“I played a Japanese Les Paul copy on Teenage Kicks but, ironically, I still think it’s the best sound I ever got on record”: The Undertones’ Damian O’Neill looks back on the making of the band’s defining anthem – and the lost classic that followed

The Undertones
The Undertones perform on Top Of The Pops in London in 1981; [from left] John O’Neill, Damian O’Neill, Michael Bradley and Feargal Sharkey (Image credit: Michael Putland/Getty Images)

When the Undertones released their third album, Positive Touch, in 1981, it marked a distinct change in direction for the Northern Irish punks. They broke through with the all-time punk classic, Teenage Kicks in 1978, followed by a string of hits and two albums that were very much in tune with the rough-and-ready punk ethos of the era. 

The Undertones always had strong pop sensibilities, but Positive Touch pushed those elements to the forefront – with an overt ’60s influence in the mix – and is now viewed as something of a lost classic. The Undertones are still active as a band, touring regularly with all of the original lineup still intact, save for the substitution of Paul McLoone for original vocalist Feargal Sharkey, who left the band in 1983.

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Mark McStea

Mark is a freelance writer with particular expertise in the fields of ‘70s glam, punk, rockabilly and classic ‘50s rock and roll. He sings and plays guitar in his own musical project, Star Studded Sham, which has been described as sounding like the hits of T. Rex and Slade as played by Johnny Thunders. He had several indie hits with his band, Private Sector and has worked with a host of UK punk luminaries. Mark also presents themed radio shows for Generating Steam Heat. He has just completed his first novel, The Bulletproof Truth, and is currently working on the sequel.