Terry Hall will always be best remembered as being the on/off frontman with The Specials. His deadpan wit and dour delivery made him unique among the punk era’s performers with his ability to inject passion and spite into socially charged lyrics, sometimes without even putting in any effort.
Occasionally, this cold and aloof approach could backfire too, but there’s no denying that Hall was a distinctive one off, whose tone remained distinctive throughout a varied career, recognisable to even casual listeners. Although he’ll be best remembered for classic recordings on the first two Specials albums, there was always far more to Terry’s career, and even when his work didn’t quite hit the mark or achieve great success, as with the short lived kitsch pop of Terry, Blair & Anouschka and the charming work of The Colourfield, Hall’s challenging persona and love of sometimes very unfashionable pop remained interesting, setting up a stark contrast that fit his later bi-polar diagosis,
Hall’s also had something of an unpredictable live presence. An on form Terry could result in an incendiary night out – as with the first Specials reunion tour, circa 2009. Watching him from most of the original band was a sight to see, There was a power in his deliberately flat delivery; a real energy to the band, and Terry was very obviously “enjoying himself first”. In contrast, the first night of the ‘Protest Songs’ tour in Margate in 2021 was lumbering, with Hall’s stage presence reflecting a sour demeanour; even resentful. There were times when Terry clearly didn’t want to be there, and his obvious goading of the audience had a spiteful air, with none of the fun that the earlier shows delivered.
Whatever his mood, though, it’s hard to deny Hall was a one-off – a face on the British music scene that became an unlikely but much loved star.
Terry died on December 18th, following a short battle with pancreatic cancer.
Join us in celebrating some of Terry’s hits, highlights and lesser known gems.