This song by the Belfast band the Undertones comes from the 'True Confessions' EP originally released in September 1978 by Belfast record shop owner Terri Hooley on his own Good Vibrations label in an initial pressing of 2,000 copies (Hooley claims it cost £100 to record, at Wizard Studios in Belfast). Ken Garner relates that it is unclear how JP received his copy: Feargal Sharkey claims he sent him one, but Hooley counter-claims that he left a copy at Radio 1 for the DJ after trying without success to sell it to some major labels (Garner, K., The Peel Sessions, p. 102).
What is beyond dispute is that John programmed all four tracks (Teenage Kicks/Smarter Than U/True Confessions/Emergency Cases) into his 12 September 1978 show, and played the lead track repeatedly over the next two weeks. This led to a record deal with Sire and the single was re-released on that label in October, going on to make number 31 in the UK charts.
The song was among the bonus tracks added to the first Undertones album when it was reissued with a new cover after a few months. Peel chose it as his contribution to a programme where various personalities read out their favourite poems, and he noted that Sheila had promised to play it at his funeral . As he additionally requested, the opening line, "Teenage dreams so hard to beat" (a misquotation of the actual lyrics "A teenage dream's so hard to beat") was inscribed on his tombstone.
In March 2018 Teenage Kicks was the winner of the "Debut Singles World Cup" competition on the Steve Lamacq show on BBC Radio 6 Music, beating Kate Bush's Wuthering Heights in the 'final' (and beating Damned, Oasis and Sex Pistols along the way). Lamacq played the winning track with a recorded introduction by John Peel.
From The Horse's Mouth
JOHN WALTERS: Can we finish this programme with not necessarily an example of pure punk, but of something that probably couldn't have happened without the spirit of punk, from that era?
JOHN PEEL: Well, I always, every time I do one of my terrible gigs, whatever records I play in the course of it, which tend to be not the ones which people request...people come up and say to me, "Can you play something by the Sisters Of Mercy?", I just say, "Under no circumstances whatsoever am I going to play anything by the Sisters Of Mercy!". But they always come up to me at some stage and say, "When are you going to play 'Teenage Kicks'?", and I say that I shall play 'Teenage Kicks', as I have done for ten years, at the end of the event, and I always sign off with some false modest observation, and then finish with 'Teenage Kicks', which I still maintain is the best record ever made. (Peeling Back The Years, 1987, Episode 4.)
- "This was a record which somebody else did play on the radio, I was driving up to see Liverpool play and I was in a traffic jam round Stoke-on-Trent, I think, and I heard Peter Powell play the Undertones' 'Teenage Kicks' which I'd been playing for months, but to hear it played by someone else was a stupendous thing and I actually burst into floods of tears in the traffic jam - I'll try not to cry now..." (JP, Desert Island Discs, 1990)
- "For the rest of his life, it was the song that could be relied upon to give him a fillip after a day of uninspiring new records....There was, he would say, nothing that could be added to or subtracted from 'Teenage Kicks' to make it any better than it already was." (Ravenscroft, S., Margrave Of The Marshes, p. 374-5)
Data below includes information from Phil's Mighty Database and Lorcan's Tracklistings Archive as well as The Peel Sessions by Ken Garner (p. 102), but it is only a preliminary listing. Please add any missing information.
- 12 September 1978 (first play, along with rest of EP)
- 14 September 1978
- 15 September 1978
- 25 September 1978 (played twice)
- 29 September 1978
- 03 October 1978
- 13 October 1978
- 24 October 1978
- 27 October 1978
- 31 October 1978
- 01 January 1979 (1978 Festive Fifty #10)
- 02 January 1979
- 19 March 1979
- 16 April 1979
- 28 May 1979
- Walhalla (21-08-79)
- 30 August 1979 (40th Birthday)
- 13 September 1979
- 06 April 1993 (Peel is Brambles)
- 24 June 1999 (Glastonbury Mix)
- 31 August 1999 (60th birthday)
- 14 September 1999
- 30 November 1999 (Peelenium 1978)
b-side 'Sometimes' single (Infectious)
DJ Remould: single (Shifty Disco)
- 28 May 1997 (JP: 'A blot and a blasphemy, but none the less enjoyable for all that.')
Dawn Chorus & The Blue Tits: (7” single) Stiff
Sean Dickson: live at Peel Acres
Hi-Fidelity: (LP - John Peel's Birthday CD) white label
London Punkharmonic Orchestra: (CD - Classical Punk) Music club
Nouvelle Vague: (LP- Nouvelle Vague) Peacefrog
Punk Rock Baby: (LP - Punk Rock Baby) Punk Rock Baby
Snow Patrol: Live In Austin
- 31 August 1999 (60th birthday)
(CD - John Peel's Birthday CD) white label
Therapy: (7 inch-Have A Merry Fucking Christmas)' (A&M) 1993
Unfinished Sympathy: session