(Above:) The last Harry Pye painting of 2022 was a portrait of 2 Tone legends Terry Hall and Jerry Dammers. The title is: "Terry & Jerry in the Summer of 81" 65cm x 90cm, Acrylic on Canvas.
Above: Photo of Terry taken by Harry Pye in 2012.
Above: Photo of Jerry taken by Harry Pye in 2010
My childhood heroes The Specials were a band from Coventry - to some they were a post punk ska revival band, to others they were a mod band or an Art School band, some fans only wanted to dance to their music whilst other fans loved their mix of very funny songs and very serious political songs. On the fantastic debut album produced by Elvis Costello in 1978 the line up was: Jerry Dammers on keyboards, Terry Hall and Neville Staple on lead vocals, Lynval Golding on rhythm guitar, Roddy Radiation on lead guitar, Horace Panter on bass, John Bradbury on Drums, plus Dick Cuthell on trumpet and Rico Rodriguez on trombone. Also important were photographer Chalkie Davies and video director Barney Bubbles. Golding and Radiation both composed a couple of the band's most popular songs. And Terry co wrote "Man At C & A" with Jerry, and also contributed lines to a couple of Jerry's songs (e.g. "all the girls are slags" in"Nite Klub") That said, Jerry was the architect of The Specials and the 2 Tone label, the main song writer and the arranger. But Terry's good looks, his distinctive vocal delivery and "Mum, I want to go home" look, plus the fact that, unlike Jerry, he was from a working class background all played a part in the band's success.
It was so sad that Terry Hall lost his battle with cancer and died on December the 18th 2022. He was only 63. Terry Hall was a wonderful front man, he had a lovely voice and had a great way with words. I love pretty much everything The Specials did from "Gangsters" to "What I Like Most About You Is Your Girlfriend" but like most fans I think they probably peaked with "Ghost Town" was stayed at Number One for 3 weeks in the Summer of 1981.
The Ghost Town e.p. which featured; "Why? " and "Friday Night Saturday Morning" is one of the best singles of all time. But Terry, Lynval and Neville weren't happy so they left the band to be The Fun Boy Three.
"The Specials had become one big joke. Jerry was drafting people into the band and the first we'd know about it was when they'd turn up on stage!"Terry explained to NME journalist Adrian Thrills in Feb 1982. (Possibly this is about flute player Paul Heskett and singer Rhoda Dakar being added to the line up when promoting "Ghost Town"?) Neville Staple added: "It got to the stage where we didn't all have a say in what The Specials were doing. But we're not kids, so we should have a say. People can't be yes-men all the time." Terry explains that there were other problems causing frustration... "The trouble with those songs was that we always had to have a guitar part and a bassline just to accommodate The Specials as a band. I wanted the song "Friday Night Saturday Morning" to be recorded with just a piano and vocals, as if it were being sung by a bloke in a pub, not by a band."
The Fun Boy Three had their moments such as; "Lunatics" and "Farm Yard Connection." While Jerry was helping produce tracks like "The Boiler" by Rhoda Dakar and throwing his energies into the Artists Against Apartheid project. Terry co-wrote the pop classic "Our Lips Are Sealed" with Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Gos) which got to Number One in America. He also discovered Banarama who went on to become Britain's the most successful female band. In an interview with The Face magazine Hall said he was constantly being asked about his relationship with Jerry Dammers. Terry explained there was no big feud and that Jerry was one of the most intelligent people he'd ever met.
After The Fun Boy Three Hall was lucky to get to collaborate with guitarist and keyboard player Toby Lyons and bass player Karl Shale. They formed The Colourfield whose wonderful debut album ("Virgins And Phillistimes") released in 1985 features brillaint songs like 'Take' and 'Thinking of You'. Jerry Dammers had revealed that his song "Housebound" (from his "In The Studio" L.P) was about Terry being scared to leave his home. I've wondered if any of Terry's lyrics about guilt and betrayal on the first Colourfield album were in some way connected to his feelings about Jerry.
I remember reading Terry's interview with Tony Fletcher for Jamming in March 1985 and being shocked by Terry's trashing of The Specials - something he would continue to do for quite some time.
Terry Hall: "There was no racism in Coventry until The Specials started singing about it.... Ghost Town was an embaressment... I just don't like the idea of holding up a gold disc when its got a lot to do with unemployment... (In The Specials) I was getting wages for doing sod all."
