Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Southern Comfort: Grease with a Country Twist? Alex Gibbons Is Charmed by the Beautiful South's Latest Album

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Southern Comfort: Grease with a Country Twist? Alex Gibbons Is Charmed by the Beautiful South's Latest Album

Article excerpt

Having perfected its own brand of inoffensive pop music over ten albums, the Beautiful South has finally decided to do something new: cover versions. Lots of them. Golddiggas, Headnodders and Pholk Songs, an album of the most incompatible tracks since the London Underground, might seem a foolish undertaking. Who on earth is going to buy a compilation featuring Willy Nelson, the Heppelbaums and S Club 7? But Paul Heaton and the rest are clever souls. As long as it sounds like the Beautiful South, it will sell and be loved by the same thousands who bought the last album.

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The Hull-based band formed out of the break-up of the Housemartins at the end of the 1980s. The Beautiful South's name is a gibe by its founders, Heaton and David Hemingway, at their dour northern image, and reflects the sense of humour prevalent in many of their records. The group was successful from the release of its first single, "Song for Whoever", in 1989. The band wanted the cover of its debut album, Welcome to the Beautiful South, to depict a suicidal girl with a gun in her mouth, but the record company didn't judge this the best marketing strategy. The image was changed and the sales rolled on.

In 1991, the single "A Little Time", a catchy yet subversive duet by Heaton and the Irish vocalist Briana Corrigan, was spiced up by malicious lyrics and a memorable Brit-winning video featuring a fighting couple, a trashed house, a load of flour and feathers, and a teddy bear's head impaled on the end of a kitchen knife. Suddenly every one knew about the Beautiful South. The band peaked in 1994, when its greatest hits album, Carry On Up the Charts, hit the number-one spot and remained there for six weeks. It sold more than 2.5 million copies and became the UK's third-fastest-selling album of all time, behind Michael Jackson's Thriller and But Seriously by Phil Collins. …

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