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.
North Sea Texas is the feature film debut from cult director Bavo Defurne. His short films are love letters to the male form and soaked with lush visuals, garnering fans from across the globe and drawing comparisons to Pierre et Gilles, Herbert List, Dreyer and Eisenstein. Pim lives in a small town on the Belgian coat, together with his single mother Yvette, a local accordion starlet. It’s an ordinary existence which Pim brightens up by dreaming of princesses, beauty queens and handsome Gino, the boy next door. But when hunky traveller Zoltan blows through town, Pim’s life takes an exciting and unexpected turn.
2011 – Certificate: 15 – Belgium
Rating Details: Infrequent strong sex
7 out of 10
On Thursday I went to see China Drum play at the Garage in Islington, London; its first gig for 13 years. Since The Undertones reformed in 1999, it’s been the band I’ve wanted to see get back together more than any other. Playing as a 5-piece, I can’t even begin to express the kick-ass awesomeness of this gig. The place looked packed out and despite a somewhat alarming number of 30-something couples, the mosh-pit was great. The band played most of “Goosefair”, plus a few other tracks. I was really glad they played “60 Seconds” from the second album. China Drum is the band that singlehandedly got me back into going to gigs after about ten years of not really having been to any. Without China Drum, my life would be an empty void, without meaning, without value, without soul. (Well maybe not totally, but I’m sure you can see what I’m getting at here.) It’s also a band that means a lot to me on a personal level and reminds me very specifically of a certain time in my life. When the guitar chimed at the start of “Simple” (possibly the best revenge song ever written), 13 years of crappyness in my life was distilled into two and a half minutes of pure, sonic anger. “And if you ever get a life, I hope that it’s in hell, I wish that I could kill you, I’d slit your ugly throat, I’d wrap you up in concrete and throw you from a boat.” Well… sometimes you need to offload a bit of life’s baggage. They ended the set with the best cover version by any band ever, Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights”. I hope they don’t make this a one-off.
This film is about a right miserable little so and so. Then again, I suppose having a less than attentive (accordion playing) mother and living in a boring little town on the coast of Belgium, (which as everyone knows is boring at the best of times anyway) and being called Pim, is probably enough to make any young teenager miserable. This film follows Pim’s life for about seven years, as he falls for the handsome, older boy next door, Gino, who then basically dumps him for a girlfriend. He also gets nowhere with the hunky border Zoltan, who then proceeds to run off with his mother, leaving Pim on his own. Moving in with Gino’s family, the latter’s mother then dies. Rarely smiling, seemingly having no job, no friends and no prospects, Pim spends his time moping about doing nothing much at all, spreading an air of negative vibes wherever he goes; what Gino’s sister saw in him I’ll never know, but it was clearly more than he saw in her. There’s being “sensitive” and then there’s being “sullen”. Then there’s the whole, are they or are they not half-brothers, bit going on too. This film does its best to drag the viewer down to Pim’s level, with its unending vistas of meaningless days and general hopelessness. (It’s a shame Pim didn’t get to hear China Drum.) Despite its gay theme, this is more accurately a film about loneliness and rejection. It’s a metaphor for life, a few good parts adrift in a sea of disappointment. I guess that’s why I bought it. It’s the sort of thing Thomas Hardy would have written, if he’d penned gay-themed screenplays, set in the latter half of the 20th Century in Belgium. This is a movie which does an excellent job of capturing the futility of life; it’s well acted, the characters nicely rendered, it looks the part and it’s eminently watchable.
The music used in the film is mostly heard in the background, in pubs and on the radio, that sort of thing. The theme song, “Wooly Clouds”, works well as a quirky little song that fits the overall feel of the film. I really rather liked it actually. (And it really is spelt “Wooly”; it must be a Flemish thing.)
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Recommended for The Borg; in this case, resistance really is futile.
Top badass moment? Pim burning his shoe-box of ‘mementoes’ on the beach, before running off into the sea naked. I prefer to work out my frustrations with life in the mosh-pit, but hey, each to their own. Burning things is a classic way to make a break with the past; irreversible, final and violent. It’s always good to make a fresh start, just so you can bugger things up again from scratch.
Cactus World is great! But however great somewhere is it can be nice to get away for a change of scenery. So I’ve been on holiday. And doing my bit for the environment, I thought I’d not go too far; as far as Eastboune actually, to walk the South Downs Way. About 99 miles across the wussy south of England, along what passes for high ground in these parts. In the balmy summer weather, across one of the most highly populated parts of the country, along a path that for most of its length is suitable for horses and mountain bikes too, with boots that would keep my feet dry even in the wettest conditions; what could possibly go wrong? I took a tent. In fact, following my experiences along Offa’s Dike two years ago (when I carried a rucksack weighing around 3 tonnes), I bought a brand new tent especially for this trip, in an attempt to reduce the amount of weight I needed to carry. This will be easy I thought to myself. It will prove I’m still a fit, youthful man, well able to tackle any personal or professional challenges, save the plant and probably get the girl too. It’s basically just going to be a long pub crawl. What could be easier?
