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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 February 2007, 13:07 GMT
The South's bitter-sweet legacy
By Ben Sutherland

The Beautiful South on Top Of The Pops in 1989
The group's first hit was Song For Whoever, in June 1989
Pop group The Beautiful South have split after 19 years - blaming, with a humour typical of the band, "musical similarities."

Formed in 1988 out of the ashes of The Housemartins, the legacy of "the fourth best band in Hull" includes some of the most distinctive songs to make the top end of the charts - as well as perhaps the most-quoted single sales statistic in history.

It is said that a copy of their first Greatest Hits collection, Carry On Up The Charts, could be found in one in every seven UK households.

Their style, once described as being "as bitter-sweet as a pint of Tetley's with a lime top," twinned guitarist Dave Rotheray's catchy, punchy melodies with singer Paul Heaton's dry, cynical - and often darkly humorous - lyrics.

Their most famous songs, such as Song For Whoever, Don't Marry Her and Perfect 10, took the opposite approach to most pop songs - by centring on what relationships are really like, rather than celebrations of endless love.

Butchered teddy bears

The group's only UK Number One hit, A Little Time, epitomised their style. A duet between Dave Hemmingway and Brianna Corrigan, it centred on a man trying to extract himself from a relationship, only to realise at the last moment he does, after all, love his lady - by which time, she has found she'd rather be without him.

It featured a memorable video set in the aftermath of a massive domestic argument, the flour-caked couple singing amidst smashed crockery and butchered teddy bears.

"I love you from the bottom of my pencil case" - Song For Whoever
"Tongue so sharp, the bubble burst" - A Little Time
"Those bloody great ballads we hated at first/ I bought them all and now I'm writing worse" - One Last Love Song
"She's a PhD in 'I told you so', you've a knighthood in 'I'm not listening'" - Don't Marry Her
"When he's at my gate/ with a big fat 8/ you wanna see the smile on my face" - Perfect 10
But it would be their last Top 10 hit for six years, until their celebration of European container ports, Rotterdam, hit the top five in 1996, at the peak of Britpop.

In the interim, three albums had been released - including the record-breaking Carry On Up The Charts - and Corrigan, troubled by the darker lyrics Heaton had written for 1994's Miaow, had left. She was replaced by Jacqui Abbott.

And it was Abbott who sang with Heaton on the wonderfully sleazy, innuendo-laden Perfect 10, the group's last major hit in 1998. A real live favourite, Perfect 10 later became the theme for TV show Fat Friends.

Heaton did not only write about what he saw to be the realities of love. There were often flashes back to the Housemartins' Marxist, anti-royalist politics in his lyrics, and he also tackled murder, death and, frequently, beer.

But those songs tended to be either ignored by the record-buying public or saved for B-sides and album tracks.

Cover collection

It surely said something that, by the time their second greatest hits collection was released in 2001, only three more songs had troubled the top 10 since the release of the first in 1994.

Paul Heaton and Dave Hemmingway
Heaton (left) and Hemmingway were both former Housemartins
Perhaps some of the creative edge was disappearing. Their penultimate album was a collection of covers - at the behest of their label - and by the time of their final release, Superbi, they seemed positively tired.

Heaton had begun writing songs about how much it rains in Manchester - not the most cutting of observations.

But it is unlikely that this is the end of songs with titles like Straight In At Number 37 or Tonight I Fancy Myself.

In 2001, Heaton embarked on a short solo career under the name Biscuit Boy, and it may well be that he will now return this work under his own name. Meanwhile, Rotheray also has another band, Homespun.

And for one young person, their legacy will last much longer - the daughter of a female fan who named her baby after one of the girls cited in Song For Whoever.

When told this, Heaton was flattered - but feared that the young mother had rather missed the point.

Pop group Beautiful South split
31 Jan 07 |  Entertainment
Heaton's new band takes the biscuit
29 Aug 01 |  Entertainment


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