In the wake of the Housemartins split in 1988 after only a brief career together, vocalists Paul Heaton and David Hemingway formed the Beautiful South, recruiting former Housemartins roadie and drummer David Stead, guitarist and songwriter Dave Rotheray, bassist Sean Welch and ex-Anthill Runaways singer Briana Corrigan. As with the Housemartins the new band signed to Go! Discs Records and were an immediate success with their first single 'Song For Whoever' reaching No 2 in the UK in June 1989 which they quickly followed in September with 'You Keep It All In' which peaked at No 8 in the UK. Later that year they released their debut album Welcome To The Beautiful South a record full of clever songs that demonstrated the obvious songwriting chemistry between Heaton and Rotheray. The pair co-wrote all the tracks apart from an inspired cover of the L.A. Reid and Babyface song 'Girlfriend' which had previously been a hit for the R&B/New Jack Swing singer Pebbles.
A virtual hit machine the band returned with their second album Choke the following year and preceded it with the chart-topping single 'A Little Time' which won the Best Music Video award at the 1991 BRIT Awards. Emulating their debut Choke also peaked at No 2 in the UK while the subsequent Top 10 album 0898 Beautiful South yielded more hits including 'Old Red Is Eyes Is Back' and 'Bell Bottomed Tear'.
Wishing to pursue a solo career and taking issue with some of Heaton's lyrics (specifically '36D') Corrigan quit, leaving the band to immediately recruit Jacqueline Abbott who made her debut on 1994's Miaow and the hit singles continued with 'Good As Gold (Stupid As Mud)' and their cover of the Fred Neil composed Nilsson hit 'Everybody's Talkin''. While the album was another hit its success paled into insignificance when compared to their first 'best of' compilation Carry On Up The Charts which became their first long-player to top the UK charts where it was certified six-times platinum. The change in line-up was imperceptible and marked the start of what was unquestionably their most successful period with 1996's release Blue Is The Colour sandwiched between two more massive hits; 'Rotterdam' and 'Don't Marry Her' which reached No 5 and No 8 respectively in the UK. The subsequent Quench (1998) was another chart-topper and yielded one of their most popular hits 'Perfect 10' as well as featuring Heaton's former Housemartin's collaborator Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim) who also contributed material to Painting It Red in 2000. Following the latter's release Abbott quit the band and during a hiatus Heaton, using the alias Biscuit Boy (aka Crackerman) recorded his debut solo album Fat Chance.
With the induction of their third female single Alison Wheeler the band returned in 2003 with Gaze although both it and the following years covers set Golddiggas, Headnodders & Pholk Songs which featured their interpretation of songs by artists including John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, ELO, the Zombies, Blue Öyster Cult, the Ramones, S Club 7 and The Stylistics, were significantly less successful than previous releases. Despite Superbi returning them to the Top 10 in 2006 the current band had run its course and in 2007 they disbanded due to what Heaton good-humouredly referred to 'musical similarities'.
Following the split Heaton embarked on a solo career (reuniting to record an album with Jacqui Abbott in 2013) while Rotheray formed the band Homespun with singer Sam Brown before going solo. Hemingway meanwhile issued one album after which he and Alison Wheeler, along with musicians who had played with the band live and in the studio, formed the New Beautiful South (later changing it to simply The South) to play old Beautiful South songs alongside new material.
Although the band's success was largely confined to the UK in their nineteen year existence they racked-up an impressive twenty-two Top 40 hits and seven platinum releases with over fifteen million records sold worldwide. Generally labelled as a pure pop band, their light, breezy optimistic and melodic arrangements provided a smokescreen for songs that often reflected serious issues such as alcoholism ('Old Red Eyes Is Back'), politics ('Hold On To What') and popular attitudes ('36D'). With songs that swing from the melancholic to the up-tempo Heaton and Rotheray follow in the grand tradition of classic British songwriters that echo back to the craft of Lennon and McCartney and also takes in Difford and Tilbrook. Heaton's quintessentially English lyrics reflect working class life and effortlessly embrace sarcasm, wit, irony and pathos and even many of his superficially straightforward songs contain a twist.
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