Fun Boy Three - Neville Staple Interview & Test Pressing Giveaway
Today sees the release of The Complete Fun Boy Three, a comprehensive box set from Chrysalis Records that tells the complete musical story of the band that rose from the ashes of Coventry ska legends The Specials. Out now alongside colour reissues of their albums, the 5CD+DVD Hardback Medibook has been glowingly described by Louder Than War as "a treasure trove".
We caught up with Neville Staple, one-third of Fun Boy Three and a ska legend in his own right, to answer Townsend Music's questions about this fascinating chapter in his history and we are very proud to offer test pressings of Fun Boy Three's albums The Fun Boy Three and Waiting, signed by Neville and Lynval Golding, for one lucky winner.
Fun Boy Three formed in the summer of 1981 when Terry Hall, Lynval Golding and Neville Staple broke away from The Specials. The band quickly hit the UK Top 40 charts with their debut single, ‘The Lunatics (Have Taken Over The Asylum)'. This was followed in early ’82 by two UK Top 10 singles with Bananarama: ‘T’Aint What You Do (It’s The Way That You Do It)’ and ‘Really Saying Something’. The band recorded two albums, The Fun Boy Three (1982) and Waiting (1983), the latter produced by Talking Heads frontman, David Byrne.
Described by Alexis Petridis on Super Deluxe Edition as "more than a definite last word" The Complete Fun Boy Three 5CD+DVD Hardback Mediabook includes 69 audio tracks which bring together all the official recordings. A 27-track DVD includes all their promo videos, Top of The Pops performances and a live concert from 1983.
Also out today are vinyl reissues of The Fun Boy Three on Red Vinyl, Waiting on Blue Vinyl, and The Best Of on Green Vinyl.
TM: I’ve been listening to all five CDs of The Complete Fun Boy Three and what strikes me is that across the two albums, you cover such a huge musical ground; there’s always pop there, but there’s an eclectic mix of jazz, disco, Rock n roll, Boogie-Woogie and more. When you three got together, what was the original musical concept and impetus behind the Fun Boy Three group?
NS: Fun Boy Three was a whole different concept of music. A lot of people don't speak about Fun Boy Three but it was this beautiful, different genre. People say "Fun Boy Three?! But you all look miserable" but no, that was just our take on it. We were doing so much touring up and down at the end of The Specials and it was getting too much for us. So the concept was "okay, let's do this on our own: the three of us". If you listen to the first album you'll hear a lot of percussion. And, I'll be honest, we really didn't know what we were going to do - this style.
TM: What is the track from the first album that you feel encapsulated the spirit of the group?
NS: There are quite a few of them, but 'The Lunatics (Have Taken Over The Asylyum)' stands out, because it continued from what The Specials were, or what we would have written about. We talked about what was happening around us; what we saw; Reagan; Margaret Thatcher; places closing down; nuclear war; hungry kids; it covered a lot for me.
TM: Nothing's changed in 2023. We're still talking about nuclear war and hungry children! NS: Yeah, that's what I'm saying. It still resonates now as it did then. Most of what we were writing about was what was happening all around us.
TM: It's still a great track and I think for The Specials fans that want to discover Fun Boy Three, that's the one. But my personal Fun Boy Three track is 'Farmyard Connection' so I have to ask your memories of that song. I love the vocals on it; you've got your toasting style, but it's a smoother pop version of that. Then the track's got almost a reggae dancehall feel - I feel like the track's really ahead of its time. NS: That song's from when I used to go to Jamaica a lot. They used to recognize me, some of the customs guys. They would say, "What's your name? What's your age?" and ask all that coming through. So for me, the song is about getting stopped at the airport. And when you go to Jamaica, that's what they were growing and selling; the farmyard was basically a whole field of ganja. So the farmyard connection was people who would deal with drugs. We were writing about what happened to me when I was travelling to Jamaica. That's what was happening when the police used to stop you, "what's your age? "where do you live?", right? (in Jamaican patois) "I live on de farm!"
When you're in Jamaica, you live on the farm. And when they say, "so what do you do on the farm?" You say "I don't plant de yam, I don't plant de weed". We didn't say the product that we grow.
