The Undertones were from Derry, Northern Ireland an exotic faraway land for this kid from South Wales (might as well be the moon) and they looked like they could have been from the next street with their parkas and doc martins but they stood out because they had tunes and lots of em.

Famously championed by John Peel, who’s favourite all-time track was ‘Teenage Kicks’ played at his funeral I beleive.  But they were much more than that one song, they released thirteen singles and four studio albums between 1978 – 1983, and then in time honoured fashion the singer (Fergal Sharkey) announced his intention to leave. The band was toast but re-formed in 1999 with new singer Paul McLoone.

Subsequently the new Undertones recorded two new albums and have been touring regularly ever since. They even played Glastonbury Festival in June 2005,and marked their 40th anniversary, (40th gulp!) and completed a 46 date world tour only last year.

That’s the history of The Undertones pretty much in a nutshell and less than a 300-page biography but it doesn’t tell the full story, because, when you lift the bonnet and look under the hood their body of work is nothing short of stunning, and for singles, early singles, they were right up there with Buzzcocks as prolific and one of the best punk / post punk / new wave call em what you like bands. The quality was nothing short of magnificent. So it’s about time they got the definitive best-of treatment and ‘West Bank Songs’ pretty much captures the spirit and style of those kids from Derry perfectly.

30 tracks compiled by the band themselves it features 7 top 40 hits (including 4 top 20s): ‘Teenage Kicks’, ‘My Perfect Cousin’, ‘Here Comes The Summer’, ‘Jimmy Jimmy’, ‘You’ve Got My Number (Why Don’t You Use It!)’, ‘Wednesday Week’, ‘It’s Going To Happen’ plus the Kevin Shields remix of ‘Get Over You’  ah now you remember, not just a ‘one-hit-wonder’ with that song they always play at weddings and school discos.  It’s not just a greatest hits though as they do dig into their four studio albums the self-titled classic debut, ‘The Undertones’ (1979), ‘Hypnotised’ (1980), ‘Positive Touch’ (1981) and ‘The Sin Of Pride’ (1983) so they might have tailed off through the years and they never managed to better the debut (in my humble opinion) but isn’t that often the case?  They’ve obviously taken time and pride in this best of with a take on the Stones ‘Aftermath’ cover this one comes in white and purple vinyl and has a twelve-page booklet with sleeve notes by Undertones bassist Michael Bradley and Mick Houghton, it also includes previously unseen band photos.

As far as walking down memory lane records go this is pretty much as good as it gets.  I’ve not played an Undertones record in a long time and this made me re-evaluate my childhood and boy was I glad I got them first time around and all these years later they’ve not lost an ounce of their energy, melody, catchiness and colour.  the Undertones easily fill a double album of absolute belters and if you love your music then you should pick this up and revel in some of the best-written songs from the UK in the last fifty years.  An absolutely essential purchase.  I can now retire the original albums and play this crackle and pop free best of.

Buy Here

Author: Dom Daley

Ditches, from outta Stockholm Sweden which is already a good start seeing as the country has always thrown up great garage punk rock n roll bands from the Nomads to Hellacopters to the Hives and many many more well, Ditches picked up the baton and seem to be running away with it.  If you were to cut em through the middle they’d have a core of Buzzcocks melodies with some bubblegum holding it together via some pretty nifty power-pop whilst heading through the backstreets after dark wearing skinny jeans and sneakers they only stop to smoke a cigarette and pogo before they get back to it.

The melodies come thick and fast with an emphasis on the fast. Opener ‘Out Of This’ sets the pace and the tone and that Shelley melody blueprint is evident on ‘Get Away’. For a debut LP, they are right on the money with leather jackets with the collar turned up these snotty oiks have to know that they can pen some top brain candy that gets in and settles for a while making you feel great inside with that power pop punk rock glow of satisfaction.

The production is bright without glossing over the rough edges, ‘Stitch Me Up’ being a great example.  Cool chorus and a real sugar rush of a tune. With eleven songs sticking to the formula its a great debut and with all the promise of another top turn hailing from Sweden in 2020 is exactly what we need another generation of punks coming through re-energising a scene and really appreciating what it takes to write great music. Its like hearing stuff like the Undertones again but from a different time totally – I bet these songs are great live n loud in some sweaty dive bar where you can really lock into the rapid beat and chiming guitars.  they seem to know exactly what they’re good at and stick to it well. not a bad track amongst the eleven on offer.  Let’s hear it for Ditches more peaks than troughs.

Bandcamp

Facebook

Author: Dom Daley

Today we remember a couple of people who deserve to be remembered first up is the one and only Wayne from Auf Weidersein Pet but we know him from being the lead vocalist from Heavy Metal Kids who brought us the classics ‘Shes No Angel’ and ‘Delirious’.  Gary left us on this day in 1985 after an overdose of Morphine and Alcohol.

Gary was an accomplished actor plying his trade at the old vic as well as working with the Royal Shakespeare Company and he got minor roles in Quadrophenia and Breaking Glass but it was as Wayne and performing with the Heavy Metal Kids and his recordings with Casino Steel from the Boys that really brought Gary to prominence.  In a strange twist of fate he was considered for the role of Nasty Nick in Eastenders a role that went to John Altman who later went on to front The Heavy Metal Kids after Gary.

Holton also turned down the chance to front AC/DC after the passing of Bon Scott but turned it down. Instead, he went on to front Holton / Steel who managed three albums together.  Holton left behind a string of failed relationships but he did have a son in the mid-80s.

He lived his short life to the full and experienced all the Rock and Roll cliches of the time wine, women and drugs.  Holton managed to quit Heroin and come out the other side making some memorable records and his music has been covered by some of our favourite artists His ashes are laid to rest in the small Welsh town of Welshpool.

 

It’s easy to see why people like Angus and Malcolm were attracted to him to replace Bon because Gary oozed Rock and Roll and had the looks to match his distinctive vocal style. He was a very underrated frontman and his singing was maybe overshadowed by his acting but we won’t forget Gary Holton.  Rest In Peace sir.

Another who deserves to be mentioned today is none other than broadcaster John Peel OBE.  His story is well known and his record collection was as big as the national library.  His knowledge of alternative and underground music was vast and he was also the go-to guy for championing new bands coming through many of whom became his friends and went on to big things in the industry.

 

Born just outside Liverpool Peel is forever linked with BBC late-night Radio and punk and notably The Undertones and ‘Teenage Kicks’ Up until his sudden death Peel was the longest-serving DJ on the BBC and was something of an institution doing things his own way and given pretty much carte blanche on his show. He was a massive fan of The Fall and in the 80s you hadn’t made it until you were on a Peel Sessions record released on Strange Fruit records.  The list of bands who queued up to lay down a session for John Peel is endless.

 

He has a train named after him, a stage at Glastonbury, part of the BBC is now the Peel Wing. He also sat on set with The Faces and mimed the Mandolin whilst the band played ‘Maggie May’. John is very much missed on the radio.  Why not blast out ‘Teenage Kicks’ in his honour.  After his heart attack whilst working abroad, John was only 65 and it’s now been fifteen years since his passing.  rest in peace John and yup “Teenage Dreams So Hard To Beat”. but every time we hear that one we’re reminded of you.