Paul Heaton is undoubtedly one of the great unsung talents of English pop. Despite his relative anonymity among the wider public, his songs will be known to anyone who paid even the slightest interest in pop music in the 1980s and 90s. His first band The Housemartins are now best remembered for being the launch pad for the career of superstar DJ Fatboy Slim (aka bassist Norman Cooke) as well as a handful of catchy indie pop singles including the almost Christmas No. 1, Caravan of Love. Their music was an infectious blend of 60s guitar pop, soul, indie and gospel. They burned brightly and briefly releasing two critically and commercially successful album before disbanding in the late 1980s. Despite being often overlooked today in favour of more sonically adventurous indie stalwarts such as The Smiths or Echo & The Bunnymen, their records have stood the test of time.
Heaton’s next (and most commercially successful) band The Beautiful South formed from the ashes of the Housemartins and released their first album in 1990. The Beautiful South was a more classic pop outfit with influences ranging from breezy light jazz, the Beatles to Cole Porter; all clad in a dense lyrical fog of northern English irony. The characters that populated Heaton’s songs lived humdrum lives in drab English towns immersed in mini kitchen sink dramas. It could be hard to tell when he was serious or joking. Behind the irony however, often lurked a more serious social and political side. Given the week that’s in it, check out these English leftists demolition of British nationalism on Have You Ever Been Away or their poignant lament to alcoholism and domestic violence, Woman in the Wall, both taken from their first (and best) album Welcome to the Beautiful South. The public loved it and their greatest hits Carry On Up the Charts released in November 1994 was one of the surprise hits of the decade, selling over 2 million copies. This was around the time Oasis and Blur were slogging it out and Fatboy Slim was starting to make a name for himself. The Beautiful South could never match those Britpop luminaries in the sexy stakes but continued to release hit records later in the decade eventually disbanding in 2003.
Paul Heaton and his able Beautiful South collaborator Jacqui Abbott will be playing the Olympia Theatre on Tuesday October 29th and at €30 a ticket represents great value for money. Their most recent album went straight to No. 3 in the British charts (not faring so well over here) proving they still have a loyal fanbase after all these years. Reviews of their live shows have been uniformly excellent. They play all the hits with full band in tow so check them out.