....I Was A Belfast Teenage Punk Rocker
by Andy White
I was fourteen at the time. Pages from the NME on my wall. I'd taken down the Zep posters to fit The Clash, Pistols, Ian Dury.
Britain was in a three day working week depression and Belfast was grim, grey, with a full-scale civil war drip-feeding the media killings and car-bombings on a daily basis.
Good Vibrations was a second floor record shop in Belfast run by Terri Hooley, an ex-trade union poet with a glass eye which he frequently left on the counter.
It was the only place in the bombed-out city centre where you wanted to go.
The store was so hip it hurt to climb the stairs. The pressure to be cool enough to flip through the vinyl was intense.
Andy White playing outside Good Vibrations in Belfast
I remember waiting on the stairs plucking up enough courage buy a single - Rudi's 'Big Time' (the finest punk song of all, and Good Vibration's first release). Queuing up for Lene Lovich's autograph. Terri wrapping copies of 'Teenage Kicks' by the Undertones (you had to hand-wrap singles if you wanted a picture cover). 'Big Time', 'Suspect Device' (by SLF, not a Good Vibes single), 'Teenage Kicks'. Our very own un-national anthems.
Hotel California never meant anything to us anyway - these songs were ours, recorded downtown in small studios by guys who looked like us, played guitars like we did. The fanzine Sniffing Glue had told us what to do - "Learn three chords, now form a band." So we did.
Uniformity in the UK meant you could reach the whole country very quickly. Everyone listened to John Peel, 10-12 every night on Radio 1. Everybody read the NME. Simple. Punk blew our world apart.
When John Peel played Teenage Kicks everything went crazy. But Terri never did. He was crazy already, and continues to be to this day. He took the accolades, sold The Undertones, smashed up record company offices. Richard Hell kissed his feet and John Lennon sent him a suitcase of hash to distribute in Belfast. That's what he told us, anyway.
I was on Good Vibrations during one of its revivals in the late 1980s. Terri wanted distribution in Ireland on Warners for the single. He thought we'd get it if we only could gatecrash the Warners aftershow party for Aerosmith and drink the bar dry. He did, and they signed the deal.
He bought up 1000 vinyl copies of my first album, American cut-outs from MCA, piled them up on the counter in the shop and sold them for a fiver each. Threw a party with the proceeds and bought himself a beautiful designer suit which he unveiled at the party, making an unforgettable entrance which involved emerging from a coffin singing 'Laugh At Me' (his own Good Vibrations single).
The party became Terri's annual Bob Marley birthday celebration.
I last met him at my 2012 Belfast show, backstage in the Students Union. He was telling me the story of how he got a lifetime ban from that very building ... something happened, he said, back in 1977. As he said that night ... “once a beatnik always a beatnik. It’s better to burn than be forgotten. Rock'n'Roll will never die.”
Andy White, 26 July, 2013
For the Australian premiere of the film,
Brian introduced it as follows …
Good Vibrations is the story of a lovable ratbag called Terri Hooley, whom opens a record store, called Good Vibrations, in a bombed out street in Belfast in the late 70s at the height of The Troubles …
… but that’s a simple synopsis and it’s much more than that. It’s about teenage dreams ... TEENAGE DREAMS, SO HARD TO BEAT. It’s about the excitement and the spirit of seeing a band, discovering a band, following a band. Telling anyone who’ll listen … YOU HAVE TO HEAR THEM! EVERYBODY HAS TO HEAR THEM!
It’s about getting excited and exhilarated, getting carried away, carried out, getting knocked over and somehow bouncing back. It’s about the revolutionary power of the seven inch single.
Watching Good Vibrations I was dragged back to dimly lit, smoky band rooms in Melbourne in the mid to late 1970s. Rooms like Martinis, The Kingston, The Tiger Lounge, Hearts, Macys … following The Sports, The Saints, The Sunnyboys … following Jo Jo Zep and The Falcons and meeting Streetie and Stevo and a gang of their mates from Box Hill who worshipped at the shrine of Joe Camilleri. They called themselves The Hammerhandles and stood up the back at Martinis and cheered and chanted until Joe acknowledged them one night and worked Hammerhandle into the monologue in ‘King Of Fools’.
But tonight’s about Belfast, though I’m sure you’ll feel the connections.