The Times We Lived In: Here comes the summer

Published on July 18th, 1983: Feargal Sharkey and The Undertones at a summer festival in Co Kildare. Photograph: Pat Langan

Published on July 18th, 1983: Feargal Sharkey and The Undertones at a summer festival in Co Kildare. Photograph: Pat Langan


Some things you’ll simply never see in this world again. For one: Feargal Sharkey and The Undertones in full flow at a summer festival, as captured here in July 1983, when they kicked off the proceedings at Punchestown Racecourse, Co Kildare, opening for the lead act Dire Straits.

Even as it was taken, it was a conscious record of finality for as the caption says, the occasion was the band’s last performance. Discord and disagreement had been a feature of the short life of the punk outfit from Derry, and by 1983 they had agreed to go their separate ways.

It made for an emotional gig. Some 12,000 people – including a late contingent from Derry – gathered for what was called, bizarrely, “Dublin Rock Festival No 2”.

There were tears. The band gave what our music correspondent Joe Breen described as “a good-humoured, ebullient and entertaining set”.

The photographer has caught Sharkey in typical Teenage Kicks pose, fists clenched, jacket over bare torso, hair as mad as if it had been electrified. (That haircut would, two years later, win him the New Musical Express “Worst Haircut of the Year” award.)

As an image of Irish punk, it could hardly be bettered. It’s a cry of pain – and the skeleton of the stage behind Sharkey, with a row of black stage lights in the top left-hand corner of the shot, just adds to the drama.

There’s just one odd note: the wedding ring on Sharkey’s left hand. It somehow sings a less rebellious melody.

Sure enough, as a solo artist Sharkey moved away from post-punk towards the pop sound which brought him to the top of the charts in 1985 with A Good Heart.

Every summer – especially since the success of the brilliant movie Good Vibrations – there are those who hope The Undertones will relent and join the mob of ageing rockers who, annually, dust themselves off and haul themselves around the festivals circuit. And every summer, Sharkey says no. Which is pretty punk, still, when you think about it.

Arminta Wallace These and other Irish Times images can be purchased from:

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