The Undertones: Pioneers of Pop-Punk

The Undertones; Teenage Kicks Single ArtworkThere’s a vlogger on YouTube who claims to be “The Internet’s Busiest Music Nerd”. I don’t know if that’s true, or who gave him that title, but he does know quite a lot of music and he’s recently been showing his viewers through his vinyl collection for fun. In the most recent of these side videos he briefly showed off his copy of the first record by a band from the late-70s called The Undertones, who I’ve since fallen in love with.

Essentially, The Undertones are a combination of The Beatles, The Small Faces and The Ramones which just so happens to make them one of the first ever Pop-Punk bands. Now, I love Pop-Punk, so to hear that this band nearly created the genre was quite exciting for me, and I must say they really do live up to that reputation. Their sound takes that early punk guitar sound of The Ramones, adds in a bit of glam keyboards and tops it off with lyrics about teenage angst and love set to pop melodies.

The Undertones formed as a pop-rock cover band in Derry, North Ireland in the mid-early 1970s. It wasn’t until The Ramones and other massive figures in early Punk became popular in the UK in 1976 that The Undertones began writing original tracks that combined their pop influences with the new Punk sound. After establishing a following in Ireland The Undertones sent a demo to five record labels, all of which turned them down. However, renowned music nerd and BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel received a copy of their demo and instantly fell in love.

Peel financed the band’s first four track EP, which ultimately got them signed to Sire later in 1977, and claimed throughout his life that The Undertones’ break-through single “Teenage Kicks” was his favorite song of all time.

Because of their Pop influence and generally well behaved nature, The Undertones never gained the fame or infamy of contemporaries such as The Sex Pistols and The Clash. However, their Pop/Punk hybrid would ultimately spawn one of Punk’s most successful sub-genres.

The Undertones split in 1983 when lead vocalist Feargal Sharkey left the group due to artistic differences. They reunited without him in 1999 and have been touring and releasing albums since.

Below is a playlist of some of The Undertones best tracks, which really show the beginnings of what we now call Pop-Punk.