, The Undertones and Teenage Kicks.

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# Are teenage dreams so hard to beat... #

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In October 1978,

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millions of British viewers got their first taste of Teenage Kicks.

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And their first glimpse of The Undertones.

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Five lads from Northern Ireland

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who created some of the most sublime pop music ever made.

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# Dressed like that you must be living in a different world... #

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The Undertones were inspired by the angry anarchy of punk.

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But theirs was a different kind of rebellion.

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# Boys stop you on the street They wanna know your name... #

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Their singer was a choir boy. They sang of girls,

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or the lack of them,

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mummy's boys and their irritating relatives.

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# ..my perfect cousin... #

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They created a perfect and timeless soundtrack to growing up

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that spoke to teenagers all over the globe.

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But their adolescent anthems were revolutionary, nonetheless.

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Startlingly positive protest songs that demanded a life more ordinary.

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Because The Undertones came from Londonderry.

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Epicentre of the violent Troubles

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that tore Northern Ireland apart during the 1970s.

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'What you cannot over emphasise'

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is just how unpleasant that place was.

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The Undertones were this extraordinary contrast to all that.

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# Little mummy's boy... #

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For me, The Undertones coming up with those great pop songs

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was the most wonderful form of protest.

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# Jimmy, Jimmy... #

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'17, 18-year-olds

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'in a very ridiculous, absurd stressful situation,

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'still managing to capture the almost abstract,'

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universal exquisiteness of a great pop song.

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'The Undertones came from a place which was, on the face of it,'

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mad with violence, raging with violence.

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# Ooh, baby, baby, what can I do

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# You know you drive me crazy when I'm looking at you... #

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'And, yet, they emerged singing songs'

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of trivial and conventional teenage angst.

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# Here comes the summer... #

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'Here was a band who somehow managed to produce something big

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'and operatic and meaningful. And that was something really precious.

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'They couldn't have happened anywhere else. And they couldn't have had'

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the impact they had anywhere else.

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This is the story of the most improbable pop stars

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from the most unexpected place.

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Between 1978 and 1983,

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The Undertones had a string of hit records that made them

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one of punk rock's most prolific and popular acts.

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# I am an anti-Christ... #

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They were one of a wave of bands

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inspired by The Sex Pistols' rousing call to rebellion

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and punk's DIY assault on the music industry and the world at large.

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# You got my number... #

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But while The Pistols snarled out anarchy in the UK...

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# ..You know my name... #

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..and The Clash raged about white riots

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and Sten guns in Knightsbridge...

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The Undertones sang of the everyday trials of teenage life and love.

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# If you wanna, wanna, wanna, wanna Wanna have someone to talk to... #

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It wasn't as disruptive in an obvious way as The Clash or The Pistols.

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'But what made the whole thing completely unique'

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was the need to escape, the need to create an alternative world

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was so much on their shoulders

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'that their response to their surroundings and circumstances

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'was to create this amazing guitar pop music'

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that was just so infectious and so exhilarating.

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Other punks may have SEEMED more radical

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but what made The Undertones' music genuinely subversive

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is that it came from a place where bombs and guns

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were part of the walk to school.

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A city where an ordinary life was something that dreams were made of.

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# Why don't you use it?! #

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MUSIC: "Dirty Water" by The Standells

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# I'm gonna tell you a story

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# I'm gonna tell you about my town... #

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The story of The Undertones begins here,

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in the tight-knit Catholic neighbourhoods

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around the Bogside area of Derry.

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# Down by the river... #

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This was the childhood home of five mates.

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Michael, Billy, brothers John and Damian, and Feargal

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who became one of Britain's most iconic bands.

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# ..that's where you'll find me... #

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So, where were The Undertones from in Derry?

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Well, start off with the highest altitude,

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which was us up in Creggan.

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That was our house there, number 36, Creggan Broadway.

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From my house to O'Neill's house I suppose was just...two streets away.

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22, Beechwood Avenue.

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Undertones HQ.

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22, Beechwood Avenue, this was the headquarters

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of where The Undertones, kind of, got together...

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The hub. You know, it was our gathering place.

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Billy was a stone's throw from O'Neill's house over the Moor.

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We're just here on the Lone Moor Road

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and my house is just round the corner.

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'And Feargal would have been about ten minutes' walk.'

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53, Grafton Avenue.

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# Well, I love that dirty water... #

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Where Feargal lived, certainly, would have been lower middle-class.

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'But, you know, to an outsider,'

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we would have all been working class.

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You know, there was no leafy suburbs here.

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There were no Volvos parked outside.

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'We were very lucky, I think.'

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I was certainly very lucky in that I was only a couple of streets

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away from John O'Neill who wrote great songs.

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And only, you know, maybe a mile away from Feargal Sharkey,

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who's a great singer.

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Imagine Feargal had lived over there.

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Imagine Feargal had lived on the Waterside.

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Imagine Feargal had been Protestant.

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The Undertones would never have existed.

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That's the bizarre thing about Derry.

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MUSIC: "All Kinds Of Everything" by Dana

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# Snowdrops and daffodils... #

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To the outside world, in the early 1970s,

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Northern Ireland's second city was famous as the home

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of Eurovision winner Dana.

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And as the place where the violent struggle known as the Troubles began.

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Already, the stones are flying

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and there's a whiff of CS gas in the air.

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# All kinds of everything

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# Remind me of you... #

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Growing up in Derry was no ordinary experience.

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'Derry wasn't one place, you see.'

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There was the Derry where the Troubles happened,

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which was down at the bottom of William Street.

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In terms of Troubles, I mean the daily riot.

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'People in Derry would tell you that it was good craic down there,'

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apart from when things happened like the shootings and serious stuff.

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'Guys in my class would talk about being down and throwing stones.

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'And, of course, you had the prize'

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of the rubber bullet.

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# Summer time, winter time... #

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You kind of knew it was cool to be from Derry.

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'Whenever punk happened and you read about The Clash

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'talk the Sten guns in Knightsbridge and so on.

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'Great slogans, but The Clash would have killed to come from Derry

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'because we all had our Trouble stories.'

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There was in instance here round about the early '70s,

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I would have been about 14 years old,

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that there was a booby-trapped bomb.

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'And that bomb was actually that strong

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'that it blew me up out of my bed.'

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The windows came in, glass on top of me,

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the tiles came off the roof, the door came in as well.

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'Then, shortly after the explosion, the army came back again.'

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I looked over here and I could see the soldier take an aim and he just shot up the road.

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There's hundreds of people here. It was just complete...

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# All kinds of everything

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# Remind me of you. #

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'Even then, we kind of knew that...'

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They weren't... They didn't have that in Manchester.

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The history and geography of The Undertones' hometown

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made it unique.

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Derry was a divided city,

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where a large Catholic majority was ruled by a Protestant minority.

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A city with an uneasy, sometimes antagonistic, relationship

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between Protestant unionists, who supported ongoing British rule of Northern Ireland,

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and those mainly Catholic nationalists

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who favoured Irish independence.

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'It's not an accident that the Northern Ireland Troubles started in Derry.'

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Here you had a place, the Bogside and the Creggan,

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the area down beneath the walls here.

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'You had the biggest single concentration of working-class Catholics in Northern Ireland.'

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So people felt self-confident in their numbers.

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Catholic working-class people in a place like the Bogside

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or the Creggan Estate

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did not have that sense of siege, of being besieged

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that Catholic working-class people

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in the epicentres of Ireland and Belfast had.

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It's also important to understand about Derry

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is that from where we're standing, if you walk in that direction,

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that direction or that direction, for three miles,

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you're in the Republic of Ireland. So there was no sense of isolation here.

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So Derry was a place where, simultaneously,

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working-class Catholics felt

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almost uniquely discriminated against, and that was true.

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But at the same time,

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Derry Catholics felt more self-confident

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than Catholics anywhere else in the North,

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and that was a strange combination.

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So, at one and the same time, it was possible to feel in Derry,

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"We are being incredibly hard done by by the world."

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And, at the same time, "Aren't we great?"

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To some extent, The Undertones captured that, that Derryness.

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You're aware of the political situation.

