Fun Boy Three

by: Fun Boy Three

"Where do we go from here, what kind of sound do we follow?" muses Terry Hall on "Way on Down," a track from the Fun Boy Three's eponymous debut album. It was a question on numerous lips, ever since Hall and his fellow ex-Specials Neville Staples and Lynval Golding announced the formation of their new group. It's doubtful that anyone came even close to the correct answer. The album was built firmly around tribal drumming, whose percussive possibilities were inspiring a number of groups at the time. Most notably, Adam Ant had merged the beats with a Gary Glitter stomp and a military tattoo, and was now riding the rhythms toward world domination. The Boys, however, were taking the same African influence in an entirely different, and even more innovative, direction. Most surprisingly, or perhaps not, considering the size of their former band, was how minimalistic the music was. Many of the songs were stripped down to bare vocals and percussion, while even those tracks which did sport other instruments mostly utilized them as mere embellishments around the showcased rhythms. Long before modern rap and techno placed all its focus on the beats, the Boys were diligently working around this same concept. In fact, the album on occasion brought to light the direct link between African beats and American hip-hop; elsewhere it foreshadowed the rise of jungle, and even hinted at progressive house and techno-trance. At the same time, the vocalists created their own rhythm, which cunningly counterpoints the main beats. The band used both vocals and rhythms to explode genre boundaries, as "Sanctuary" beautifully illustrates. Beginning as an exercise in African choral singing, it subtly evolves into a Gregorian chant, all the while pulsating with pounding tribal drumming. It says much about the state of the British music scene of the time that such innovative music was not only accepted, but reveled in. Three of the album's tracks -- "The Lunatics," "It Ain't What You Do It's the Way That You Do It," and "The Telephone Always Rings" -- snaked their way into the U.K. Top 20. The album pulsated all the way number seven. It also introduced the world to Bananarama, who provided backing vocals on many of the record's tracks. "One of the most wonderful recordings of our time," the album sleeve boldly stated, and it was absolutely true. ~ Jo-Ann Greene

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