Beautiful South

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Beautiful South

Pop band

Songs for Whoever

Alcoholism, Nudity, Etc.

Carryin on Up the Charts

Selected discography


A band as well known for their gin-soaked cynicism as their catchy and lush pop melodies, the Beautiful South have had enormous impact in their native England, while success in America has been limited to cult status. Music critics on both shores and beyond, however, have praised the South and in particular, lyricist and singer Paul Heaton, for his cockeyed views on love, the music business, and whatever else comes up, as well as his and songwriting partner Dave Rotherays innate ability to invent hummable tunes with irresistible pop hooks. Named for the not-so-beautiful debilitated neighborhoods of South London, their name, like their songs, is an exercise in irony. As Spins Jonathon Bernstein observed, their music consists of intricately constructed melodies serving as safe houses for bilious attacks on men and womenand that dumb, doomed dance they do together.

Formed from the remnants of the breakup by the Housemartins, another cynical band, albeit with a more political bent, singer/songwriter Heaton, along with Housemartin drummer Dave Hemingway started the Beautiful South in 1989 in their hometown of Hull, a gray, working-class city in the north of England. With guitarist/songwriter Rotheray, bassist Sean Welch, drummer David Stead, and vocalist Brianna Corrigan, the South presented a more expansive musical playing field than what was offered in the Housemartins. With Hemingway, now a singer not a drummer, Corrigan, and Heaton, the band was able to move seamlessly through the vocal characterizations of three quite different lead vocalists. Their voices, Parke Puterbaugh observed in Stereo Review, one a croon of limited range [Heaton], the other more of a sing-speak [Hemingway]are joined by Corrigans girlish mouse-squeak and backed by a crack threepiece band of guitar, bass, and drums.

Songs for Whoever

The Beautiful South stormed out of the gate with their debut single, Song For Whoever, a magnificently sardonic view of syrupy love songs which feature womens names as a protaganistic prop. Released in May of 1989, the song went to number two on the charts in the UK and marked a stellar introduction to the new band. The next single, You Keep It All In, also a hit, featured all three vocalists bemoaning the stodgy, reserved tendencies of the British. Both songs appeared on their debut album, Welcome to the Beautiful South, released in October of 1989. Make a list of qualities that define great pop music, People magazine s Michael Small suggested in his review, and youve got a pretty fair description of the Beautiful South. The album did exceptionally well in England but received a cooler response in America, despite praise from the likes of Small and his colleagues. They arent yet a classic pop band, Spins Tony Fletcher asserted, but Welcome to the Beautiful South remains exactly thata warm introduction to an enticing new proposition. Heres to the sequel.

The sequel turned out to be 1990s Choke, an album that cemented their reputation as biting ironists. Stereo Reviews Puterbaugh describes the album as a mix of lyrical quirks and music-hall and cabaret-influenced pop. [which] stops just shy of being cute and charming, however, and gives the songs here a devilishly droll edge. For their part, just before the albums release in an interview with Melody Maker, Heaton and Rotheray expressed some regret to being thought of as mere cynics. Its just the way I write. Unfortunately, Heaton offered. Id like to be able to write just straight in some ways. Ithinktheresabit of immaturity inthe way I write actually. Hemingway confessed he didnt like that people saw the band as cynical. I dont think we are, he said. Its justthatthe bubble of unreality isthere and there are not many people bursting it. So we took it upon ourselves to burst a few bubbles.

Alcoholism, Nudity, Etc.

It was 1992s 0898 Beautiful South that had the most bubbles bursting. With 0898 being the English equivalent of Americas 1-900 sex lines, the album opened with Old Red Eyes Is Back, a lush and airy tale of alcoholism.

For the Record

Members include Paul Heaton , vocals and song writer; Dave Rotheray , guitar and songwriter; Dave Hemingway , vocals; Brianna Corrigan (left band 1992), vocals; Sean Welch , bass; David Stead , drums; Jacqueline Abbott , (joined band 1993), vocals.

Formed 1989 in Hull, England. Heaton and Hemingway had previously been in the band, the Housemartins, which disbanded 1989; released first album, Welcome to the Beautiful South, 1990; album received good reviews and the band toured America, 1990; released 0898 Beautiful South which contained the controversial song 36D, 1992; Corrigan left band, 1992; compilation, Carry on Up the Charts-The Best of the Beautiful South, became third fastest selling album ever in the UK, 1994.

Addresses: Record company; Polygram Records, 825 Eighth Ave., New York, NY 10019.

