From page 12 of Classic Rock Magazine January 2005
‘Teenage Kicks’ / THE UNDERTONES (1978)
IT IS OFTEN SAID THAT SOME OF THE greatest songs ever written were knocked off almost effortlessly in a matter of minutes. It will come as little surprise, then, to learn that John O’Neill wrote The Undertones’ song ‘Teenage Kicks’ in the proverbial five minutes. The song that became an anthem was famously picked up and championed by John Peel, and received heavy airplay again recently following the legendary Radio 1 DJ’s death.
“I never really thought it was that good a song,” says guitarist O’Neill, who now helps run an arts centre in his native Northern Ireland.
“But John picked up on its attitude and innocence. It had a feel I didn’t even know.
“But even though I’m listed as the writer, it’s the sound that makes it,” he adds.
O’Neill’s brother and fellow Undertones guitarist Damian had the original hand-written lyric framed to give to Peel at his 60th birthday party, the gesture reducing Peel to tears.
‘Teenage Kicks’ was recently performed in Peel’s home city of Liverpool by Neil and Tim Finn (with assistance from Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr) as an impromptu tribute on the day after Peel’s passing. Snow Patrol and Busted are others to have essayed the song’s simple descending/ascending riff.
After Peel’s death, William Hill made the song a favourite for the Xmas number one spot. The band have nixed the idea, but Glastonbury goers in 2005 will be able to watch new bands perform on a stage renamed in Peel’s honour. And the Undertones will be there, playing the song John O’Neill is glad he wrote.
“Even if I never do anything else in life, I count it as a fulfilment to have touched John Peel,” he says.