2022 ➤ Farewell Terry Hall, chronicler of social unrest in the Eighties

Terry Hall, ska, pop charts, Swinging Eighties, obituary, singer

Terry Hall on the cover of The Face in July 1981 (Photo © Davies/Starr)

❚ IN POST-PUNK 1979 The Specials and their 2 Tone Records label were just about the only credible sounds in the blandly irrelevant pop charts of the time. This ska-revival band from Coventry defined the anger characterising the concrete jungle in recessionary Britain from their debut single Gangsters to Ghost Town in 1981. They notched seven chart hits while the fashion-conscious stylists who turned London’s Blitz Club into a poser’s paradise set about creating employment among their own ranks by reinventing the UK music scene itself.

The frontman of The Specials, Terry Hall, who from the outset felt uncomfortable becoming a pop celebrity, died on Sunday aged only 63 after a tough and often traumatic life. Yet his singing voice and charisma as a political militant, also expressed with the ironically named Fun Boy Three, ensured a substantial following in later life so that a comeback album titled Encore topped the UK chart in 2019.

Here’s how today’s Guardian obituary of Terry Hall starts, written by Adam Sweeting: “Singer with the Specials whose chart-topping Ghost Town evoked the sense of social collapse gripping Britain at the turn of the Eighties”

Famously deadpan, dour and slightly menacing, Terry Hall, who has died aged 63 after a short illness, shot to fame at the end of the 1970s with Coventry’s ground-breaking multi-racial band the Specials. They emerged in the aftermath of punk, with a fizzing, politically charged mix of ska and new wave, and enjoyed instant success with their debut album, The Specials, which reached No 4 on the UK chart. For a time, the Specials’ 2 Tone Records operation became the UK’s most successful record label, with releases from Madness, the Beat and the Selecter alongside the Specials’ own.

Hall commented that “I don’t believe music can change anything” because “all you can do is put your point across”, but the Specials caught the fraught and dangerous atmosphere of the turn of the 1980s with an eerie intensity. Ghost Town in particular chillingly evoked the sense of social collapse and economic decline gripping a riot-torn Britain.

The Specials found themselves in the eye of the storm, with neo-Nazis frequently targeting their gigs. Hall and the band’s keyboards player, Jerry Dammers, were both arrested when they waded in to try to break up fighting between fans and security guards at a gig in Cambridge. They were found guilty of “incitement to riot” and fined £400 each… / Continued at Guardian online

HALL AS SOLO ARTIST IN 1994:

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: 1981, Chant No 1 – Spandau revive the rumble of funk while hard times loom

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