Undertone brings teenage dreams to a new generation

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Undertones bass guitarist Mickey Bradley thought he had seen it all until he found himself standing in front of over 100 Derry school children at the Gasyard Centre this week.

As part of the ‘From Columba to Conflict’ programme, Mickey talked to pupils from St. Eugene’s PS, Long Tower PS, Gaelscoil Na Daroige PS and Gaeilscoil Eadain Mhoir PS about the formation of The Undertones and let several children play along to the band’s song ‘Teenage Kicks’ on his bass guitar.

“This is the first time that I’ve ever done anything like this,” explained Mickey. “It was great fun chatting to the children; it makes me very proud that The Undertones are considered to be part of Derry’s history.”

‘From Columba to Conflict’ is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and coordinator Michael Cooper explained that the programme’s aim is to educate local primary school children on the history of the Bogside.

“The whole concept of this project is to introduce school children to the history of the Bogside. We started the project last year with the story of St. Columba and by the time it’s over we will have taken the schoolchildren right up to just before the Troubles started.

“I think it’s great to see so many local school children here today engaging with Mickey. The story of The Undertones is a great one and I think that some of the teachers enjoyed it just as much as the children did,” he said smiling.

Mickey told the children about how and when The Undertones formed and revealed that their first live performance was in St. Joseph’s secondary school in Rosemount in the 1970s. He also talked about how the band signed their first record deal and explained how he wrote the hit song ‘My Perfect Cousin’ with band-mate Damien O’Neill.

“The first record deal we signed was a very bad one,” admitted Mickey. “But on the bright side it meant that we got to perform on Top of the Pops.

“Damien [O’Neill] and myself wrote the song ‘My Perfect Cousin’ and I think the children enjoyed listening to the story behind the song.”

The Undertones appeared on Top of the Pops 13 times before lead singer Feargal Sharkey left the band in the 1980s. They also played concerts all over Ireland, England, Belgium, France, Germany, Holland and America.

Mickey showed the children old photos of the band pictured outside Feargal Sharkey’s mother’s house before they signed their first record deal. Also on display was the photograph which appeared on the front cover of the band’s first LP. The black and white image showed the five band members pictured on the old wall in Bull Park; it was taken by former ‘Journal’ photographer Larry Doherty.

After recounting the band’s story to the children, Mickey let them listen to the hit song ‘Teenage Kicks’. For the vast majority of the children in the hall it was the first time they had ever heard the song and their eagerly awaited verdict was a positive one.

“I thought the song was brilliant,” said 10year-old Seanan Friel from Gaelscoil Na Daroige. “My mammy and daddy are fans of The Undertones so they’ll be happy when they hear that I got Mickey Bradley’s autograph.”

After finishing his talk on the history of The Undertones, Mickey invited several of the school children to come forward and to play along to ‘Teenage Kicks’ on the bass guitar.

“I think it was great to see the young people playing along to the song,” said Mickey. “They were very impressive and I wouldn’t be surprised if they grew up to be better at the bass guitar than I am,” he laughed.

“If a few of the children go away from this talk today and take up an instrument then it’s been a real success.”

One of the school children who volunteered to have a go on the bass guitar was P6 pupil Adam Moore from Gaelscoil Na Daroige.

“I thought I really looked the part,” said Adam. “I’ve always liked the idea of learning how to play a musical instrument and after today I think I’d like to learn how to play the bass.

“I really enjoyed listening to the story of The Undertones. I had heard of them before but I wasn’t aware that they were from Derry; I think my parents like them,” said the 10-year-old.

Mrs. England’s P5 class from St. Eugene’s PS attended the talk and nine-year-old Jessica Fryer said that she enjoyed taking part and added that she is going to listen to the music of The Undertones in her spare time.

“Today was just excellent,” she said. “Not only did we learn something completely new but we also got the chance to play a musical instrument and that was very, very exciting.

“I play the cello and although it’s not the kind of instrument that you would hear in this type of music I am definitely going to check out more of The Undertones when I get home.”