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There was always rioting, there was always bombs.

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The army checkpoints were there to stop you every time.

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And you were hassled by the police.

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'You just got used to it,

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'even though you're aware that was going on and how bad it was,'

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you still wanted to have some sort of escape.

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'When you're about 14 or 15, and you realise'

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you're not going to be a professional footballer...

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the next avenue open to you would be form a band.

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'So it was myself and John.'

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I think we might have had a mandolin and a set of bongos.

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'After we played football, we'd come to our house and play some records.'

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'And there'd always be a guitar lying about,'

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and Billy might just start... you know, playing the drums.

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'There was no great master plan...'

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initially, you know?

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And then Vinnie was in the band as well.

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'We weren't out to change the world. It was just...'

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It was just a bit of fun, you know?

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In 1974, just like boys everywhere,

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Billy Doherty and John and Vincent O'Neill

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decided that it might be a good laugh to form a band.

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Their next recruit came from around the campfire.

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This is Bundoran in Donegal.

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And in August 1974, we were camping down here.

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And I officially joined the as-yet-unnamed Undertones.

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# Goodbye to you My trusted friend... #

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He was my best mate. And I think...

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I think he could play stuff, like, you know? He could tune the guitar.

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And the rest of us couldn't, you know?

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Vinnie was the first person who knew

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that they announced the new charts on a Tuesday lunchtime.

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He would go to his house, I would go to my house.

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We'd have our dinner, and then on the way back up from school,

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we'd discuss what it was.

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And I remember you really wanted Seasons In The Sun to be number one.

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I remember that because I remember when Seasons In The Sun was number one,

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I remember leaving the house with a sense of,

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"Vinnie'll be happy about that."

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# We had joy, we had fun We had seasons in the sun... #

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The band was now four. They had friendship.

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They had a shared love of pop music. Next they needed a singer.

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# See the way he walks down the street... #

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I'm just going to look at the register here for 1971/72

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for my class, which was B4, which was second year.

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So, where am I?

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"William... Edward Doherty."

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And on the same class down the list, there you go,

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"Sharkey, Sean F," F for Feargal.

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# He's a rebel and he'll never ever be any good... #

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'Feargal was a cousin of mine but he was also in my class

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'and whenever we were in music class'

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with Mr Bonner, he would ask the guys in the class,

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"Can anyone play guitar or sing?"

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And always Feargal sang, so he had some nerve

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to stand up in that class with 30 or 34 guys and sing.

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Billy's cousin would grow up to become

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one of pop music's most original voices.

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# My heart's lost since you been gone... #

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'Feargal Sharkey,'

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what a voice. That nasal, brilliant, amazing totally unique,

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absolutely characterful voice.

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Which I think was the greatest voice to come out of punk.

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You know, where the hell did THAT come from?

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CHOIR BOY SINGS

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Sharkey was an unlikely punk who's singing career began

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long before he joined The Undertones.

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Feargal was a child star,

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a champion of the annual Irish music festival called the Derry Feis.

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The Feis is actually a showcase for all parts of the arts,

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mostly for children of Derry to perform in and also to compete.

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It is competitive.

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My mother would be anxious that we all sang and played an instrument,

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but it turned out he had a lovely boy soprano voice.

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And he had no nerves, you know.

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Feargal was always very confident about his singing.

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When he got into his stride he was unbeatable.

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And one of the adjudicators, he sang How Soft Upon The Evening Air,

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and she said it brought her to tears.

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It was obvious, he definitely had the balls to go up

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and sing in front of people, you know?

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Even though he may not necessarily

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have been part of the gang as such.

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Was he ever part of the gang?

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Probably not.

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Which is probably very unfair on him,

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because he didn't have any other friends.

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We needed a singer and we sought out a singer,

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whereas we didn't seek out anyone else in the band.

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MUSIC: "Get Over You" by The Undertones

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To the record-buying British public,

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Sharkey would come to define The Undertones.

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# Dressed like that you must be living in a different world

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# And your mother doesn't know... #

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But he didn't write any of the songs he seemed to personify.

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# Boys stop you on the street They want to know your name... #

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Feargal, you know, interestingly and unusually, was kind of old school.

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It was a bit like having Shirley Bassey wandering on after

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the orchestra's put everything down.

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Sings the part, "Thanks, Shirl, off you go."

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# And I don't wanna get over you... #

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But he had very little input with... Well, no input with the writing.

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He didn't actually originate any material on all the albums.

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He never wrote a thing.

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While Sharkey was the charismatic frontman,

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musically the band was driven by its chief songwriter,

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a self-taught scholar of pop, John O'Neill.

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# Come all you young rebels... #

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We used to go on holidays in the summer

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to Buncrana or Bundoran.

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And there were these folk bands playing all the rebel music.

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# For the love of one's country... #

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That was my first experience of hearing music live, I suppose.

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And they sung beautiful, beautiful songs,

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like Boolavogue, and Foggy Dew and The Patriot Game.

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# The patriot game... #

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MUSIC: "Get It On" by T Rex

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But also at the same time, obviously,

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when you're 12, 13, you listen to the radio and what's in the charts.

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The charts at the time, it was a glam rock thing, in particular.

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T Rex, Garry Glitter.

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You've got three minutes to make a statement, starting with T Rex.

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Some T Rex songs are two minutes long.

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A big influence on me at an early age, too, had been

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early rock and roll, '50s rock and roll.

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# Why must I be a teenager in love... #

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And again, the library was quite good for early blues stuff.

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You could go down to the library and get the Howlin' Wolf records

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and John Lee Hooker.

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# That is true

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# I love you... #

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And plus a lot of blues, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley,

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there were just three chords to them.

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It was easy to play.

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# The patriot game. #

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It was coming up to our GCSE O-Levels, and we did mocks,

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and I did very, very bad.

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-HE LAUGHS

-It worried me, and I thought,

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"I need to start spending a bit of time

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"doing a bit of studying if I'm going to do any better than this."

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In 1976, Vincent O'Neill, aged 16, left the band.

0:18:240:18:29

Luckily, his kid brother wasn't a bad guitarist.

0:18:300:18:33

They tried a few guitar players, and it didn't work out.

0:18:360:18:39

So their last resort, they ended up getting me.

0:18:390:18:42

You know, it was the best thing that ever happened to me,

0:18:430:18:47

obviously, because I felt part of a gang. It was really good.

0:18:470:18:49

At 15, Damian was the baby of the band,

0:18:520:18:55

although all five were still in their teens.

0:18:550:18:57

Too young for pubs and clubs, it was here, in the front room

0:18:590:19:02

of the O'Neill family home, that The Undertones began to absorb

0:19:020:19:06

the musical influences that would come to form

0:19:060:19:09

their distinctive sound.

0:19:090:19:11

O'Neill's house was the place where I went every day.

0:19:130:19:17

I did everything at O'Neill's apart from sleep.

0:19:170:19:19

Feargal, then, would go down there.

0:19:190:19:22

We would just sit in O'Neill's house,

0:19:230:19:25

play some acoustic guitar, listen to records and talk rubbish all night.

0:19:250:19:30

And it was absolutely brilliant.

0:19:300:19:33

# There's a riot going on... #

0:19:330:19:35

The boys had a strict, but eclectic music policy,

0:19:380:19:41

taking in '60s British R & B, pub rock, glam

0:19:410:19:44

and American rock and roll,

0:19:440:19:45

blues, and garage bands.

0:19:450:19:48

And then, this happened.

0:19:500:19:53

# I am an antichrist... #

0:19:530:19:57

In 1976, The Sex Pistols launched their anarchic

0:19:570:20:00

assault on middle England.

0:20:000:20:02

For many people, it's a bigger threat to our way of life

0:20:020:20:05

than Russian communism, or hyper-inflation.

0:20:050:20:07

The Undertones became a self-proclaimed punk rock band.

0:20:070:20:12

But unlike London, Manchester or even Belfast,

0:20:120:20:15

there was no live punk scene in Derry,

0:20:150:20:18

and, stranded far from the action, the band found itself drawn more

0:20:180:20:23

to the records coming out of New York than London.

