Making The Big Time

Monday, August 5 2013
Making The Big Time

You’ve got to feel sorry for Dave Calhoun, film editor at Time Out and host of a Q&A session with Belfast punk supremo Terri Hooley, the man whose life story is covered in Good Vibrations.

Calhoun is meant to be asking questions of the great man, but he can barely get a word in edgeways. Every now and then, Hooley, standing in front of a select audience underneath Phonica Records in London’s West End in a Universal-sponsored event ahead of the film’s home entertainment bow, turns round and throws a barb at Calhoun – his questions aren’t good enough, “Dave doesn’t get out much,” and more.

We’ve never seen a more one-sided Q&A. It is, effectively, an answer session, never mind the questions. More A than Q.

Hooley is, even in his 60s, still a livewire and most certainly a wonderful raconteur. He’s also a bon viveur; one of the last to leave the dancefloor at the post Q&A party, where Tom Ravenscroft, John Peel’s son and now radio DJ himself, was playing some records.

The acclaimed Good Vibrations, out today (Monday August 5) follows Hooley, a Belfast born and bred lad who tried to bring some harmony to the city after opening a record shop and later launched the label that was a calling card for Belfast’s take on punk, releasing the seminal Teenage Kicks single by The Undertones.

The film was screened ahead of the Q&A and party and a clearly proud Hooley holds court before and after, with plenty of tales, anecdotes, barbs and much, much more to the select group of journalists, writers, bloggers, a smattering of celebs, ranging from film people (our old pals producer Jonathan Sothcott and actor Charlie Bond here, former punk singer Spizz there, Specials and Funboy Three vocalist Neville Staples in one corner).

Rather than following the Q&A – it’s all over the place and the few questions that Hooley is asked he barely answers properly – we’ll offer up some of his thoughts on various subjects:

On Good Vibrations: “It’s hard for me to watch. I’ve seen it about 15 times and I cry each time. It’s not just my story, it’s a lot of other people’s too.

Belfast in the time of the Troubles: “The 1970s was dark and difficult days in Belfast, we lost a lot of friends. I’ve seen so many crappy movies about the Troubles, you’ll say ‘that never happened’.”

On seeing himself portrayed in the film: “I would have liked a character who was better looking, who didn’t swear or drink or smoke, because I’m a bit of an angel.

On the reaction to the film: “[People in Belfast will say], Terri, I loved the movie, but you’re still a one-eyed bastard. My ex-wife thinks the movie is dreadful. I love the movie, I love Chris Martin, the producer, they didn’t make me out to be an angel, I’ve never been an angel.

On his own heroes: “The punks were my heroes; we survived the punk wars in Belfast. There was a two and a half mile steel ring around Belfast. It was Terri Hooley and the punks who opened up the nightlife again.”

On the making of the film: “We waited eight years to get the right people involved. It’s not my film, I had fuck all to do with it.
I didn’t interfere [in the making of the movie]. If I had interfered, a great movie would have been The Sound Of Music and I would have been Mother Teresa.

On sectarian violence: “I’ve been beaten up by Special Branch, the IRA, the UDA loyalists… It’s very difficult in Belfast being a white Rastafarian…”

On his future: “I never believed I’d live long enough see the film or live long enough to see the DVD.”

On his own notoriety: “If people ask ‘what did you do to become famous?’, I never fucking ran away, I never gave up the fight.”

On Belfast now: “Belfast is a wonderful place, it’s moved on leaps and bounds, there’s a few bigots in both sides we need to sort out. Young people out rioting… Me, I don’t give a fucking shit about the Union Jack, I don’t believe in any flag, I believe in the family of man.”

On Good Vibrations, the record label: “I never wanted to run a record label, I just wanted to put Northern Ireland on the map.”

There’s plenty more too, much of it potentially libellous. It veers from bathos to pathos swiftly, taking in CBS Records, the punk wars (“and they were punk wars”), more Sectarian violence and firemen’s axes and baseball bat beatings (“I’ve broken bones in my body I didn’t know existed”), late night blues parties, spliffs, cocaine and drinks (plenty of drinks), losing his glass eye, even Universal and big corporations and, most hilariously, Mumford And Sons and U2 and Bono (“Where the fuck was Bono when we were in Belfast?).

And then he’s gone, or rather dragged from the makeshift stage, but he’s made sure he’s mentioned the Universal release and thoroughly entertained the crowd. We at The Raygun even got to meet the man himself in the flesh, outside, where he cadged a cigarette off us and regaled us with more stories surrounding the film (much of them unprintable and we wouldn’t betray the confidence of an informal chat anyway)), and for Universal it’s been a successful evening.

As the company’s Mike Hewitt later tells us: ““We are exceptionally proud to be releasing Good Vibrations, the true story of the legendary and indefatigable Terri Hooley, and we were thrilled to be able to invite the man himself over to London for a special screening of the film at the very fitting Phonica Records in Soho. Terri’s post-screening Q&A proved he has as much heart, soul and humour as the film itself, and with both Terri and 6 Music’s Tom Ravenscroft DJing late into the night, the whole event was a great success. One of the best and most must-see UK films of recent years, we look forward to its DVD and Blu-ray release on Monday.”

Ravenscroft said: “The scene in the film where Teenage Kicks is played on Radio 1 gave me goosebumps. The film brought back great memories and so to play for Terri Hooley at the Good Vibrations party was an incredible honour.”

Here are a few pictures from the event, featuring Hooley, Ravenscroft, actor Kerr Logan, who plays The Undertones’ Feargal Sharkey, Staples and Hooley with producers Chris Martin and executive producer Jonny Quinn, executive producer…

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