Never Mind Judy, Said Beartrice Incoherently …

Oh baby baby what can I do
You know you drive me crazy when I’m looking at you
The summer’s really here and it’s time to come out
Time to discover what fun is about

Here comes the summer
Here comes the summer
Here comes the summer

Keep looking for the girls with their faces all tanned
Lying on the beaches all covered in sand
Stretching out their long legs lying in the sun
They know they’re beautiful, they’re having fun

Here comes the summer

You want proof that my life is one exciting cavalcade of novelty and adventure? well, see how far I’ve progressed – 4 years ago there I was blogging about how, when the sun comes out I reach for the Undertones and here I am, a mere 35,472 hours later typing exactly the same thing.  Ah well plus ça change, as we Welsh say.

I love this band unreservedly and as you all know, that’s a whole lotta love going their way.  I won’t type all the same things I, and others, always do about the Undertones and so no paeans to their great punk pop chops and their wonderful provincial uncoolness from me, no not from me.  Nope let’s just get all review-y about Undertones The Peel Sessions Album, which dates from 1989 comprising three sessions recorded for the late great John Peel in 1979-1982; a man so enamoured by them he had the line ‘A teenage dream is hard to beat’ engraved on his headstone.

As you’d expect the 1979 session, broadcast only 14,064 days ago today is the most feisty of the three.  Hurtling out of the traps 4 months before their debut LP did, they didn’t bother bashing out a live version of their only release at that point, Teenage Kicks* but cut four tracks that would be on their debut LP – ‘Listening In’, ‘Family Entertainment’, ‘Billy’s Third’ and ‘Here Comes The Summer’.  The first three tracks clock in a good 5 or 6 seconds quicker than their, eventual, LP versions which tells you what you need to know – they speed through them.  It’s great, you can tell they haven’t quite got the melody of ‘Family Entertainment’ down yet and some of the chords are distinctly wonky too.  ‘Billy’s Third’ benefits the most from this treatment, it suits being a shade, or two, rawer.  All three are great because the Undertones are such an inherently great band, energetic, melodic and joyous.

The version of 1537-fave ‘Here Comes The Summer’ is radically different, adding an excellently dorky spoken intro to proceedings, complete with whistling blizzard noises by the band in the background:

This achieves the impossible, it actually increases the Joy Index Reading (JIR) of one of my favourite feel good tracks ever by 25.76%.  Especially at the end of the song one of the band asks, ‘Hey Mikey, what does incoherently mean?’.  If this song doesn’t make you want to fling yourself around a dance floor then, my friend, I am afraid you have no soul.

The second tranche of tracks from The Peel Sessions Album is taken from their Hypnotised period, predictably I love that album as their pop sensibilities really start to elbow their punky thrash aside and you get a real sense of the songs standing on their own two legs, although the production lacked a bit of bite at times.  The versions here of ‘Girl’s That Don’t Talk’, ‘Tearproof’** and ‘What’s With Terry’ really benefit from the stripped back broadcast conditions – ‘Tearproof’ in particular is revealed as a meaner critter than in its’ studio incarnation.  All the tracks recorded for this session are perfect, showcasing a band who had really learned their craft on the job; the change from their session 364 days earlier is notable.

The last track in the 1980 session is an absolutely belting cover of ‘Rock n’ Roll’ by, the then pre-lapsarian, Gary Glitter^.  The Undertones really give it their all, Feargal Sharkey’s quavering tones being deployed to great effect and the drumming of Billy Doherty is absolutely spot on.  This track was much mix-taped by me back in the day.

Their 1982 session was launched 4 months before their final LP before they split, The Sin of Pride.  By this time the Undertones had all but eschewed punk completely in their recordings, their love of Motown and soul was suddenly to the fore – us punks voted with our wallets and the LP flopped, everyone just wanted them to rewrite their debut over again.  Wrongly as it happens.  The four tasters here are good, the melodic poise of ‘The Love Parade’ is particularly good and there is a bitter bite underneath ‘Luxury’ that draws me in.  In fact the track ‘Untouchable’ very much sounds like indie pop would for the next decade at least, sadly the band got there too fast for the hordes.

The Peel Sessions Album is a good one for fans to grab hold of, especially nerdy dudes like me who have nothing better to do than minutely compare different versions of tracks.  It’s an interesting document but not a game changer in the way the Ruts Peel Sessions Album would be.  ‘One for the die-hard, not the floating voter’, 1537 said incoherently.

778 Down.

PS.  This LP is where I kept all the John Peel obituaries and articles when he died.

*not a bad first cut as things go.  I’d probably agree with John Peel that it was the best single ever released.

**miswrotten as ‘Tear Proof’ in the track-listing.

^fun fact, Mrs 1537’s aunt used to run his fan club.


17 thoughts on “Never Mind Judy, Said Beartrice Incoherently …

  1. Been taking my time commenting on this. Here Comes The Summer was the song that made me realise music wasn’t just something you did inbetween geography homework and oiling your bicycle chain.
    Thanks for getting your appreciation of The Undertones so spot on – sure I love Get Over You and Jimmy Jimmy but it was the third and fourth albums (after they grew up) that bear repeated listening. In fact, so obsessed was I with The Sin Of Pride that to this day I harbour an ambition to reform thw band and force them to re-record it without the lumpy 80’s production.
    I went to see them on their final tour and wondered how they were going to get the sophistication of the last album to sound like the same band that recorded the speed frenzy of the first. Unsurprisingly it was absolutely seamless and it was actually the earlier songs that appeared to have a greater depth than first listening suggested. All of which makes me resentful that so many people desserted them when they tried to prove they were more than just Teenage Kicks and I’m glad someone managed to get that over considerably more articulately than I could have accomplished!

    1. Thank you very much, that is really very kind of you. I just love this band. Did you have the Peel Sessions at all?

      If you want an accomplice for kidnapping the boys and forcing them to re-record SOP then I’m in. I’m a good getaway driver, but rubbish at parking.

      Untouchable had such a prescient sound to it, people’d be copying that melodic noise for years to come.

      Did you go for That Petrol Emotion much? I could never warm to them, myself.

      1. Shamefully I don’t have any Peel session albums. Flatshared with a bloke who had the That Petrol Emotion sessions which got worn flat over the years. Have you ever come across The Left Banke? John O’Neill freely admitted to ripping them off for SOP and their song I Haven’t Got The Nerve sounds EXACTLY like Untouchable.

    1. I did like it. He grew up about 3 miles from here, I live in the town he did his dancing lessons in. Such a shame it was never finished.

  2. Regrettably I don’t know much Undertones at this stage of my life. Teenage Kicks is about all I know. That’s a genuine shocker when I think about it.

    Maybe I need to rectify that, then.

    Those John Peel session archives don’t seem to have any shanners, eh?

    1. Not necessarily, depends how much you like poppy punky goodness.

      I’m not too sure what a ‘shanner’ is, so I’m going to just nod enthusiastically at you and back away on that last point.

  3. 30,000 Hours later ! HAHAHA….
    Have no idea where you dig this stuff up Boss but I dig these Retro reviews..Kinda a history music lesson….
    Good stuff

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