Film Review: Good Vibrations
Niall Hope recommended this film to me. Some of the really cool people I get to work with on the Popular Music course also raved about it. Then I witnessed an excellent discussion about Northern Irish punk, and the film at the Rebellion Festival, so the time was right.
I loved it.
One of the significant points made during the discussion was by Greg from the Outcasts. He said, and I paraphrase: ‘every scene needs a charismatic character.’ And Terri Hooley was that character.
Hooley comes across in the film as a loveable pacifist in a warzone. His dad was a rather stern socialist and Hooley’s huge cultural achievement – opening a record shop in Belfast and launching his similarly named Good Vibrations label – seems driven by love not money.
His wife was a really sympathetic character in the film. And a good reminder of how many of the icons of the music industry are supported, funded or sustained by the women in their lives.
I loved so much of the music on Good Vibrations as I was growing up. It simultaneously made Belfast seem closer and further away. The bands tended to be better than their contemporaries in the South, and naturally the Belfast of the headlines made most of us bury our heads in the sand.
Lots of the Good Vibes’ bands have aged very well. I still love hearing Rudi, The Outcasts, The Undertones and even a bit of the Static Routines. The very first band I ever saw onstage were on Good Vibes – The Tearjerkers who opened for Dexy’s Midnight Runners in the Mansion House in 1980. They made a great impression.
Another point made by Greg from the Outcasts: the Northern bands felt it was their responsibility to be very tuneful. And that is evident in the work they left behind (and still perform with energy, enthusiasm and fun).
Yet ultimately the film was a bout the slightly madcap Terri, who was so excited by the young punks that he wanted to support them. He did this not just by selling their records, but by funding their recordings, promoting them and knocking on doors on their behalf.
Another band from the South he championed were Zebra. I interviewed a super cool chap from the band, Brian, a while ago for my book. He told me how John Peel came over to Dublin for the Dark Space gig in the Project…and when they got off the stage, Peel and Hooley congratulated them. And Hooley offered them a record deal. And that’s how Ireland’s first reggae band released a single
In a sense Hooley is a pivotal figure on the Irish DIY music movement. Spurning money…loving music.
A highly recommended film.