Friday, October 14, 2011

Terry Hall / Specials Relationship 14/10/11

Terry Hall : It's a fragile reunion that is about to break.

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UNCOMFORTABLE silences: we were anticipating a few when we planned a hook up with Terry Hall, legendary frontman with The Specials and Fun Boy Three.

On stage and off, Hall has something of an enigmatic reputation. As frontmen go, he's a quiet and solitary animal that skulks in the shadows. “I frustrate our lighting engineers endlessly,” he smiles. “He sets these lights up for me and I never stand in them, but that's part of the fun really.

“I never understood why I had to stand out at the front and be this horrible Bono type character. We're a collective on stage. I've never felt the need to be the show.”

So when we hit our first silence about five minutes in, a flurry of panic sets in. Fortunately, it's far from being an awkward moment; instead we find ourselves lost in collective imagination with Terry as he reflects on the band's fragile reunion.

“I held off for such a long time because I didn't really see any point. I think I was too niggly before and I was too cynical.

“But a number of things happened over a period of maybe six months to a year where we sort of got back together, and that was down to a lot of things, like some of us had had serious illnesses.

“We got in touch again and once we started playing music again together, we realised we still enjoyed that side of our friendship. When we're together for 10 minutes in the dressing room, we really like each other,” he pauses. “Well, some of us do.

“But it's quite a big band, six men, it's a pretty unnatural situation to put yourself in. To live with those people can wear a bit thin. We're not great at socialising together or going to the cinema together, but....”

Then the silence. “I just pictured us all sitting in the cinema together, on the front row.” He raises a wry smile. “That was horrible.”

It's a fragile reunion that is about to break. This latest sold out tour, based on the band's seminal albums Specials and More Specials, will be their last; this three year romp through The Specials' best bits has come to a natural conclusion.

The idea of doing more as The Specials without new material makes Terry wince. And the idea of actually making new material makes him scratch his head in wonder.

“I don't know how we'd do it,” he says. “You can only tour this material so much and I don't want to get bored with it. I don't think we want to schlep around again after this tour.

“I'm still enjoying getting together with everybody and there's a sense of ownership of it and that's really lovely. The people that come to see us seem to feel a real part of it, but nobody wants it to get boring.

“We could write new material, or we could go off and do our own thing again. We're working on a couple of new things, but whether we'll record or not, I don't know...” he pauses.

“It's just nice to be mates again – to rekindle that is enough for now. We're very loose about the future really. We're at that age in life where you're just grateful to wake up in the morning.”

The original reunion, back in 2008, came about to mark the 30th anniversary of their debut album. Three years later, it coincides with the 30th anniversary of when it all famously fell apart in a Top Of The Pops dressing room and Terry quit to form Fun Boy Three – the pop tonic to The Specials' intoxicating socio-political agenda.

Terry also released a number of critically acclaimed solo albums and collaborations. At 52, he's no more keen to become a solo artist again than he is to be the frontman of Fun Boy Three, although he has recently tried to talk his son, 21-year-old Theodore, into performing some European shows with him. “He's like, 'You're a bit old. You're an alright dad but I don't want to be in a group with you'.”

His life-long battle with mental health issues continues; writing songs, and performing with The Specials, have been 'his therapy'. And he's also discovered painting: “My doctors thought it would be a good idea as part of my recovery. For two years I could paint nothing but the Jackson 5; no idea why, just endless paintings.

“Now I want to move on to something else. Maybe the Osmonds. I've been talking to people about an exhibition next year.” He laughs: “I've got thousands of pictures of the Jackson 5 I can show.

“But being on stage is one of the few places where I feel most like myself,” he continues. “The inhibitions go and I don't care what I feel like or look like or sound like – it doesn't matter.

“If I want to walk round on my knees I can do that. I can't really do that in the street,” he laughs. “Well, I can. But you'd get a very different kind of attention.”

It is, though, timely that the the project has run its course again inside three years. This bookend tour has not (as rumours online would have it) been engineered to make way for a Fun Boy Three reunion. Despite offers, Terry says he remains uninterested: “That group was a reaction to this group – to get away,” he says, “We haven't got that fire any more.”

But it was the right time to pull the material back out. Their songs, from Nite Klub and Gangsters to their biggest hits Too Much Too Young and Ghost Town, spoke about a nation in economic and social turmoil: of an unemployed, disenfranchised, disenchanted youth living on the poverty line.

Today, the band are singing those songs again in similarly recessive times. “I had that initial weirdness on our first rehearsal of the material that a percentage of it still applied,” Terry says. “It is horrible that you can still do a song like Ghost Town with conviction – that's not right.

“It would be nice to drop it out of our set because it no longer applied, but if we did that with all our material we'd have about three songs left in our set. This year has been a mirror image of the year we released Ghost Town: there's been a Royal Wedding, disruption, unemployment, rioting.

“We didn't write those songs as a solution to it. It was just a running diary about how we lived. The anger is still there, but it's not as easy to be angry at this age,” he smiles.

“If we were still that angry at this age, we'd all get locked up. We're older and milder, and now we feel we've done what we needed to do, and that was to get each others' phone numbers.

“That's what I wanted anyway.” Another silence. “Whether I change my number or not is a different matter.”

UK Shows:

Tuesday 11-Oct Wolverhampton Civic
Wednesday 12-Oct Wolverhampton Civic
Friday 14-Oct Manchester Apollo
Saturday 15-Oct Manchester Apollo
Sunday 16-Oct Hull Arena
Tuesday 18-Oct Glasgow SECC
Friday 21-Oct Nottingham Arena
Sunday 23-Oct Plymouth Pavilion
Monday 24-Oct Cheltenham Racecourse
Tuesday 25-Oct Brighton Centre
Thursday 27-Oct Bournemouth International Centre
Friday 28-Oct Cardiff Arena
Saturday 29-Oct Coventry Ricoh Arena
Thursday 3-Nov London Alexandra Palace


  1. Wisdom oozes out of his thoughts.. he has been given a child with a mood image, but never have wiser words been spoken.

    Simon @
    Gatecrasher =)

  2. Cheers Simon

    Words Of Wisdom Indeed :)