One Direction breathe new life into former Teenage Dirtbags

Fifteen years ago, Wheatus shot to fame with their debut single.

By Jon Ball
Wednesday, 30th September 2015, 12:21 pm

Teenage Dirtbag – complete with its lyrics ‘He doesn’t know who I am and he doesn’t give a damn about me, ’cause I’m just a teenage dirtbag’ – struck a chord among love-struck teenagers across the nation in July 2000, reaching number two in the charts.

Their debut album, Wheatus, shot to number seven a month later, while the second single, a cover of Erasure’s A Little Respect, reached number three.

But, just as quickly, the band disappeared from public consciousness – until three years ago.

Brendan B Brown, Wheatus frontman, producer and song-writer – and sole-surviving founder member of the group – takes up the story.

“It was in November 2012. I was at an event when my phone started going crazy with Twitter alerts,” he says.

“Teenage Dirtbag was trending massively. I thought ‘what the hell is going on’. I thought I was being punked.”

The reason behind the sudden interest was thanks to a certain boyband.

During a gig at Madison Square Garden, One Direction covered Teenage Dirtbag – apparently at the insistence of the band’s South Yorkshire member Louis Tomlinson, from Bessacarr, Doncaster.

“One thing is people at our gigs have got a lot younger now,” laughs Brendan about the unexpected surge in popularity.

Fast forward two-and-half years, and with interest in the band remaining and Teenage Dirtbag still a radio favourite, Wheatus are about to surf a wave of nostalgia.

“Our UK booking agent was like ‘are you going to do a 15th anniversary tour’,” says Brendan.

Wheatus frontman Brendan B Brown in action.

“I was like ‘it’s 15 years since our first album, no one cares about that’. I was wrong.

“We started selling out dates really fast, so we added more and everyone who wants the seventh album will now have to wait.”

And unlike some bands who turn their back on their early material, Brendan embraces it.

“I realise a lot is just nostalgia,” he says. “People want to hear Teenage Dirtbag

Wheatus play Corporation, Sheffield, on Sunday, October 4.

“It’s really cherished by me, I am not precious about it.

“When I was a kid, music was like a mythical land for me. I had no idea how, but I wanted to be a person who did it and I am and that’s so fulfilling. I am not going to bust about how we got there.

“We really don’t run into people who don’t like Dirtbag, including us.

“I grew up idolising Rush and AC/DC, bands that last forever.

“One of the fears I had when Dirtbag kicked off was that it would get old quick or be received as a fad. I was wrong to worry about that. It feels new every night. I think that’s because it’s hard to play correctly, but what the hell do I know?”

Wheatus bring their special 15th anniversary UK tour to Sheffield on Sunday, playing their eponymously-titled debut album in full, plus favourites from their other albums and EPs.

Wheatus play Corporation, Milton Street, Sheffield city centre, on Sunday, October 4. Doors open at 6.30pm and support comes from Mike Doughty, The Hipstones and Gabrielle Sterbenz.

For tickets, priced from £15 in advance, visit