Eager to shift thoughts away from The Troubles during the 1970s, music fanatic Terri Hooley (Richard Dormer, TV’s “Game of Thrones”) opens a record store, ‘Good Vibrations’, in the heart of one of Belfast’s roughest districts. As the shop gains a loyal following, Terri starts a small record label with the aim of launching some of the local bands, including The Undertones whose first single, ‘Teenage Kicks’, is championed by legendary Radio 1 DJ John Peel…. A heart-warming and hilarious true story, Good Vibrations is not a feel-good film – it’s a feel-great film!
2012 – Certificate: 15 – British/Irish Film
Rating Details: Strong language, once very strong, and drug use
8.5 out of 10
In 1981 I was selecting what universities might be desperate enough to entertain me with an offer of admission. This, you’re told, is an important decision that could affect your whole life and one you should make after due, diligent consideration. At my sixth form college we had folders and files bulging with all the propaganda, prospectuses and other marketing materials from all the universities and polytechnics in the country. At the bottom of one cabinet, filed away under U, was a folder containing a slim, A5 sized booklet, and that’s it. Unlike everything else, which was dog-eared, scribbled over and had pages torn from it, this little publication was in pristine condition, untouched, unread. In the early 80s The Troubles were in full swing in Northern Ireland and no self-respecting student from an okay suburb in north-west London was going to even consider the New University of Ulster. The Undertones was (and still is) a punk band from Derry, which is about 30 miles from Coleraine, where the main campus was for the NUU. Entirely on the strength of this geographical connection and much to the consternation of my parents, I picked the NUU as one of my five choices of university. In the end I got offers from three of these, including the NUU. Six months later, thanks to some less than stellar A Level results, it’s where I ended up. (In truth I think it would probably have take just about anyone from England, regardless of their stupidity levels, as it was so desperate for ‘overseas’ students.) This film explains why this happened and why my life has turned out the way it has. I’d like to think I’m a tiny, unwritten footnote somewhere that’s connected to this film. I still have the Good Vibrations price labels on a few records (I didn’t want to peel them off) and without consciously trying to collect them have most of the label’s early releases too. Some wonderful songs were released during that period. It’s hard to believe it’s almost ten years since John Peel died too.
I’ve never met Terri Hooley and I probably never will, but I think I’d like him if I did. He released the Undertones first single “Teenage Kicks” on his own little label that he started in his record shop in Belfast. He then got a copy to John Peel, who played it twice in a row on his show on BBC Radio 1. The rest is well documented history. If he’d not done this, I’d never have heard of the Undertones and that modest prospectus would have remained hidden in the blue file in the bottom draw. I think I still have it somewhere as I ‘borrowed’ it from the file; I don’t suppose anyone ever noticed it was missing. It’s quite an experience to watch a film that tells the story of someone who had such an unplanned effect on your own life. As a stand-alone movie it’s not perfect. Of course it has a montage of The Troubles and lots of characters who could only be from Northern Ireland. (When they weren’t busy marching around, shooting each other and blowing things up, the Northern Irish were some of the nicest and kindest people you could meet. Better than the English anyway!) In that sense it’s very clichéd, yet it’s still a really fun and enjoyable watch. The fact that it’s based on a true story just adds to its attraction. From my own knowledge of things, there are a number of scenes and touches in the film that really reflect what happened, although I’m sure there’s plenty of dramatisation too. An essential watch.
This is a film about someone who loves music. As such it features lots of great tunes, from reggae through to bands like the Outcasts, Rudi and of course the Undertones. It also contains absolutely the best music porn I’ve ever seen. For around 15 minutes it presents the story of “Teenage Kicks” and it couldn’t have been done better. It’s perfect and a brilliant and loving homage to it. After a couple of false starts the song finally bursts out on the screen and for 2 minutes and 28 seconds (more or less) we just get to experience the moment it was first played by John Peel. Of course, the band has written better songs since, but none will ever quite have the impact and resonance of “Teenage Kicks”. (They even managed to get some actors to play the band who mostly had a decent resemblance to the real people.) I must have about a dozen copies of it on various records and CDs. Of course, I already have a ticket for the band’s next gig in London, in nine months time.
The trailer is perfect. It contains “Teenage Kicks”.
Recommended for dreamers, musicians, music fans and anyone who’s ever fallen under the spell of any song.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitation.
