The Specials are one of the most integral acts that Britain has ever produced. Their blend of ska with the attitude of punk saw them at the epicentre of one of the biggest subcultures that this island has ever seen. Frontman Terry Hall is a man who’s opinion deserves a great deal of respect for what he helped create so when he tells you to listen to a record, you better god damn listen.
With Terry Hall being the leader of one of the most iconic cult bands in The Specials, a group who transcended music and what the band represented became a way of life, for their diehard fans who adored everything the Coventry boys did — so it should really come as no surprise that his favourite record of all time also comes from another cult British band.
The album in question is XTC’s flawless 1978 debut White Music which Hall picked out as his one album that everybody should listen to before they die when asked by NME back in 2018. The group formed in Swindon in 1972 and quickly merged into an impressive unit.
Fronted by Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, they were creating avant-garde rock before punk was a murmur in the streets of London. But with the rise of punk, the band found themselves a home on Virgin Records alongside bands like The Sex Pistols, which is where they released the aforementioned White Music.
The groundbreaking release was full of fresh new sounds and, in a 2009 interview, Partridge said of the record which began with their song ‘Radios in Motion’: “We couldn’t think of any better way to start off our first album than with the ‘kick the door in’, breezy opener we used in our live set… the lyrics are very silly, picked for their sonic effect rather than meaning. The first refuge of an inexperienced songwriter, forgive me, but they do have a youthful scattergun energy.”
The record obviously left a lasting effect on a young and impressionable Hall who had just founded The Specials around the same time. “They’re one of the best groups that Britain ever produced. I don’t know why everyone goes on about someone like Morrissey making the best British pop when in fact XTC did it better than anyone else,” Hall declared.
“I remember when they did ‘This Is Pop’, and I just thought, ‘Yeah this is pop. This is pop.’ It seemed like such a brilliant thing for them to say. Pop is what they were doing and they were writing all these great songs, going on about the whole punk thing and not being embarrassed about writing great pop songs,” The Specials man added.
XTC does feel like one of the more underappreciated gems that Britain has ever produced and are somehow left out of the conversation when it comes to classic albums so it’s heartwarming to see Terry Hall giving them some much-deserved love.