Living with…The Undertones….for a week

Sax by marlenekzio

They say you haven’t lived until your next door neighbour has played along to Teenage Kicks at 2 o’clock in the morning on his saxophone.

I guess that means I’ve lived.

Neighbours in the 80s

Supposedly one of the delights of starting at university is Freshers Week.  A week before the main body of a British university starts in October, an influx of fresh-faced teenagers arrives thirsty for the experiences that they have been told about.  It’s a noisy but nervous week as everyone feels their way in to groups and friendships generally accompanied by copious amounts of alcohol.

I made it through the first day of my freshers back in 1985 only to fall very ill for the rest of the week.  It was a bout of flu, not man flu I should hasten to add as that hadn’t been invented yet.  I lay in a darkened room in a flat that I shared with five others.  They were very understanding, and popped in a couple of times each day to check I was still there and invite me to things I couldn’t go to.

But it was my neighbour on the floor above that left the deepest impression.  I never met him to say hello.  I never knew his name.  I can only vaguely remember what he looked like now.  But I could hear him as he came back from the Union bar at midnight.

I could hear him as he put on the tape of the moment, Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms.  I could hear him as he stomped around his room.  And then I heard him as he played his saxophone along to first Money for Nothing and then Walk of Life.  He wasn’t bad, I just had a headache to start with.

By Friday night, I had picked up enough to stagger down with my flatmates to a bar for a noisy, dazed evening of introductions.  My head was now thick with the remnants of flu and beer, and so I crashed out solidly in my bed by midnight.  At 2am I was awoken by my friend the saxophonist who tooted out two Undertones tracks at full blast.  First, My Perfect Cousin which woke me up.  And then, Teenage Kicks

“I wanna hold you wanna hold you tight
Get teenage kicks right through the night”

Don’t know about the teenage kicks, but I ended up being awake nearly right through the night after the rude awakening.

The saxophone playing died away after that first week.  Maybe, one of the other neighbours asked him to play some Pink Floyd and then inserted it into the Dark Side.  Maybe he just got his teenage kicks in other ways.  Personally, I’ve stayed away from sax compilations of punk songs ever since then.


The Undertones  – The Undertones (1979)

It comes to something when you feel that one of the songs is starting to drag a bit at two and a half minutes long, but it sums up this classic album.  There isn’t an ounce of fat on it.  Each song hits the opening note running and buzzing with energy.  The lyrics are wonderfully sparse but oh so catchy – who can’t join in with Jimmy Jimmy?  Or the wonderful anthem Here Comes the Summer.

In many senses this is perfect pop/ rock.  No messing about with elongated guitar or synth solos.  Bang the drum and thrash the guitar.  Get to the chorus as soon as you can.  Make sure your audience can sing along.  And sing about things the audience gets – girls and boys.  boys and girls.  The only drugs around are testosterone and estrogen.

And of course. The Undertones has that song.  John Peel famously loved Teenage Kicks so much that he played it twice in succession on his show and requested that a line from the song “Teenage dreams, so hard to beat” be etched on his gravestone.  Which it is.    The song has become an anthem for the punk era, a symbol of coarse youth, and one of many highlights on the album.

I’ve left behind the sax version now, and love this album if only as a slice of life in the late 70’s and early 80’s.  I’m not sure that it says anything to me particulalrly now beyond you don’t need more than two and a half minutes to hammer out a brilliant song.

Clearly, Teenage Kicks is video of the week and what better than a TOTP clip


Twotes of the week

@MCFC: Mario Balotelli backs regional firework safety campaign : #MCFC #safe4autumn

@LeanneDoohan: Oh dear, web design teacher just said that comic sans is ‘quite nice’ on websites!

@Its_Death: The X Factor. For when repeatedly punching yourself in the ears isn’t enough. #xfactor

@NotGusPoyet#mufc fans, those ’19’ banners you have been waving since last May will make wonderful Xmas presents when turned upside down for #mcfc fans

@_Enanem_: The first rule of suspense club is

@HeardinLondon : Jesus was at St Paul’s last weekend with a message the cathedral could do with remembering