Good Vibrations (dir. Lisa Barras D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn, 2013)

Watched today, on a library rental.

The 1970s is often characterised in flims as a naff-but-fun era of platforms, flares, and orange – but the truth could not be more removed. For Britain, it was also characterised by national strikes, a failing economy, devaluation of sterling, and power shortages. And if you lived in Northern Ireland, it was brutally coloured by a civil war between two sides. And musically, its seen as the era of Disco – but whilst that was firing up the transatlantic dance scene, something more aggressive and spirited was happening on this side of the pond: Punk. But while everyone lauds the Sex Pistols and the Clash, some of the most interesting bands came from Northern Ireland, thanks to the hard work and belief of one man. Good Vibrations is the tale of Terri Dooley, a record store owner and entrepreuner who saw another way of trying to heal ripped relations in the community – music. 

This film very much watches as a collection of vignettes – Dooley’s attempts to set up his shop; his pushing to get local bands signed; and his attempts to try and stage concerts despite the threats and intimidation occurring nightly. But there are some wonderful moments – the discovery of the Undertones, whose “Teenage Kicks” was described by legendary DJ John Peel as the greatest ever song recorded. His pushing to get Belfast bands Rudi and the Outcasts on to television. And it finishes with a packed Ulster Hall, with Dooley informing the audience – “there are no leaders. We’re together.” This is the spirit of Punk – the DIY, anyone can do it attitude that now seems to have found a home on the internet. But it also shows how precarious his position was – the scene were Dooley is threatened by a pair of NF members was chilling. Real footage of bombings is interspersed with the film. 

The film is well crafted – the setting of 70s Belfast is spot on, and Richard Dormer, as Dooley, radiates charisma. This is a tale of hope – the hope that in a fractured, violent atmosphere, something can pull people together and make them realise that something is worth joining for. Music. If you ever wondered if music is a universal language, then watch this film. Right now. 

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