The Infinite Jukebox: The Undertones ‘Get Over You’

Sitting in my local pub in Nottingham, talking to a guy who lived on one of the other floors of Alexandra House, I started expounding on one of the, to me, great virtues of punk/new wave. Which was, for want of a better word, it’s ephemerality.
This was December 1978, still part of a decade in which, outside the rarefied castles of the ProgRock titans and their wannabes, the trope was that bands had to pay their dues before they could be taken seriously. Yes, in order to achieve success and build careers, bands had to have done a minimum of three years gigging in appalling conditions, living on the road, playing in every crappy place under the sun for impossibly small fees before they could be considered fit to progress to making worthy albums of worthy music. And they had to have beards.
But why did you have to spend three years of your life wasting your time on repetitive rituals? Why can you only achieve success by ‘honing your chops’ in every small town you could think of? Why, if you’ve got the ability, can’t you get down to it whilst you’re fresh?
And, I argued, some bands don’t have a career in them. Some bands maybe only have three minutes of genius in them, one song that lights up the universe, tears at hearts and feet, fills you up with its wonderfulness.
That was the glory of punk/new wave for me, with the tiny independent labels, the rushed out releases: the chance to get that three minutes of glory out there for us to hear, instead of drowning it in practiced rote and a dull adherence to the rules.
I quoted examples. There was The Tours’ ‘Language School’, a brilliant, pulsing, thrashing guitar and pumping bass with a one-note riff that buoyed the whole thing up, and nobody ever heard anything else from them that sounded remotely as good, but so what? We had that song and we were better off for it, and would it make a difference to ‘Language School’s charms if there was never an album’s worth of songs slapped around it?
Or, I said, take The Undertones. I explained about them being from Derry, and getting in touch with John Peel, and getting ‘Teenage Kicks’ not only onto his show but into the Top 40 and on Top of the Pops (by this time the song had had a three-week chart career, peaking at 31). They’ll probably never make a record remotely as good as that again, hell, they might not ever make another record at all, but we’ve got this one, and it’s brilliant, and that’s because they could go into a local studio and record it and release it, without any thought of having to do anything but bring us this song.
That’s what’s so great about punk/new wave.
Probably never make a record remotely as good as that again. Might not ever make another record at all.
I went home to Manchester over Xmas, lugging my hi-fi home because I was going to be gone for ten days. It was the Winter of Discontent, snow choking Britain on New Year’s Eve and, in order to be back at work for January 2, I had to travel by train with only what I could carry. No hi-fi for over half the month, until the roads were safe for my mother to drive over and deliver it. I had nothing for entertainment but the TV lounges and my transistor radio.
And then Peely played the second Undertones single…

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