Formed around the larger than life character that was Domhnall MacDermott, the original line up was Domhnall (vocals), Willie Doherty (vocals), Gerry McCauley (guitar), Seamus Cassidy (guitar), Tony Vail (bass) and John Coyle (drums). There followed a number of line up changes that included Domhnall’s brother Feargal, Colm McKeever, Tommy Olphert and Ciaran McLaughlin but the ethos of the band never changed. Drink, play and have fun doing it. The band did manage to get support slots with The Radiators From Space who were then emerging out of the Dublin scene and with, of all bands, Horslips, at the Culdaff Arms. By all accounts this was a legendary performance.
The band’s “back catalogue” comprises one studio tape of the infamous “Kevin Mahon” (think the Skids TV Stars), a tribute to the Derry City player. Rumour has it that the recording was so bad that the local radio station asked people to pledge money to charity before they would take it off air. A small fortune was donated. The final line up was Domhnall MacDermott, Gerry McCauley, Mickey Griffiths (often drunk, rarely sober) and Niall McKeever. They continued to perform sporadically in the late eighties and early nineties until the untimely death of Domhnall MacDermott in September 1994 at the age of thirty five.
According to Garban Downey, Mickey O’Donnell was also briefly a member before they threw him out when they discovered he knew all three chords.
From Punk in Derry The Undertones’ John O’Neill on Domhnall:
“The one day, during the summer of 1976 I remember someone telling me that there was a guy who had the first Velvet Underground LP and was more or less the same age as us. When we heard about someone else who had a record collection of stuff that we had no chance of ever hearing or ordering in Derry, it didn’t take us long to invite ourselves round to his house. As well as having the first two Velvets’ records he had records by The Stooges, The New York Dolls, The Doors and the Nuggets compilation!!! It was love at first sight!
Bravely, Domhnall (or as we knew him then, Wombat) allowed us to borrow his records over the next few weeks. Borrowing one or two at a time seemed a reasonable compromise, we wanted them all at once but we could see he was rightly a bit wary of us and in retrospect he definitely was taking a chance with these precious pieces of vinyl. Once taken home though, we plundered, pillaged, soaked up and outright nicked as much as we could. In fact the reason we chose the name The Undertones was because we thought it sounded like one of the garage bands off ‘Nuggets’. The rest, as they say, is history. The Ramones first LP was released later that year, there were reports of a growing Punk scene in England and everything sort of clicked into place as we started to write our own songs ‘borrowing’ heavily from The Ramones, The New York Dolls and The Stooges. Domhnall had got most of his records in the first place sent up to him from Dublin by a certain Phil Chevron, who went on to form the Radiators from Space (and was later a member of the Pogues) and who subsequently gave us our first shows in Dublin in 1977.
Domhnall himself went on to form ‘Dick Tracy and the Green Disaster’ and I remember bumping into him one day, telling him how much I really liked one of his songs called ‘Action Comics’ and how great a title it was. I always remember him saying to me that he had better get it copyrighted quick as I had stolen so much from him as it was, that he wasn’t going to take any more chances, which was about right!!! They say life is all about fate, well, it was a pleasure to have got to know Domhnall and it was certainly a life changing experience for me borrowing his records and basically getting his support at a time when sticking your neck out in Derry inevitably meant verbal and physical abuse. A true fan and lovely guy. With any luck he is up in heaven singing along with Johnny Thunders and Dee Dee and Joey Ramone. And, I never did steal that title!”
Kevin Mahon / Interview with Domhnall MacDermott (1986)