Belfast has produced some iconic characters in its history, such as the Belfast boy George Best, lyrical genius Van Morrison and literary giant CS Lewis, but one stands out for me. A figure seen throughout the years as a master of the music world earning himself the privilege to be known as ‘The Godfather Of Punk.’ A man who set the music world alight and transformed the music scene in Belfast, the irrepressible Mr Terri Hooley.
I decided to find out from the man himself how he changed the scene in Belfast and how he has become an inspiration to up-and-coming talent in the city. Arriving at ‘Ireland’s poorest record shop,’ a quirky title Terri gave his new establishment, nerves started to rise in me. I finally get to meet the man responsible for some of my favourite music. This feeling did not last too long as Terri put me right at ease with his warm welcome and laid back attitude.
Terri began by talking about his childhood and the early years of his life, how he avidly collected any record he could get his hands on and how he listened to every genre of music. “Growing up with only pennies to my name, I had a big radio, that was God to me,” recalls Terri. ‘Good Vibrations’, an apt choice of name was Terri’s first record shop in Great Victoria Street, that kick-started his career in the music industry. Previously a small, derelict building, he moved in with good friend and TV company Northern Vision’s director David Hyndman. The business began growing in popularity amongst the music fanatics around the city and in no time at all, Terri’s instinctive enthusiasm and passion for music led him to his first encounter with Punk.
Terri remembers being “tortured by this little kid who mitched off school”, Gordy Owens. It was Owens who alerted Hooley about local hotspots called the ‘Pound’ and Harp Bar, that showcased local bands. Here Hooley first heard The Outcasts and Rudi, two Belfast punk bands whose thrashing lyrics made them successful groups throughout the 70’s and 80’s. “ When I first went down to see these bands, I thought the Outcasts were terrible”, little did he know that his opinion would quickly change.
As he got more involved with live music, Terri decided that Northern Ireland bands needed to be introduced to the rest of Britain. So he started his label, also called ‘Good Vibrations.’ “Big Time” by Rudi, was the first recording the label made. He soon signed The Outcasts, along with other bands such as The Tearjerkers and Protex.
The name Good Vibrations was slowly but surely escaping the shackles of the underground scene. More and more punk bands were come through the ranks and bringing with them their unique dress sense and nonchalant attitude. Terri was making a name for himself and was introduced to a young but determined band, The Undertones. A group of punks who wanted to show Belfast their style, realised Hooley was the man they had to grab the attention of. A demo tape from vocalist Feargal Sharkey was passed in Hooley’s direction.
Mixed emotions passed through Terri as he described how people responded to their demo. “ Every record company in London told me that the record was rubbish, but I thought there was something there.” How right was Terri to believe in such a young inexperienced band as they grew to world wide fame with their famous hard hitting ‘Teenage Kicks.’ After so many rejections, Hooley was discouraged. He was about to give up when a heavy potcheen drinking session with a friend, Ricky Flanagan, led him to London to meet John Peel. Peel loved the demo, taking several copies and became a real advocate of the song and band. For the first time in Radio 1 history, a song was played twice in a row.
The Undertones lyrics were beginning to be heard. Terri was overwhelmed as this record shot to fame and the band
made the deal with Sire Records in the USA. Terri still states, “I wasn’t in it for the money, I was trying to put Northern Ireland on the musical map.” Terri’s reputation grew from strength to strength in the 70’s and 80’s gaining the iconic title of ‘Godfather of Punk’, which still stands in today’s world.
Terri and I decided to go for a stroll around the city, that he made the world take notice of. He is one of those people that everyone wants to know, to talk to and to hang out with. He started telling me stories of stars he has met and partied with. Bob Marley being one of them,“He was a global superstar, my hero. I just love his music.” Even guitar legend, Jimi Hendrix. Probably his most famous, is his bust up with John Lennon. He says, “I am not famous, I’m a normal man who you can find in the pub, in my shop, just trying to make a living.” When speaking of his record shop and the type of music he sells compared to music mega stores, he says, “That is why I concentrated on nostalgia, it never goes out of fashion.”
On Saturday 17th April 2004 a fire, started by blast incendiary devices, engulfed the North Street Arcade. Terri lost everything, all his worldly possessions had been stored at the shop. This included his valuable record collection, all his history of Good Vibrations records, the photographs and the magazine articles. Articles of great financial and sentimental value were all destroyed in the fire. Hooley has reopened his record shop, still called Good Vibrations, in Café Hero on Royal Avenue. You can find him working away and getting lost in his music, the same way he did all those years ago.
Northern Ireland music scene has seen a rise in popularity over the last few years with the likes of Snow Patrol, the Wonder Villains and Two Door Cinema Club emerging onto the scene. Terri does his bit by helping keep the musical flame alight in Northern Ireland by organising alternative walking tours, in which visitors walk around finding out the history of how music in Belfast began, transformed and where it is today. He points out old haunts and iconic buildings in Northern Ireland’s musical history.Hooley is still championing bands today such as Cashier no9.
Hitting the big screen in the near future is, The Good Vibrations film, which tells the life of Belfast’s punk prodigy and how an ordinary, young man had an simple dream for the world to recognise the talent here in Belfast. Still in touch with his musical roots, you can find Terri Djing in some Belfast bars like The Hudson and The Belfast Barge.
“ They said I would never live to thirty ,then fifty, I’ve made mistakes but I have no regrets”- Terri Hooley.