‘He should be here’ - The Undertones pay tribute to John Peel
PUBLISHED: 07:58 31 August 2019 | UPDATED: 14:35 02 September 2019
A packed John Peel Centre in Stowmarket saw New Wave legends The Undertones play on what would have been the broadcaster’s 80th birthday.
To music fans the names of John Peel and The Undertones go hand in hand, inextricably linked with their song Teenage Kicks.
John famously loved the track and on what would have been the DJ's 80th birthday the band played a tribute show at a packed John Peel Centre in Stowmarket to honour the broadcaster who gave them their break.
Speaking to the EADT and Ipswich Star before the gig on Friday August 30, drummer Billy Doherty and bass player Mickey Bradley said the group were honoured to have been asked to play.
Mickey said: "It's an odd one, to be honest, because you think 'He should be here', y'know?
"But you know what - it's his birthday, and we're going to have a good party for him."
Formed in Derry in 1974, The Undertones hit the big time after John, who lived at Great Finborough and died suddenly in 2004, famously championed Teenage Kicks on his Radio 1 show after hearing a demo in 1978.
Mickey and Billy said it still surprised them how the song remains so popular.
Mickey said: "Completely. And I think that interest is because of John Peel. I always say it's almost as much his record as ours. Would people have heard of Teenage Kicks but for him?"
Billy added: "The song's taken on an identity separate from the band. There's Teenage Kicks and then 'Oh, The Undertones did that?'."
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The song was written by John O'Neill, the band's guitarist, and yet was not first choice to be a single from the EP the group had recorded.
Billy said: "I remember having not an argument but a debate, shall we say, because they wanted to have True Confessions, which is one of the support tracks on the EP, as the single and I said 'No, it's got to be Teenage Kicks'.
"I spoke with John Peel before the record was released. Surprisingly I got right through to him at the BBC very easily and that's how we made the first connection with him.
"I told him about the band and he said 'Look, when you have the single send it over'. And once we'd got it we sent it over the rest is basically history.
John loved the song so much he once famously played it back to back.
Billy said: "Getting a record played by John Peel, on Radio 1, that was a big deal. Back to back? That was something else."
The Undertones went on to release 13 singles and four studio albums between 1978 and 1983 before vocalist Feargal Sharkey left to go solo.
Now with Paul McLoone on vocals, the band is based in their native Northern Ireland and while they still play live, they are happy to keep the number of shows to around 25 a year.
"That's good," said Mickey.
"It gives you a chance to come back, not so much refreshed but to appreciate what you're doing. I would hate to be in a band that was doing 30 date tours. It would just become a grind."
"We got into music because we like music, we never got into it to make it a profession or a career, so we can take it or leave it," Billy added.
"I keep saying in every interview we do that my ambitions were filled very, very quickly - a record played by John Peel, played on Radio 1 and Top of the Pops. Anything after that is a bonus for me. We can go home after that. Job done."
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