He Was Special, He Was Fun: RIP Terry Hall

WIAA: Alyson, oh Alyson… ?

ALYSON: I know, WIAA, it looks as if I’ve gone AWOL the week before Christmas but year on year I get more and more nostalgic about days gone by and for all those Christmases spent with family and friends who are no longer with us.

WIAA: I suspected that might have been the case – I suppose it doesn’t help that this is a retrospective music blog where you revisit those festive songs enjoyed throughout your life, especially those from your youth.

ALYSON: Indeed. I will no doubt snap out of it before the big day but in the last few weeks: three of my close friends have lost a parent; last night I found out that an old work colleague had died suddenly at the age of 62; and today, I woke up to the awful news that Terry Hall has also died. He was only 63.

WIAA: Terry Hall?

ALYSON: You might not remember, WIAA, but he has appeared on these pages before, in the context of being attached to one of the most exciting new labels in the history of British music – 2 Tone Records. In fact the band he was in, The Specials, got the whole 2 tone movement started, something intrinsically linked to my time as a student, whilst I was still in my late teens. Such a great time to be alive.


You know what, WIAA, I think you’ve just snapped me out of my fug. The festive post can wait for now as instead I really want to pay tribute to Terry Hall, someone whose death is eliciting great sadness today in fans of a certain age.

My last post was about the death of Christine McVie, and I mentioned that the Fleetwood Mac album Rumours had found its way into my Christmas stocking in 1977. What I hadn’t said then was that it had been a gift from the school boyfriend. In 1979 the self-titled album The Specials also found its way into my Christmas stocking, and it was from the same boy, except this time he was the student boyfriend. We had parted company for quite some time after school but at the tail end of the ’70s we had found each other again and immediately reconnected, spending most of our free time together, listening to albums by artists like The Specials and Elvis Costello. I will always associate The Specials with that time in my life. Although it was really Jerry Dammers’ band, Terry Hall was the very stolid, ‘unjumpy’ lead vocalist, so much of the focus was always on him. Here they are with Too Much Too Young, a song from that first 1979 album.

Too Much Too Young by The Specials:


The music we were listening to was no longer the slick, soft rock made in studios on the West Coast of America, which suited the comfortable lives we had led in our parents’ warm homes whilst at school. Things had changed, we were now poor students dressed in charity shop finds, living in pretty grotty cold tenement flats and becoming aware of the social injustices documented in songs by bands like The Specials. Their music came on the back of punk but was combined with ska and rocksteady which also made it very danceable. It was right for the times.

The Specials were short-lived as a band but before they split they released this non-album single, Ghost Town, a song that spent three weeks at the No. 1 spot on the UK Singles Chart in 1981. Again it felt right for the times and evoked themes of urban decay, unemployment and violence in our inner cities, something that came to a head in the summer of 1981. The song was hailed as a major piece of popular social commentary, and all three of the major UK music magazines awarded Ghost Town the accolade of Single of the Year.

Ghost Town by The Specials:


After his time with The Specials, Terry Hall, along with Neville Staple and Lynval Golding formed the Fun Boy Three. This time the songs were less frenetic, less political and more… fun. They teamed up with Banarama for a couple of single releases and even recorded a beautiful cover of the standard, Summertime. Here is the song Terry wrote with Jane Wiedlen of the Go-Go’s during their short-lived romance, My Lips Are Sealed. Both bands released the song as a single but of course on their respective sides of the pond. Needless to say the Fun Boy Three version did best on the UK Singles Chart reaching the No. 2 spot in 1983. (Terry’s hair definitely looking a bit different from when he was with The Specials – ’twas the times.)

Our Lips Are Sealed by Fun Boy Three:


But Terry never stood still for long (no pun intended) and by 1984 he had formed another band The Colourfield. Their first album was full of really beautiful songs like this one, Thinking Of You. He was still just in his mid-20s but was now a very different artist to the one who signed up with The Specials only seven years earlier. I too was a very different person in my mid-20s to the one who had first discovered The Specials in 1979. The world of work had beckoned and the flats had got nicer. The city I lived in, Aberdeen, was experiencing a bit of an oil boom, so the lyrics to those earlier songs didn’t really resonate with me or my friends any more. The school/student boyfriend and I didn’t last the distance, and we eventually parted company just as Terry’s time as a chart artist was also coming to an end. Terry would never be as commercially successful again in terms of record sales, but I’m glad he carried on making new music, collaborating with other artists right up until his untimely and premature death.

RIP Terry Hall

So, ‘What’s It All About?’ – I’m sorry I’ve not managed anything festive yet this year, but still time hopefully. I’ve been having one of those intense spells of contacting bereaved friends, and organising flowers & sympathy cards. Just as you hope there’s going to be a bit of a respite something like this comes along, an artist you haven’t really been following for a long time dies suddenly, and all the memories from a certain period in your life come flooding back. I’ve been trying to remember what other albums I got as a gift from the same boyfriend, as that’s two now that have featured in back to back tribute posts – I won’t say, as I don’t want to tempt fate, but as we music bloggers of a certain age always say, it’s kind of inevitable that we’re going to be writing tribute posts on a more regular basis as time goes by.

My condolences to Terry’s family and friends who along with his many fans will be grieving today.

Until next time… RIP Terry Hall.


