That Terry Hall had interests outside of the The Specials had been discussed in the press before. If there was any doubt that he was open to other musical influences, then the release of Go-Go’s single Our Lips Are Sealed (in June 1981 in the United States and the following month in the United Kingdom) should have confirmed that he did: Go-Go’s new-wavey, bubblegum pop version of the song Hall had co-written with their Jane Wiedlin was very much removed from the serious, often glum output from band Hall was a member of at the time. But the seemingly abrupt departure of Hall and band mates Lynval Golding and Neville Staples from The Specials still caught some by surprise; in fact, by the time they were at #1 with Ghost Town (just as Go-Go’s single was being released here) the trio had already left the group and work on their first single was already fairly advanced. In October 1981, when the confirmation of the split was confirmed, Hall stated that he had been considering how and when to leave The Specials for some months prior to doing so and so from his point of view at least, his departure was planned and inevitable.
Hall had grown tired of the album-tour-album-tour schedule of The Specials, and the increasingly perfectionist studio work involved in creating their records. The name of the new group, The Fun Boy Three, indicated the change in attitude that the three ex-members were taking regarding their lives. “There’s nothing professional about it,” Hall told NME. “None of us can really play that well. We just build up numbers as we go along. We don’t really know what our LP’s going to sound like until we’ve done it.” This more relaxed approach to making music and the openness of the members to different genres and to experimentation produced some pleasing results in the short career of The Fun Boy Three, but in many instances their output wasn’t so different from their previous group. There was the remarkable debut single, for a start. The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum was the natural successor to the final The Specials single, Ghost Town, a somewhat unsettling musical arrangement with a political message; what one might call uneasy-listening. Hall said the lunatics of the title were politicians: “Each verse is about a different lunatic. It’s written about people like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan – people who take over countries they’re not capable of running. A song of today.”
There were lighter notes though. Bananarama featured on several tracks on the first Fun Boy album FB3 (Chrysalis CHR1383, 12 March 1982; see 18 February entry in this blog for notes about the Bananarama collaborations) and this allowed the group to gravitate towards a more optimistic outlook than the rather gloomy and intense atmosphere of The Specials. Not that the tracks chosen to be singles were at all frivolous: The More I See (The Less I Believe) focussed on The Troubles in Ireland and the related bombings in England, and The Tunnel of Love returned to the subject matter of The Specials’ Too Much Too Young; Hall remained a social commentator, a point made in reviews of their second album Waiting (Chrysalis CHR1417, 11 February 1983).
Nevertheless, not all of it was intended to be taken seriously. In No.1 magazine in January 1984, Hall described the Fun Boys as “an alternative to three years of depression with The Specials”, but it didn’t last. Barely 18 months passed before he called time on them. “It’s nice to try everything once, but towards the end The Funboy Three just became dull. It was just a mammoth piss-takes but nobody found it funny. You can only amuse yourself for so long…” He also had no emotional attachment to the project: “Just because we were in a band together, people thought we were longstanding friends or something,” he said of Staples and Golding in a February 1985 with Smash Hits. “I didn’t really know them very well then and I don’t know them now.”
In the same interview, he gave his summary of his time in The Fun Boy Three. “It’s just that I felt I had to look like a complete idiot in order to sell records. We were basically such a crap group.” By now, he had something of a reputation for splitting up bands in their prime. The last Fun Boy release was Hall’s own take on his song Our Lips Are Sealed, a superb effort and the best of a number of strong singles.
NEW SINGLES on sale from Apr. 22
The FUN BOY THREE Our Lips Are Sealed (Chrysalis FUNB1)
DEAD OR ALIVE (Pete Burns) Misty Circles (Epic A3399)
TEARS FOR FEARS Pale Shelter [re-issue] (Mercury IDEA5)
FIVE STAR All Fall Down (Tent PB40039)
U2 The Unforgettable Fire (Island IS220)