RIP Terry Hall
I feel like I've been posting a lot of these RIP things lately. The Specials were, in hindsight a big deal for me. Ska was a sound that was punk-approved. And other than hip-hop, it was the first music I got into on my own that wasn't "loud guitar music." That certainly opened up the way for so many of the things I love, from James Brown to Autechre. Arguably the only band more important for my branching-out was Joy Division.
And I can't get enough of watching them play in their heyday. They looked impossibly cool, a wild mass of energy and high pants cuffs. And there was Terry Hall at the center, totally serious and almost menacing while chaos erupted.
The guy had a terrible life story with great pain in his childhood, but he translated that into a great thoughtfulness and empathy for the less fortunate in the Thatcher era. It was through him that the great contrast of the Specials — fun Jamaican-inspired music with black-humor or straight-up dark punk lyrics — manifested, and without him they've been only half of their glory.
Instead of a classic Special song, here's the video for "Our Lips Are Sealed," which Hall cowrote, and in which he looks like Robert Smith.