0:20:230:20:25

Christmas 1976, I was told that my brother

0:20:270:20:31

was going to buy me a record.

0:20:310:20:33

He didn't ask me himself, he asked my sister which one would I want.

0:20:330:20:37

I ended up with the Ramones' first LP for Christmas.

0:20:380:20:42

And anyone who was alive in 1976

0:20:420:20:47

will remember the Ramones' first LP,

0:20:470:20:50

because nothing had ever sounded like it before.

0:20:500:20:53

So fast, so simple, just stripping it all down to the basics.

0:20:550:20:59

MUSIC: "Beat On The Brat" by the Ramones

0:21:020:21:07

This was where it all started. Absolutely.

0:21:070:21:09

The Ramones' first LP completely re-invented rock and roll.

0:21:090:21:13

# Beat on the brat

0:21:130:21:14

# Beat on the brat

0:21:140:21:16

# Beat on the brat with a baseball bat

0:21:160:21:18

# Oh, yeah... #

0:21:180:21:19

In 1976, no-one else was singing such simple songs. And funny songs.

0:21:190:21:23

# Beat on the brat

0:21:230:21:25

# Beat on the brat... #

0:21:250:21:27

Through records and radio, The Undertones sought out

0:21:270:21:30

other Stateside punk bands,

0:21:300:21:31

discovering music that owed more to American rock and roll

0:21:310:21:35

than Anarchy In The UK.

0:21:350:21:37

It was almost like joining the dots for us, you know?

0:21:380:21:41

Hearing the New York Dolls, and the MC5 and The Stooges

0:21:410:21:44

and The Velvet Underground, was like,

0:21:440:21:47

"This is what rock and roll is supposed to be about."

0:21:470:21:49

We just decided to start a group, so we borrowed instruments,

0:21:490:21:53

we learnt a few songs and hey presto.

0:21:530:21:58

By 1977, The Undertones had a well-rehearsed set of R & B,

0:21:590:22:03

glam and punk rock covers.

0:22:030:22:06

London's punk bands had the Marquee,

0:22:070:22:11

Manchester, the Electric Circus,

0:22:110:22:13

New York had CBGB's,

0:22:130:22:16

but all Derry could offer was a makeshift shack in a bomb site,

0:22:160:22:20

called the Casbah.

0:22:200:22:21

MUSIC: "Casbah Rock" by The Undertones

0:22:210:22:26

It's been said that it was a Portakabin which had been

0:22:260:22:29

plastered on the outside and placed over a hole in the ground

0:22:290:22:33

where a former pub had been, until it was blown up.

0:22:330:22:35

# Cos you'll never get pop at the Casbah Rock... #

0:22:350:22:38

The Casbah was the hippy/ alternative/indie scene in Derry.

0:22:380:22:45

It was the only place you could go to,

0:22:450:22:47

this pub where they didn't mind about what religion you were,

0:22:470:22:50

but they also... They would welcome anybody.

0:22:500:22:53

The Undertones debuted at the Casbah on 10th March, 1977.

0:22:540:22:59

It became their spiritual home for the next two years,

0:22:590:23:04

and a godsend to a bunch of disaffected Derry kids

0:23:040:23:07

desperate for any kind of scene to call their own.

0:23:070:23:10

MUSIC: "Jump Boys" by The Undertones

0:23:100:23:12

# Jump boys # We're all jump boys... #

0:23:120:23:15

For me it was the first live experience of a group I'd ever seen.

0:23:150:23:19

So we sat there, and we sort of sat in a corner, and it was amazing.

0:23:190:23:23

It was just a great, dramatic night.

0:23:230:23:25

# Jump boys are crazy They don't have no sense... #

0:23:250:23:28

They were just excited. And they were different.

0:23:280:23:31

And it was ours.

0:23:310:23:33

There was a different crowd, too, that went there.

0:23:330:23:36

And that made it a bit more unique as well.

0:23:360:23:37

We all became a bit of a community,

0:23:370:23:39

because at that stage the band had no recognition.

0:23:390:23:43

We were the people who knew they were any good.

0:23:430:23:46

So you were, sort of, a group of, sort of, believers.

0:23:460:23:49

15 years before the peace process,

0:23:510:23:54

the Casbah became a humble retreat for a generation that refused

0:23:540:23:57

to be defined by Derry's deep-seated sectarianism.

0:23:570:24:00

I got to know this guy, called Gordy.

0:24:000:24:04

And he's from the Waterside, and we're chatting,

0:24:040:24:06

and it came out that he happened to be a Protestant.

0:24:060:24:08

And I clicked, "That's the first time I've actually known that

0:24:080:24:12

"I'm talking to a Protestant.

0:24:120:24:14

"And it means absolutely nothing to me."

0:24:140:24:17

He's on to the same music, he's on to the same ideas and stuff like that.

0:24:170:24:20

I thought, "Ah, we're just here to have a carry on and a good craic.

0:24:200:24:24

"Get away from reality."

0:24:240:24:26

You couldn't ignore what was going on, because you lived it.

0:24:280:24:32

But it wasn't there when they were playing.

0:24:320:24:35

Something else was going on as well.

0:24:350:24:37

And that was political as well, because it was a challenge.

0:24:370:24:40

It was different.

0:24:400:24:41

# Jump boys are crazy They don't have no sense... #

0:24:430:24:46

There's a whole community, like a family of people,

0:24:460:24:49

that met through The Undertones, for whatever reason and became friends.

0:24:490:24:52

So therefore you just felt like a big family.

0:24:520:24:54

We were absolutely aware of how people felt that we were

0:24:540:24:58

expressing how they felt.

0:24:580:25:01

That was a large motivating fact to why we did get signed up,

0:25:010:25:05

that we stayed in Derry, we didn't leave.

0:25:050:25:08

Because we felt we were part of that whole scene anyway.

0:25:080:25:12

In the summer of 1977, inspired by regular sessions at the Casbah,

0:25:140:25:19

19-year-old John O'Neill wrote The Undertones' first original song.

0:25:190:25:24

The idea was, every week we played the Casbah,

0:25:240:25:28

to have either a new song or a new cover version.

0:25:280:25:30

And it just seemed obvious, to me, anyway,

0:25:300:25:34

that if you play these three chords, that three chord trick,

0:25:340:25:39

that trying to come up with a few words along with it

0:25:390:25:43

couldn't be that hard.

0:25:430:25:45

First one I showed to the band was I Told You So,

0:25:470:25:50

which was a basic R & B rip off.

0:25:500:25:52

# I wake up in the morning I've been looking for a bed

0:25:520:25:57

# Somebody tells me you've been sleeping in too late

0:25:570:26:00

# I told you so... #

0:26:000:26:01

Me, Mickey and Billy, actually, contributed our songs

0:26:010:26:04

over the years, but John, he's just got it, you know?

0:26:040:26:08

Most great bands have got an amazing songwriter.

0:26:080:26:11

It was just trying to get words that sounded right.

0:26:110:26:15

That Beat movement thing of first thought, best thought.

0:26:150:26:19

The less you thought about it, the easier it was, you know?

0:26:190:26:23

# I told you so I told you so... #

0:26:230:26:25

By the end of the year, The Undertones had a full

0:26:250:26:27

set of original songs and were ready to make a record.

0:26:270:26:30

# Well, it's too late to stop I told you so. #

0:26:300:26:34

There was nowhere to record in Derry,

0:26:340:26:37

but there was a guy in Belfast.

0:26:370:26:40

I suppose as an old hippy,

0:26:420:26:44

punk to me was my hippy's revenge on the world.

0:26:440:26:47

"You didn't listen to us in the '60s, now look what you've got."

0:26:470:26:51

# Take a look where you're livin'

0:26:510:26:53

# You got army on the street

0:26:530:26:54

# And the RUC dog of repression... #

0:26:540:26:56

The Belfast scene was characterised by the muscular, political punk

0:26:560:27:00

of Stiff Little Fingers, who raged about rubber bullets and car bombs.

0:27:000:27:04

# It's an alternative Ulster... #

0:27:040:27:06

The boys from Derry had something slightly less obvious to offer.

0:27:060:27:10

At the time I was quite friendly with Terri Hooley in Belfast.

