"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
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