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By John Chard March 20, 2017
These kids aren't the problem to Belfast, they are the solution.
"When punk rock ruled over Ulster, nobody ever had more excitement and fun. Between the bombings and shootings, the religious hatred and the settling of old schools, punk gave everybody a chance to LIVE for one glorious moment."
Uncle Joe Strummer.
Punk Rock and Punk Rockers have always been misunderstood. Back during the original wave that began in 1976 it was thought punks wanted to kill the queen and burn down your villages, so even though some ill informed (re: ill educated) principals courted controversy, the spirit of punk rock, its ideals and reasons for being, got lost in the mix of the media frenzies and drug deaths et al. Many films and documentaries have been made over the years, some worthwhile, others not so, but all in an effort to either correct the misconceptions of punk rock, or invite interest into a genre of music that made waves that are still being felt today. Good Vibrations the movie is the embodiment of what it was really all about.
The story concerns how Terri Hooley (played by a superb Richard Dormer) believed that music could make a difference, and this even as a soul destroying Civil War raged out on the streets of Belfast. He opened a record shop and formed his own independent record label (the Good Vibrations of the title), and then one day he stumbled on a movement, punk kids who just didn't care about sectarianism, race, creed or colour, they united as one with a love of music, of music with attitude and no hidden agendas. It ticked every box of Hooley's world, forcing him to beg the question of where have these boys been all his life?
I would like to report a Civil War outside!
The 1970s backdrop of the Northern Ireland "Troubles" strikes all the right emotional chords, but the makers are never heavy handed, it's never over-killed. The key here is portraying a movement - and an individual - that refused to be cowed by the bombs and the bullets. In fact during one quite brilliant scene ignorance proves to be bliss. From personal experience I can say that as a British guy living in England I was vehemently told back in the late 1970s to not even think about buying a 7" single by one of the 'Oirish punk rebel rousers. I'm still flipping that same middle finger I flipped back then, today!
Teenage dreams so hard to beat.
Thankfully the film doesn't spend most of its time on what music fans know as the key Irish bands of the era. The Undertones were indebted to Hooley as much as they were the legendary (and much missed) John Peel, but this picture barely features The Undertones, or Stiff Little Fingers as it happens. The former are key, and provide some of Hooley's most memorable moments, in fact it's the crux of the genius and otherwise (family changes) of Hooley the man and the "businessman". Yet it's the lesser known bands of the time that come to the front and tell the story alongside Hooley, which even though this is a biography of sorts, is a wonderful touch and dare I say it? Very punk rock. It's as he says, they are all a part of Good Vibrations.
I saw the light.
What of Hooley the man, how he is portrayed here? Pic makes the effort to show he was hardly an ideal husband type, where the love of his life, Ruth (the lovely Jodie Whittaker making an under written character boom) is playing second fiddle to his musical passion. His relationship with his parents is only pinched, though just enough to make a point, while some of his dealings with the warring factions in his community come off as a bit fanciful. But these are forgivable sidesteps, for this is about the music lover and the movement he fought tooth and nail to get heard.
It was never about money, punks wanted it, needed it even, but the true spirit of punk shines bright in Good Vibrations, both musically and as a human interest story, making it essential viewing for anyone interested in the original wave of Punk Rock. 10/10
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