Top badass moment? After the great built up, “Teenage Kicks” bursting out of the speakers provides THE most badass experience it’s possible to have. An iconic tune by the best band on the planet. Still gigging and still way ahead of their peers.
Harry Callahan is a tough, streetwise San Francisco cop whom they call Dirty Harry. In this action classic, you’ll see why – and also why Clint Eastwood’s reputation as a premier film star and moviemaker is secure. A rooftop sniper (Andy Robinson) calling himself Scorpio, has killed twice and holds the city ransom with the threat of killing again. Harry will nail him , one way or the other, no matter what the “system” prescribes. Filming on location, director Don Siegel made the City by the Bay a vital part of Dirty Harry, a practice continued in its four sequels. Forty three years after its arrival the original remains one of the most gripping police thrillers ever made.
1971 – Certificate: 18 – American Film
7.5 out of 10
This week I’ve inadvertently become a champion and role-model for the downtrodden masses, as I successfully concluded my fight for compensation as a result of the evil and corrupt banking industry misselling me Payment Protection Insurance for a credit card. As we all know now, every single person who’s ever worked for a bank is a child of the Devil. From the CEO to the office cleaners. They exist for one purpose only and that’s to rip everyone else off. Well they made one BIG mistake trying to take me on. After many letters, the MBNA has finally capitulated, agreed it made a ‘mistake’ and has paid me back, with interest. I can’t decide what to spend it on first, a yacht, a jet or an Aston Martin or two. I guess a few lines of coke and some high-class ‘escorts’ wouldn’t go amiss either. I can finally get rid of all my pathetic, stupid, so-called friends and buy myself a whole lot of new ones that better fit my improved social status. The rich and the powerful will invite me to everything. A-list celebrities will be at my beck and call. My membership of the Bilderberg Group is assured. I’m going to start voting Conservative at once, not that I really need to worry about politics now, as I could easily buy myself a whole country if I wanted to. So I guess you probably want to know how much I got? Well, the cheque I was sent is made out to me for 20p…
“Dirty Harry” is a film about a naughty policeman, which was inspired by the Lurkers’ 1999 non-hit “Go Ahead Punk”. (I’ve got this on a very limited edition 7” single in grey vinyl, number 34 of the 125 that were made.) Its main character Harry Callahan was based on James Callaghan, who was British Prime Minister from 1976-1979 and thus oversaw the invention of punk rock by the downtrodden masses that he created during the Winter of Discontent. “Winter of Discontent” was also a great track from Political Asylum’s Winter EP, a copy of which I was sold by the band on the Fulham Palace Road, on my way to a Lurkers gig at the Fulham Greyhound. (The latter was tragically renamed/relaunched earlier this year as an American theme pub called the Southern Belle. WTF?) Its historical significance aside, this film gave us the original police officer who doesn’t play by the rules but gets away with, who still haunts TV and films to this day. Scorpio is also a great psycho without a thread of remorse whatsoever and stands up well to the more modern versions that have followed in his wake. I doubt there’s anything else I could possibly say about this film that hasn’t already been said 100 times before, so won’t. But for what’s now quite an old film, it still looks good. Essential viewing.
This movie is pretty light on music, which is just as well given it was made in the early 70s.
The trailer’s very long and seems to be desperate to portray Harry as more of a victim of circumstance than a police officer who really ought to be sacked for gross misconduct at the very least. He could easily be Martin Riggs‘ father.
Recommended for police officers, psychos and school bus drivers.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? Not once but twice, Harry gives us one of his two, world-famous quotes, here and here. What other character would have the audacity to do that? (Arnie’s done it but not twice in the same film I don’t think.) That’s like a DJ playing the same song back-to-back, it just doesn’t happen; (unless you’re John Peel and you’re playing the Undertones, but that’s okay). He must have been feeling lucky, punk.
This powerful, compelling drama traces the fraught interwoven journeys of three British soldiers who take part in the invasion of Iraq in 2003, return to Manchester, but are then inspired to revisit the chaos of Basra. Danny, Mike and Hibbs, friends in the same army regiment, have their own very different reasons to return. Danny (Stephen Graham) sees rich financial pickings in private security work, in a land awash with billions of dollars of reconstruction money. Mike (James Nesbitt) has fallen in love with Iraqi doctor Aliyah. Hibbs (Warren Brown) goes back because he believes in the mission to rebuild the country and help the Iraqi people. Life in the new Iraq however is unpredictable, chaotic and dangerous. Over the course of five years, the friendship of the three men comes under fierce pressure, as they pursue their dreams against the backdrop of growing fundamentalism, sectarian violence, and corruption in the world of privatised security. Occupation is a darkly humorous and emotionally involving story, which slowly builds to a gripping and moving finale, as their conflicting ambitions come to define not just their own lives, but the war and the occupation of Basra itself.
