‘You underestimate my record collection.’

Good Vibrations is the biopic of a Northern Ireland record shop owner who you may – or may not – have heard of, even if his impact on the music industry was remarkably influential. For the John Peel generation, music was an inspirational part of their lives. And the great pop/rock/youth single Terri Hooley introduced to the world with considerable aplomb was the Undertones’ first single, the punk/rock’n’roll Teenage Kicks. It’s a track that could just as easily have been a missed single from Buddy Holly as it could – with a bit more grunge – have come from the Ramones. So Good Vibrations is the story of an ordinary guy who is a pub DJ and a record-shop owner and becomes a record producer. Smells like teenage kicks with spirit…

1970’s Belfast. Music lover Terri Hooley’s (Richard Dormer) passion is music. So much, that he starts his own business as the owner of a record shop, Good Vibrations. Customers include many of the local Belfast youth whose behaviour is as variable as their taste in music. Trends in music come and go, but this is a time when new movements in pop, rock and punk are emerging and evolving. Terri recognises the enthusiasm of the local kids and the emergence of bands which clearly have the potential to make good music but have no hope of securing a major record contract. So Good Vibrations develops not only as a record shop but also a record label, and sees the emergence of such bands as The Outcasts, Rudi and a strange bunch called The Undertones, whose lead singer is the fashion-shy Feargal Sharkey (Kerr Logan). But the groups’ problems aren’t only connected with getting their music heard, because the troubles in Northern Ireland are resulting in horrendous violence among the population. From a musical point of view Terri has to deal with multiple gigs, or lack thereof, publicity issues involving getting his artists actually played on the radio, as well as the admittedly minimal sales that his bands generate. Ideally he’d like his groups to be played on Radio 1 but that would mean dealing with the BBC. Even more ideal would be to tap into the enthusiasm of John Peel…

An important aspect of Good Vibrations is the way that it tells the story of a small scale entrepreneur who had an enormous – and surprising – impact on the record industry, and sets this against the wider issues of the politics in Northern Ireland at the time. In many ways Terri’s story would be fascinating without the broader context, but there is no way of escaping the troubles that were such an integral part of the society at the time. It is vital that the film addresses both the politics and violence, but it does this in a way that doesn’t impinge on the central character’s personal story, his caring attitude and the fact that he has no religious inclinations. Catholic? Protestant? Terri Hooley is more concerned with the music. His record store is so good that he even has a copy of the first rare album by 13th Floor Elevators, how impressive is that for vinyl collectors and underground music lovers? Good Vibrations does use a lot of documentary footage to show the horrific and culturally splitting aspects of the troubles – including graffiti (some added during the shooting to create the correct environment) and army interrogations as the bands simply try to get to their gigs – but the end product is as non-judgemental as its central character. Hooley’s tenacity is remarkable. He has, after all, promoted the enjoyable Outcasts and taken the sweater wearing Fergal Sharky into the fold even as his world is falling apart.

Good Vibrations is a hugely enjoyable biopic about someone you may not have been aware of. Even if his musical revelations (probably with the exception of The Undertones) have passed you by, make sure you catch the film. It’s a crackin’ story with great music.