Beautiful South, The

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Formed: 1989, Hull, England

Members: Paul Heaton, vocals (born Birkenhead, Mersey-side, England, 9 May 1962); David Hemmingway, vocals (born Hull, England, 20 September 1960); David Rotheray, guitar (born Hull, England, 9 February 1963); David Stead, drums (born Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, England, 15 October 1966); Sean Welch, bass (born Enfield, England, 12 April 1965); Briana Corrigan, vocals (born Londonderry, Northern Ireland); Jacqueline Abbot, vocals (born Whiston, Merseyside, England, 10 November 1973).

Genre: Rock

Best-selling album since 1990: 0898 Beautiful South (1992)

Hit songs since 1990: "You Keep It All In," "A Little Time," "We Are Each Other"

The British independent rock band the Beautiful South formed from the remains of the Housemartins in 1989 after vocalist Paul Heaton and drummer David Hemmingway joined forces. The Beautiful South is known for sophisticated, jazz-pop melodies that serve as a stark and often jarring contrast to their cynical, sly, and at times macabre lyrics. Whereas the Housemartins's wry lyrics and jangly guitars were more closely influenced by the seminal band the Smiths, the Beautiful South took a sophisticated, jazz-pop approach. The band enjoyed far more success and a greater following in their native United Kingdom than in the United States, where they had a mild hit with the song "We Are Each Other," a celebration of partnership.

Heaton and Hemmingway formed the Beautiful South right after the breakup of the Housemartins, one of Britain's most popular guitar-pop bands of the mid-1980s. The duo hired Briana Corrigan, whose crystalline, childlike voice lent an eerie innocence to the band's sound in the early days; bassist Sean Welch; drummer David Stead; and guitarist David Rotheray, who became Heaton's primary collaborator for the new band. Their debut album, Welcome to the Beautiful South (1989), brought them moderate success and good reviews; a single from the album, "You Keep It All In," is an upbeat love song addressed to a lover who is not quite emotionally forthcoming. Their next album, Choke (1990), features the lovely ballad "A Little Time."

The band's third album, 0898 Beautiful South (1992), with its slightly macabre illustrations in the lyric booklet, spawned the hit "We Are Each Other," notable for its celebration of the suffocation of a love relationship in lyrics like "Said we'd be close / Said we'd work perfectly/ Said that we'd toast / Beautiful company." The song at times sounds like a joyful tribute to love, but its very title acknowledges the occasionally suffocating qualities of a partnership. Other songs round out the appeal, from the opener, "Old Red Eyes Is Back," a thoughtful but warning look at an old man who probably drinks too much, to the piano- and harmonica-tinged ballad "Something That You Said," which chronicles the love-hate nature of a destructive relationship. ("The perfect love song has no words / It only has death threats / And you can tell a classic ballad / By how threatening it gets.") These are unlikely themes for a pop album, but the Beautiful South is a band skilled at dressing dispiriting, dark images in a bright palette of chiming guitars and sunny melodies.

A greatest hits collection, Carry Up on the Charts, was issued at the end of 1994; it entered the U.K. charts at number one and has since gone platinum several times over. By the middle of the 1990s, the Beautiful South's albums were not consistently released in the United States, leaving devoted fans in search of imports and offering the band scant opportunity to make an impact on American pop music. Despite this contraction of the band's reach, few rivals, whether British or American, can match the Beautiful South's marriage of bitter and sweet in pop music.


Welcome to the Beautiful South (Elektra, 1989); Choke (Elektra, 1990); O898 Beautiful South (Elektra, 1992); Miaow (1994); Carry Up on the Charts (1995); Blue Is the Colour (1996); Quench (1998); Painting It Red (2000); Solid Bronze: The Very Best of Beautiful South (2001).

carrie havranek