The Beautiful South Biography

This highly literate adult pop band arose from the ashes of the Housemartins. The line-up originally featured vocalists Paul Heaton (9 May 1962, West Kirby, Cheshire, England) and David Hemingway (b. 20 September 1960, Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, England) from Hull’s self-proclaimed ‘Fourth Best Band’. In reference to their previous dour northern image, Heaton sarcastically named his new band the Beautiful South, recruiting Sean Welch (b. 12 April 1965, Enfield, Middlesex, England; bass), Briana Corrigan (b. 30 May 1965, Belfast, Northern Ireland; vocals, ex-Anthill Runaways), former Housemartins roadie David Stead (b. 15 October 1966, Huddersfield, West Riding of Yorkshire, England; drums) and Heaton’s new co-writer, David Rotheray (b. 9 February 1963, Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, England; guitar).

Continuing an association with Go! Discs Records, their first single was the ballad ‘Song For Whoever’, which gave them instant UK chart success (number 2, June 1989). After the rejection of the original sleeve concept for their debut album (featuring a suicidal girl with a gun in her mouth), Welcome To The Beautiful South emerged in October 1989 to a positive critical reception. ‘A Little Time’ became their first number 1 the following year. A bitter duet between Corrigan and Hemingway, it was supported by a memorable video that won the Best Music Video award at the 1991 BRIT Awards. Lyrically, Heaton had honed his songwriting to a style that allowed the twists and ironies to develop more fully: ‘I find it difficult to write straightforward optimistic love songs... I throw in a row, a fight, get a few knives out...’ Though giving the band their least successful chart position to date (number 43), ‘My Book’ provided one of Heaton’s most cutting lyrics (including a hilarious reference to the soccer player Peter Beardsley) and also saw Jazzie B. of Soul II Soul sue for the slight use of the ‘Back To Reality’ refrain. Always a writer able to deal with emotive subjects in an intelligent and forthright manner, Heaton’s next topic was lonely alcoholism in ‘Old Red Eyes Is Back’, the first fruit of a protracted writing stint in Gran Canaria. However, Corrigan became a little unsettled at some of the subject matter expressed in Heaton’s lyrics (notably ‘36D’, a song about The Sun newspaper’s ‘Page 3’ topless models, which was open to a variety of interpretations) and left the band after 0898: Beautiful South, although press statements suggested she might return in the future.

Corrigan’s replacement, Jacqueline Abbott (b. 10 November 1973, Whiston, Lancashire, England), was introduced on a cover version of Fred Neil’s ‘Everybody’s Talkin’’, and more fully on the band’s fourth studio album, Miaow. However, its success was dwarfed by the singles collection, Carry On Up The Charts, which dominated the UK chart listings in late 1994 and early 1995. ‘Rotterdam’, taken from the album Blue Is The Colour, continued their run of hit singles at the end of 1996. ‘Perfect 10’ was another success, entering the UK charts at number 2 in September 1998 and staying in the Top 10 for several weeks. The band’s most adventurous single to date, it proved to be an apt taster for the diverse styles found on the chart-topping Quench, which featured input from Heaton’s old Housemartins colleague, Norman Cook. The latter helped out again on 2000’s Painting It Red, arguably the band’s most musically assured and mature collection.

Abbott became the second female vocalist to depart company with the band shortly afterwards. The following year, Heaton released his solo debut, Fat Chance, under the pseudonym Biscuit Boy Aka Crackerman. The album was re-released without the cumbersome moniker in 2002. The Beautiful South reconvened the following year with new vocalist Alison Wheeler (b. 4 March 1972) now installed in the line-up, and recorded Gaze, their most disappointing release in an otherwise remarkably consistent career. They signed a new recording contract with Sony Music in January 2004 and made their debut for the label with the covers set, Golddiggas, Headnodders & Pholk Songs, which included reworkings of songs originally recorded by, among others, ELO, Lush, S Club 7, the Stylistics and the Zombies. One final studio album, Superbi, leaked out in 2006 to a muted response, and the band elected to call it a day the following January.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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