0:27:110:27:15

I'd heard that he was starting

0:27:150:27:16

to record some young punk bands in Belfast.

0:27:160:27:19

I said to him, "Well, look, there's a band in Derry

0:27:190:27:21

"and I'm convinced that they're better

0:27:210:27:23

"than any of the bands in Belfast. You really should get them up."

0:27:230:27:27

So I pestered him for a while, and eventually he said,

0:27:270:27:30

"Look, there's a thing happening

0:27:300:27:32

"next weekend up at Queen's, the Battle of the Bands.

0:27:320:27:34

"We get them up to play the Battle of the Bands,

0:27:340:27:36

"and we get them into the studio."

0:27:360:27:38

MUSIC: "True Confessions" by The Undertones

0:27:380:27:41

On June 15th, 1978,

0:27:410:27:43

The Undertones stole the show at Terri Hooley's battle of the bands.

0:27:430:27:48

And the next day they went into the studio,

0:27:510:27:53

and recorded the four tracks that would make up their first record.

0:27:530:27:57

# Don't be so surprised

0:27:570:27:58

# You've been telling me lies

0:27:580:28:00

# It's hard to wake up to your make-up

0:28:000:28:02

# Take off that disguise

0:28:020:28:04

-# True

-# True, true, true

0:28:040:28:06

# True confessions... #

0:28:060:28:07

Got chance to do four songs, and it was called Teenage Kicks EP,

0:28:070:28:10

because we were teenagers, more or less.

0:28:100:28:12

So it was just a good title for the EP, for four songs.

0:28:120:28:16

We preferred True Confessions.

0:28:160:28:17

-# True

-# True, true, true

0:28:170:28:19

# True confessions... #

0:28:190:28:22

As far as I was concerned, anyway,

0:28:220:28:23

the best song on it was True Confessions.

0:28:230:28:25

But it was obvious that if we were going to call it

0:28:250:28:28

Teenage Kicks EP, that should be the first song on the EP.

0:28:280:28:32

Something of a happy accident,

0:28:350:28:37

because the title track would come to be regarded by some

0:28:370:28:41

as the most perfect pop record ever made.

0:28:410:28:43

MUSIC: "Teenage Kicks" by The Undertones

0:28:430:28:48

Just the first few seconds of it,

0:28:480:28:49

everything you enjoy about a certain sort of music comes with it.

0:28:490:28:52

Because they've tapped into it, like an aerial. They've tapped into it,

0:28:520:28:55

so you're not just hearing a cheap, shoddy guitar

0:28:550:28:58

through a cheap, shoddy amp play obvious chords,

0:28:580:29:00

you're hearing millions of other things floating through it.

0:29:000:29:04

It's everything they've been influenced by.

0:29:040:29:06

And they were influenced by the best things.

0:29:060:29:08

They had incredible curating tastes,

0:29:080:29:09

if you like, which we think of nowadays.

0:29:090:29:12

# Are teenage dreams so hard to beat?

0:29:120:29:15

# Every time she walks down the street

0:29:150:29:18

# Another girl in the neighbourhood

0:29:190:29:23

# Wish she was mine She looks so good

0:29:230:29:25

# I wanna hold her Wanna hold her tight

0:29:250:29:29

# Get teenage kicks right through the night

0:29:290:29:32

# All right... #

0:29:320:29:34

Emerging from the front line of a major conflict,

0:29:340:29:37

The Undertones could claim greater cause for voicing anger

0:29:370:29:40

and rebellion than any of their punk peers.

0:29:400:29:44

Instead, they sang a song about a teenage boy's

0:29:440:29:47

frustrated yearning for a teenage girl.

0:29:470:29:50

Poignant, universal and profoundly ordinary.

0:29:500:29:55

# I'm gonna call her on the telephone... #

0:29:550:29:57

Unfortunately, none of London's record companies were interested

0:29:590:30:02

in The Undertones juvenile lament.

0:30:020:30:04

In fact, the world might never have heard it

0:30:060:30:08

if it wasn't for a maverick DJ at BBC Radio 1.

0:30:080:30:12

# Get teenage kicks right through the night

0:30:120:30:15

# All right. #

0:30:150:30:17

And that's the end of tonight's programme, on which you heard

0:30:210:30:23

the Desperate Bicycles, The Slits,

0:30:230:30:25

The Mekons, Alternative TV, the UK Subs and Sham 69.

0:30:250:30:28

More of the same unpleasant and disorientating racket

0:30:280:30:31

on tomorrow night's programme.

0:30:310:30:33

Until then, from me, John Peel, goodnight and good riddance.

0:30:330:30:36

I said, "Why don't we phone John Peel?

0:30:360:30:38

"I think he mentioned Stiff Little Fingers."

0:30:380:30:40

And I says, "Well, we're better than Stiff Little Fingers."

0:30:400:30:42

You know, how cocky is that? So I pick up the phone, and I says,

0:30:420:30:47

"My name's Billy, I'm phoning from Northern Ireland."

0:30:470:30:50

Straight through. He picks up the phone, John Peel,

0:30:500:30:52

and goes, "Hello, who's this?"

0:30:520:30:53

'This afternoon I had one of those embarrassing experiences

0:30:530:30:56

'when you're talking to someone and neither of you

0:30:560:30:58

'can understand what the other's saying.

0:30:580:31:00

'I was speaking to a member of the band The Undertones,

0:31:000:31:02

'who come from Londonderry, and the chap I was speaking to -

0:31:020:31:05

'and it was a long distance line, so it wasn't too clear -

0:31:050:31:08

'had such a strong accent, I had difficulty

0:31:080:31:09

'figuring out what he was saying.'

0:31:090:31:11

He couldn't understand me.

0:31:110:31:12

I had like a really broad Derry accent.

0:31:120:31:14

So I had to speak very slowly.

0:31:140:31:16

And I mentioned to him, "There's a band from Derry

0:31:160:31:18

"called The Undertones.

0:31:180:31:19

"We've recorded an EP, but it's not released yet."

0:31:190:31:22

And he says, "When the record comes out, send it over."

0:31:220:31:24

'And he asked me to play something for a whole bunch of people

0:31:240:31:27

'there in Derry.

0:31:270:31:28

'I've probably got some of these names wrong,

0:31:280:31:31

'so if I have I apologise to all of those concerned.

0:31:310:31:33

'But the names seem to be Eddie McLaughlin, Joe Breslin,

0:31:330:31:36

'Paddy Crawford, Dick Tucker, the McGillys, the McGanleys,

0:31:360:31:40

'I think it was, Maillies, and,

0:31:400:31:42

'anyway, all of the band's fans in Derry.

0:31:420:31:44

'I'm sorry if I got the names wrong.'

0:31:440:31:46

So finally, when Teenage Kicks EP came out, I phoned John Peel,

0:31:460:31:50

and I says, "This is Billy, I've been speaking to you on and off

0:31:500:31:52

"for the past few months. We now have the EP."

0:31:520:31:55

We knew he was playing it that night,

0:31:550:31:58

so we were all at Beachhead Avenue.

0:31:580:32:00

MUSIC: "Teenage Kicks" by the Undertones

0:32:000:32:02

I was like, "Yeah! We got a record played!"

0:32:020:32:04

Not only a record played on Radio 1,

0:32:040:32:06

but John Peel played it as well. We were so delighted.

0:32:060:32:09

# Are teenage dreams so hard to beat? Every time she walks... #

0:32:090:32:12

Thanks to John Peel, in the Autumn of 1978,

0:32:120:32:15

listeners all over Britain got to hear The Undertones.

0:32:150:32:18

Among them, a genuine music biz mogul from America.

0:32:220:32:25

I was driving down to one of those little seaside places

0:32:250:32:30

about 90 minutes outside of London.

0:32:300:32:32

My head was killing me.

0:32:320:32:34

And the one relief was we were listening to John Peel.

0:32:340:32:39

The Peel Show was on the radio, and Teenage Kicks came on.

0:32:390:32:44

Paul McNally was driving and I start yelling at him, "Pull over!

0:32:440:32:49

"Pull over!" He turned white.