Our Lips Are Sealed Lyrics
(Song by Terry Hall/Jane Wiedlin)

Can you hear them talking ’bout us
Telling lies? Is that a surprise?
Can you see them, see right through them?
They have a shield, nothing must be revealed
It doesn’t matter what they say
No one listens anyway
Our lips are sealed

There’s a weapon that we can use
In our defense, silence
Well, just look at them, look right through them

That’s when they disappear, that’s when we lose the fear
It doesn’t matter what they say
In the jealous games people play
Our lips are sealed
It doesn’t matter what they say
No one’s listening anyway
Our lips are sealed

Hush, my darling, don’t you cry
Guardian angel, forget their lies

Can you hear them talking ’bout us
Telling lies? Well, that’s no surprise
Can you see them, see right through them?
They have a shield, nothing must be revealed
It doesn’t matter what they say
In the jealous games people play
Our lips are sealed
Pay no mind to what they say
It doesn’t matter anyway
Our lips are sealed
Our lips are sealed
Our lips are sealed

Baggy Dungarees, Bananarama and ‘Cruel Summer’

It’s Saturday morning which is usually my preferred slot for a weekly blogging session however I am struggling to find inspiration. That’s not actually true, it’s more that I am still overwhelmed by what’s going on in the world, and can’t seem to snap out of it. Is it just me, or is the initial relief the country felt at being in full lockdown starting to morph into something quite different? I think it is only now starting to hit home that there won’t be a V-shaped bounce back for the economy, and many will lose their jobs and businesses.

Talking of which, last Saturday we had a tricky manoeuvre to perform in getting DD back home to the Highlands but we managed without breaking (too many) rules. Back in March she had a pretty good life for someone her age but this pandemic has put paid to that – Once you lose your job, bit by bit you lose everything else and although she is by no means the only one, it’s a bitter pill to swallow. Today is the summer solstice, astronomically the first day of summer (written about here before). In years gone by I would have probably had a wee soiree for the neighbours, but this is going to be a Cruel Summer I can tell, so not really in the mood. Cue Bananarama.

Cruel Summer by Bananarama:

Anyone who was around at the time will know that Bananarama were incredibly prolific in the 1980s and they ended up being listed in the Book of Guinness World Records for achieving the world’s highest number of chart entries by an all-female group. They came along just at the time my life as a student was coming to an end but we weren’t ready to cast our student wardrobes aside quite yet and I remember those Bananarama-inspired dungarees and baggy T-shirts were a staple right through those transition years. They had caught the eye of Terry Hall, and in February 1982 released It Ain’t What You Do (It’s The Way That You Do It) with Fun Boy Three, which got to the No. 5 spot in the UK Singles Chart. By the time Cruel Summer hit the charts in July 1983, they’d already had 5 other hit singles!

As we are contemporaries, it’s always interesting to see the girls when they pop up on telly today. Although they lost Siobhan Fahey for a good while as she embarked on other projects, she got back together with fellow Bananaramers Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward in 2017, and they completed a world tour. The dungarees have gone, in favour of the little black dress, but I don’t begrudge them that at all. Once we ladies get to a certain age the clothes of our youth just look silly on us, although we can still rock the shoes. Back in 1982/83, when we copied their look, it was all about the shoes. A large sector of the female population was at that time going down the white stiletto route, even with dungarees. You could always tell which “tribe” a girl belonged to because of her shoes – It was always Doc Martins and loafers for Bananarama and if I’m not mistaken they still marry up their old footwear of choice with their little black dresses of today. Way to go girls.

So ‘What’s It All About?’ – It’s going to be a tough old summer for many of us I suspect. I keep telling DD she is not alone, as if that somehow makes it better, but of course it doesn’t. As my holiday house is sitting empty at the moment she at least has somewhere to stay whilst she tries to regroup. I had been optimistic recently about my ability to reopen the holiday hideaway for staycations later in the summer, but having seen the many cleaning protocols and risk assessments that (understandably) need to be completed ahead of each guest arriving, like many others in the hospitality and tourism sectors, I am starting to wonder whether it will be possible. Based on costs/unit of hospitality, we should now be charging around £30 for each drink in a pub and around £500 for each night away. With a recession looming, just don’t think that’s going to be possible.

I’ve not exactly come back with a very positive post today, but at least I’ve eased the blockage which had stopped me from writing. I have had something very positive happen to me of late however which involves this blog. What did they say to Kevin Costner in Field Of Dreams? – ‘If you build it, they will come.’ Something along those lines and I hope to share more in due course.

Until next time….

Cruel Summer Lyrics
(Song by Sara Dallin/Siobhan Fahey/Steve Jolley/Tony Swain/Keren Woodward)

Hot summer streets
And the pavements are burning
I sit around

Trying to smile
But the air is so heavy and dry

Strange voices are saying
What did they say
Things I can’t understand
It’s too close for comfort
This heat has got right out of hand

It’s a cruel, cruel summer
Leaving me here on my own
It’s a cruel, cruel summer
Now you’re gone

The city is crowded
My friends are away
And I’m on my own

It’s too hot to handle
So I got to get up and go

It’s a cruel, cruel summer
Leaving me here on my own
It’s a cruel,
It’s a cruel, cruel summer
Now you’re gone
You’re not the only one