IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (12)

Thanks so much for the very kind comments that were added to the previous entry in this series.

As much as I think Gangsters was an outstanding single, I do think that Ghost Town was the finest moment in the career of The Specials. A well-deserved #1 hit, it does still seem bemusing that right on the back of it the band was torn asunder when Terry Hall, Lynval Golding and Neville Staples left and decided to form Fun Boy Three, one of the most tongue-in-cheek monikers you could ever imagine given the sullen and serious reputation that the music press had attached to Hall who, despite arguing that the trio were of equal importance and relevance, was held up as the main driver of the vehicle.

Ghost Town was at #1 in July 1981 and finally dropped out of the Top 75 in mid-September. Less than three months later, the debut from Fun Boy Three was in the Top 20:-

mp3 : Fun Boy Three – The Lunatics (Have Taken Over the Asylum)

I think it has to be admitted that without the pedigree of The Specials, there would have been little likelihood of any major record company such as Chrysalis allowing Lunatics to be a debut single. It was, however, the perfect follow-up to Ghost Town thanks to its very unambiguous political message around the dangers posed by those holding the highest political offices, particularly in the USA and UK where Reagan and Thatcher seemed unconcerned about using armed or nuclear war to get their own ways.

It wasn’t the easiest or most comfortable of listens, but it wasn’t meant to be. The pointed but angry verses are softly delivered over a tune that was miles removed from the poptones which were then dominating the charts. The ears of listeners were instead drawn to the choral chanting, the big bass drum and the eerie synth sound, all of which somehow combined to make a memorable bit of music that lodged in the brain – as indeed did the single ominous and titular line of the chorus. You just knew instinctively that the Fun Boy Three were making sense.

What happened next was a huge surprise as the boys linked up with another trio, the little-known all-female Bananarama for the follow-up, T’aint What You Do (It’s the Way That You Do It) , a light and quite poppy cover of a jazz song that dated back to the 1930s. It stormed up the chart to #4 in March 1982 and for much of the next year and a bit, Fun Boy Three were never that far away for the higher end of the singles charts with five more top 20 hits, the last of which was their version of Our Lips Are Sealed, a song co-written by Hall and Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Go’s whose version had barely dented the Top 50 in the summer of 1981 when Ghost Town was riding high.

Fun Boy Three split after little more than two years together but they left behind a very fine legacy of two highly listenable LPs alongside the aforementioned hit singles, some of which are rightly described as pop classics. They never quite made anything else that sounded as edgy or unique as the debut, and I reckon it’s one that is more than worthy of being included in this particular series.

Here’s your b-side, also lifted direct from the 12″ vinyl that sits in the cupboard :-

mp3 : Fun Boy Three – Faith, Hope and Charity

JC

PS : I know I’ve relied heavily on guest postings lately, but I am happy when asked to contribute at other places, as in this instance just yesterday.

3 thoughts on “IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (12)

  1. I’m in full agreement. Lunatics is an amazing song and really hit home for this University student, obsessed with the ridiculous state of political affairs in the world. Terry Hall was always my focus in The Specials and so it made sense that I would follow him to Fun Boy Three and all his future endeavors. Hall, Golding and Staples proved to be a very big part of the sound that made The Specials, The Specials, after they left for these ears as well.

  2. We are simpatico. I almost posted this one a couple of weeks ago but went with a slightly later single because, as you say, this one is a challenge to the listener. I love it though.

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