The brainchild of former Housemartins Paul Heaton and Dave Hemmingway, The Beautiful South smuggled political lyrics into jaunty, singalong tunes and acerbic commentary on domestic violence and emotional angst into the charts wrapped in pop-friendly melodies delivered by the trio of complementary voices – Heaton, Dave Rotheray and Briana Corrigan – which was to become their trademark.
Song For Whoever (1989) is about a songwriter exploiting his relationships for the sake of sales and Performing Rights cheques and chart placings. After a while, all the women blur into one and he forgets their names.
You Keep It All In was a good follow-up, and their debut album Welcome To The Beautiful South was well-received.
The single A Little Time reached #1 in October 1990, aided by a video that dramatised the song’s theme of marital strife. An easygoing duet with strings and muted horns, it was the biggest hit to date for the group.
More albums followed – Choke, 0898 and Miaow spawned a few hits each, and the band always managed to sound fresh and innovative, even when returning to favourite themes like relationships going sour, media exploitation and sexism.
Briana Corrigan left the band in 1992, apparently amid a dispute over the song 36D. She was replaced by St Helens supermarket shelf-stacker Jacqui Abbott, who then couldn’t join them on tour anyway because she was expecting a baby.
Abbott left in 2000 and was later replaced by Alison Wheeler.
The group called it a day in January 2007, citing “musical similarities” as their reason for the split. Dave Rotheray, Dave Hemingway, and Paul Heaton released solo albums.
Hemingway, Stead, and Wheeler – plus six new members – formed The New Beautiful South in 2008, changing their name to The South in 2010.
Some shops wouldn’t stock the debut album because it featured a picture of someone smoking and someone with a gun in their mouth. Ever the wry commentators, The Beautiful South responded by releasing a version for those sensitive souls – with a cute teddy bear and a fluffy little bunny rabbit on the cover.
There is an oft-quoted statistic that one in seven British households owned a copy of their 1994 Greatest Hits collection Carry On Up The Charts.