2009 – Certificate:15 – British Film
Rating Details: Strong language, injury detail and violence
9.5 out of 10
I went to see Bad Religion last Tuesday at Camden Koko. Whilst standing in the queue waiting to go in, (no thanks to the Tube, which thought it would be funny to have no trains in either direction running to Mornington Crescent), someone was handing out flyers for other gigs. After having one of these shoved into my hand, I took a brief look at it. FFS! What do I see on the front but concerts by Barry Gibb, Rick Wakeman, Peter Gabriel and Wet Wet Wet. I’m a baby-eating punk skinhead monster, standing in a queue waiting to see one of the best American punk bands ever and what do I get given? A flyer for two very old prog rockers, a guy who sounds like he hasn’t got any balls and the extremely well named Wet Wet Wet. If anyone at the Bad Religion gig decided to go to any of those concerts, he or she should be shot for treason. If would be more appropriate to give out money-off coupons for Bernard Matthews turkey drumsticks at the Vegan Society AGM. To say I was incandescent with fury would be to rather understate the feeling. However, I somehow managed to control my rage. Bad Religion was great. The support band Arcane Roots didn’t really do anything for me musically, but their sound was the nearest I ever want to get to being shot. Koko probably has the most powerful bass system of any venue for its size in London and they had the kick drum totally maxed out. Everything in the place just shook. I’ve never experienced that intensity of bass before, so thumbs up to the band for such an unpleasant experience! This film has some seriously intense stuff and people being shot in it too.
I always find it difficult to assess what I think of films when they’re based on true events, especially when the events weren’t very long ago; the drama and history remain so interconnected and the effects of the latter so raw and often still evolving, that it’s difficult to be objective. This is one such example. This film was originally a three-part BBC miniseries and it’s awesome. A totally absorbing and sometimes uncomfortable watch, it manages to give a real sense of the chaos, suspicion and differing world views of and in Iraq, during and after the American-led invasion, as it chops back and forward between Iraq and Manchester. It also manages to effectively explore the effects of this mess on some of the people caught up in it. It has a number of genuinely powerful scenes, the sort you just think “wow” after. It looks very authentic, the acting’s excellent and the script very nuanced. What a shocking nightmare it all was, and still is in many ways too. As an entertaining drama and as a reflection of what went on, it’s essential viewing.
There is very little music in this film. It’s there and adds nicely to the scenes when it’s used, but no one’s going to watch this movie for that reason.
No cats or chainsaws. There may or may not be a decapitation, but I don’t want to spoil what’s one of the most intense scenes in the film, so you’ll just have to watch it to find out.
Recommended for politicians and anyone who has any decision-making role relating to Syria.
Top badass moment? In a movie full of very flawed heroes, there’re plenty of would-be badass moments. But being a Brit and this being a drama rather than a documentary, I’ve had to pick out Mike (James Nesbitt) and his mercy dash with the young girl who got blown up by a hand-grenade. The hospital was a frightening example of what happens when you try to pour a gallon into a pint glass. James Nesbitt is the Undertones number one celebrity fan too!
Today I’m thinking a lot about bananas, “Britain’s favourite fruit”. Admit it, when was the last time you ate a really nice tasting banana? I bet it’s a long time ago, if ever. Is it any wonder that banana favoured things don’t really taste like bananas at all, because if they did, no one would buy them. Other than they’re conveniently packaged and you can made rude jokes about them, what have bananas really got going for themselves? Most of them are supplied by just five companies and only 4% of the sale cost of them makes its way back to the growers. The whole bent banana system is abused and controlled by the large supermarkets too. Basically you’d be much better off buying yummy oranges and their smaller, delicious relatives. Oranges even have a colour named after them, that’s cool; bananas are just, yellow. Bananas, at best, should be squished up and hidden away inside smoothies; oranges deserve pride of place as the centrepiece of any meal. Not only that, but every time you eat an orange a small child somewhere smiles. Bananas just make people slip over and break legs and things. What an underhanded and mean fruit the banana is. Bananas hang about in big gangs (which they euphemistically call ‘bunches’) too, waiting to pick on little strawberries and raspberries and things. What a cowardly fruit. I haven’t checked this, but I’d image that more ASBOs have been issued to bananas than any other fruit; and I’m pretty sure the prison fruit population reflects this too. And don’t you just hate it when you peel a banana and the inside has either turned into a disgusting slime reminiscent of an oil slick, or its split and half of it falls to the floor as soon as you open it up? No one is going to tell me that something that turns into a vile, black goo that wouldn’t look out-of-place oozing from a zombie’s eye socket, is going to be good for you. This film is about someone who’s suffered from a botched, sex change operation. (See, I said that’s all bananas are good for.)
