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
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.”