AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #277 : TERRY HALL

WHAT’S WITH TERRY?

A GUEST POSTING by KHAYEM

I love that the ICAs have not just been straightforward ’best of’ collections and each contribution has set a personal challenge or criteria. Personally, it’s been the only way to avoid madness and indecision and Terry Hall is no exception. The ‘rules’ this time are pretty simple: collaborations and guest spots are in, but only one song per act. Initially, choosing just one song by The Specials or Fun Boy Three was so daunting, I considered leaving them out altogether. Admittedly, there’s nothing from Terry, Blair & Anouchka. Much as I like the songs, the production seemed too jarring wherever I placed them, so unfortunately they didn’t make the final cut. The Lightning Seeds are also conspicuous by their absence. The final selection may be controversial, and like my previous ICAs don’t necessarily include my favourite songs, but I think the album works as a whole.

As for the ICA title…Whilst The Undertones’ 1980 song clearly isn’t about Terry Hall, the title chimed with my memory of the media’s view of Terry Hall during the 1980s and 1990s as a miserable git who needed to ‘cheer up’. A more empathetic and rounded portrayal thankfully emerged in the 21st century with the disclosure of his bipolar diagnosis and childhood trauma. Personally, I’ve had a deep love of Terry Hall as a singer and songwriter since I first started buying records and this ICA hopefully reflects that.

A final thanks to Echorich, as it was Terry Hall’s inclusion on his recent Fine Young Men ICA that encouraged me to finally finish this one! Enjoy.

Side One

1) All Kinds Of Everything: Terry Hall & Sinéad O’Connor (A Song For Eurotrash, 1998)

Eurotrash was a long-running late night TV programme on the UK’s Channel 4, which was fronted by idiosyncratic Antoine de Caunes and co-hosted in the early years with Jean-Paul Gaultier. It was a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek look at life in Europe and beyond. Perhaps inevitably, when the UK hosted the Eurovision Song Contest in 1998, Channel 4 screened a TV special, A Song for Eurotrash, with an accompanying compilation of the same name. Both comprised covers of previous Eurovision ‘hits’ by Edwyn Collins, Saint Etienne, Shane MacGowan, Bananarama and 808 State. This version of Dana’s 1970 winner is a highlight of the TV show and album, Terry and Sinéad’s voices perfectly complementing one another.

2) Forever J (Pulp Mix): Terry Hall (single, 1994)

I think Terry Hall’s solo career has been under appreciated and I could easily have focussed an ICA on this alone. However, rules are rules and I eventually came to decide between this and a B-side from the same EP, the possibly too obvious Guess It’s Not A Great Day To Be Me. I think Echorich said it all when including this track in his ICA, and it remains one of my favourite Terry Hall songs, full stop. To avoid duplication, I’ve gone for the remix, which sounds exactly like Terry performing with Pulp as his backing band.

3) Cruel Circus: The Colourfield (Virgins And Philistines, 1985)

I won’t pretend that I faithfully followed Terry from Fun Boy Three to The Colourfield, although I enjoyed their debut single, Thinking Of You. I first discovered this song in the early 1990s on the Animal Liberation compilation, released in 1987, which eventually led me back to its parent album, Virgins And Philistines. A biting commentary on animal cruelty, Terry’s lyrics and vocal delivery have lost none of their power and relevance in the subsequent three decades.

4) If You Kill My Cat I’ll Kill Your Dog: Vegas (She B-side, 1992)

I think I groaned inwardly when I initially read that Terry Hall had teamed up with Eurythmics’ David A. Stewart. Much as I loved the latter’s early work, I had been turned off by his high-gloss, (over) produced music and couldn’t see how this could possibly work. It turned out to be a one-off/short-lived project, with one album and three singles that I had to admit were actually pretty good. Of course, Terry’s songwriting was a strong as ever and, on this B-side, the production is understated and allows Terry room to breathe.

5) Friday Night, Saturday Morning: The Specials (Ghost Town B-side, 1981)

Possibly the biggest challenge of the entire ICA. I mean, how to choose? Eventually, it was this or Do Nothing, but as I started playing around the ICA sequence, there was really no other song that could be the closer to Side One. This is one of Terry’s finest lyrics, with a bleak and resigned picture of a weekend cycle that a few years later, resonated even more as it became my lived experience. Incredible to believe that at the time of its release in 1981, it was merely a bonus track on their swansong single.

Side Two

6) Bubbles: Nearly God (Nearly God, 1996)

Following the massive impact of Tricky’s debut album, Maxinquaye, and it’s inextricable association with trip hop and the Bristol sound, I loved the fact that he chose to immediately follow up with two aliases/side projects, firstly the ‘I Be The Prophet’ EP as Starving Souls and then Nearly God. Terry also appeared on Nearly God’s lead single, Poems, but I think over the years and repeated listening, I prefer this song. On the original vinyl, it’s placed midway through Side Two, but I think it makes for a good opening track. Again, Terry’s lyrics are on top form:

The first hundred years are the toughest
I’m getting smothered
And life is just one bloody thing
After another

7) Rapture (Radio Edit): Dub Pistols (single, 2007)

As with the Vegas side project, another inward groan when I initially saw this. Terry has been no stranger to an unexpected and ultimately rewarding cover version (this ICA opener, She, Running Away, Summertime), but Rapture? Really? Thankfully, Terry forgoes the falsetto and rap and the version is so much better than I initially feared, striking the right balance between familiarity with the original and an individual interpretation.