2001 – Certificate: 15 – USA
When this film first started I thought, oh God, this is going to be one of those ‘musicals’ that makes no sense and has awful American Adult Oriented Rock all the way through it. The sort of music that ineffective, male, middle-age managers in large corporations who like to pretend they’re 18 when no one is looking, think is kiss-ass rebel music that still has some relevance these days; it’s not and it doesn’t. (Yeh, go get on your Harley-Davidson’s gents; oh, you don’t actually have any? How surprising!) The first song in the movie seemed to confirm this. But then a really weird thing happened. It turned into a very good film with okay music (and two genuinely great songs), a decent plot and great (if a bit over the top) characters who are worth you caring about. The music performances are top stuff, very genuine. Follow Hedwig and her band as they tour local eateries, shadowing her ex, Tommy Gnosis (the G is silent), who stole all her songs and is now a big star. Listen to her sing about the aforementioned operation, the fall of the Berlin Wall and how fucked-up her life is. A black comedy-drama with a genuinely touching ending. Good stuff, go watch.
Recommended for fans of American proto-punk; and films about outsiders fighting back and discovering who you really are.
No cats and no decapitations.
Top badass moment? The band’s performance of Exquisite Corpse. 90 seconds of musical anger.
You read about this sort of stuff on the Internet or see it on the TV, but you never think it will actually happen ‘here’. But it does. The last week has seen a pandemic sweep across Cactus Word, one that had infected every single one of its inhabitants with a terrible illness that even now, Cactus World’s best scientists and researchers have failed to identify, (because they’ve all been sick too silly). So for clarity, let’s just called it Skanking Flue, as it’s become known ‘on the streets’. It has what can only be described as ‘mild(ish), cold like symptoms’, but does in fact feels 1,000 times more intense to those suffering its effects. And let me point out right here, right now, that it has nothing whatsoever to do with the common cold, seasonal flu, or Man Flu, or any of those things. The resemblance is entirely superficial. However, the good news is that I feel as if I’m starting on the long road to recovery, but it was touch and go there for a while.
It’s strange how just one thing can virtually destroy a civilised society. Let me give an example. As a result of the pandemic there were huge food shortages in Cactus World. Supplies of rice, tofu, onions and garlic, along with most other foods, were entirely depleted within days; whilst the discovery of an almost full packet of pasta caused what I can only describe as a near riot in my kitchen, as I greedily grabbed it from the cupboard shelf, spilling much of its contents onto the floor, much to Penny’s disgust. What can I say? Starvation drives people to this sort of behaviour and I was desperate. International travel was banned too and I was forced to work from home for two days, to save myself the gruelling, long-distance trek into the office.
Last week, just prior the arrival of the pandemic, I went to not one, not two, but three ska/punk/reggae gigs. (And I’d like to point out that going to these and the sudden and mysterious arrival of Skanking Flue in Cactus World are entirely unrelated.) The first saw the truly wonderful Skints supporting the rather excellent Bedouin Soundclash at the Camden Koko (capacity 1410); whilst the following day saw the rather excellent Bedouin Soundclash supporting the truly wonderful Skints at Nambucca on the Holloway Road (capacity a somewhat overstated 300; I doubt the room with the music in it can take any more than 100). The third gig saw the even more awesome Dirty Revolution (which released 2010’s best album “Before the Fire” that you should go buy now) supporting the wondrous Slackers at the Islington Academy (capacity 800). Whatever your taste in music, it has to be said that bands like this are nearly always great live and thus worth going to see, even if you’ve never heard of them before. Comparing this sort of thing with the almost universally dreadful dirge that is modern indie rock and chart R&B, brings to mind a Borg Cube and a dead fruit fly.
