In the record shop with…

9 10 2008

In 1998 I arrived in Belfast for the first time to study (and by “study” I mean stay in bed til 2pm eating Postman Pat crisps) English Literature at Queens. At that stage I split my band up for good and decided that was that. Being an idealistic type I was in love with punk rock and the spirit of independence, so when I first met Terri Hooley at a local gig in Katy Dalys I was quite excited. I bought his horrendous cover of Rudi’s ‘Big Time’ and I got him to sign it. Terri was a bit well-oiled at this stage and wrote “To Edwin, you are closer to me than my own brother, one love, Terri”.

Over the years I’ve become a little more jaded but no matter what, Hooley can still bullshit with the best of them.Earlier this summer I arrived to interview him for a piece in Hot Press about the re-opening of Good Vibes and he literally bent the ear off me for an hour.

On Tuesday I got the train from Newry to Belfast and found an edited re-print of my feature in the Enterprise magazine, so I thought it might be fun to post up the original just for larfs.

“Big time you ain’t no friend of mine” indeed…

In The Record Shop With

Terri Hooley

Words: Edwin McFee

“I don’t suppose you’ve brought me any drugs, have you?” asks NI punk rock sven gali Terri Hooley while flashing a huge piss-taking grin. “If we had some coke we could talk like this all night.”

            And with that, we are welcomed to the world of Good Vibrations, a record shop (and lest we forget record label, that brought us ‘Big Time’ by Rudi, ‘Just Another Teenage Rebel’ by the Outcasts and of course ‘Teenage Kicks’ by the Undertones) that is run by the inimitable Mr Hooley and is as much a part of Belfast culture as soda farls and petrol bombs. Also it’s been sadly absent from Ulster soil for the past 15 years, Good Vibes is now back in action situated in a new location on Winetavern Street (just behind Castlecourt shopping centre) and boasts three floors, with the first selling records, books and dvd’s, the second is intended to serve as a Good Vibes museum and there are also tentative plans to make the third floor into a studio for an internet radio station. After quite a few shite years (more on that later) it seems like Terri, the born survivor that he is, is finally getting his dues and we couldn’t be any happier for the incorrigible old codger.

            “I’ve had people pestering me to use the Good Vibes name again for years,” says Terri, who prior to this shop’s opening was trading under the name Phoenix Records. “I finally gave in a while ago. I’m really happy with the new shop. In fact I’m over the moon with it. We’ve a great location, three floors and people have been donating memorabilia to use in the shop to make up for everything we lost in the fire a few years ago.”

            Ah yes, “the fire.” Not so long ago (2004 to be exact) Terri was trading out of North Street Arcade along with a few other independent shop owners. One night he got a phone-call to find out everything had been lost forever in a blaze. Since then the cause of the fire has been an unsolved mystery. Of course there are quite a few theories knocking around as to what happened, but most are too afraid to speak out in public as they are too attached to their knees, if you get our drift. Not our Terri though,

            “I was heart-broken whenever I heard about that fire,” he recalls. “Everything was lost. My entire record collection, my livelihood and my memorabilia was all wiped out. Of course I know exactly what happened and who did it, but when I started speaking out about it I used to get people ringing me up and telling me to shut my mouth or else. In a messed up way, I kinda miss those calls.

            “I really knew who my friends were after the fire. Some stuck by me and others fucked off and left me. It was a hard lesson to learn but at least I knew who was worth it. Now we’re starting to get old posters and stuff like that donated to us and we haven’t even sent out an official appeal. Last night I was visiting Geoff Harden’s widow and she gave me some wonderful Good vibes-related stuff which he had collected through his life. It meant a lot because Geoff was a true friend and was the best folk music critic that ever lived.”

            As Terri looks around his new premises, it’s pretty clear that even though he’s only moved in a handful of weeks ago the place is steeped in memories.

            “We still have to fix a few things up, but I’ve some framed photos and things like that on display which mean a lot to me. Two of my favourites are the cover of Mojo featuring my hero John Peel holding up a copy of Teenage Kicks and the other one is a film poster for Shellshock Rock. These things document a time in Belfast that is now long over, sadly. The war is over and has been won by the new fascists who are sitting up in Stormont right now.”

