Legendary producer and songwriter Pete Waterman has revealed the lessons he learned from Terry Hall, saying The Specials frontman taught him “about the quality of performance rather than just the voice”.
Waterman spoke of Hall, who passed away last month, as part of NME’s Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?! series. Waterman, who once briefly managed The Specials alongside his role as a songwriter and producer of the Stock Aitken Waterman trio, said Hall “taught me not to listen to a human voice and go, ‘He can’t sing’”.
“You’ve got to listen to a voice and go: ‘is it distinctive’?”, Waterman added. The impresario went on to reference fellow The Specials member Jerry Dammers, who enlisted Hall’s vocals to Waterman’s initial dismay. “Terry Hall had a unique voice and he had been brought in by Jerry and I tried to talk him out of it, saying: ‘He can’t sing’. But Jerry thought Terry was the key and he was right”.
As a result of Hall’s distinctive voice, Waterman said the singer had “taught me the greatest lesson of my life and what to look for in the future”. He continued: “Think about it: was Pete Burns a great singer? It’s about the quality of performance rather than just the voice… “Without Terry Hall, there would have been no [Stock Aitken Waterman]”.
Waterman also recalled going to school with Hall and living nearby him. Elsewhere in the interview, Waterman said there would be no Oasis without him, since he provided a young Noel Gallagher with free guitar strings. “He always credits me with giving him his start”, Waterman said of the Oasis band member. “Without my free guitar strings, he couldn’t have carried on”.
Waterman also dubbed Gallagher as one of SAW’s most unexpected fans. Later, the songwriter discussed covering Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye’s ‘You Are Everything’ with Judas Priest, and sharing “magic” moments with Kylie Minogue on tour.