Stalwart of the local music scene, punk godfather, and the man who managed to persuade John Peel to turn his attention to The Undertones’ fabulous hit Teenage Kicks in 1978- which he liked so much he played twice in a row on his iconic radio show - Terri Hooley needs little introduction.
All throughout the Troubles he maintained his Good Vibrations record shop, moving location repeatedly to escape bombs and bullets and persisting in stockpiling and selling the very best tunes; when all about him were mired in conflict and bigotry he found consolation in the music and only wanted to spread the joy of locally crafted punk - The Undertones, The Outcasts, Stiff Little Fingers - Ulster artists like these had form in the genre.
In 2011 Blackstaff Press published his very colourful memoir Hooleygan, written with Richard Sullivan, which outlined his ever-eventful life as a music lover, DJ and band promoter as well as more generally revealing Terri’s madcap personality; as Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody describes him, he’s a unique combination of ‘lunatic, lucid guru, hilarious storyteller and many more things besides.’
His life was again the focus of much publicity with the release of wonderfully quirky 2012 Belfast-made movie Good Vibrations, which saw Northern Ireland actor Richard Dormer bring the intrepid muso and DJ to life, charting his peerless musical passions and his devotion to Ulster best acts. It was a quirky, heart-warming story of one man’s stuggle to spread those good vibrations in a city riven with division, violence, security checks and fear, and the movie even made film critic du jour Mark Kermode shed a tear - so brilliantly euphoric was its conclusion in celebrating the redemptive and unifying power of punk abandon and live gigs filled with jostling and ecstatic youths who just wanted to sing, dance and escape the surrounding turmoil that had become daily life.
Almost 40 years on and Terri shows no signs of abandoning the DJ circuit, despite having suffered a heart attack, pneumonia, triple bypass surgery and a stroke. This New Year’s Eve he will join Stuart Bailie and Ian Morrison on the decks at the Oh Yeah Centre for a Hooley-style hootenany.
“This time last year I had a three month stay in hospital, which meant I missed my birthday, Christmas and New Year,” he confides.
“I survived by stealing hospital papers and putting up signs asking patients to stand in circles or surrender their drugs, guns, alcohol and obscene material. People told me to stop terrorising the other patients but I was the model patient! I was just trying to find ways to pass the time.”
Hooley is relentlessly entertaining to talk to and explains that he is off to the doctor’s for another check-up after collapsing at a friend’s funeral in what his friends described as Terri trying to “upstage the dead”.
Since the release of Good Vibrations his fame has grown, with invitations to all kinds of festivals across the globe. The French loved the film so much he received baskets of cheese and wine. He drew a big crowd in Moscow. But he feels he doesn’t enjoy the same pulling power in his native city - ironic since he has played such an important role in promoting local music and has been DJing here since he was a teenager.
“I have to be careful after collapsing and after my heart attack last year but I do want normal service to be resumed as soon as possible,” he insists. “Once a hooligan, always a Hooleygan,” he quips.
His setlist for New Year’s Eve will entail what he calls a “wee bit of everything, from Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin onwards. Nothing too modern. A bit of 60s soul, punk, reggae and ska - my favourites, maybe some tacks by The Shangri-Las.
“Even though I’ve been DJing since I was a kid I still enjoy it as much as I ever did and all I want is for people to come along and enjoy the music. A big crowd always gives me a buzz and we’re hoping to see in the New Year to the very best tunes.”
It’s time for local music lovers to get down and help Hooley spread those good vibes once more.
n Terri Hooley’s New Year’s Eve Hootenany, Oh Yeah Centre, Belfast, December 31, 9pm until late, also featuring Stuart Bailie and Ian Morrison. Call 02890 310845 or visit eventbrite.com/e/terri-hooleys-new-years-eve-hootenanny.