Andy Howells chats to Undertones founder member, Mickey Bradley.
“I remember getting a leather jacket at the start of 1978 and it was a bit of an expense, it was £60 from Freeman’s Catalogue “ Mickey Bradley tells Andy Howells as they discuss the early days of The Undertones.
“I remember thinking in five years’ time this’ll come in handy when I’m working on a building site! The idea of been in a band, 40 years later, never even crossed my mind!
But that’s exactly what has happened, still a young 58 and sounding as chirpy as ever, Bradley and his fellow Undertones are still going strong and will be playing what Mickey describes as “Loud Fast Punk Rock with Tunes” at Cardiff’s Tramshed on November 10.
Teenage Kicks, John Peel and The Undertones
The Undertones emerged from Derry,Northern Ireland in 1976. The result of five friends John O’Neill, Damian O’Neill, Feargal Sharkey, Billy Doherty and Bradley taking inspiration from John O’Neill’s record collection comprising early Rolling Stones, Dr Feelgood and Cream as well as the Ramones, Sex Pistols and The Buzzcocks making up two phases of influences.
With John O Neill regularly writing songs for the band to perform in regular clubs such as Derry’s Casbah, it wasn’t long before The Undertones produced, arranged and recorded their first single Teenage Kicks which they decided to send to Radio 1 Disc Jockey John Peel.
“We’d made the record and because of Punk, at that stage, hundreds of bands were making records every week and sent their records toJohn Peel, because he got punk and he heard punk records.
“Whenever he played it or mentioned us, that was a huge deal for us. It was almost like we had made it and from that, we were signed to Sire Records. You can’t deny and we’re very proud to say – John Peel made us!”
Teenage Kicks not only got The Undertones a record deal but also into the charts and TV exposure on Top of The Pops. Although the record stalled at No.31.
“We’re not talking The Beatles here,” laughs Mickey, ”we’re not even talking The Tremeloes. Somebody said its played at every wedding in the country, it’s a great honour to have and it’s one of those records that has a life of its own. It’s part of our culture.”
Undertones My Perfect Cousin Based On Real Situation
Over the next five years, John O Neill, crafted further pop gems such as `Here Comes the Summer`, ‘Jimmy Jimmy`, `You’ve Got My Number (Why Don’t You Use It)’ and ‘Wednesday Week’ whilst Damian O’Neill and Mickey contributed ‘My Perfect Cousin”, which reached the top 10.
“That was a song that came out of a real situation,” says Mickey, “John and Damian had a cousin and this was a couple of years before we wrote the song, I would have grown up knowing what it was like to be compared to a cousin and the same with their cousin as well. It was kind of childish, but it was meant to be funny. I still like playing it because there’s a truth to it. “
The Undertones toured America with The Clash in 1979 and despite regular TV appearances and touring, remained true to their Derry roots.
Undertones Reformation “A Lap Of Honour”
The Undertones disbanded in 1983 following Feargal Sharkey’s decision to go solo. They would reform 16 years later in 1999 with Paul Mcloone taking over vocal duties the band have continued recording and touring since.
“We almost get a better vibe,” says Mickey of the bands current shows.
“We appreciate it more and are more aware of what we’re doing. We were aware first time, but we didn’t really value it, you realise at my age and I’m 58 I’m in a band and there’s something good about that. It’s like a lap of honour! You’re just looking to go and make people happy and that’s quite an achievement.”
- For further details on The Undertones visit their official website.
- Interview revised: November 2020