True Confessions

Good Vibrations

Sometime in the middle of the 1990s, I spent a week of my holidays visiting the major cities on the island of Ireland. Specifically, I was going to these places to check out their record stores and bookshops. I was based in Limerick, so I made a few day trips by bus to Cork, Galway and Waterford. I also went to Dublin and stayed there with a friend in order to make my first visit to Belfast. This would have been a few years before the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 and I remember a lot of my friends being a bit concerned about me going to Northern Ireland. I wasn’t too worried and was looking forward to visiting the record shops and bookstores I had somehow found out about

Belfast has a lot of history and I would return there a couple of times in later years to learn about some of its past, but that first visit simply involved walking its streets and buying books, CDs, LPs and videocassettes. I can still recall coming out of the bus station and entering my first record shop in Belfast. I spent some time browsing and bought some CDs and a few singles. I also have fond memories of how friendly the guy behind the counter was. That store was called Good Vibrations, which was also the name of a famous record label from the North. It also gives its name to a film that’s just been released on DVD in the British Isles

The Good Vibrations record shop was set up in the 1970s by the larger-than-life character of Terri Hooley, a Belfast native with a passion for rock & roll. The DIY aesthetic of the burgeoning punk scene encouraged him to set up a record label with the same name and it would go on to have at least one notable success. The script by Belfast-born novelist Glenn Patterson and Canadian poet Colin Carberry draws upon his biography, Hooleygan: Music, Mayhem, Good Vibrations by Richard Sullivan and Terri Hooley

The film wisely focuses on Hooley as the central character and effectively becomes a biopic about him in the same way that Michael Winterbottom’s 24 Hour Party People (2002) focuses on Tony Wilson to tell the story of Factory Records and the Manchester scene of the late 1970s. The script is predictable enough and the direction by the inexperienced pair of Lisa D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn finds it hard to get the tone right. It tries too hard to come across as a Belfast Trainspotting by unsuccessfully trying to mimic some of that film’s mixture of realism and fantasy. Obviously, the directors try to capture the politics of the time by including news reports and documentary footage of The Troubles. However, these scenes seem out-of-place with the more comedic aspects of the rest of the film

Nevertheless, the best parts of this co-production between the BBC and the Irish Film Board are the acting and the music. Richard Dormer is excellent as Terri Hooley and really carries the film with a charismatic, though understated, performance. Jodie Whittaker also makes the part of Hooley’s underwritten girlfriend seem more substantial than it is. There are also some big names in the cast such as Dylan Moran, Liam Cunningham and Adrian Dunbar, but they only appear in bit parts. In contrast, the majority of the band members and musicians that feature in the film are relatively unknown and come across well as aspiring pop stars and bring authenticity to the well-shot musical performances that are another of the film’s strengths

Cher O'Bowlies

Ultimately, Good Vibrations is at its best when it focuses on the music and the film really gets going when punk rock appears. We meet two bands from Belfast, The Outcasts and Rudi, before a band from Derry enter the scene. The story within a story of The Undertones is another highlight and, possibly because of the nature of the song, I was quite moved by the first full appearance of Teenage Kicks in the film. That song was also a favourite of John Peel and I was less impressed by the actor trying to impersonate the late British disc jockey towards the end. Good Vibrations is still worth checking out, though, as an entertaining account of the music scene in Northern Ireland at the end of the seventies. Coincidentally, I came across a vinyl copy of the 1986 compilation by The Undertones, Cher O’Bowlies, at a record fair in Limerick earlier this week. It features the typically well-dressed band on the front and 20 of their finest moments inside. I’ll leave you with the trailer for the film, while I go and put the record on


6 thoughts on “True Confessions

  1. Lost all respect the second british isles was m mentioned -do u realise Ireland is a totally idependent nation u prick?

    • I’ve lived in the Republic of Ireland for nearly all my life, Mark, so I’m very much aware that Ireland is a sovereign nation. I’m very proud to be Irish & love our culture & traditions. Our past has made us who we are.

      Like it or not, but British & American culture are, and always have been, a big part of Irish culture. I sat dejected in the Cusack Stand in Croke Park yesterday as Clare beat my beloved Limerick hurling team. In the past, I’ve experienced similar feelings in London as Arsenal have lost to Sp*rs. I also love the Cincinnati Reds baseball team & was pretty pissed off when they got knocked out of the World Series last year.

      In contrast, I’ve experienced great joy following Bruce Springsteen around Ireland this summer. As you may know, he was born in the USA. I also had a great time watching Elvis Costello in Cork. He was born in the UK. I’ve also really enjoyed seeing an Irish act named Drea this year. He was born in Limerick.

      Like most Irish people, I watch British, American & Irish films & TV. I even follow sport, music & film from France, Germany & Italy. Because not only am I Irish, but I’m also European.

      Good Vibrations is a film that features scenes set in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland & England. It was funded by the BBC and the Irish Film Board.

      I used the term “British Isles” above to refer to the geographical location where the DVD of Good Vibrations was released. Perhaps it would’ve been less offensive to you if I had referred to the region as the “Atlantic Archipelago” or “The English speaking countries in the EU”.

      However, I lost all respect when you called me a prick.

  2. Watched this the other day and LOVED it. The actor playing Terri Hooley was a blast. You wanted to be friends with this guy, such a great outlook on life.
    I was also very happy to discover that there’s a soundtrack CD coming out on August 26th. The band Rudi will finally hit the Big Time.

    • I’d always heard that Terri Hooley was a bit of a character and, apparently, Richard Dormer captured him quite well. He certainly made you feel that Hooley would be someone you’d like to have a few drinks with, and someone who has a few tales to tell. Incidentally, “hooley” is a slang term used in Ireland for a right good party, so the name certainly suits Terri

      That’s great that there’s a sundtrack coming out. The use of music in the film was really good. It was great to hear those songs by Rudi and it’s good to see them getting their name out there after all these years. I also liked the way the Hank Williams and Suicide tracks were used a few times throughout the movie. Looks like a great soundtrack

    • Cheers, John!

      I had to watch it last night as I need to get it back to Movidrome now, so I’ll watch the London one tomorrow.

      It’s not perfect, but it’s certainly worth a watch. Don’t be too surprised if it turns up on BBC4 before too long!

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