Wednesday, 24 February 2016
Oliver: The Undertones - Jimmy Jimmy (12 January 1992)
If you could have asked John Peel one question, what would it have been? Would it have been about hanging out with Marc Bolan when Peel was a princeling among hippies? Perhaps, you would have wanted to know what sustained him during the prog years or anecdotes about his conversion to punk. Memories of John Walters and lusting after Clare Grogan. Did he prefer The Smiths or Public Enemy? Was Courtney Love misrepresented? Did he ever think of doing a programme consisting of nothing but reggae records? Would he have liked to see Jack White collaborate with a grime duo?
For myself, the question has always been the same: did you feel in any way conflicted when the man who sang your favourite song ever had a number 1 hit with a piece of pure MOR pop that wouldn't have been anywhere near your 1985 playlists?
It's not really a fair question, not least because I actually rather like ol' "Sheargal Farkey"'s, A Good Heart. In fact, in my unregulated moments, I cite the bit at the end of the second chorus where he goes "Yeah" before the slide guitar solo flies down a fireman's pole as one of the most hair raising moments in 80s pop. But even at 9 years old, I was still taking the piss out of his hair, and that so sincere, quavery vocal, which made Jonathan Donahue sound like Robert Plant. So if I was thinking that, and I'd only seen the bloke 2 minutes earlier, I can't imagine what those who had been lapping up his excellent vocal performances on Undertones records were feeling.
Before this recording, my only exposure to Jimmy Jimmy was the fact that Sky Sports used it as theme music on Jimmy Hill's Sunday Supplement. It was not an entirely appropriate choice given the gargantuan levels of self-confidence that Hill had in pretty much every thing he turned his hand to were not qualities shared by Sharkey's titular friend. There's an ease to this urban fairy tale which shines through from first second to last. It's one of those records to make the jaded pop nostalgist reflect back on the second coming of the Beat Boom which in many respects is what all those Undertones, Buzzcocks, Sham 69 et al records were, and every bit as cherishable.
That "hit it" in the middle of the solo remains an abomination, though.
Videos courtesy of joseedc and Flashlights.