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Steam Age Kicks

Stuart Bailie | 13:33 UK time, Friday, 22 February 2013

The Undertones - Teenage Kicks single cover

Why are old punk rockers so reactionary? In particular, the creaky custodians of Alternative Ulster? I watched One Direction at the Brits last night, mashing up The Undertones and Blondie, knowing full well that instantly, social media would be clogged up with humourless defences of 'Teenage Kicks'. Their irate brayings would make you believe that there was some kind of heritage order slapped on the John O'Neill song, that it was untouchable, subject to permission. The sole preserve of fifty something blokes who were there, man.

Strange to remember that back in 1978, The Undertones were unsure about releasing the song because they thought it was "too pop". The hairy rock guys at the Casbah club used to rib the band about their "big" song. Thankfully history prevailed, the recording was done and the legacy has survived dozens of cover versions, from bossa nova to grinding Americana. It's the mark of a decent song. It can survive anything. Even a Busted rendition.
In the writing of 'Teenage Kicks', John O' Neill revealed his love for the Ronettes. They were one of the most manufactured pop bands ever. Yet the music had an imperial passion that The Undertones managed to translate. To this extent, John was mining a tradition that went back to the New York Dolls and even The Beatles. Rough boys singing tunes made famous by pouting girl bands.
So when old guys start bleating about "real" punk, don't ever listen. Punk was more camp and pop than the roundheads will care to remember. Also, the Sex Pistols were manufactured to the max - styled, procured, hyped, managed and presented by Malcolm and Vivienne.
History is not safe in the hands of the die hards. And 'Teenage Kicks' is bigger and bolder that One Direction and their squawking methology.


  • Comment number 1.

    It still doesn't take away from the fact that the One Direction version is awful.

    ' the Sex Pistols were manufactured to the max - styled, procured, hyped, managed and presented by Malcolm and Vivienne.' A certain Mr Lydon would beg to differ.


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