Thursday, 2 April 2009

“The Undertones” by THE UNDERTONES (March 2009 Salvo '30th Anniversary' Expanded Edition CD Reissue and Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"…Let's Talk About Girls…"

Ah the mighty UNDERTONES – I only have to look at the cover of this album and I’m mush.

Their blinding debut made the ‘Q’ Magazine’s “100 Greatest British Albums” list – and this super CD overhaul only gives me a good excuse to wax lyrical about its myriad three-minute Pop-Punk wonders once more. So here are the Mars Bars and True Confessions…

UK released March 2009 - "The Undertones" by THE UNDERTONES on Salvo SALVOCD017 (Barcode 698458811721) is an 30th Anniversary 'Expanded Edition' CD Reissue and Remaster of their 1979 Debut LP and breaks down as follows (67:38 minutes):

1. Family Entertainment
2. Girls Don’t Like It
3. Male Model
4. I Gotta Getta
5. Wrong Way
6. Jump Boys
7. Here Comes The Summer
8. Billy’s Third
9. Jimmy Jimmy
10. True Confessions
11. (She’s A) Runaround
12. I Know A Girl
13. Listening In
14. Casbah Rock
Tracks 1 to 14 make up the 1st pressing of their debut LP "The Undertones" on Sire Records SRK 6071 initially released in May 1979 in the UK - January 1980 on Sire Records SRK-6081 in the USA. The 14th track - the 50-second "Casbah Rock" at the end of Side 2 - is listed on the label but not on the album sleeve. The original sleeve had black and white artwork (as used on the card slipcase) with a distinctive red die-cut inner sleeve - the reissue (explained below) had a colour sleeve with a black inner (not featured in the booklet). The album was recorded at Eden Studios in Acton in London in January 1979 and produced by ROGER BECHIRIAN.

Cashing in on the huge renewed response to their anthem "Teenage Kicks" - the album was reissued a second time in the UK as Sire Records SRK 6081 in November 1979 with a different front and inner sleeve and 2 added singles. "Teenage Kicks" was slipped in as Track 5 on Side 1 - in-between "I Gotta Get" and "Wrong Way" - while the 2nd single "Get Over You" was added on as the first track on Side 2 - making a 16-song version of the LP. The Sanctuary issue of 2008 uses the 16-track line-up rather than the original 14. Of course with a little bit of number programming - this new Salvo issue allows fans to program either.

Tracks 15 to 18 are the full 4 songs of their debut "Teenage Kicks" EP issued on the privately pressed Good Vibrations Label (GOT 4) in September 1978 - produced by the band themselves (see my review for the "Good Vibrations" Movie on BLU RAY). None of the songs turned up on the debut LP and it has remained a highly sought-after and collectable vinyl piece ever since. Oddly for such an indepth release - this CD actually mistakes the track order - it should read - A1 is "Teenage Kicks" (15), A2 is "Smarter Than You'” (18), B1 is "True Confessions" (16) and B2 is "Emergency Cases" (17) - gotta get those details right.

Tracks 19 to 21 are their 2nd maxi single "Get Over You" (19) - issued on Sire Records SIR 4010 in January 1979 in the UK. "Really Really" (20) and "She Can Only Say No" (21) are the B-sides and again all 3 songs were non-album.

Tracks 22 to 24 are their 4th UK single "Here Comes The Summer" (22) b/w "One Way Love" (23) and "Top Twenty" (24). It was another maxi release (3-tracks) and it's worth noting that the ‘single version' on the A-side differs to the version than ended Side 1 of the LP (the 2 B-sides were again non-album too).

Track 25 is "Mars Bars" - the non-album B-side to their 3rd UK 7" single "Jimmy Jimmy" - issued on Sire Records SIR 4015 in April 1979 (on lime green vinyl).

Tracks 26 and 27 are "You've Got My Number (Why Don't You Use It)" b/w "Let's Talk About Girls" - non-album tracks and their 5th UK 7" single on Sire Records SIR 4024 issued in September 1979 in the UK.

Tracks 29 to 31 are live John Peel Sessions recorded for the BBC at the Phoenix Studios on 7 May 1979 – “Nine Times Out Of Ten”, “The Way Girls Talk” and “Whiz Kids”

Track 32 is a video track from 1978 of "Teenage Kicks" (filmed in Primrose Hill in London)

As you can see from the lists above this new Salvo issue has 31 audio tracks plus 1 video track tagged on at the end - the 2008 Sanctuary issue has only 26 audio tracks. There's also a new card wrap outside the jewel case using the original LP artwork, a 20-page booklet which pictures ticket stubs, buttons, 7" sleeves and band photos - and there's detailed and witty liner notes by their bass player MICHAEL BRADLEY. 

The remastering has been done by ANDY PIERCE at Masterpiece and is fantastically clear, really clean and in your face. As a downside, it would have been nice to hear more in the booklet from either their great frontman and singer FEARGAL SHARKEY or especially JOHN O'NEILL - the band's principal songwriter.

While the album itself is a blast, what puts this issue into the stellar is the truly brilliant 17 extra tracks - stunning power-pop B-sides like "One Way Love" and "Let's Talk About Girls". And the four Peel Sessions tracks allow you to hear just how piss 'n' vinegar they really were as a live act (I wish I'd seen them). And then of course there's 'that' song - every time I hear The Undertones blistering debut 45 "Teenage Kicks", I can't help but think of the much-loved and sadly missed champion of Punk and New Wave music - the British DJ and Presenter JOHN PEEL. He adored the band with a passion and the hand-written lyrics to "Teenage Kicks" are framed in his home and literally etched above his final resting place (he was the first to air the song in September 1978 - famously playing it twice he liked it so much). Ten seconds into its thrashing riff it's easy to know why - it's thrilling - it's ballsy - it's life itself - and it's as fresh now as is was back then - a full three and half decades ago.

Derry's finest are held in huge affection by so many music lovers and not without reason. I loved returning to this album, I really did.

"...I wanna hold her, wanna hold her tight...get teenage kicks right through the night..." 

Too Goddamn right!

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