Forget the Beach Boys – Good Vibrations is directors Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Lyburn’s great film about Terri Hooley’s Belfast Record Shop, label and the revolutionary culture and community that grew around it.
13 years in the making it has already, pre release, produced many validating and empowering moments – both on and offscreen.
Those moments come by the barrel load in a movie where Richard Dormer’s Hooley , a one eyed ex hippie mystic dreamer who knows COMMUNAL JOY is the secret of the universe, dismisses The Clash and Stiff Little Fingers as “showbands”.
There’s the key episode in Hooley’s Damascene Punk Revelation when he joins lost local legends Rudi – and the frenzied rush of an incensed audience – to chant the “SS RUC” introduction of their revolutionary classic ‘Cops’ . This in the face of a rapidly retreating officer of that now defunct armed police force.
This ACTUALLY HAPPENED – I saw the real thing with MY OWN EYES.
There’s the look of liberating wonder etched on Hooley’s face when he hears ,for the first time (Privately, on the studio headphones), The Undertones just recorded Teenage Kicks – a reinvocation of that Elysian pre Troubles joy relished by all of us.
Before MI6 dirty tricks and ‘cops with balaclavas” had their dominion.
And so on.
At the recent Galway film Fleadh validation came offscreen in the way the local audience responded to every nuance of the carefully layered script – right up to the spontaneous cheering that erupted when the onscreen Undertones are seen and heard to strike into THAT song.
The Galway screening was electrifying – a clear indication of the timeless and contemporary (Hooley trashing the record company offices) nature of the film, an object exercise in how audience participation can turn a screening into live theatre.
A clearer cinematic representation of the unifying and revolutionary power of music than Good Vibrations I’d find hard pushed to name.
Good Vibrations opens history up in a way that is energising democratizing and even handed. Through the prism of its central character, the collateral damage revolutionary movements have on family structures is shown, sure.
But how those same revolutionary explosions can create new families, bonded beyond blood, is also made clear.
No more so, for me, when, after the movie scooped the Best Irish Film (“By a mile,” said the Festival director) prize in Galway, I saw Lisa and the (excellent) young actor Ryan McPartland (from Newry, of all places!) who plays Fangs posing with the Galway Award.
Instrumental in introducing Terri to punk and appearing in several of the real life snap shots that feature in the film closing credits Fangs was and is Gordy Owens, the Barnado Kid who became a Clash fellow traveler, a staple of the Belfast scene , still well and healthy, so the indomitable Hooley tells me.
As the cameras flashed I couldn’t help recall the night when, back in my teens, circa 1978, Gordy came to stay in my house. Me ma and pa had gone away.A few drinks were taken and, in the morning, I woke to find he’d penned something rather unpleasant and certainly untrue about my preference for members of the porcine community – on the NEWLY PAINTED bannister.
It would have taken a leap of faith far beyond my, oh fuck how am I gonna get this orf a-here, mindset to imagine, years later, the wee skitter’d be featured in a movie.
So that scene was one of the personally weirdest yet still, strangely,
I don’t think it will be the last either.