Good Vibrations shows punk ideal alive and well

When it comes to cold weather I’m a typical local whinger, wondering when the misery will end and the sun will shine again. 

Other people in other countries have more pressing concerns and this was brought home after seeing the fantastic movie Good Vibrations recently screened at Palace Cinema.  Its theme is the hit-and-miss life of DJ/promoter/record shop owner Terri Hooley who chose to overcome the everyday unpleasantness of the '‘troubles’' afflicting Northern Ireland in the 1970s by attempting to unite myriad differences through music. 

Hooley was a big fan of teenage melodrama in sound coming from the likes of ‘60s girl group The Shangri-Las placed alongside the free spirited, anti-establishment reggae rhythm.  The turning point came when Hooley discovered punk rock and began promoting local talent which came to fruition with the Undertones’ Teenage Kicks, one of the greatest songs ever written about teenage desire and sexual frustration. 

Despite personal setbacks within a culture of tit-for-tat violence, Hooley stuck to his guns and music fans across the globe are all the better for it.  Famed DJ John Peel enthusing aboutTeenage Kicks was way before my time, but I can imagine the experience as a visceral thrill.  To encapsulate the desire to “hold her tight” in a three minute blast of melody and hormones is a great thing when it is done well, and The Undertones had it sorted from the start. 

This has been the marvel of the punk ethos that transcends time and place by tapping into the universal essence of youth.  When all that grunge stuff hit Canberra in the 1990s I was as excited about the combination of noise, yearning and angst as any boy/girl experiencing the primordial rush of punk rock in some dingy Northern Ireland pub in the late 1970s. 

The reward is there for all to see for anyone interested in creative expression that goes beyond the mundane, and the enthusiasm and persistence to do just that is what makes Good Vibrations compelling viewing.  But the benefits extend beyond the movie.  The soundtrack features 24 songs comprising all manner of music from such seemingly disconnected artists as Hank Williams, The Animals and The Saints.  But a connection exists that could be described as a common need among the artistically inclined to move beyond everyday habit and routine towards making the world a better place. 

Although Good Vibrations is set in a specific location, the punk ethos – that is, creative self expression as an act of broader cultural fulfilment – has filtered through to winter-engulfed Canberra in 2014, something which Terri Hooley would never have imagined at the time.  So, let’s finish on this point.  Canberra is soon to host a new label/creative space in Braddon called the Chop Shop that seeks to promote music and art in all its myriad forms.  It would seem that the punk ideal is alive and well.