Page last updated at 08:49 GMT, Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Carrying on regardless...

Paul Heaton, Freddie Mercury and Errol Brown
Big shoes to fill: Paul Heaton, Freddie Mercury and Errol Brown

By Liam Allen
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

The Beautiful South are the latest band to keep going without their lead singer - Paul Heaton. But how can bands succeed without their creative force?

When the band formerly known as The Beautiful South begin their tour of the UK on Tuesday night, former lead singer, songwriter and creative force Paul Heaton will be conspicuous by his absence.

The band, one of few major acts to boast three lead singers, announced they were splitting in January 2007 "due to musical similarities" after almost 20 years together.

Paul Heaton, left, and Dave Hemingway, in 1989The Beautiful South in 1989
I can understand people thinking 'how can they do it without Paul Heaton'? It's the unknown quantity
New Beautiful South singer Dave Hemingway

"Paul decided to leave the band and do some solo stuff and at that time we thought, 'oh well, that's it then, we can't really do it without him'," explains one of their two remaining singers, Dave Hemingway.

At the start of this year, the band - minus Heaton, guitarist and co-writer Dave Rotheray and bassist Sean Welch - decided they were missing it too much.

A few phone calls later - including one to Heaton to get his blessing - and New Beautiful South were formed.

"We've gone from having three singers to two singers which is still one more singer than some bands have," says the 49-year-old Hemingway, whose voice can be heard on the band's only UK number one single - 1990's A Little Time.

"It's not as different as you may imagine," says Hemingway, who has taken over most of Heaton's lead vocals.

Song For Whoever - No 2, June 1989
You Keep It All In - No 8, Sept 1989
A Little Time - No 1, Oct 1990
Rotterdam - No 5, Oct 1996
Don't Marry Her - No 8, Dec 1996
Perfect 10 - No 2, Oct 1998

"We've got the songs and people know the songs and if they like them they can enjoy the gig."

Messages on fan pages show that some don't see things quite so clearly.

"Poor copy without the master - living off Mr Heaton's quality," wrote one. "There isn't a Beautiful South without Paul Heaton. Paul Heaton is Beautiful South," said another.

"I can understand people thinking 'how can they do it without Paul Heaton'?" says Hemingway.

"It's the unknown quantity. People are always gonna be sceptical about whether or not we can do it so hopefully with this tour we'll put those doubts aside."

'Reinterpret songs'

In 2004, veteran singer Paul Rodgers was asked to fill the biggest shoes of them all - those of pop's most flamboyant performer, Freddie Mercury.

Queen + Paul Rodgers
Freddie was Freddie - absolutely. He broke the mould and he was a fantastic frontman and I would never take anything away from him
Paul Rodgers

Brian May invited Rodgers - best known for fronting 1970s rock band Free, of All Right Now fame - to become Queen's lead singer.

An invitation to join the band for a one-off performance at their induction into the UK Music Hall of Fame was soon followed by the announcement of a European tour.

Rodgers says: "There were some 40-odd songs that they had on the boil and they said, 'Paul, learn those by Thursday and I'm, like, oh you're kidding?'."

The title chosen for the new outfit, "Queen + Paul Rodgers", was crucial to the success of the project, the 59-year-old says.

"If we'd have gone out and tried to call it Queen, it would definitely have been me trying to replace Freddie and I didn't think that was being honest and I don't think anyone could replace Freddie," adds Rodgers, who was also a member of rock supergroup Bad Company.

"But what I can do is reinterpret their songs my own way and hope that people like it."

Earlier this year, it was announced that the project was being "put on the back burner".

The Jam reformed in 2007 - minus Paul Weller - as From The Jam to tour the UK and the US
Drummer Phil Collins took over as lead singer of Genesis in 1975 after Peter Gabriel left
Marillion have released a number of albums since Steve Hogarth took over from Fish in 1989
Blaze Bayley replaced Bruce Dickinson in Iron Maiden in 1994. Dickinson has since rejoined

In their five years together, Queen + Paul Rodgers played to hundreds of thousands of fans across the world, releasing live DVDs as well as studio album Cosmos Rocks.

"Freddie was Freddie - absolutely," says Rodgers.

"He broke the mould and he was a fantastic frontman and I would never take anything away from him.

"Perhaps I'm more down to earth, more nitty-gritty, more of a soul/blues singer."

While both Queen and Rodgers agreed that Mercury could never be replaced, the remaining members of 1980s band Hot Chocolate feel differently about Errol Brown.

The band - who had huge hits with songs including You Sexy Thing and It Started With A Kiss - split with lead singer Brown in 1986 but decided to continue without him.

In 1994, they were joined by singer Greg Bannis.

Errol Brown and Harvey Hinsley
Harvey Hinsley, right, is one of three Hot Chocolate members still in the band

"He was on Stars in their Eyes as Errol and he did a great impersonation of Sexy Thing," says lead guitarist Harvey Hinsley.

"I mean, I've never heard anything so good in my life. I thought it was absolutely spot on."

After one rehearsal, Hot Chocolate fronted by Bannis performed their first gig together.

Fifteen years later, the same line-up continues to play gigs across Europe on the lucrative 1970s and 1980s nostalgia trail.

New Beautiful South's UK tour begins at Birmingham's O2 Academy on Tuesday night, ending at The Junction in Cambridge on 26 November.

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Rodgers confirms split with Queen
14 May 09 |  Entertainment
Pop group Beautiful South split
31 Jan 07 |  Entertainment
Errol Brown's musical legacy
13 Jun 03 |  Music

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