Today is the 39th birthday of Terry Hall, vocalist and guitarist for the
Specials and Fun Boy Three. In the late '70s and early '80s, Hall and his
bandmates in the Specials were the leaders of the two-tone ska revival
movement, which included such acts as the English Beat, the
Selecter and Madness. The Specials paved the way for the subsequent success of groups such as No Doubt, Reel Big Fish, Mighty Mighty Bosstones and countless others.
Hall was born in Coventry, England, where he eventually hooked up with
his bandmates. First called the Coventry Specials and then Special AKA,
the group recorded its first single, "Gangsters," in 1979 on their 2-Tone
label. The Specials were too broke to record a B-side, so they gave that space
to their friends in the Selecter. The buzz created by that single led to a
2-Tone distribution deal with Chrysalis and sent the song to #6 on the U.K.
pop charts. The group's full-length debut, The Specials, came out
near the end of the year and was produced by Elvis Costello. It was a huge hit in
England and spawned such classics of the genre as "A Message to You, Rudy," "Too
Much, Too Young," "Too Hot" and "Concrete Jungle." However, the album failed to
make an impact in the U.S. aside from rock critics and a cult
audience. Its follow-up, 1980's More Specials, found the band
moving toward a more lounge-y, cocktail-jazz sound but still producing worthwhile ska-pop songs such as "Enjoy Yourself" and "Rat Race."
The Specials were on their last legs by the time they released their
classic "Ghost Town" in 1981. The record went to #1 in the U.K. despite
the fact that it was banned by the BBC because of its bleak portrayal of life and racial relations in the U.K. Hall left the Specials after the single's release and took guitarist Lynval Golding and percussionist Neville Staples with him to form the pop band Fun Boy Three. Once again a success in the U.K. but not in the U.S., that group scored hits
in the early '80s with "The Lunatics (Have Taken Over The Asylum)," "The
Telephone Always Rings" and "Summertime." The group also had three hit
singles with Bananarama: "It Ain't What You Do, It's The Way That You Do
It," "Our Lips Are Sealed" and "Tunnel of Love." Fun Boy Three broke up in
1983, and Hall went on to play with such artists as Dave Stewart and
Colourfield. The Specials reunited and toured throughout the
mid- to late '90s and will release Guilty 'Till Proven Innocent on March 24.
Other birthdays: Clarence "Frogman" Henry, 61; Ruth Pointer (Pointer
Sisters), 52; Paul Atkinson (the Zombies), 52; and Derek Longmuir (Bay City Rollers), 43.