Paul Heaton (vocals, guitar) formed The Housemartins in Hull (Yorkshire) with Ted Key (bass), Stan Cullimore (guitar), and Hugh Whitaker (drums) in 1984.
The group cultivated a distinctly English image, blending a cynical sense of humour with leftist political leanings. In 1985, they signed with Go! Discs and by the end of the year, Key was replaced by Norman Cook.
Happy Hour, the Housemartins’ third single, became the group’s first hit in the summer of 1986, climbing all the way to #3.
Their debut album, London O Hull 4, followed shortly afterwards and also cracked the British Top Ten. At the end of the year, the a cappella Caravan of Love became a #1 hit.
Before they recorded their second album, Hugh Whitaker left the band and was replaced by Dave Hemmingway. The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death (1987) spawned the hit singles Five Get Over Excited and Me and the Farmer.
Though the Housemartins were developing into one of the most popular bands in Britain, they broke up in the summer of 1988.
The group’s lead songwriter, Paul Heaton, formed The Beautiful South the following year, and his new band became one of the more popular British groups of the early ’90s.
Bassist Norman Cook formed Beats International, who had a few hits in the early ’90s before Cook became a full-time remixer and producer as Fatboy Slim.
Original drummer Hugh Whitaker was imprisoned for six years in 1993 for arson and wounding with intent after attacking a former associate with an axe.