THE UNDERTONES SINGLES 77-83 (Part 9)

The next single was released in July 1981 and became the first since Jimmy Jimmy not to crack the Top 40.

The band’s third album Positive Touch had been released a couple of months previously, their first for EMI, but it hadn’t sold nearly as many copies as the previous records.  Critics had been a bit bemused by it – while they were keen to praise what was a marked departure in sound with comparisons now to The Velvet Underground instead of Buzzcocks, there was a sense that the band were missing what many felt they were best at – fast and furious post-punk guitar led music. The use of piano and trumpet, combined with an increasing reliance on acoustic guitars, certainly divided fans and there was a marked reluctance from them to embrace much of the new material in the live setting as you couldn’t really dance to it.

It also created a problem for the label bosses as there was no real obvious single to follow-up It’s Going To Happen! and so the decision was taken to take a fabulous ballad and re-record it. Here’s the LP version:-

mp3 : The Undertones – Julie Ocean (original version)

The Velvet Underground influence can easily be discerned across its less than two minutes of magnificence.

Here’s the outcome of asking Dave Balfe and Hugh Jones to come in and work their brand of magic on it:-

mp3 : The Undertones – Julie Ocean (single version)

At almost three and a half minutes, it’s way longer than the album version – it also sees Feargal deliver a different vocal with a change in tempo and use of echo taking away from the simplicity and fragility of the original. It also has a long fade-out which seems to indicate that the producers weren’t quite sure what to do with it.

I don’t think I’m alone in preferring the album version but at the same time I can see what the new version was trying to achieve in terms of creating a more radio-friendly sound. They did a decent enough job in that regard and the song certainly deserved to do better than #41 in the charts.

The b-side was a new song, and again came via the time in the studio with Balfe and Jones:-

mp3 : The Undertones – Kiss In The Dark

Again, it marked the new more mature sounding Undertones. I remember being a bit disappointed with it at the time but as my tastes have developed and matured over the years I’ve grown to like it a bit more. But it’s no True Confessions or Mars Bar…..

4 thoughts on “THE UNDERTONES SINGLES 77-83 (Part 9)

  1. Julie Ocean is a beautiful song. The album version, as gentle and genteel as it may seem, belies a restrained emotion that really makes it work.
    The Balfe/Jones produced single is equally touching but trades in the genteel for a more widescreen sound. I can’t say I don’t like the single version, but I cherish the immediacy and personal touch of the album version.

  2. Sorry one more point on single choices for Positive Touch – Fascination would have been a blinder of a single. It got a lot of college radio play in NYC at the time.

  3. I’ve always preferred the single, it was the first version I heard on the old Cher O’Bowlies comp. beautiful song, the sort of thing that would have sat easily on You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever

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