RECORD legend Terri Hooley is best known for his Good Vibrations record shop and the label of the same name under which he brought out the iconic tune Teenage Kicks by The Undertones.
Having shot to fame in the 70s after discovering the Derry band Terri quickly became Northern Ireland’s most famous music industry name.
Now 40 years later the 64-year-old has been thrust back into the headlines with this week’s release of Good Vibrations, a film about the extraordinary life of “The Godfather of punk”.
But behind the stories of fame, showbiz pals and the antics of an extrovert party animal the public know is a quiet, reserved man who has battled with grief and the memories of an unhappy childhood all his life.
At six years old Terri lost an eye during a child’s play accident when an arrow struck him in the face, from then on he remembers struggling to find happiness and only finding it in music.He recalled: “I was very lonely as a child, I had an older brother but he was a bit of a tyrant who wouldn’t let me play with any of his friends, I was very unhappy as a child.
“I always remember that music was where I would hide, I developed a love for all kinds of music and have become a fanatical record collector.
“As a child my father was a terrible father and I have tried to be better than he was.
“When I was young I would have this recurring dream it was of the biggest motorway I’d ever seen and there were all these cars going two ways and I used to think ones going forward must have been going to heaven and the ones coming back must have got rejected.“That dream came true recently when I got off the plane in Moscow. The woman who met me called Daria was trying to talk to me and I had to stop her.
Then I had to explain to her that every time I was unhappy as a child I had this recurring dream and there I was on the motorway, it was my dream, I thought it was the road to heaven but it wasn’t it was the road to Moscow.”Coming to terms with losing his eye meant Terri would eventually come to use it as an ice breaker in company, even dropping it into people’s beer – a scene depicted in the film.
But as he battled his sight disability he also had a bigger struggle that has remained with him all his adult life.
Father of two (Michael 13 and Anna 33) Terri has been plagued with grief ever since the death of his first girlfriend Doreen in a car accident, closely followed by his friend Doreen’s sister Valerie who also died in a tragic accident.
“When I grew up in Belfast in the 60s for me it was the most amazing, wonderful, colourful place” explained Terri.
“There was 80 clubs in and around Belfast where you could go and see live music but when the Troubles came quickly the city became divided – Catholics moved into Catholic areas and Protestants into Protestant areas.
“A lot of us weren’t having any of it, we had a hippy organisation called The Tribe and there was about 40 of us but over the years they moved away I’m the only one left in Belfast, a lot of them got out very quickly either through intimidation or they just couldn’t take it anymore.
“The 70s was such a horrific time and I lost a lot of good friends, needlessly I might add.”While people passed away throughout Terri’s life it wasn’t until six years ago that grief struck again, and this time it forced the music guru into counselling.
“Just over six years ago I lost 37 friends in the one year and I had to go to counselling after that, losing one friend is hard but losing so many was devastating.
“I also had to go to counselling after my mum and dad died, my mum died six years ago after a battle with Cancer.
“While I haven’t been to long-term counselling, I was told by a counsellor after my mum died that I didn’t have time to grieve for my friends. There was a stage I was going to three funerals a week, it was heartbreaking.
But after that session and being able to tell the counsellor all about my life and my friends and my mum I felt I was ready to tackle the world again. I went from lying in bed all day to being up at 8.30am and terrorising the natives again.”
Just recently Terri lost another good friend.
“Sophie Anderson was a great friend to me, luckily she was able to see the film at a French film festival before she died and she phoned me up to tell me how proud she was of me for it.
This International Women’s Day for me was terrible because I always got a call from her every year on March 8 no matter where she was living in the world and I really missed that this year, I normally go out every year but this year I uploaded the song Bread & Roses to Facebook and I literally just lay on the floor and cried my eyes out, I missed her terribly.”
This is the side to Terri most people don’t see. The man who prefers to stay at home than party like a teenager.He revealed: “I think in Belfast there’s a bit of a responsibility on me to be the mad Terri Hooley, the one in the film with all the stories.
I remember years ago I went to a party, I went into the kitchen to leave my carry out in and I said to someone about how quiet it was and the girl said to me “there’s a guy called Terri Hooley coming he’ll liven it up” but I ended up leaving and going somewhere else because I didn’t want to be the clown.
“I’ve had to divorce myself from the movie I now think its the Richard Dormer story, I’ve had to detach myself, I never thought I’d be alive to see it finished. I honestly believed that because it was taking so long.
“My health isn’t great, well I’m healthy enough, people always ask me how I’m still going and I tell them that I’m worried about stopping incase I die.
“I’m quite a private person, very monosyllabic ‘would you like a cup of tea?’, ‘yes’, ‘do you want anything else’, ‘no’. I’m actually very quiet but people don’t see that side and I like that.
I have a lot of close friends and I remember one of my ex’s asking once ‘do you not have any normal friends’ and I just said ‘yes I do but they won’t come out with me because of all the mad people I attract’.“One thing I’ve missed recently because we have been so busy is myself and my girlfriend Claire started to play Scrabble together, we get the board out and everything and it was great to just get a chance to chat and tell each other about our lives.
I learnt more about Claire’s life by playing Scrabble with her than I did before – just taking that time out with a glass of wine is lovely. I also watch a terrible amount of TV.”
Terri admits it’s been women like Claire in his life who have kept him sane all these years.
He said: “It was the women in my life that really taught me everything, to read books, go to gigs and classical concerts and art exhibitions – that’s one thing I don’t get to do as much of anymore either, I love reading but my eyesight isn’t great and I have cataracts so I’m hopefully going to get that sorted out – it’s bad enough having one eye but…
“They say behind every great man is a woman and I have quite a few of them and in many cases the women in my life have been my best friends, I’m not saying I haven’t had some wonderful male friends because I have, but I was able to confide better in the women.
“My girlfriend Claire is good that way and my ex Eithne who I was with for 20 years (that’s Michael my 13-year old son’s mum), I mean I still lived with her for two and a half years when I started going out with Claire. I’ve stayed good friends with all my exs and Eithne is great for keeping me on the straight and narrow. Even when my marriage with Ruth came to its end I spoke to her about Eithne because I was worried about getting involved with another relationship and she encouraged me to.
“Eithne sort of did the same too – I think they just didn’t want me to be lonely, maybe they thought it was dangerous for me not to have a woman in my life incase I went mad.
“I definitely need someone to boss me about I work better having someone there at home and knowing there’s someone there I can talk about anything to and they know me too well and so I can’t bullshit them.”
Of course having a film made about him is still quite surreal to Terri, he admits he still cries every time he sees it.He added: “The producers booked out the QFT for me and some family and friends last year and when I finally seen the movie I just cried the whole way through it, every time I see it I just cry. It’s just amazing, it captures the spirit of the time.“I’ve never really thought about the fact that I’m probably the only person in recent history in Northern Ireland to have had a film made about them until someone said it recently.
The Good Vibrations story is an amazing story because it’s about somebody who hadn’t a clue about what he was doing and just wanted to do it.”
Good Vibrations, written by Colin Carberry and Glenn Patterson and directed by Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn, starring Richard Dormer as Terri is in cinemas NOW.
Exclusive by Tina Calder
Exclusive photos by Fabrizio Belluschi