Some news that will likely slip under the world’s radar (indeed I only found out several weeks after the event) but apparently the Beautiful South have reformed - sort of. Two years after their official split and twenty years after their first incarnation was unleashed on the world, some of Hull’s second finest have decided that enough wasn’t enough and have become (wait for it) the New Beautiful South. I say some, because technically the only original members will be drummer Dave Stead and Dave Hemingway, singer and erstwhile second drummer of the Housemartins. They will be joined by Alison Wheeler, the last of the South’s three female vocalists (the one who never sang on any of their hits). So, there’s no Jacqui Abbott, no Sean Welch on bass, no Dave Rotheray on guitar and no Paul Heaton; the groups eccentric leader and, with Rotheray, chief songwriter.
It’s a path well-trod by many other bands - including cabaret circuit versions of Motown bands (checkout the website for the Drifters – precisely no original members!), glam stompers (Slade II - all Dave, no Noddy!) and ska revivalists (especially Neville Staples’ Specials - though it should be noted that the current ‘official’ Terry-Hall-included Specials doesn’t feature Jerry Dammers). Other higher profile car-crashes include the reality TV horrors undertaken by iNXS (I see that JD Fortune recently got the boot… poor love) and, lest we forget the original grave robbers, Queen. However, the New Beautiful South are unique in that they fulfill a prophecy created at their inception.
Tired of the attention given to him as lead singer of the Housemartins, Heaton quite liked the idea of having more than one singer to front the Beautiful South. As well as offering some musical diversity, having three singers (theoretically at least) took some of the focus off him. On several occasions he half-joked that he saw the band as a franchise that he would leave when established. As Paul told NME spin-off Vox Magazine in 1992, “I was hoping to gradually wean myself out of the band, but I don't think they're ready for that - and it doesn't look like they will be for a while". Well, it only took 20 years and a second try at a solo career by Heaton but it looks like the kids are ready to flee the nest.
To be fair to Dave Hemingway, he has a great voice, and the South had plenty of good songs that didn’t feature Heaton. In fact for a while it was a bit of joke that any song featuring Paul on lead vocal would flop, evidenced by their biggest hit – A Little Time – being a #1 duet between Dave and Brianna Corrigan, followed up by Paul’s autobiographical My Book, getting to number 43. To be honest, what else are they going to do after 20 years in the same band? Said Hemmingway: "Dave, Alison and I wanted to continue. We've been twiddling our thumbs for a while, but this is what we do best." That cabaret circuit just got a little fuller.
THE NEW BEAUTIFUL SOUTH will perform at the Welly Club in Hull on 29 March 2009.