I've included two groups in this one because who I really mean is the singing/song-writing talents of Paul Heaton and Dave Hemingway.
The Housemartins were a bit before my time and having older brothers who were into punk or rock, and a sister who wanted to marry the drummer from Duran Duran, I didn't hear very much of them until they became retro with the incarnation of The Beautiful South. I do remember seeing the revolutionary video to 'Happy Hour' on the television the first time around, and I remember thinking 'Oh that's clever, Tony Hart does people as well as Morph.' Bless me!
The tracks that appeal to me most from their greatest hits album (purchased in France on a school exchange when I was trying to impress my host's snotty male friend) are the aforementioned finger-tapping 'Happy Hour' and of course the classic 'Caravan of Love'.
The Beautiful South were my era; as a late teen the album 'Carry on up the Charts' was played to death with several tracks going on repeat. After the 15th time (I am not exaggerating) my mum would barge in to my bedroom and plead with me to listen to any other track. Those that usually got the repeat treatment were 'Song for Whoever', 'Don't Marry Her', and '36D'.
I'm not a big fan of the original female singer, Briana Corrigan, I think her voice was too sickly sweet and high-pitched for my ears. She did, however, do a cracking job on 'I Need a Little Time'; a growing sarcasm and anger dripping from her voice with every word she sang. For me, Jacqui Abbott was a far better female voice to blend with the other vocalists. To this day, I am firmly convinced that I can sing 'Everybody's Talking At Me' as well as she can (yeah, right). Paul Heaton is said to have been standing on the stairs at a party when he heard her voice on a karaoke machine, he immediately went and bagged her as the new female lead.
I far more prefer Paul Heaton's plaintiff and heartfelt singing to Dave Hemingway's melodic and caramel tones. Both are easy to listen to, but Heaton's pleading desperation seem to pull at my heart-strings more. 'Like a Blackbird on the Wire', 'Artificial Flowers' and 'I'll Sail This Ship Alone' get me every time.
Their lyrics are so very clever; ironic, endearing, heart-felt, patronising, pleading, funny, romantic, the list goes on. A very talented pair, and do you know what? I think the neighbours are going to be subjected to an afternoon of 'Song for Whoever' and 'The Sound of North America'!