Well for starters, the tent was a nightmare. How hard can it be to put up a small, sub £30 tent? So simple in fact that I didn’t actually bother to unpack it and try, until the first night I needed to use it; I’ve been putting up tents for years, tents have been around for a long time, the technology of tents is mature, I’m a fairly intelligent person, what could be simpler? Oops; bad decision. From the moment I stepped off the train in Eastbourne, the wind had started howling from the west, which just happened to be the direction I was walking in. Hurricanes and tornadoes are little more than paper fans in comparison. It was windy, even worse than Offa’s Dyke had been which is saying something. I hate the wind. What’s the point of it? At least rain has a use, but the wind? Having your hat blown off your head and being pushed backwards by the wind is funny the first time they happen, but on a non-stop basis they’re probably the least funny things in the history of the universe. Anyway, back to that tent. I finally found a place to camp on the first evening, near the path behind some brambles next to a fence.
In 1,000mph winds it’s hard to do much at all, but trying to put up a tent you’ve never used before, when you’re tired, for which there appears no physical way to actually erect it effectively even in perfect conditions, is not in my Top 40 of favourite things to do. Every time I put some part of it down, it blew away. In the end I tied the tent to the fence and laid in it corner to corner, in an effort to both hold it down and to fit into it, as it appeared to have really been designed more with ballooning for midgets in mind. Once inside, it was noisy too; imagine trying to sleep in a crisp bag with 100 people cooking popcorn, (the latter noise added to the mix by the rain.) Twice in the night I had to get up to re-peg parts of it down too. I was glad when the next day arrived.
The next day dawned with a howling wind still blowing. It wasn’t that cold, but the wind chill factor made it feel colder than Absolute Zero. The noise of the wind blowing past my ears also rendered the chances of my hearing the beautiful, subtle, quiet sounds of the English countryside, all but futile.
Now I probably ought to point out that there were some nice things about my trip. Many of the views were great:
The chalk cliffs along the coast are amazing:
The dew ponds up on the top of the Downs are intriguing and mysterious, (where do they get their water from?):
And the general weirdness of being in the south of England, yet feeling very isolated, are just some of them:
However, the highlight of Day 2 was crossing a small road in the middle of nowhere, to find a big mess of caravans and stuff in support of the London to Brighton Cycle Race. This included three ice cream vans. Near the end of the day, an ice-lolly, a can of Coke and a bottle of water can take on a significance of biblical proportions. The sugar rush from this lot was on the scale of a heroin hit too; as indeed was the price, a mere £4.20 for all three items. The temptation to just throw myself into the first aid tent and ask for salvation was difficult to resist too. Amazingly, this also signalled a sudden reduction in the wind. Despite all this, my attempt that evening to work out how to put up the tent properly, was again a miserable failure. I must have missed the part about “only suitable for people less than 3’ in height”; silly me.
Day 3 started with a bit of rain, no wind and no visibility. Great. Next time I’ll just sit somewhere cold and damp and stare at a grey wall:
Still, things were going okay really. I was averaging around 25 miles a day, probably as far as I’ve ever managed to walk in one go, even in the ‘old days’ of my youth where I thought nothing of doing the Pennine Way and Cleveland Way with equipment so old it was all made of stone. By midday, the fog had mostly gone, I’d found an amazing little caravan in the middle of nowhere selling nice things to eat, including vegan hot chocolate and the wind had (mostly) kept itself under control. The sun had even appeared from time to time. Cleary not used to this good fortune, I got as far as the early afternoon when I thought it would be an excellent idea to make things more challenging by suddenly falling over my own feet and spraining my left ankle; so that’s exactly what I did. This hurt, quite a lot actually. The one good thing was that no one saw me do it, so at least my dignity was reasonably intact. I also discovered that there is a God too. I know this to be a fact, as where I did it was about 100m from a main road and at the crossing point was a bus stop; statistically, I should have been miles from anywhere. Basically this was God’s way of saying, “go home Weeble and leave the tough guy stuff to those that can handle it.” So after doing totally the opposite to what the idiot on the telephone travel advice line told me, I got a bus to the station, a train to another station and a taxi home. So ended my summer holiday.
Well I got about half way, 50 miles in two days. I’m still suffering with my ankle a month later, although it’s slowly getting better (thanks for asking). I have taken it to a couple of gigs and found that skanking and generally jumping about on it hurts quite a bit. I haven’t walked into work on it yet, next week probably. And I will return to the South Downs Way again, once I’ve recovered.
Right now I’m listening to “Wrong Way” by the Undertones.
That useless pile of metal outside where I live that vaguely resembles a car, failed to start yesterday morning. Now what a surprise that is. After failing to bump start it down a slope, I had to call the man from the garage out to get it going, again. I got to work okay after that but then when I went to leave at the end of the day, it wouldn’t start again. After failing to bump start it down another slope, I had to push it vaguely to the side of the road and leave it there. All this effort strangely lead to a great number of expletives being hurled at the pile of metal I was trying to push about in the dark; in fact the most since I walked Offa’s Dyke about 18 months ago and got to hate all its hundreds of stiles. I ended up borrowing an old van from work that had been sitting unused for several weeks, (but still managed to start first time with no problems, despite the fact it’s twice as old as my car), to get home in. So consumed with range was I about my car that it only dawned on me when I got home that I could have just jump started it from the van, which is what I did this morning. I’m so looking forward to going back to the Ford garage to ask what exactly my £700 or so sorting out this problem has actually been spent on.
Still, the good news is that the Undertones are touring in April. This has cheered me up. The Undertones are the best band, ever.
Right now I’m listening to “Teenage Attack (Karaoke Version)” by the 21st Century Girls.