0:32:490:32:51

He must have thought I was having some kind of attack,

0:32:510:32:54

because I was complaining about my headache.

0:32:540:32:56

Yeah, there was a bit of excitement in the car at that point!

0:32:560:33:00

I said to him, "I've got to sign this band. They are fucking amazing.

0:33:000:33:06

"It's unbelievable. What a voice and what a song."

0:33:060:33:11

I think it's one of the greatest records of all time.

0:33:110:33:14

Seymour Stein,

0:33:150:33:18

the man who, four years later, would famously sign Madonna,

0:33:180:33:20

owned Sire Records, the American label

0:33:200:33:23

whose roster included the Ramones.

0:33:230:33:26

MUSIC: "Family Entertainment" by The Undertones

0:33:260:33:29

Days after hearing Teenage Kicks,

0:33:300:33:32

Stein dispatched Paul McNally to Derry to sign The Undertones.

0:33:320:33:36

We'd the comical scenario

0:33:360:33:38

where we went to Feargal's house for a meeting with Paul.

0:33:380:33:41

He was going to tell us the details of the contract.

0:33:410:33:44

And there was us five in the band, plus we had all our friends,

0:33:440:33:47

10 or 12 people.

0:33:470:33:49

In good faith we thought,

0:33:510:33:53

"Feargal and Mickey will go to London to meet Seymour Stein,

0:33:530:33:56

"we'll sign a contract meanwhile, here in Derry, for Paul,

0:33:560:34:00

"they'll go over there and they'll negotiate a bit more, and maybe,

0:34:000:34:03

"if it's good enough, they'll sign."

0:34:030:34:05

In October 1978, two lads from Derry arrived in London

0:34:100:34:13

to play hardball with the man who signed Madonna.

0:34:130:34:16

MUSIC: "Smarter Than You" by The Undertones

0:34:160:34:18

# I'm a little intellectual Someone who knows it all... #

0:34:180:34:22

Feargal smoked at the time, he would smoke like that, and go...

0:34:220:34:26

And just looked at the guy like that. And you'd think,

0:34:260:34:29

"I'm dealing with a real shrewd character here."

0:34:290:34:31

But Feargal had no idea either. He would smoke sort of like...

0:34:310:34:34

You had savvy Seymour Stein, record company mogul, talking to two weans,

0:34:340:34:38

basically, who hadn't a clue about anything about the music business.

0:34:380:34:42

He must have thought he was dealing with two idiots.

0:34:420:34:45

And you know what? He was!

0:34:450:34:47

# Smarter than you, smarter than you

0:34:470:34:49

# Smarter than you Can't you see... #

0:34:490:34:51

I remember, vaguely, them trying to renegotiate at the last minute.

0:34:510:34:57

They phoned us, and I said to Michael, "Well, ask him how much he's going to give us."

0:34:570:35:02

And it was 6,000. And I said, "6,000 each, or 6,000 what?"

0:35:020:35:05

He said "6,000 between 5 of us over three years."

0:35:050:35:08

6,000 divided by 5 over 3 years is not a lot of money.

0:35:080:35:12

So I got on the phone to Michael and says, "Michael, say to Seymour we want 100,000."

0:35:120:35:15

Billy was certainly shouting in the back. "The Rich Kids got 60,000!"

0:35:150:35:19

The Rich Kids, Glen Matlock's band, they signed to EMI.

0:35:190:35:21

I said, "The Rich Kids got 60,000!" And Seymour went...

0:35:210:35:25

I could hear Seymour in the background going, "You guys are crazy!"

0:35:250:35:28

"What do you want me to say?"

0:35:280:35:29

So Seymour came over, took the phone off Michael, and I think

0:35:290:35:32

he made some offer of, I don't know, 30,000, out of sheer panic.

0:35:320:35:35

I said, "That's fine, that's OK, that's the deal."

0:35:350:35:37

# Can't you see I'm smarter than you... #

0:35:370:35:40

I think it was originally 8,000, we managed it up to 10,000,

0:35:400:35:43

but the royalty rate was shocking.

0:35:430:35:44

I think it was worse than the Bay City Rollers,

0:35:440:35:46

and they didn't even write their songs.

0:35:460:35:48

My only memory is that I signed them.

0:35:480:35:51

In the end, that's what counted.

0:35:510:35:53

# Can't you see I'm smart? #

0:35:530:35:55

Whatever the terms of the record deal,

0:35:570:35:59

Sire immediately re-released Teenage Kicks as a single.

0:35:590:36:02

And just weeks later, The Undertones,

0:36:020:36:05

a band used to playing to 100 fans in the Casbah,

0:36:050:36:09

made its debut in London for a TV audience of over 10 million.

0:36:090:36:13

At number 38, first time in, Undertones and Teenage Kicks.

0:36:130:36:17

'I remember, she must have bought them,

0:36:190:36:21

'but my mother had a pair of new pyjamas for me,'

0:36:210:36:23

because it was like a hospital stay. "You're staying in a hotel,

0:36:230:36:26

"in London, you're not going to show us up."

0:36:260:36:27

All my aunties bought me pyjamas to go over to do Top Of The Pops.

0:36:270:36:31

First time I was ever on an aeroplane. I was 18,

0:36:310:36:34

never out of Ireland, never on an aeroplane.

0:36:340:36:36

And armed with tonnes of pyjamas.

0:36:360:36:38

# Are teenage dreams so hard to beat?

0:36:380:36:42

# Every time she walks down the street... #

0:36:420:36:45

Britain's musical landscape was shifting.

0:36:450:36:47

The Undertones formed part of a new wave of music inspired by punk,

0:36:470:36:51

and independent in spirit,

0:36:510:36:53

that challenged the corporate rock and smooth pop

0:36:530:36:56

that had come to represent the mainstream status quo.

0:36:560:36:59

They're a young band, they come from Ireland.

0:37:050:37:07

It's The Undertones and Jimmy, Jimmy.

0:37:070:37:09

# Little mummy's boy

0:37:130:37:16

# He wasn't very old

0:37:160:37:19

# Though he was very small

0:37:190:37:22

# He did what he was told

0:37:220:37:25

# Jimmy, Jimmy... #

0:37:250:37:27

The bands that bands like Undertones were influenced by

0:37:270:37:29

were not getting anywhere near Top Of The Pops,

0:37:290:37:32

or the charts, or the mainstream world.

0:37:320:37:34

They were obscure bands and The Undertones were in that period

0:37:340:37:37

just after punk when, suddenly, the records that previously

0:37:370:37:40

you would've only heard on John Peel and not in the charts,

0:37:400:37:43

suddenly started to break into the charts.

0:37:430:37:45

That was the great moment of a new kind of strange,

0:37:450:37:48

lovely pop music getting into the charts.

0:37:480:37:49

# Ooh, baby, baby, what can I do?

0:37:490:37:51

# You know you drive me crazy When I'm looking at you... #

0:37:510:37:54

Three more singles from The Undertones' first album

0:37:540:37:56

made them regulars on Top Of The Pops.

0:37:560:37:59

# Here comes the summer... #

0:37:590:38:02

But at a time when the charts

0:38:020:38:04

began to open up to ever more shocking and extravagant acts,

0:38:040:38:07

what was most remarkable about The Undertones

0:38:070:38:10

was that the band and their songs were so down-to-Earth,

0:38:100:38:13

they seemed positively exotic.

0:38:130:38:15

Predominantly, the songs are just about fun and games with your mates.

0:38:170:38:21

That seems to be the general message.

0:38:210:38:23

'They were being themselves,'

0:38:230:38:25

and I think that's why people found them so attractive,

0:38:250:38:28

There was this tremendous honesty about them.

0:38:280:38:30

# Here comes the summer

0:38:300:38:32

# Here comes the summer

0:38:320:38:34

# Here comes the summer... #

0:38:340:38:36

They were just nice kids who seemed

0:38:360:38:39

sort of uncorrupted and sweet

0:38:390:38:40

and you can see why they wrote about

0:38:400:38:43

Jimmy, Jimmy and Here Comes The Summer and Teenage Kicks,

0:38:430:38:46

because there was an innocence to them.