Labeled a pop album with fangs by Stereo Reviews Puterbaugh, he also declared Old Red Eyes Is Back as his nominee for song of the year, and commented on the song being compassionate while noting the waste of a life. It is this kind of juxtaposition of serious themes and sunny music that makes the Beautiful South stand out from the pack, and 0898 Beautiful South contains a dozen songs that can equally be hummed, pondered, and puzzled over. Heaton, in an interview with Stuart Maconie of Englands Qmagazine, discussed Old Red Eyes, asserting that it wasnt a morality tale. Its looking at the more humorous and sad side of being drunk. It sold respectably but the radio didnt really play it. I dont suppose they like songs about alcohol abuse.

Another song from 0898, 36D, caused even more furor. Written about Englands Page 3 girls, women who appear topless on the third page of some London tabloids, Heaton and Rotherays intention was to attack the industry that supports it, not the women themselves, but mixed messages in the song reflected otherwise. We all agree that we should have targeted the media as sexist instead of blaming the girls for taking off their tops, Hemingway admitted to Eric Puls of the Chicago Sun-Times. It was a case of rushing headlong into the recording of the song. Vocalist Corrigan refused to sing on the song and when she left the band after the albums release, rumors intimated that it was the sexist lyrics of 36D that prompted her exit. Corrigan said that may have been an impetus, but not the reason. I left really because it was the right time for me to go, she told Gary Crossing of Englands The Big Issue. My reservation about some of the lyrics became like a trigger to spur me on. Creative growth played a role as well, Corrigan admitted. Id always written songs for myself, but I knew there wasnt going to be an opportunity for that in the band. As a woman in this business youre always in a much stronger position if you perform your own stuff.

Following the exodus of Corrigan, the band took some time off and returned with Miaow, a 1994 album featuring new vocalist Jacqueline Abbott, whom the band discovered singing at a party. While only available as an import in America, the album didntfare well in England despite critical praise. After hearing the album Peter Paphides of Melody Maker declared Heaton (not the smug, flat-capped curmudgeon wed have you believe) oozes more humanity from his tiniest cuticle than any of the lemon-faced irony-challenged Americans we blindly laud. The small reception didnt seem to bother Heaton, however, confessing to Melody Makers Sylvia Patterson, Sales figures certainly arent important to me, thats a dangerous way to think. People know what I look like, they stilllike me and thats more important. Im genuinely happy Ive enough money to go into a bar, buy another gin and tonic and people have enough time to give me a smilethat seems like a fair enough agreement.

Carryin on Up the Charts

Heaton and company wouldnt have to worry about record sales much longer. In November of 1994 Carry on Up the Charts-The Best of the Beautiful South was released and became the third fastest selling UK album of all time. At the same time, Heaton was questioning how much further he could go with the band. I was feeling a bit unconvinced about me own future in music, he told Patterson. Because I just feel a bit old for it. I was just thinking how Im not sure, as a singer-songwriter in a band, how long you can go in the pop industry. There are four songwriters I can think of, and theyre all better than me, who started off in bands and went solo: Paul Weller, Neil Young, Elvis Costello, and Van Morrison. If I was gonna be like that Id have to be a lot stronger in terms of personality and security than I am now. Right now, I cant even imagine going to New York by meself. Im just Paul Heaton, Im not able to do it. I havent got the confidence.

Towards the end of 1996 the band released Blue is the Colour, another album available only as an import in America. Jennifer Nine of Melody Maker described it as, charming, subversively luscious business as usual. So it seems Heaton will carry on with the Beautiful South admitting to Patterson in 1995 that hes, starting to write really good lyrics now. Im starting to get proud. Not that hed ever describe himself as a good songwriter, however. Because Im not, he told Patterson. Because Im not Otis Redding and I never will be. But Heaton does confess that the Beautiful South, aside from exploring the undiscovered hooks and melodies of pop, is furthering the mission begun by The Clash, The Jam, and the Sex Pistols. Its all a question of putting people on the right train, he told Patterson, telling them to watch out, theres things in people and society to be angry about.

Selected discography

Welcome to the Beautiful South, Elektra, 1989.

Choke, Elektra, 1989.

0898 Beautiful South, Elektra, 1992.

Miaow, Go! Discs, 1994.

Carry on Up the Charts: The Best of the Beautiful South,

Mercury, 1995.

Blue is the Colour, Go! Discs, 1996.



Big Issue (England), May 27, 1996, p. 29.

Chicago Sun-Times, June 26, 1992.

Melody Maker (England), September 29, 1990, p.8; November 10, 1990, p. 47; April 2, 1994, p. 34;December 2, 1995, p. 20; November 9, 1996, p. 51.

New Musical Express (England), November 11, 1995.

New York Times, October 24, 1994, p. C14.

People, May 7, 1990, p. 31.

Q (England), March 1995, p. 42.

Spin, May 1990, p. 75; July 1992, p. 18.

Stereo Review, April 1991, p. 86; September 1992, p. 79.

Additional information for this profile was obtained from the Beautiful South page from Polygram Records,

Brian Escamilla