STREET ART – JOHN PEEL AND THE UNDERTONES BELFAST MAY 2015
After this visit in May 2015 such tributes to John Peel in Belfast began to disappear or at least they were more difficult to find. A local contact advised me that John had fallen out of favour for various reasons but I did not investigate further.
Many years ago I owned a record shop so when I was in Belfast in 2012 I was delighted to meet Terri Hooley who is a bit of a local hero. How I met him is in itself interesting … I was photographing some Street Art in Belfast when a taxi driver (part time photographer) started talking to me about my camera (Sony NEX-7) and we had a very long conversation about video cameras and related topics. He suddenly ask me if I knew who Terri Hooley and when I answered yes he introduced me to Terri who was standing behind us.
Good Vibrations was a Belfast record label and store. Founded by Terri Hooley in the early 1970’s, Good Vibrations started out in a small derelict building on Great Victoria Street, Belfast. It was located on Winetavern Street back in May 2015 but ceased trading later that year.
Hooley’s main objective in starting the company was to introduce punk bands from Northern Ireland to the rest of the United Kingdom, as he did not believe Northern groups were given enough attention.
The label’s first recording was for a local band called Rudi, a single called “Big Time”. Hooley would later sign groups such as Victim, The Moondogs, The Shapes, Protex, The Outcasts, The Tearjerkers and The Undertones.
When the Undertones’ “Teenage Kicks” came out, he “hustled it around every record company in London and they all hated it. I came back to Belfast and cried my eyes out. That night John Peel played it on the radio and said, ‘wasn’t that the most wonderful record you’ve heard in your life?’ and played it again.”
Despite growing popularity Good Vibrations filed bankruptcy in 1982, just as the first wave of British punk had officially died. Bands that had gone to London, such as Protex and Rudi, went back to Hooley – and Belfast. Hooley’s friends later got him a shop called Vintage Records, Co. just around the corner from Good Vibrations.
Upon first hearing Teenage Kicks in September 1978, BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel is reported to have burst into tears, and readily admitted to still being reduced to tears upon hearing the song in interviews granted to journalists up until his death
John Robert Parker Ravenscroft, OBE (30 August 1939 – 25 October 2004), known professionally as John Peel, was an English disc jockey, radio presenter, record producer and journalist. He was the longest serving of the original BBC Radio 1 DJs, broadcasting regularly from 1967 until his death in 2004. He was known for his eclectic taste in music and his honest and warm broadcasting style.
He was one of the first broadcasters to play psychedelic rock and progressive rock records on British radio, and he is widely acknowledged for promoting artists working in various genres, including pop, reggae, indie pop, indie rock, alternative rock, punk, hardcore punk, breakcore, grindcore, death metal, British hip hop, electronic music and dance music.
John Peel travelled to Northern Ireland only occasionally. He visited Belfast in February 1979 and made another visit to the province in 2001 to make the TV documentary The Story Of The Undertones: Teenage Kicks.
The Undertones Teenage Kicks lyrics, “Teenage dreams, so hard to beat”, was painted on the Bridge End flyover into East Belfast in 2004 to commemorate Peel, but was removed by the Department for Social Development (DSD) in 2013 for development purposes. In 2015, the mural reappeared after a bit of an uproar about the council’s decision to remove it.
Peel’s funeral, on 12 November 2004, in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, was attended by over a thousand people, including many of the artists he had championed. Eulogies were read by his brother Alan Ravenscroft and DJ Paul Gambaccini. The service ended with clips of him talking about his life. His coffin was carried out to the accompaniment of his favourite song, The Undertones’ “Teenage Kicks”. Peel had written that, apart from his name, all he wanted on his gravestone were the words, “Teenage dreams, so hard to beat”, from the lyrics of “Teenage Kicks”. A headstone featuring the lyrics and the Liver Bird from his favourite football team, Liverpool FC, was placed at his grave in 2008. Peel’s body was buried in the graveyard of St Andrew’s Church in Great Finborough, Suffolk.