An interview with Terry Hall

By Clare Hall

SPECIALS frontman Terry Hall brings his DJ set to Bridport Electric Palace on Thursday December 17.

His musical tastes are eclectic to say the least.

Attend one of his DJ sets and expect to hear the likes of David Bowie, Toots & The Maytals, The Las, The Jackson 5, Max Romeo, Althea & Donna, Talking Heads, and much more.

He closed one set in Stoke-on-Trent with Zorba’s Dance.

So what kind of music will he be playing at Bridport?

“Whatever feels good inside my head at that point,” he says.

“I have a few certs but I love the fun of playing music I want to hear over big speakers - let it flow, let's wait and see.”

It’s clear that Coventry-born Hall’s childhood went on to set him up for life.

“Music was played day and night. My two elder sisters made sure I grew up on Motown and reggae and glam rock.

"My father worshipped Edith Piaf and my mother loved big band music.

"There was never a shortage of music in the house.

“I adored the whole Bowie/Roxy Music scene, but had no idea how bands worked until I saw The Clash and The Sex Pistols. Suddenly a light came on - ping!”

Hall also has tangled roots. "I was presented with a star of David when I was a kid and, 10 years on, I found out that my grandfather was a German Jewish watchmaker.

"I'm still searching, but there are different stories.

"I grew up in an environment where you didn't really know where you were from. Coventry was built on immigrants because it was an industrial city looking for cheap labour.

"I don't think it's an accident that a group like the Specials came out of that."

As lead singer of The Specials, one of the most important and game-changing British bands of all time, Terry and his gang hammered the charts worldwide, with hits including A Message To You Rudy, Ghost Town, Gangsters, Nite Club and Monkey Man.

He also sang for Fun Boy Three, The Colourfield, Terry, Blair & Anouchka and Vegas. In 1995 he released his first solo album and has since collaborated with Gorillaz, Dub Pistols and Tricky.

So what was it like to be part of the Specials during that whole ska revival era?

“Pretty amazing,” he recalls. “I was a 19 year old unemployed city kid and then the singer in a band travelling the world.

"It sort of whizzed by but I still hold great memories. Even the bad times were good.”

So what would he have been doing if he’d not had so much success with The Specials?

“I let go of professional football at 13. I had successful trials at Wolves and West Brom but then discovered girls and, um, cider…”

When pressed, he thinks about it a bit more and says: “Cutting hair was probably my future.”

Luckily for the music scene, his apprenticeship as a hairdresser was short-lived, although his hair styles in his Fun Boy Three days were legendary.

Personality clashes drove Hall to leave the Specials, but he also felt that, with Ghost Town, they had achieved what they had set out to do. "With every record, it's a little agenda. If I feel like I've achieved it then I stop it."

When Hall left the Specials immediately after their number-one single Ghost Town, and returned to the charts just five months later with Fun Boy Three, he looked set to become one of the great British frontmen.

This was not, however, part of his plan. He has spent the past two decades hopping from project to project: his bands the Colourfield, Terry, Blair & Anouchka and Vegas (with Stewart), appearances with Tricky, Gorillaz and the Lightning Seeds, and just two solo albums.

After his last one, 1997's Laugh, he had no desire to be a solo artist again.

These days, he’s still playing with The Specials and has also started work on a book, with possibly an album in the pipeline.

His DJ sets take in some of the finest music from the last 40 years, with a style mixing up rare and classic tracks from across the genres, anything from Ska and Two Tone to 80s synth pop, hip hop and indie.

Terry has collaborated with many artists including David A. Stewart, Bananarama, Lightning Seeds, Sinéad O'Connor, Stephen Duffy, Dub Pistols, Gorillaz, Damon Albarn, D12, Tricky, Junkie XL, Leila Arab, Lily Allen, Shakespears Sister and Nouvelle Vague.

On September 6 2008, six members of the band performed on the Main Stage at Bestival as the Surprise Act.

The Specials' original keyboardist and primary composer Jerry Dammers did not play at the festival and owns the trademark rights to the name The Specials, so the group was billed as "Very 'Special' Guests".

In December 2008, The Specials announced 2009 tour dates to celebrate their 30th anniversary.

Jerry Dammers did not join the band on the tour, although relations between the two parties are strong.

Hall was quoted as saying 'the door remains open to him'.

As of 2014, Hall still performs with The Specials, along with his original band members Lynval Golding, John Bradbury and Horace Panter, and the frontman often DJs in various UK venues, though as yet no new material has been released.

A Special Night with Terry Hall

Thursday 17 December

Bridport Electric Palace

Doors 7pm / starts 7.30pm

Standing only

£13.50 (£12.50 + £1 bf) advance / £15 on the door

Tickets through Electric Palace Box Office (open Tues–Sat, 10am - 4pm)

Bridport TIC (open Mon-Sat 9am-5pm) on 01308 424901

or online £13.75 (£12.50 + £1.25 bf) from