            While Terri may always hold fiercely liberal political beliefs, he does admit that a letter he received from cigar-loving President Bill Clinton (which he got a matter of months ago to congratulate him on his life’s work) is one of his most prized possessions.

            “Earlier this year we did a gig in the Mandela Hall in Belfast in honour of the thirtieth anniversary of the release of ‘Teenage Kicks’ and Bill sent time a letter. I have to say I was very touched that he took the time to do it and it made my mother proud of me for probably the first time in her life” he laughs. “When news got out about it, tickets sales for our gig stopped altogether so I had to round up a few of my anarchist friends to make up for it!”

            Terri loves to tell a story and it’s no surprise that a book of his life is now in the planning stages as well as a movie which is produced by Gary Lightbody and David Holmes amongst others.

            “I’ve been asked a few times if I want my life to be made into a film, but I’ve always turned it down,” he says as he gazes over to the DVD’s for sale in his shop. “This time it’s different though. Apparently the idea came about when Gary, David and a few others were sitting around in the pub telling their favourite/most embarrassing Terri Hooley stories (the bastards!) and Lightbody turned around and said they should make a film about it all. Glenn Patterson and Colin Carberry have written the treatment and I’ve read it and I’m happy with most it, but they do take a few liberties. My cock isn’t quite as huge in real life.”

            These days Good Vibes has become a bit of a mecca for tourists coming to Belfast for the first time, with people eager to meet the man who gave us some of the best punk songs ever in the flesh. Of course, no-one ever comes away from meeting Terri disappointed and despite his taste for a colourful story or two he is genuinely touched when people want to say hello and get a picture taken.

            “I’m always bombarded with fans wanting to take photos,” he says with his tongue in his cheek. “Nah, not really. I do get the odd person wanting a picture and I’m happy to oblige and be remembered. I once heard that whenever Nirvana were in Belfast in 1992 Kurt Cobain was taken to the Royal hospital with severe stomach problems and told the nurse that if he dies today he’s happy to die in the place where Good Vibrations was born. I like that the shop means something to people.”

            With Good Vibes back in town, Terri’s got his work cut out for him competing with the huge number of faceless chain stores that now litter Belfast’s streets, but we reckon that if there’s one person we can put our faith in to take on The Man then that’s Mr Hooley.

            “The Hooley’s have always had addictive personalities,” he offers. “My brother’s addiction was heroin and alcohol and mine is running a record shop. I’ll always have one until I die I think. I was depressed for a while but now I’m feeling good about life. I haven’t had any death threats in a long time and the last time I was beaten up was eight years ago, so I can’t complain too much about my lot in life. Well, I probably will complain-but none of the bastards ever listen to me anyway.”


9 10 2008

As a music journalist, I spend a lot of time reviewing records. At this stage I’ve reviewed hundreds and hundreds of albums, so I though I’d post up a few of them that ran a few weeks ago in Hot Press.Enjoy.

Daniel Powter

Under The Radar (Warner Bros)

One out of five

Hard-working hat-wearing ‘Had A Bad Day’ song-writer Daniel Powter’s third album is a bit of a mess when all’s said and done. For all of the Canadian song-smith’s attempts at putting together a bunch of songs featuring more hooks than a fisherman’s tackle-box, the results are forgettable, meandering, Beatles-lite bollocks, to be frank. At one point the deluded warbler even invokes the spirit of the Boss when he hollers “Baby we were born to run” during the pedestrian ‘Not Coming Back.’ Well Daniel, if by “Baby we were born to run,” you mean “baby we were born to be a one-hit wonder” then we get what you’re saying, dude.



Key track: ‘Not Coming Back’

Edwin McFee


Avenged Sevenfold

Diamonds In The Rough (Warner Bros)

One out of five

If you’re one of those people who often ponder life’s mysteries such as what came first, the chicken or the egg, or who’d win in a fight between Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse or Sylvester Stallone in Over the Top, we’ve got a new one for you. Why are comedy metallers Avenged Sevenfold still making records? Diamonds In The Rough is an album featuring b-sides and covers from the whiney rockers and proves without a shadow of a doubt that no matter how good a song-writer Steve Harris from Iron Maiden may be, singer M. Shadows will still find a way to make your work sound shite (‘Flash Of The Blade’). To say that Diamonds In The Rough is strictly for the completists is an understatement, as we doubt even their fans will pry themselves away from the latest episode of Barney in order to pick up this half-arsed compilation.


