Lynval Golding, guitar, backing vocals, songwriter
When we were in the Specials, working on the More Specials album, every day someone would leave the band, then three days later they’d rejoin. It’s an amazing record, but we needed a good break from each other. After doing Ghost Town on Top of the Pops, three of us went to see [songwriter and keyboard-player] Jerry Dammers at his house and told him we were leaving. He was in bed and said, “You’re not allowed to leave.” We said, “That’s the reason we’re going, Jerry”, and walked out.
We’d already written The Lunatics (Have Taken Over the Asylum), which I always thought was a potential follow-up to Ghost Town. Instead, it became our first single as Fun Boy Three. Terry Hall, our singer, came up with the name, which was deliberately ironic.
We all shared an apartment in Notting Hill, London. We’d watch football, I’d strum my guitar and we’d talk and talk. Then I’d just leave Terry alone. He’d smoke a cigarette and write some lyrics. Life under Margaret Thatcher had inspired the Specials’ songs. With Lunatics, Terry wrote about nuclear war and the then US president Ronald Reagan, the idea being that the world was being run by lunatics. Forty years later, nothing’s changed.
We wanted a more percussive sound and built the song from the ground up, creating the rhythm using conga drums. Terry wrote the melody on a keyboard – he was so talented. At the time, everyone was starting to use electronic Linn drums and suchlike but the conga groove was almost Afrobeat. In the studio, Terry would sometimes do a guide vocal but then he’d go back and do the vocals at five or six in the morning. He was a complex man. I often wonder whether being traumatised by abuse in childhood triggered his creativity.
Before last Christmas, when Terry was dying, I was in Jamaica and dreamed about him, seeing his face when he was 17 and first joined the Specials. In my dream, I looked at him and said: “You look good, man.” He never answered, smiled and was gone. Our box set was planned before he died: I hope it will give people a way to celebrate what a great and amazing artist he was. From now on, everything I do will be about remembering Terry.
Neville Staple, backing vocals, percussion
In the Specials, everything was going great – and then it wasn’t. There were arguments about money and about tax, and we wanted to put our own ideas in, which we didn’t feel able to. You don’t think about whether it’s a good idea to walk away from a very successful band who’ve just had a No 1 single; you just want to go where there are fewer arguments. Our decision to leave was vindicated when the new group was accepted.
For me, Fun Boy Three was something different. People always told us: “You lot look miserable.” So the name was a play on that. Lunatics was the first song we wrote together. I’d played percussion in bands before the Specials – with people like Ray King or Lieutenant Pigeon – so the change in sound, away from ska, was easy for me. Everyone joined in on percussion. The producer, Dave Jordan, got on great with us in the Specials and knew what we were like. So when we went for a new sound, he knew where we were coming from. On the first album, Terry found the Bananarama girls and got them in to sing with us. It wasn’t just guys doing music.
At the time, there was a lot of fighting everywhere, police doing stop and search. It felt like everyone was being watched, too, hence the lines, “They’re watching every move we make / We’re all included on their list.” I always thought the first line, “I see a clinic full of cynics”, was about parliament. Reagan, global starvation … all the things in the lyrics were happening at the time. People were even making nuclear bunkers in their gardens.
I suppose putting out a very political song as the first single was a bold statement but you don’t think: “Will we still be big?” It’s just what you want to do. Fun Boy Three don’t get as much acclaim as the Specials but whenever I play festivals with my band, kids sing all the Specials songs and the Fun Boy Three ones as well. Whenever we were together, we were like family, so it’s been a big shock losing Terry. Whenever I do Fun Boy Three songs, I always dedicate them to him.