Rude Girls Remember Terry Hall

Terry Hall

Photo of Terry Hall by Heather Augustyn, 2016, Chicago

Terry Hall was one of the pillars of 2 Tone. His performance was a dichotomy of profound emotion and non-emotion, of energy and aloofness, of statement and saying nothing, all at the same time. He was the perfect front for the movement.

Losing Terry Hall to the cruel swiftness of pancreatic cancer this past December was a shock to everyone who ever sang along with his voice. Many of us grew up with the sounds of Terry Hall and so he was part of our identity. And for those who were close enough to call him a friend, and for those who collaborated with him, Terry Hall’s death was even more painful. Terry Hall was a true musician, constantly connecting with new performers to produce new sounds. He was, by all accounts, generous and funny and a loyal friend. Terry Hall will be missed by all whose lives he touched.

These are a few words from some of the women who worked with Terry Hall. These stories, and more, are told in Rude Girls: Women in 2 Tone and One Step Beyond by Heather Augustyn, released on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2023.

June Miles-Kingston, the female voice on the Fun Boy Three version of “Our Lips Are Sealed,” as well as their drummer, and drummer for the Mo-Dettes, was close to Terry Hall. She says that the vision for assembling an all-female band to back the three fun boys was Hall’s design. “Because they came after the Specials, there was still all that 2 Tone feel. And I think Terry was trying to escape that a little bit and do something a bit new. And I think it was political to have all females. I think it was a little bit romantic for Terry as well because he was kind of thinking of like, what’s that movie with Marilyn Monroe where you’ve got all the women on tour? [Some Like It Hot] I think he kind of liked that imagery. He’s really into his imagery stuff. And so it would kind of shake it up a bit and it is a bit political in that way. But we didn’t feel like that. We just thought, well, we’re good musicians!”

Nicky Holland recalls being recruited as musical director for Fun Boy Three while playing piano at the Gatwick Hilton. Her career has been significant, but one moment remains especially meaningful for her—working with Terry Hall on his song, “Well Fancy That.” She tells the story of the song’s creation and states, “I’m really proud of that one and I felt honored to help tell that story. It must have been a really hard story for him to tell. I don’t know whether anyone ever asked him about the meaning of it at the time. Sometimes, you know, sitting in a room with someone, watching a song being born—there’s a lot of trust involved.”

Annie Whitehead who performed trombone with Terry Hall in Fun Boy Three says, “I loved the music. I loved Terry’s singing and everything. I was really thrilled that they asked me. I went in and did the session. It was great touring, traveling the world, doing gigs. Terry was great.”

Anouchka Grose played guitar and sang as part of the trio Terry, Blair & Anouchka. She was a novice compared to Terry Hall and the other vocalist, Blair Booth, and she recalls Terry’s kindness in nurturing her musical abilities while recording. That was the best experience. Terry just had his baby Felix then so his wife was around a lot. And it was nice. It was kind of relaxed. I think I was very patchy, like, sometimes I just couldn’t do things. And other times I would really be able to do things. But they never gave up on me, because some days it was just good. But not every day was good. And so I think they probably were being incredibly patient.”

Jenny Jones, drummer for the Mood Elevators, remembers seeing Terry Hall when he and his band supported the Clash. “The support band were something else—a Midlands band who called themselves the Coventry Automatics. Terry Hall, the lead vocalist, had floppy hair,” Jones recalled, but then a short time later she remembers them differently. “But now, Terry Hall’s hair was as charismatic as his deadpan delivery, the band had the sneering attitude of punk and the Special AKA had a sound that seemed entirely new. That night was our first experience of hearing ska and rocksteady rhythms driving memorable songs about social issues and it was unlike anything we’d heard before. It was electric.”