Terry Hall website: The bands
ON August 2, 1979 Coventry ska band The Specials performed their first single Gangsters on British television programme Top of The Pops. It was a TV debut that would change lives forever.
The Specials’ magnetic performance, ‘rude boy’ skinhead image and frenzied mix of punk and ska caught the attention of mainly British youths who were drawn to the band’s anti-racist and peace message.
The band’s then 20-year-old singer Terry Hall unwittingly became a mixture of poster boy and political youth figure with his sullen face taking up square inch after square inch on teenagers’ bedroom walls.
After just two years in the public eye, and a string of hits including the two number ones Too Much Too Young and Ghost Town, Terry along with fellow band members Neville Staple and Lynval Golding, left the group to form the Fun Boy Three.
Fun Boy Three
The trio proved popular with the record-buying public and made regular TV appearances from 1981 to 1983 performing hits such as their debut The Lunatics (Have Taken Over The Asylum), It Ain’t What You Do, It’s The Way That You Do It (which launched the career of Bananarama) Tunnel of Love and Our Lips Are Sealed, which was also a huge hit for the Go-Gos in America.
In the summer of 1983, after releasing the superb album Waiting produced by David Byrne of Talking Heads, the band embarked on a tour of the US which saw Terry burn the American flag live on stage, no doubt to the bemusement of those watching. They did the same thing while performing a cover version of The Doors’ The End on British TV.
They returned home and Terry Hall announced he was leaving the group, much to the surprise of the other band members who claimed at the time they were never officially told of his decision and instead read about it in the music press.
The Colour Field
Terry’s next musical venture, The Colour Field, in which he teamed up with Toby Lyons and Karl Shale, enjoyed a top 20 hit with their third single release, the middle-of-the-road, sing-along song Thinking of You in early 1985. Their debut album Virgins & Philistines, featuring Pete de Freitas of Echo & The Bunnymen on drums, was rightly cited as a masterpiece by many Terry Hall fans, and reached number 12 in the album charts.
Further commercial success slipped from their grasp and Terry’s growing displeasure with his job was more than apparent on their short UK 1986 tour when he was seen to argue with his audience, as bootlegs circulating of the band’s shows at that time testify. Supports acts on this tour included Happy Mondays and Primal Scream.
The 1987 album release Deception may have sank without trace but it does boast some fine songs co-written with Lyons, now a lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University.
Around that time, the band also recorded a song called Monkey in Winter for a b-side, featuring Sinead O’Connor on vocals. Toby Lyons now works as a graphic design tutor and Karl Shale can be found behind the counter at a Soho record shop.
Terry, Blair & Anouchka
It would have come as no surprise to any fan if Terry Hall had simply retired from the music business at the grand old age of 28 but thankfully there was more to come, as a small news article in music magazine Record Mirror in 1989 would reveal.
It was to be another trio, but this time with two female musicians, Blair Booth and Anouchka Grose. Terry, Blair & Anouchka’s only album, which carried the title Ultra Modern Nursery Rhymes, maybe a nod to Terry’s baby son Felix, was bursting with pop melodies and bitter-sweet lyrics.
Terry remembers little about this period and suggests the album was released as part of his contractual obligations to Chrysalis Records. A very young Felix, now a successful DJ in his own right, stars alongside his dad in the video for the single, Missing.
The band received little promotion bar a smattering of interviews in the UK music press, a regional radio tour and one TV interview (to my knowledge anyway) on Jameson Tonight, with EastEnders star Shane Richie asking the questions. You can view it here.
It took an unlikely collaboration with Eurythmics star Dave Stewart to bring Terry Hall back into the limelight in the early 1990s. Vegas saw Terry’s distinctive vocals overlayed on a backdrop of Stewart’s lush arrangements and electronic beats. How their cover of Charles Aznavour’s She failed to rouse the record-buying public remains a mystery. It is simply beautiful.
Vegas took to the stage just once at London’s Subterranean club in Ladbroke Grove and released one album. It was said at the time that Terry and Dave were also writing a musical about the life of Queen Victoria but it remains locked away in the vaults of unreleased material. Terry’s also credited with providing vocals on Dave Stewart’s short film, Taking Liberties with Mr Simpson.
Terry Hall solo
In the mid-1990s Brit Pop fever was at its highest and renowned English songwriters like Terry Hall and Paul Weller were lauded in the music press by a rising batch of new pop stars including Blur’s Damon Albarn, Oasis’ Noel Gallagher, The Charlatans’ Tim Burgess and Pulp’s Jarvis cocker.
Terry’s first solo album Home was well-received by critics and saw the singer co-write with the likes of Nick Heyward, Damon Albarn and XTC’s Andy Partridge. Lightning Seed Ian Broudie took up production duties and the album is brimming with soaring pop melodies and thoughtful, clever lyrics.
Terry’s second and final solo album, Laugh, released in 1997 is full of beautiful, epic songs which mostly document the painful split from his long-term partner. Co-written with Craig Gannon, the album features collaborations with Damon Albarn, High Llama Sean O’Hagan and Stephen Duffy.
Chris Sharrock warmed the drum stool for both Terry Hall solo albums and later joined Robbie Williams and Oasis. He’s now drummer for Beady Eye, fronted by Liam Gallagher.
Terry Hall & Mushtaq
In 2003, Terry Hall and Fun-Da-Mental one-time member Mushtaq released the critically acclaimed album The Hour of Two Lights on Damon Albarn’s Honest John label. It was preceded by a limited edition 10” vinyl of the track, They Gotta Quit Kicking My Dog Around.
The album’s musicians included a 12-year-old Lebanese girl, the asylum seeking Gypsy band Romany Rad, a Syrian flautist and an Algerian rapper. Damon Albarn again provides vocals on the standout track, Ten Eleven.
Guest appearances and The Specials reform
Between 2003 and 2009 Terry Hall’s live appearances were few and far between, though he did guest a few times with the Dub Pistols both on and off record and for the first time in years ventured into his very early back catalogue by performing The Specials’ Gangsters with them.
Throughout his career Terry was constantly asked by interviewers whether The Specials would ever reform, a suggestion he always dismissed. This changed in 2008 when a reformed Specials, minus band founder Jerry Dammers, took to the stage at the Bestival festival. A 2009 30th anniversary tour saw the band play to packed out venues across Europe.
The band still tour today, although Neville Staple and Roddy Byers are no longer part of the line up so four original members remain, Terry, bassist Horace Panter, rhythm guitarist Lynval Golding and drummer John ‘Brad’ Bradbury.
They kick off their 2014 tour in Norwich on October 30th and can be found in cities across Europe until the tour ends in Paris on November 30. Support on some dates comes from band of the moment Sleaford Mods.
In between Specials tours, Terry can be found DJing at venues around the country – you can read about that here – and in early 2014 he performed solo for the first time in many years as part of a Fred Perry Terry Hall Retrospective.