Andrea Baxter discovers that it's hip to be square or at least normal, with
THE BEAUTIFUL SOUTH's Dave Hemingway.
t‘s the first night ofthe tour and The Beautiful South are nervous. I can tell this because. on the way after a sound check from Newcastle City Hall to the hotel in their minibus — no luxurious tour coach this. but a cramped eight-seater with so much luggage on the floor everyone has to sit with their knees pulled up— they show a pointless and rather desperate interest in why so few Hollywood stars‘ names have passed into rhyming slang (‘Well. there‘s Gregory Peck. neck. and John Wayne. pain. so you could say I‘ve got a John in me Gregory. . .‘). Singer and lyricist Paul Heaton is particularly worried tonight about his ability to mimic accents. ‘My Geordie‘s all right and my Cockney‘s good, but my Somerset isn‘t up to much.‘ ‘No. no.‘ Dave Rotheray reassures his songwriting partner, ‘your Somerset‘sfine.‘
On arrival at the hotel. most ofthe band decide that a touch of Dutch courage seems to be in order and head off to the bar. The other singer. Dave Hemingway. whose attractively husky tones helped ‘A Little Time‘ to reach Number One. has drawn the short straw and stays behind with me. fidgeting with my tape recorder. stroking the table and chewing his fingers.
A clever, refreshing ditty. designed to appeal to all those whose lovers have ever made a unilateral declaration of independence. the record‘s cynical anti-romanticism might not have seemed Radio One-friendly enough to reach the top in these days ofthe slushy ballad. as Dave admits.
‘We didn‘t think it would do as well as it did. because we‘d been away for a while recording and touring America. so in a way it was like when we released our first single — we didn‘t know what to expect. Most songs which get to Number One have to cross over and appeal to people who don‘t normally buy records. and I suppose it‘s the sort of song grannies could probably buy. it is quite melodic. I could really relate to the story in it. it‘s not a million miles away from things that have happened to me and I‘m sure other people could as well. That situation has probably happened in thousands of relationships. but people don‘t usually write songs about it. they write about the nice side. But relationships tend to have more bad sides than good — well. mine do anyway — which is
l i l I l i
a bit miserable. I suppose. but Paul tends to write about these things and see them in a different way “to other people.‘
Many ofThe Beautiful South‘s songs. like their first big hit ‘Song For Whoever‘ — about the way male artists have exploited their female inspirations and gone on to make a packet — also deal with sexism and male hypocrisy. Isn‘t there an element ofexpiation of guilt about all this display of sensitivity?
‘Well. we are a feminist band. we do believe in it and the majority of the first album was about that. Women haven‘t had it too great and I think it‘s good to have a bunch of men singing about that. Just because you‘re a man shouldn‘t stop you thinking about it and talking about it and supporting womens‘ rights and things. Maybe we can make men think about it and inspire some changes?
The band are no longer all male. however. with the addition of Briana Corrigan. she of the controversial voice which some have described as ‘angelic’ and others as ‘Minnie Mouse on helium‘. She features heavily on the new album. Choke. and is to all intents and purposes a permanent member now.
‘She‘s probably made us more aware of how laddish we can be at times.‘ says Dave sheepishly. ‘On some occasions. we have to pull ourselves up and think. hang on. Briana‘s here. I‘d better not say that or I‘ll get a dressing down.
The rest of the band still live in determinedly
‘ unfashionable Hull. not exactly known as a
hotbed of musical talent — or. indeed. much else.
But even there. it seems. they‘re not the sort of
' pop stars that get mobde in the street. 'Even when we go into the town centre. it‘s surprising
i how few people recognise us. We do keep quite a
low profile as a band. considering we have had an
, amount of success. Last time we did Top ofthe
Pops. they wouldn‘t let me into the studio because I wasn‘t wearing a badge —— and l was
singing the Number One song! It was a bit ofa ‘ disappointing experience all round when we were ; on actually. we felt like we didn‘t belong there.
I we just had on everyday clothes and everybody
else looked so weird.
The band are resolutely down to earth. Like their predecessors The llousemartins — whom Dave is clearly fed up talking about but is too polite to say so — they‘ve made being normal into an art form. in fact almost an ideological stance. ‘I think it‘s encouraging that bands like us can have success. because we don‘t fit into any kind of category. the industry doesn‘t know how to treat us. The llousemartins were a very political band and our politics haven‘t changed. if anything we‘re even more left-wing. We‘re not writing songs about governmental politics these days but about domestic politics. which is important as welt and deserves to be written about. There‘s a song on the album called “I Think The Answer‘s Yes“ which is Paul saying we‘re still political
. animals. we still hate the Royal Family. our
music‘s changed but we haven‘t. I always think if you‘ve got an overtly political message to put across you can either do it as a rant with loud guitars. or get people into it by making the
g melodies nice and the tunes good so they‘re far
more likely to listen to the lyrics and see what you‘re trying to say.
And Dave‘s definition ofThe Beautiful South'.’ ‘We‘re all really nice lads. we‘re decent blokes at heart.
The Beautiful South play the Burrow/and. Glasgow on Fri 23 and the l’ltivhous‘e. Edinburgh
; on Sat24.
The List 23-NTive-mbc‘r.:fiil)cccinbcrul 990 9