Dusting Off... Fun Boy Three's Waiting
What is it?
At the very beginning of the 1980s, Jerry Dammers' 2 Tone Records label had become one of the most unlikely success stories in the music industry. Run from Dammers' house in Coventry, Dammers and his band The Specials had pioneered a ska revivalist sound that not only saw their eponymous debut reach No. 4 in the UK album chart, but kick-started an entire musical movement. Along with bands like Madness, The Beat and The Selecter, The Specials were riding a wave of improbable chart success. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, their lead vocalist Terry Hall and two other members, Neville Staple and Lynval Golding, abruptly left the band to form their own group, the Fun Boy Three.
Although Fun Boy Three are often classified as a new wave / post-punk band, their self-titled debut album was an odd, irreverent mix of ska, music hall, swing and just about anything else you could imagine. Perhaps even more strangely, their first album contained several collaborations with the all-female pop group Bananarama. A couple of these of these collaborations, cover versions of 'It Ain't What You Do (It's The Way That You Do It)' and 'Really Saying Something', even became top 5 hits.
They were to release only one more album, 1983's Waiting. Produced by Talking Heads' David Byrne, Waiting takes the kitchen sink approach employed on the first album and refines it, making for a much more accomplished album that showcases Terry Hall's considerable talents as a songwriter. Byrne's production influence also helps to create and album that is incredibly imaginative in terms of its arrangements and instrumentation.
Particular highlights from the album include 'Our Lips Our Sealed', a song co-written and performed with The Go-Go's guitarist Jane Wiedlin, another version of which appeared on their debut Beauty and the Beat, while another standout track on offer here is 'The Tunnel of Love'. Surely one of the most unusual songs to make the top 10 in the singles chart, the song is a beautifully written but bitter tirade about the pitfalls of marriage, set against the contrasting backdrop of a tango rhythm, complete with strutting drumbeats, chopping cellos and swooning trombones.
Why should I revisit?
Even all these years after their release, Fun Boy Three's two albums are a blast of fresh air and fun, and Waiting is the pick of the pair in our opinion. Unlike anything else either from its era or since, if you're looking for something totally different that's still accessible and easy to listen to, you could do much worse.
Who will enjoy it?
Any fans of ska and reggae will find plenty of common ground here,but really we think this is a record that anyone can enjoy.