"There's an assumption that you can't be angry unless you've got 20 kilowatts of arse ballet behind you."
- Dave Rotheray, Q magazine interview, March 1995
Song for Whoever was the Beautiful South's first UK single, reached number two in June, 1989, and catapulted the band onto the British pop scene. Heaton, the song's writer was confident of it would do just that, and had spent the weeks previous to its release arguing its case with their record label, Go! Discs, who wanted to release another song, Under The Covers. Rotherway, the composer, was less optimistic, thinking it would be a flop.
Oh Shirley, Oh Deborah, Oh Julie, Oh Jane
I wrote so many songs about you
I forget your name (I forget your name)
Jennifer, Alison, Phillipa, Sue, Deborah, Annabel, too
I forget your name
In the January of 1961, Ray Charles released an album called Dedicated To You, on which each of the tracks is named after a different woman, a catalogue of his loves and losses. "At least that's honest," says Heaton, "[but] I just felt that you have to point the finger to all those people who cynically trot out a different girl's name for every song." In traditional Beautiful South fashion, the finger is pointed in a very subtle way; while the music is all soft romantic piano and lovelorn strings, the lyrics are biting, highlighting the cynical art of making money from love.
I love you from the bottom of my pencil case
I love you in the songs I write and sing
Love you because, you put me in my rightful place
And I love the PRS cheques, that you bring
Authors, lyricists and artists have always drawn on their own personal loves and experiences (Heaton: "so, anyway my girlfriend heard it and said, You bastard, that's about me!"), finding inspiration in the high and lows of romance, and the band used this song to show us all how the pains of breaking up and the aches of new love and be converted to something much easier to enjoy: cold hard cash. Royalties at the expense of loved ones, and damn the consequences.
And that would be the end, only there's a twist in this tale. Perhaps making money from failed romance isn't as easy as it sounds: right at the end of the song, the singer's latest muse discovers his devious ways, and exacts her revenge, choosing to hit him right where it hurts:
So let me talk about Mary, a sad story
Turned her grief into glory
Late at night, by the typewriter light,
She ripped his ribbon to shreds
Ouch. As well as a rather good song, this single also features a pretty good video, charting the rise of the band in the British music industry. As the South's lastest single slips down the charts, the band decide its Paul Heaton's ugly mug that's putting off the buying public. The terminally unlucky frontman is duly replaced by a pink blancmange, decked out in sunglasses and trilby hat, and suddenly the band are selling like hot cakes. The people love blancmange, it seems.
Unfortunately, when it comes to write the next chart-topping single, the blancmange struggles a little, so the band reinstate Heaton, and eat their pudding-based singer.
- Q Magazine: "They're all shit!"
Interview with The Beautiful South by Stuart Maconie, in the March 1995 edition, from an online transcription at:
- LyricsDepot.com: Song for Whoever
- Rhino: Ray Charles, Dedicated to You