Key Track: ‘Flash Of The Blade’

Edwin McFee




Neil Halstead

Oh! Mighty Engine (Brushfire Records)

Two out of five

Often hailed as one of England’s greatest song-writers, Neil Halstead, former founding member for those early nineties shoe-gazers Slowdive, doesn’t exactly deliver the goods on his second solo LP Oh! Mighty Engine. Sounding, for the most part, like a Stars in their Eyes version of Cat Stevens, the album lacks variety, imagination and charisma. At times the record can be quite touching (‘No Mercy For The Muse’) but for the most part is plays like the sound-track to some out-dated British Sunday night drama. Your grand parents would probably love this though, so I guess it ain’t all bad.


Key Track: ‘No Mercy For The Muse’

Edwin McFee

Iglu & Hartly

& Then Boom (Mercury)

Three out of five

If you thought that American novelty bands fizzled out at the start out the decade when Crazy Town and Limp Bizkit bit the dust, then think again. Baby-oiled, six-pack showing rap-funk outfit Iglu & Hartly have dusted down the genre we all love to hate and given it a 2008 make-over. What’s different this time around? Well, for starters they’ve actually got decent tunes amid all the camp buffoonery.

            The 80’s electro influence may infuriate some listeners, but to these ears, & Then Boom fills the sizable gap that the sultan of sleaze Har Mar Superstar left behind a few years ago. ‘In This City’ is pure pop gold, ‘Dayglo’ is its obvious follow-up and album closer ‘Jump Out Of Your Car’ is as cool as Miami Vice the first time around (not that I can actually remember the show, but you get the idea). Forget about what all the snobs will have you believe, Iglu & Hartly might be music aimed at frat boys having their first keg party, but this writer would like to pose the question-what the hell is wrong with that exactly?

            If music can make you sing along, move, or smile like a mental patient on day release then that can only be a good thing. Yeah, we all know in one year’s time Iglu & Hartly will be regarded as the music world’s answer to Stifler from American Pie, but for now we’re loving the antics from this bare-chested bunch. File under “guilty pleasure.”


Edwin McFee

Key Track: ‘Dayglo.’

It’s gonn Rain!

9 10 2008

On Tuesday night, I had a date with the Reverend Al Green. Now I’ll be honest. My only real knowledge of our Al was via this Blues Brother, Soul Sister tape our Martin had whenever he was going through his “man at Top-Shop” phase. I wasn’t impressed but I do love to interview the old hands (my Andy Williams interview is still one of my favourites I’ve ever done and he even invited me to stay with him) so I jumped at the chance whenever Hot Press offered it my way.

Cue a few hours later and I’m sitting in my room prepping. His agent rings me an hour earlier and asks can I do the interview now, I tell her nope and we more or less do it at our previously arranged time. Now sometimes interviews can run over, it’s not an exact science, so I didn’t mind, but whenever EMI tried to patch him through (it was a conference call) and there was no sign of him I was starting go think I was in for a long night.

Eventually, Al’s voice came bellowing down the phone and here is a brief transcript of the first few seconds.

Edwin: “Good stuff, Al. Pity I can’t be where you are drinking it too.” [notice how I’m using my ‘inside voice’].
Edwin: “Well, I’m in Ireland so I can’t really make it over.”

Al then promptly goes on to imitate the popping sound of a cork from a bottle, then answers my questions by telling me all i need to know is “REVEREND L.OV.E. IS PLAYING NEW ORLEANS. L.O.V.E. LOVE.”

Pretty quickly I realise the interview is an absolute write-off so I decided to abandon my questions about the US Elections and opt for comedy instead. Without spoiling too much before the interview runs, he goes on to talk about how much he loves hip-hop (he doesn’t), writing songs about sexing up his wife and drinking in the afternoon.

After hanging up the phone all I could think of after being shouted at by a pissed preacher man was fuck me, he sounds just like Ollie Williams from Family Guy.