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Few films can really rock when the cameras roll

One of the great things about Good Vibrations, the story of Terri Hooley and the record label he founded which put out records by Rudi, The Outcasts and The Undertones, is how the film-makers got the look and feel of grotty punk gigs right.


From fleapit pubs to freezing school halls, the look of the frequently badly attended shows will be familiar to most who attended such gigs in their late teens. The simple fact is that in music movies there's been a terrible tendency to get the basics terribly wrong.

Michael Winterbottom's 24-Hour Party People, the story of Tony Wilson and Factory Records (a film which Good Vibrations resembles in tone and structure), also got the live settings right, as did Anton Corbijn's Ian Curtis biopic Control. But you'd expect that, since the director was actually at several Joy Division gigs.

Part of the problem with rock biopics is that there's a narrative arc expected of mainstream movies and very few bands' careers conform to a standard three-act structure.

Perhaps the most ludicrous example of a stab at a music career in a big-budget movie was Oliver Stone's disastrous The Doors, which lobbed in all sorts of mystical mumbo-jumbo to prove that Jim Morrison was some kind of shaman rather than a good-looking chap with a fine voice who went to seed when he started to take himself too seriously.


In terms of iconic bands on screen, the Beatles have fared far better.

Perhaps realising that trying to compress the immense span of the Fab Fours' career into a movie would require a Lord of the Rings-style epic to do it justice, film-makers have chosen to concentrate on specific episodes in the band's career. In Backbeat, as in Good Vibrations, you could practically smell the sweat, smoke and beer at the live performances. The only way to do it.

>George Byrne

Good Vibrations is in cinemas now