0:38:460:38:48

This rather cheerful, Derry ordinariness.

0:38:480:38:50

But back home in Derry,

0:38:500:38:52

The Undertones' ordinariness had special meaning.

0:38:520:38:55

A significance brought into focus when, in 1979,

0:38:580:39:02

they played a concert at a local school.

0:39:020:39:04

They were on Top Of The Pops on Thursday,

0:39:070:39:10

and then they were in my school, on the stage, on Friday morning.

0:39:100:39:13

The Undertones created a universal soundtrack to growing up.

0:39:160:39:19

The everyday world of their music had particular

0:39:210:39:23

resonance at home in Derry, where an ordinary adolescence

0:39:230:39:27

was something the band and audience alike could only have imagined.

0:39:270:39:31

Looking back, you can see

0:39:330:39:34

that there was more to it than they saw. I think.

0:39:340:39:36

They were able to put into words what a lot of us felt

0:39:400:39:43

and they were able to... show a dimension of our spirit.

0:39:430:39:49

Because our spirit was bursting to get out,

0:39:490:39:51

because we'd been suppressed for so long.

0:39:510:39:53

# If you hate the British Army

0:39:530:39:56

# Hate the British Army

0:39:560:39:58

# Hate the British Army Clap your hands. #

0:39:580:40:00

These children would see shootings and bombings

0:40:000:40:03

and their houses would have been raided,

0:40:030:40:05

their brothers would be in jail or their brothers would be dead.

0:40:050:40:08

I wanted them to see that there was a light at the end of the tunnel.

0:40:110:40:14

So, I feel that they were saying that... Maybe they were just saying

0:40:140:40:18

that they were young and they wanted to enjoy themselves

0:40:180:40:21

and they wanted a bit of freedom and not to be stood on and suppressed.

0:40:210:40:25

In Derry, and throughout Northern Ireland,

0:40:280:40:30

The Undertones gave an alternative voice

0:40:300:40:32

to a generation caught in the crossfire of their turbulent times.

0:40:320:40:36

One way to understand it

0:40:400:40:42

is as an alternative to what was really going on around them.

0:40:420:40:46

I mean, if you came from Derry at that time,

0:40:460:40:48

almost the most rebellious thing you could do is be ordinary.

0:40:480:40:51

# Little mummy's boy

0:40:510:40:54

# He wasn't very old... #

0:40:540:40:56

I went to see them in concert in Ballymena,

0:40:560:40:59

which is this terrifying Protestant town north of Belfast.

0:40:590:41:03

The street had armoured vehicles in it.

0:41:050:41:08

There was police with guns everywhere.

0:41:080:41:10

But once you'd gone in there, it was like a big youth club.

0:41:100:41:15

The kids that were running around were so grateful

0:41:150:41:18

that here was a band that wasn't singing about getting blown up

0:41:180:41:22

and the IRA and the Troubles, but was singing about ordinary things.

0:41:220:41:25

They were like a window onto

0:41:250:41:27

the kind of life everybody else takes for granted.

0:41:270:41:30

# Jimmy, Jimmy, oh... #

0:41:300:41:33

I was at a wedding about a month ago and they played Jimmy, Jimmy.

0:41:330:41:36

I'm a good age, and I was like a child!

0:41:360:41:38

Just, that excitement, that...

0:41:380:41:41

It's still there. It's just fabulous.

0:41:410:41:43

In 1980, The Undertones released their second album.

0:41:460:41:49

A record that took them beyond

0:41:490:41:50

the three-chord punk-ish thrashes of their debut,

0:41:500:41:53

bringing their tales of everyday life and love

0:41:530:41:57

to a much broader audience.

0:41:570:41:59

# Here she comes

0:41:590:42:02

# To say goodnight

0:42:020:42:05

# I'll get no sleep tonight... #

0:42:050:42:09

I was starting to get into The Velvet Underground at that stage.

0:42:090:42:13

'I loved the slow songs, that juxtaposition,'

0:42:130:42:16

of these experimental things with these lovely soft, beautiful songs.

0:42:160:42:21

So, Wednesday Week was my attempt

0:42:210:42:22

to write a slow, ballad-y type thing.

0:42:220:42:24

# Wednesday week, she loved me... #

0:42:240:42:27

'I remember thinking,'

0:42:270:42:29

"We're going to be OK. We're going to last a few more years

0:42:290:42:32

"if John's going to come up with songs like this."

0:42:320:42:35

But the biggest song on the album,

0:42:410:42:42

and The Undertones' biggest hit, wasn't from John O'Neill.

0:42:420:42:46

It came courtesy of Michael, Damian and an unsuspecting relative..

0:42:460:42:50

..by the name of Kevin.

0:42:520:42:54

I was sitting in a pub in Derry having a quiet pint

0:42:540:42:56

with some friends and another friend of mine came in

0:42:560:43:00

and sniggered in my general direction

0:43:000:43:04

and said my ears must be burning.

0:43:040:43:06

'I hadn't a clue what he was talking about.'

0:43:080:43:09

It was only later on in the evening that he said

0:43:090:43:12

that I should go talk to my cousins in The Undertones.

0:43:120:43:15

# I've got a cousin called Kevin

0:43:150:43:18

# He's sure to go to Heaven

0:43:180:43:21

# Always spotless, clean and neat

0:43:210:43:24

# As smooth as you'll get 'em... #

0:43:240:43:26

Myself and Damian were working on it for quite a while,

0:43:260:43:29

and it was kind of based on a real-life cousin of Damian's.

0:43:290:43:33

'Very unfairly, but, sure, life's not fair.'

0:43:330:43:36

# My perfect cousin

0:43:360:43:39

# What I like to do he doesn't

0:43:390:43:41

# He's his family's pride and joy

0:43:410:43:44

# His mother's little golden boy

0:43:440:43:49

# He's got a degree in economics

0:43:490:43:51

# Maths, physics and bionics... #

0:43:510:43:54

I got a bit of stick. People would sing certain lines at me.

0:43:540:43:57

# Cos I hate University Challenge... #

0:43:570:44:00

I suppose at the time, I was probably a bit annoyed about it.

0:44:000:44:04

Now, it doesn't cause me any difficulties at all.

0:44:040:44:06

I can see the fun in it.

0:44:060:44:07

My Perfect Cousin, a comic rant against swotty relatives,

0:44:100:44:14

was The Undertones' only top-ten hit.

0:44:140:44:16

Hip film director Julien Temple was hired to shoot the video.

0:44:180:44:22

And the location for this domestic drama was...

0:44:230:44:27

of course, the O'Neill's house in Derry, where the English film crew

0:44:270:44:31

got their first taste of what it's like to live in a militarised town.

0:44:310:44:34

# Now, I've got a cousin called Kevin... #

0:44:340:44:37

We had a cable coming out of a house and we were lighting this thing,

0:44:370:44:41

and the next thing I knew, I was slammed up against the wall

0:44:410:44:43

with a machinegun against my head,

0:44:430:44:45

with this 15-year-old Cockney skinhead saying,

0:44:450:44:48

"What the fuck are you doing?"

0:44:480:44:49

# He always beat me at Subbuteo... #

0:44:490:44:51

'And it kind of made a lot of sense that despite the real,

0:44:510:44:55

'hard facts of war and bullets flying around,'

0:44:550:44:58

they were singing, you know,

0:44:580:44:59

things about cousins who got on their nerves.

0:44:590:45:02

# He's his family's pride and joy... #

0:45:020:45:04

There was also an innocence there, compared with the London punk scene.

0:45:040:45:08

So, when I got there, I thought,

0:45:080:45:10

"This is amazing, cos it's a really, kind of different, family world."

0:45:100:45:15

You know, like you imagine the 1940s or something like that.

0:45:150:45:19

They were deeply entrenched in this culture of Catholic Derry

0:45:190:45:22

and were able to find poetry in it.

0:45:220:45:25

# Girls try to attract his attention

0:45:250:45:28

# But what a shame, it's in vain... #

0:45:280:45:30

It was a little bit like some kind of surreal soap.

0:45:300:45:32

They were creating a landscape full of their chums

0:45:320:45:35

and relatives and people they'd bumped into.