"I will always remember that farmyard connection because it resonates to me, going back Jamaica." - Neville Staple
TM: 'Farmyard Connection' is on Waiting, as is 'Our Lips, Are Sealed', a big hit for you guys which has more of an expansive pop sound. The album was produced by David Byrne of Talking Heads fame. How do you think he helped the band progress when you recorded that second album?
NS: With the first album, we just went into the studio and did it; we didn't even know what we were going to do. David's style and our style mixing together, gave Waiting a different kind of feel from the first album. Because he was from a different genre, when he got together with us, it became him and the Fun Boy Three together.
David had ideas that were fulfilled and helped the sound of Fun Boy Three. He was great to work with because the ideas were flying around - he'd fly his ideas around, we would fly our ideas around. TM: So here at Townsend Music we run the online store for another great act of the 80s: Bananarama. Fun Boy Three is very early in the Bananarama story. How did you come across Bananarama and have them on the records?
NS: Terry saw them in a club in London while we were doing the album he just thought, "well, we could do with some girls on backing vocals" so we got them together. That's how they were discovered; they weren't even named Bananarama at the time. We needed girls' vocals, so that's how that came about.
TM: Speaking of Terry, we lost Terry last year, which is a huge blow to British music, What's fascinating to me is the subject matter of Terry's songwriting, because on certain songs like 'We're Having All The Fun' it almost lyrically feels like me like the sequel to (Specials track) 'Friday Night Saturday Morning'. How do you think the songwriting developed in Fun Boy Three? NS: For most of Fun Boy Three, Terry would come up with his ideas first and we would put our bits on top and throw the ideas about. It was very different from The Specials where there are half a dozen guys floating around ideas. When you have somebody who Is (air quotes) “in charge” saying "No, it's going to go one way." And there were so many people you couldn't get your ideas in, or if you did put your idea in, it would change. It was completely different. It was fun with just the three of us throwing ideas around. There wasn't any bickering. With Fun Boy Three we would discuss things and ideas would flow about. Even if I came up with an idea, it would still be thrown around between the three of us; Lynval, same thing; Terry, same thing. We just threw ideas together. We'd even work through the words together: "Oh, what about this?"
TM: So, we've got The Complete Fun Boy Three 5CD/DVD box set and the two albums and Best Of collection being reissued on colour vinyl today. You said earlier that you think that people don't always talk about Fun Boy Three; are you excited to have some new eyes and ears and people rediscovering Fun Boy Three?
NS: Yeah, definitely! Most of time you say Fun Boy Three and people say "Fun Boy What?" but (gestures upwards) there’s The Specials. Fun Boy Three didn't get the push and are not as well known, but to me, it was something different from what was happening with The Specials. I hope that there are more people getting to know that with this release.
I've always do some of the Fun Boy Three stuff live, even before Terry passed, but now when we're doing it live, we mention that we're honouring Terry. A lot of people who know The Specials will shout out, "Oi, Monkey Man!" but we'll also get "Lunatics!" and "Farmyard" Quite a few people know the Fun Boy Three. I'll do three or four Fun Boy Three tracks to honour Terry and keep the memory alive, especially for his family and the fans.
TM: How do you feel about fans buying and enjoying CD Box Sets and Vinyl in these times of streaming and digital music?
NS: Well, vinyl... it's all coming back. Everybody wants it, that's what everybody's going for now. I mean, the younger kids, they'll go for listening on their phones, but old folks like you and me want vinyl; that's what we're used to from ages ago. There are still CDs but I'd rather play vinyl!
I used to play a lot of vinyl on my sound system Jah Baddis; that's all I used to play in them days. And then, nowadays, they're playing it on computers, which is fine, but you ain't got that (imitates needle hitting a record)... you ain't got that crackle!
The Complete Fun Boy Three is out now as a Limited Edition 5CD+DVD Hardback Mediabook, alongside vinyl reissues of The Fun Boy Three on Red Vinyl, Waiting on Blue Vinyl, and The Best Of on Green Vinyl.
Enter our exclusive giveaway to be in with a chance to win test pressings of Fun Boy Three's albums The Fun Boy Three and Waiting, signed by Neville Staple and Lynval Golding.
The winner will be chosen on Monday 14th August 2023.
N.B: If the competition entry module is inaccessible, enter the giveaway directly via the button below.
Visit Neville Staple online at his Official Site