Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Out On Blue Six: The Undertones

....Or You'll Never Believe What This Song's Actually About #1

I love songs whose meanings can take you completely by surprise. Believe it or not, this 1981 single from The Undertones has a very deep meaning; Bobby Sands and the Maze prison hunger strikes. 

Written by the band's lead guitarist Damian O'Neill and bassist Michael Bradley, the song was conceived (primarily by O'Neill, Bradley made the song's meaning more vague and acceptable to pop audiences) as a protest at Margaret Thatcher's refusal to meet the hunger striking IRA prisoners demands and grant them political prisoner status. The thing that was going to 'happen all the time, 'till you change your mind' was death.

It's perhaps these lyrics where such inspiration is at its most clear;

"Watching your friends passing by
Going to sleep without blinking a blue eye
Too slow to notice what's wrong
Two faced to you when you're taking them on"


"Everything goes when you're dead
Everything empties from what was in your hand
No point in waiting today
Stupid revenge is what's making you stay"

Despite the song's meaning, no one in the band could have predicted that the day they were called to appear on Top of the Pops to perform the single, 5th May 1981, would be the day Bobby Sands would die from his hunger strike. To mark the occasion, O'Neill performed wearing a black armband.

End Transmission


  1. Blimey. Every day's a school day, and all that.

  2. Hehe. Thinking of branching out my Out On Blue Six music posts more to incorporate this kind of thing. I love songs that have rather deep and surprising meanings behind them.

  3. Well, "Land Of Make Believe" by Bucks Fizz was supposed to be a scathing indictment of Thatcher's government, so anything's possible.

    1. Ha yeah I'd heard that interpretation, along with Peter Sinfield trying to conjure up the dark side of Christmas and what lurks beneath the tinsel and fairy lights