0:45:350:45:37

# My perfect cousin... #

0:45:370:45:39

Very mundane. Very domestic. And it seemed, oddly enough,

0:45:390:45:43

quite punk, to talk about stuff that wasn't Americana.

0:45:430:45:45

It actually seemed part of their down-to-Earth-ness,

0:45:450:45:49

that was actually quite potent.

0:45:490:45:50

Oh, yes, I like that one.

0:45:500:45:52

My Perfect Cousin from The Undertones.

0:45:520:45:55

And now, it's time for our perfect inflatable Scrabble...

0:45:550:45:58

As well as chart success,

0:46:030:46:04

The Undertones earned a reputation as a formidable live act.

0:46:040:46:08

# Wake up screaming in the middle of something wrong... #

0:46:090:46:15

They had this power live

0:46:150:46:17

that a lot of bands never, ever get together.

0:46:170:46:20

They became one of the best live bands that I've known.

0:46:210:46:24

# So boys will be boys

0:46:240:46:26

# When they haven't got nothing to do... #

0:46:260:46:30

But whatever ambitions their record company and management team

0:46:300:46:33

might have had for them,

0:46:330:46:34

The Undertones were unusually indifferent to life on the road.

0:46:340:46:39

We used to have a phone, right here.

0:46:390:46:41

And many a time, me or John would be sitting on the stairs, going,

0:46:410:46:45

"No, but it means leaving home for more than a week.

0:46:450:46:47

"We don't want to do that."

0:46:470:46:49

They would come away from Derry for three weeks and three weeks only.

0:46:490:46:53

They would do a six week tour but they would need to have

0:46:530:46:55

a week to ten days' break in the middle of it.

0:46:550:46:57

Billy and myself were really bad in the sense that we really hated

0:46:570:47:01

leaving our wives, or girlfriends that became our wives, or whatever.

0:47:010:47:05

Myself and Caroline were just so madly in love

0:47:050:47:08

that it took a shine off having to leave,

0:47:080:47:11

because we were both in tears leaving the house.

0:47:110:47:14

We just missed each other so much.

0:47:140:47:17

It was that simple.

0:47:170:47:19

We just yearned to be with each other.

0:47:190:47:21

Getting a girlfriend was a big deal for boys

0:47:240:47:27

whose music seeped teenage angst.

0:47:270:47:29

But there was more to their attachment to home

0:47:290:47:32

than the pull of young love.

0:47:320:47:35

They seemed troubled by the fact that they had to enter

0:47:350:47:37

what they deemed to be a kind of routine.

0:47:370:47:39

They were already feeling that

0:47:390:47:41

somehow they'd compromised themselves,

0:47:410:47:44

because there was a very pure, punk spirit in the air back then

0:47:440:47:46

that you didn't do certain things that looked like

0:47:460:47:49

you were compromising yourself.

0:47:490:47:50

And to some extent, with them, that even meant leaving their town,

0:47:500:47:54

leaving their house, leaving their girlfriend.

0:47:540:47:56

All of these strange things, to them, were a compromise.

0:47:560:47:58

It meant they'd sold out, and they hadn't sold out. Not by any means.

0:47:580:48:01

They'd just begun to have success.

0:48:010:48:03

But they didn't know what to do, didn't know how to process it.

0:48:030:48:06

In September 1979,

0:48:080:48:10

The Undertones supported The Clash on an American tour.

0:48:100:48:14

This was a chance to break America,

0:48:150:48:18

and to party with perhaps the hippest band on the planet.

0:48:180:48:21

I was on that tour, the Clash tour in America

0:48:230:48:25

with The Undertones on support, and it was incredibly, unbelievably...

0:48:250:48:29

Literally, you'd be walking into a room and Andy Warhol would be there.

0:48:290:48:33

But my memory of it is that The Undertones were like shadows.

0:48:330:48:36

It's almost like they felt they'd wanted to be this kind of group,

0:48:400:48:44

full of integrity and suddenly they were in the equivalent

0:48:440:48:47

of The Sound Of Music or something.

0:48:470:48:49

The reason I wanted to be in the band is not to party or

0:48:490:48:53

to take drugs or drink or whatever, I just wanted to play my drums

0:48:530:48:57

and I wanted to play my drums with my mates.

0:48:570:48:59

So I found it hard to cope with, to be honest.

0:48:590:49:04

I was actually relieved to get back home.

0:49:040:49:06

You know, I've worked with a lot of bands where they go out all night

0:49:090:49:12

and experience the town, you know, Munich or Budapest or Barcelona.

0:49:120:49:17

They stay up all night and experience what that is for.

0:49:170:49:21

But, no. Fairly early to bed.

0:49:210:49:24

We didn't play the game, and we didn't want to play the game.

0:49:240:49:28

We hated that rock star crap that you were fed.

0:49:280:49:31

Limousines and, you know, it was back to a punk rock street thing.

0:49:310:49:37

We were part of the street. We didn't want to be rich and famous.

0:49:370:49:40

# So sad to see you've got silver... #

0:49:400:49:45

For many bands,

0:49:450:49:47

success offered the chance to leave behind their normal, everyday lives.

0:49:470:49:51

Not for The Undertones, despite the ongoing violence

0:49:510:49:54

and conflict in their home town.

0:49:540:49:57

# Julie Ocean

0:49:570:49:59

# Always on fire... #

0:49:590:50:02

The release of their third album in 1981 coincided

0:50:020:50:07

with one of the darkest episodes of the Troubles.

0:50:070:50:10

After a period of relative calm in Northern Ireland,

0:50:110:50:14

a serious of hunger strikes by Catholic Republican prisoners

0:50:140:50:17

brought violence back onto the streets of Derry.

0:50:170:50:21

The hunger strikes were carried out by Republican prisoners,

0:50:210:50:24

IRA prisoners, who were demanding political status.

0:50:240:50:27

They were in prison, having been sentenced for bombing,

0:50:270:50:30

shooting, possession of arms, murder, attempted murder, etc. So,

0:50:300:50:33

as far as the state was concerned, they were serious criminals,

0:50:330:50:37

To treat them as prisoners of war,

0:50:370:50:40

or give them special, political status,

0:50:400:50:42

is to give them a licence to kill.

0:50:420:50:44

On the other hand, Republicans regarded themselves,

0:50:440:50:47

and were seen by their community,

0:50:470:50:49

sort of as having taken part in an uprising, if you like.

0:50:490:50:54

Although The Undertones had previously avoided writing

0:50:550:50:58

about the Troubles, they found the hunger strikes impossible to ignore.

0:50:580:51:03

It was in streets everywhere in Derry, Belfast, Northern Ireland...

0:51:030:51:07

You couldn't escape it or get away from it.

0:51:070:51:09

It was a really, really grim time.

0:51:090:51:11

So, I tried to write a song about it.

0:51:110:51:15

It turned out to be It's Going To Happen.

0:51:150:51:17

# Happens all the time It's gonna happen, happen... #

0:51:170:51:20

"It's gonna happen all the time" is about hunger strikes,

0:51:200:51:23

cos Ireland's got a history of hunger strikes, from way back.

0:51:230:51:27

"Until you change your mind", till the Government changes their mind.

0:51:270:51:31

# Best story I've ever heard... #

0:51:310:51:34

Basically, it was quite crass, so I gave it to Mickey and said,

0:51:340:51:37

"Can you rescue this song?"

0:51:370:51:39

I can't remember if he said, "This is about the hunger strikes."

0:51:390:51:42

But I decided it wasn't going to be about the hunger strikes,

0:51:420:51:45

because I still hold to that it's very difficult to write

0:51:450:51:48

something good and valuable about a situation like that.

0:51:480:51:52

So I came up with verses which are vaguely alluding

0:51:520:51:55

to someone in trouble.

0:51:550:51:56

# Happens all the time... #

0:51:560:51:58

Good evening from Belfast.

0:51:580:52:00

The province is quiet after the early-morning rioting

0:52:000:52:04

that marked the death of Bobby Sands.

0:52:040:52:05

Coincidentally, the night we did Top Of The Pops

0:52:050:52:08

was the same evening Bobby Sands had died.