8) Ten Eleven: Terry Hall & Mushtaq (The Hour Of Two Lights, 2003)

Gorillaz & D12’s 911 was in the original long list for this ICA, but I decided to drop the song as it appeared in JC’s post in November. This comes from an album issued a couple of years later, but retains the Gorillaz connection as it was released on Honest Jon’s Records and features label owner Damon Albarn on vocals. Rapper Mushtaq (former member of Fun-Da-Mental) is more prominent on this track, but Terry’s contribution on the ‘chorus’ is essential and, aurally, there are pleasing nods back to The Specials.

9) Time To Blow: Leila (Blood, Looms & Blooms, 2008)

Leila’s third album was a remarkable return, following personal loss and a withdrawal from releasing new music for several years. The album also provided a (probably) accidental link to Tricky’s Nearly God project by reuniting Terry Hall and Martina Topley-Bird, who collaborate on the album’s closing song. Typically, I’ve opted for Terry’s other contribution, where his is the sole voice and the lyrics include the possibly autobiographical line, ‘Each time I open my mouth I regret it’.

10) Well Fancy That!: Fun Boy Three (Waiting, 1983)

The final song on 1983’s Waiting, produced by David Byrne, was always going to the closer to this ICA. I bought the album on cassette from HMV in Bristol and it blew my 12-year old mind. Whilst I generally got the meaning behind The Farmyard Connection and The More I See (The Less I Believe), I didn’t grasp the full horror of this song until years later, when I read interviews with Terry Hall.

My naive, pre-teen mind had always interpreted the song as a third-person narrative involving a female teacher. To later read that this is an autobiographical account of Terry’s abduction and abuse by a paedophile ring in France, and the traumatic impact on his subsequent life and mental health was a shock. Terry later reflected, “The only way I could deal with the experience was to write about it, in a song. It was very difficult for me to write, but I wanted to communicate my feelings.” As for the song itself, it’s a perfect example of Terry Hall’s brilliance, balancing a sweet, almost nursery-rhyme melody with lyrics that challenge, disturb and reward repeated reading.

Covid-19 permitting, Terry will be back on tour with The Specials in 2021, following their successful album Encore. Whilst there’s less prospect of another solo album, I for one am glad that Terry’s continuing to write and perform and I’m looking forward to what comes next.

KHAYEM

JC adds…..I had long been thinking of a Terry Hall ICA, and driven on by Khayem’s superb offering, I’m going to offer up a Volume 2 tomorrow, but without the tight restrictions used today!!

12 thoughts on “AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #277 : TERRY HALL

  1. Love Terry Hall and everything he’s been involved in. But Thinking of You is actually the third Colourfield single. First hit mind. Still thanks for the post. I never tire of reading about the great man.

  2. I had no idea Terry Hall had released so much – even as a guest artist. I, of course, loved The Specials, Fun Boy Three (not everything) and Colourfield but then I drifted away.

    I doubt I’ll get time to sit and listen properly for a few days yet. I’m looking forward to it when I do.

  3. Superb ICA. Tough call on the Specials track, I too would have chosen Friday Night, Saturday Morning. As an eleven year old it was party piece to sing along to it (including a mumbled swear word). Like you it became my life story in my mid teens 🙂

  4. I’d been looking forward to this since it was first mentioned a few weeks ago – and it doesn’t disappoint. He has been involved with a very diverse range of artists and styles.

    Looking forward to tomorrow’s volume as well!

  5. His 2 solo lps and the first colourfield one will always be my favs . On a sep no worth tracking down a version of colourfields Monkey in Winter where Sinead O Connor takes lead vocal it’s a stunning performance

  6. A really terrific entry into the ICA series Khayem. I’ve no idea how you managed to narrow down your selection.
    Looking forward to seeing things from your perspective tomorrow JC.

  7. That is some quality curating, Khayem. I’m all about the unreasonable self-imposed criteria and you totally nailed it.

  8. Great choices Khayem! The time and effort put in has certainly paid off for this died in the wool Hall fan! I was curious which song from his work with Mushtaq would make your cut and I certainly approve as it would have been mine as well!
    The only track missing for me is the one I feel is his greatest solo track, Home. I can’t fault Forever J one bit as your choice and it would kill me not to have his superior version of Sense also included if I was following your restrictions. Today is a good day, a Terry Hall good day.

  9. Thanks, everyone!

    Paul – A rookie error, serves me right for not sticking with The Colourfield from the outset.

    The Great Gog – Glad it was worth the wait. And JC’s Terry Hall ICA is fantastic.

    The Swede & Echorich – Some of the choices were inadvertently made easier by the fact that I haven’t transferred all of my albums. This includes ‘Home’ which is hopefully in a box somewhere in the attic (along with The Chameleons ‘Script Of The Bridge’ which I discovered was similarly AWOL a few weeks back). I knew my persistence in not alphabetically sorting my records would come back to bite me one day…!

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