Peely said he pulled over to the side of the road and cried when he heard Peter Powell playing Teenage Kicks by the Undertones, after John had played it himself for several months. He included it in his Desert Island Discs list, adding that he would choose it above all the others he had chosen. It was the first record he ever played twice back to back without a break. The first line (“A teenage dream’s so hard to beat”) is engraved on his tombstone. In Peeling Back The Years, he told John Walters he believed it to be the one outstanding moment that punk had made possible.
So why did he hold it in such reverence?
Trying to listen to such a slab of pop history dispassionately is nigh impossible. Feargal Sharkey claims that they sent only Peel a copy in 1978. The opening snare/bass drum 4/8 time opening does not adequately prepare one for the chainsaw riff and pleading, high-pitched vocals that ensue. Arguably, the boys from Derry would make their bread and butter from energetic songs about adolescent yearnings (see the second download for more of the same), but this smacks of perfection. Unfussy yet clear production, 2 and a half minutes long, verse/chorus/verse/chorus…more would definitely be less. Part of a four-song EP, its roots in the Ramones’ style are clear, and yet it sounds like nothing else. It reached #31 in the UK charts, 1978 FF #10, 1979 FF #2 (to which Peel rejoined in that programme, ‘It would have been no. 1 in a chart put together by me…as close as anyone has come to making the perfect single’), 1980 FF #7, 1981 FF #6, All-Time FF 1982 #8 and finally #2 in the All-Time FF 2000.
Get Over You (1979 FF #12, 1980 FF #17, 1981 FF #20, and All-Time FF 1982 #20) only made #57 in the UK charts and the reasons for its relative failure are unclear. Some have attributed it to being overproduced: was it just that the public was unready for a retread of Kicks territory? However, the question is academic, since it was only their first record for Sire, and better times were coming. Have a butchers at the boys cutting up the latter song live:
Buy: Undertones, The Best Of The Undertones: Teenage Kicks