0:52:080:52:12

# Everything goes when you're dead... #

0:52:120:52:15

As a sort of mark of respect, I thought it would be a good idea

0:52:150:52:19

if we all wore black armbands.

0:52:190:52:22

But when it came to doing it, they didn't refuse but they just...

0:52:220:52:26

No... But I did anyway. Because I did feel that angry about it.

0:52:260:52:29

I wasn't trying to make statements that I support the IRA,

0:52:300:52:33

but I did sympathise with the aims of the hunger strikers.

0:52:330:52:36

Millions of Top Of The Pops viewers were oblivious.

0:52:360:52:40

But for the first time, The Undertones were attempting,

0:52:400:52:44

with characteristic bashfulness,

0:52:440:52:46

to reflect something of the momentous events

0:52:460:52:48

they were living through.

0:52:480:52:50

Strangely enough, although The Undertones were more affected,

0:52:510:52:55

through their community, by the hunger strikes,

0:52:550:52:57

than any other contemporary band,

0:52:570:52:59

it was out of character for them to be commenting on those things.

0:52:590:53:03

And once again, you see

0:53:030:53:05

The Undertones are really a very complicated phenomenon,

0:53:050:53:09

a complicated musical and cultural phenomenon.

0:53:090:53:11

Very complicated political phenomenon.

0:53:110:53:13

It's Going to Happen reached 18 in the charts in Spring 1981.

0:53:140:53:18

It was to be The Undertones' last top-20 record.

0:53:200:53:22

Good evening, good people of Hitchin.

0:53:240:53:27

And anyone else who's just joined us.

0:53:270:53:29

Once again, Sight and Sound comes from the Regal Theatre,

0:53:290:53:32

and I'm sure you'll be only too glad to be reacquainted with a band

0:53:320:53:35

who we haven't seen or heard very much of for the last year or so.

0:53:350:53:39

So, please welcome, all the way from Derry, ladies and gentlemen,

0:53:390:53:42

The Undertones. CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

0:53:420:53:46

I always say we split up because we didn't sell records.

0:53:460:53:49

If Sin Of Pride, which is a record I don't like,

0:53:500:53:53

but if that had have been a success,

0:53:530:53:55

we would probably have stayed together.

0:53:550:53:57

# It makes me wonder how to read or understand you

0:53:570:54:01

# Makes me wonder what's in your mind... #

0:54:010:54:04

In March 1983, The Undertones released The Sin Of Pride,

0:54:040:54:09

their fourth and, as it turned out, final album.

0:54:090:54:12

We just knew we weren't going to have a hit single,

0:54:160:54:19

and also we knew that Feargal was not happy in being in a band

0:54:190:54:23

who maybe got good reviews, but were struggling financially.

0:54:230:54:27

I remember saying, "Well, if you make good records

0:54:310:54:34

"and you get a good review in the end, will that be enough?"

0:54:340:54:36

And I said that to Feargal, I said, "Will you not be happy with that?"

0:54:360:54:39

And he says, "Nope."

0:54:390:54:41

And then I saw writing on the wall.

0:54:410:54:43

None of the three singles from the album troubled the Top 40

0:54:460:54:50

and, as record sales declined,

0:54:500:54:52

the band and its lead singer began to drift apart,

0:54:520:54:55

as differences that had lain dormant until now began to surface.

0:54:550:55:00

# My heart's lost since you've been gone... #

0:55:000:55:07

As the Rolling Stones say, it's the singer, not the song.

0:55:070:55:10

You know, I knew that.

0:55:100:55:12

The song's only as good as the singer.

0:55:120:55:15

I was getting more and more frustrated

0:55:150:55:17

at the way Feargal sang the songs.

0:55:170:55:19

Feargal wasn't really into music, you know.

0:55:230:55:27

As I listened to things, I had maybe a certain idea in my head,

0:55:270:55:31

the way it should be sung.

0:55:310:55:32

Trying to get Feargal then to listen to things, to give him an idea,

0:55:320:55:37

"It's this kind of way that I'm thinking the song should be..."

0:55:370:55:41

He was always dismissive.

0:55:410:55:43

He'd go, "I'll sing the song the way I think it should be sung."

0:55:430:55:48

John was very, very protective and very precious of his music.

0:55:480:55:52

I don't mean that in a negative way, it's just the way he was.

0:55:520:55:55

And there was maybe that kind of personality clash.

0:55:550:55:58

Feargal probably had different aspirations,

0:55:580:56:00

and all that was starting to come to the surface.

0:56:000:56:02

So I think he had enough of that.

0:56:020:56:03

And to be honest, if it was me, I'd think the same as well,

0:56:030:56:06

I'd say, "Look, I've had enough of this. I'm a good singer.

0:56:060:56:08

"I'm actually a better singer than what you are musicians.

0:56:080:56:11

"I'm going to head off."

0:56:110:56:13

Finally, in May 1983, The Undertones decided to call it a day.

0:56:140:56:18

# Got to have you back... #

0:56:180:56:22

We were in Sweden,

0:56:220:56:23

and there was a photographer taking photographs of us.

0:56:230:56:26

And, for some reason, we weren't playing ball with the photographer.

0:56:260:56:29

Feargal knew this was happening and just says, "Right, boys, that's it."

0:56:290:56:32

And before the sound check,

0:56:320:56:34

we had a wee sit-down meeting.

0:56:340:56:37

He was probably smoking, and he says,

0:56:370:56:39

"That's it, I'm leaving the band." And no-one argued with him.

0:56:390:56:43

No-one said, "Oh, why? What's happening?" We all kind of knew.

0:56:430:56:46

There was no fun any more,

0:56:460:56:48

and it was almost like someone's got the balls to do it and that was great.

0:56:480:56:53

So let's just break up.

0:56:530:56:54

Then again, that's what's good about being a band.

0:56:570:56:59

You look at The Beatles, they fell apart spectacularly too.

0:56:590:57:03

Five years, four albums and 13 singles

0:57:070:57:10

after bursting onto the scene with Teenage Kicks,

0:57:100:57:13

The Undertones' story was over.

0:57:130:57:16

But coming from the darkest of places and situations,

0:57:180:57:21

their enduring achievement is to have created timeless music

0:57:210:57:25

of startling positivity that touched teenagers all over the globe

0:57:250:57:30

while daring a generation at home to dream of a life more ordinary.

0:57:300:57:35

MUSIC: "Get Over You" by The Undertones

0:57:350:57:37

# Dressed like that you must be living in a different world

0:57:370:57:42

# And your mother doesn't know

0:57:420:57:44

# Why you can't look like all the other girls

0:57:440:57:48

# Boys stop you on the street They wanna know your name

0:57:480:57:51

# Try to reach you on the phone Cos they know your game

0:57:510:57:54

# Always running up the alley trying to get home

0:57:540:57:56

# Or standing on the corner never alone

0:57:560:58:01

# And I don't wanna get over you

0:58:010:58:04

# It doesn't matter what you do

0:58:040:58:06

# I just can't get over you, over you

0:58:060:58:12

# And I don't wanna get over you

0:58:120:58:15

# It doesn't matter what you do

0:58:150:58:18

# I just can't get over you Over you. #

0:58:180:58:22

In 1978 The Undertones released Teenage Kicks, one of the most perfect and enduring pop records of all time - an adolescent anthem that spoke to teenagers all over the globe. It was the first in a string of hits that created a timeless soundtrack to growing up, making the Undertones one of punk rock's most prolific and popular bands.

Unlike the anarchic ragings of The Sex Pistols or the overt politics of The Clash, The Undertones sang of mummy's boys, girls - or the lack of them - and their irritating cousin Kevin. But their gems of pop music were revolutionary nonetheless - startlingly positive protest songs that demanded a life more ordinary. Because The Undertones came from Derry, epicentre of the violent troubles that tore Northern Ireland apart during the 1970s.

Featuring interviews with band members, their friends, family, colleagues and contemporaries, alongside archive and music, this documentary is the remarkable, funny and moving story of one of Britain's favourite bands - the most improbable pop stars who emerged from one of the darkest, most violent places on the planet.