In a not unrelated way, I have also been blessed by the availability on YouTube, of a brief shot of me attempting to dance at the recent King Blues gig at Koko. (It’s all just a bit too much like trying to maneuver an oil tanker for my liking.) Despite every gig I go to now seemingly being filmed by someone, somewhere, I rarely manage to see myself, as despite a claimed height of 6 feet and 1 inch, I’m always surrounded by people who are even taller than me. (As an aside to this, for a few seconds I thought my luck had changed at this gig, when I felt someone grab my hand. Sadly it turned out to be a case of mistaken identity, as in the crowd she thought she’d got hold of her boyfriend’s hand. Oh well, back to reality.) Anyway, YouTube. I was, I have to say, rather disappointed to see not the suave, sophisticated dance-floor guru that I imagine myself to be, (the guy “women want to be with and men want to be” kind of person); the sort of cool dude who can combine the best of White indie/punk moves with the cool of Caribbean reggae and ska rhythms, in an entirely convincing and respectful way. Instead I got to see a rather bald, fat bloke in a black t-shirt being flung across the most pit and trying not to fall over, in an entirely undignified and dad-dancing way by, a person or persons unknown. Go check it out around the 2:05 mark.
Finally, my telly has been fixed! Well done Samsung. It can’t apparently make reliable TVs, but it’s great at getting them fixed when they do break down; I guess it gets a lot of practice.
Right now I’m listening to “Lonely Man of Spandau” by the Angelic Upstarts.
Poly Styrene died today. She was only 53. This is very sad news. She was someone that was almost to punk for punk and the writer of one of the ten best punk songs ever:
Right now I’m listening to “Magic Mountain” by Therapy?.
Well, Cactus World has survived its conversion from Live Spaces to WordPress, just. I’ve a lot of battle damage to repair over the next few weeks and I have a feeling that those of us that lived through it (so that’s Penny and I) will probably never be quite the same. It was touch and go at times, I really wasn’t sure we were going to make it through; it was very much a one-way trip and the idea of a one-way trip to nowhere didn’t exactly inspire me; I don’t especially like travelling at the best of times. The emotional scars are there on so many levels. It’s not something that I, or probably many people, could ever express in words; (and you can probably imagine how difficult it is for Penny, with only a few variations on meow to pick from). But I just know things will be different in future.
When I need to reflect on life, I tend to look for analogies from Star Trek, Thomas Hardy or punk; (and quite frankly, let us all face the truth, right here, right now; what else is there)? To reflect on this particular experience, I’ve decided that the following video sums it up pretty well. (For Xindi substitute WordPress and for Cactus World read Enterprise). Enjoy!
It really was exactly like that, over dramatic looks at one another, explosions, stuff falling out of the ceiling, Penny running about with a fire extinguisher. Whilst this Home Page may look okay now, everything else is still a bit of a shambles. We were ‘that’ close to going under. To be continued….
Right now I’m listening to “Underwear Goes Inside the Pants” by Lazyboy.
This year I’ve really got much more into ska and reggae (mixed up with punk and various other things); just as well really, as the UK music scene in general is pretty weak at the moment so there’d not have been a huge number of decent gigs to go to otherwise. There is a whole (if small) underground scene in the UK (well at least London anyway) that I’d not really come across before. Bands like Sonic Boom Six, Mouthwash, Dirty Revolution, Random Hand, the Skints, the JB Conspiracy, Anti-Vigilante, all great stuff. Oh dear, sad old bloke hits mid-life crisis alert! Well it’s better than my going out and buying a big, open-topped sports car to let my three strand hairstyle blow in the wind.
I was going to have a bit of a rant about the recent election here, but then realised I can’t be bothered; it’s just more grey men in suits with different coloured ties. I enjoyed watching the election night on TV though. I had a pint of lager every time Labour won a seat, a pint of ale when the Tory’s did, a cider for the Lib Dems and a short if another party won anything. That’s over 300 drinks in one night, honest. As part of this ‘election results as an excuse to abuse yourself with alcohol game’ I was also facing the nightmare possibility of having to make myself go and throw up each time the BNP won anything, but fortunately it didn’t; it would have been a huge waste of alcohol if it had. I voted for the Green Party anyway. At least it got its first MP. I’m looking forward to a wind farm outside my lounge window anytime now.
Right now I’m listening to “All the Rest” by Stiff Little Fingers.