As inner-city Britain rioted in 1981, The Specials had just topped the UK charts with the doomy and foreboding Ghost Town. And then they split up . . .
Band-members Neville Staple, Lynval Golding and Terry Hall wasted no time in forming vocal group Fun Boy Three and signing to Chrysalis, who had marketed The Specials’2 Tone label.
The trio had been working with producer Dave Jordan since January and had recorded a cover of American garage classic 96 Tears and an early cut of their debut single, The Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum.
“The record company wasn’t massively happy about the split,” Hall said, “because The Specials had grown into quite a strong brand name. But they understood that it wasn’t just a whim. They knew we were having troubles – they were paying for our recordings and bills for separate hotels in separate cities”.
There had been problems and clashes of egos. Specials leader Jerry Dammers had claimed that Ghost Town was entirely his creation, while Staple felt that he had made a significant contribution to writing it.
The frothy It Ain’t What You Do (It’s the Way You Do It) – featuring vocals from Bananarama – climbed into the British Top 10 as a single.
The 1982 debut album by Fun Boy Three reached #7 in Britain and the band went on to enjoy six hit singles and another Top 20 LP (Waiting) produced by David Byrne from Talking Heads.
The group disbanded in summer 1983 just as some US appearances, the single Our Lips Are Sealed (a slower but richer version of the Go-Go’s hit which was written by Terry Hall and Go-Go Jane Wiedlin back in the days of The Specials) and an MTV video threatened to make the trio one of new wave’s Next Big Things.
Chrysalis could say only that Terry Hall’s decision to break up the group was “shrouded in mystery”.
Terry Hall died in December 2022 from pancreatic cancer. He was 63.