The Night I Got Barred From Queen's

Watch Terri Hooley read from his autobiography, Hooleygan, and discover how the Hells Angels helped shape punk in Belfast

The PR from Blackstaff Press hasn’t told Terri Hooley that I want him to read from his autobiography. He’s a little taken aback. ‘I bought a new pair of glasses from Tesco yesterday,’ Hooley remarks, exasperated. ‘But I left them at home. These glasses are terrible. I’m not sure I’ll be able to.’

As I make my way up to the fourth floor of Hooley’s Good Vibrations record shop and label HQ, nevertheless Hooley has his assistant print out a copy of the chapter he intends to read from in larger font. ‘Sure it’ll be grand,’ he calls after me. ‘We’ll get there in the end.’

It’s an ethos that Hooley has lived his entire life by: Nothing Is As Bad As It Seems. Evidently losing an eye when he was a young boy, and somehow forging a career for himself as a successful band manager and record label director in the midst of the Troubles, has tendered his outlook on life.

 

In Hooleygan – transcribed from interviews with Hooley and written by deputy editor of the Sunday World, Richard Sullivan – Hooley recalls the moment he lost his eye in a bow and arrow accident in 1954, and adds: ‘I’ve heard some really weird stories about how I lost my eye and it has kind of become my trademark. In fact it went a long way in making me the person I am today.’

As I set up the camera, Hooley is visibly nervous. He hates book readings, he says, and prefers, on such occasions, to use the book more as a prop than a script. Reading from the manuscript line by line is too formal, he asserts. Informality is the punk way.

Of course he goes straight to the chapter concerning John Peel and his obsession with 'Teenage Kicks'. In the book Hooley admits that he had reservations about signing Derry band The undertones, and was in fact on his way to sign another band in Belfast’s Lavery’s Bar when he was talked into changing his mind. Then Peel played 'Teenage Kicks' on his BBC Radio 1 show once, then twice, and 'my life changed forever', Hooley beams.

To celebrate signing the band, and to help his friend Dave Hyndman to launch a new anarchist book shop in Belfast, Hooley organised a benefit concert in what is now the Mandela Hall at Queen's University. When the university became aware that Hooley was not, as they had presumed, from Queen's Classical Society, Hooley had to rely on his Hells Angel friends to ensure the gig went ahead.

The concert was a rousing success, with punk bands like The Undertones and The Outcasts sharing the same bill in a joyous celebration of all things punk. For Hooley, however, there were consequences. 'That's the night I was barred from Queen's University for life,' he recalls, with a devilish glint in his eye.

Hooleygan is published by Blackstaff Press.

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