The second Colourfield LP ("Deception") was very disappointing. His last album for the Chrysalis label ("Ultra Modern Nusrey Rhymes") was also less than fantastic. The problem wasn't Terry's voice or his lyrics it was more to do with his choice of collaborators and the musical arrangements they came up with. I wonder what would have happened if Hall had contacted Dammers in 1987? I wish they'd worked on a project again in the same way Lou Reed and John Cale collaborated on the album "Songs For Drella." Terry had liked Jerry's song "War Crimes" and Jerry had liked The Colourfield so I felt there was a chance something could happen - but no. In the 90s Terry worked with songwriters such as Dave Stewart from Eurythmics, Stephen Duffy, Lightning Seed Ian Broudie and ex Smith Craig Gannon, and came up with a few gems such as; "Possessed," "Sonny and his Sister," "Sense," and "No No No" but, in truth, none of these really equal a track like "Friday Night And Saturday Morning." Jerry went on to collaborate with; Madness, Robert Wyatt, Arthur Brown and Johnny Clarke. He contributed a song for the film Absolute Beginners, toured the country with his Spatial AKA Orchestra and also worked as a D.J.
In the mid 90s the former Orange Juice frontman Edwyn Collins had a big worldwide hit with "A Girl Like You." And it felt like this unexpected success inspired Terry, and all the guys who'd been big in the 80s like Nick Heyward, Lloyd Cole to throw their hats in the ring one more time. No major label was interested in Terry and so his covers of songs like "I Saw The Light" and "Music To Watch Girls By" were released on his own South Sea Bubble Company label. I got the feeling he lost a lot of money. More and more acts such as Blur, Tricky and Pulp said in the press how much they loved The Specials and what an inspiration they'd been. Terry told Jo Whiley that when he saw Lynval, Neville, Panter and Radiation touring under the name "The Specials" he felt they shouldn't but at the same time appreciated some of them had mortages to pay and some of them had no pension etc.
In 2003 it was revealed in Uncut magazine that Jerry Dammers wanted to reform The Specials and "start off where Ghost Town left off" with a new song called 'First Victims Of War.' This new song had been recorded (or at least a demo of it had been reorded) and it featured Dammers, Rico Rodriquez, Dick Cuthell plus Lynval Golding on lead vocals. Roddy Radiation posted on social media that there had indeed been a band meeting and Dammers had played them this new track but he personally didn't like it as "it droaned on and on and on and on." I've never heard it so I can't comment. Later of course all of The Specials (apart from Jerry, Dick and Rico) toured around the world playing the old hits to fans new and old. A free CD of the band playing live was given away to people who bought The Sunday Times - none of the songs sounded anywhere as good as they'd done on live albums back in the day . Dammers told The Word magazine that in his opinion Terry & Co were giving people " a warped view" of what The Specials were about. He felt the band should be writing protest songs and doing things no one had done before. In 2019, Terry and Lynval Golding and Horace Panter released a Specials album called "Encore" (which they said was taking off from where Ghost Town had left off) and then 5 years later brought out an album of protest songs. Although I haven't liked any of their new self penned material I thought they recorded some great cover versions of songs such as "Blam Blam Fever" (originally recorded by The Valentines in 1967), plus John Barry's "All The Time In The World" and Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows" Although bassist Horace, new drummer Kenrick Rowe, new keyboard player Nikolaj Torp Larson, and new trombone player Tim Smart are all very good at what they do, I always felt I was listening to "The Fun Boy 3 without Neville" rather than "The Specials." That said, it's very impressive that Terry kept his good looks and could still sing brilliantly right up until the end. It was also great he never lost his sense of humour..
Terry was on great form when he did this interview with comedian Richard Herring (I advise you to fast forward past the 8 minute intro). There's some real comedy gold when he discuses previous jobs.
Watch the interview: Here
Jerry reacted to the news of Terry's death by saying he was very shocked and adding "Contrary to some of what's reported since, Terry and I got on well in the original Specials.... It was in the studio with Elvis Costello producing, where Terry was able to sing quietly, that I think his hidden strength came out, a delivery which brought out the melancholy in some of The Specials' songs, and which I think a lot of people could relate to."
Listen again to the brilliant: "Friday Night And Saturday Morning" :Here
I wish their collaborations had continued.