British left-wing band, formed in Hull in 1984, broke up in 1988 following moderate chart success, including the Number One Caravan of Love. The band released 3 albums in fairly quick succession on GO! Discs:
The final album was a double album
compilation of greatest hits
and previously unreleased good stuff. It was released along with a video
shortly after the band announced their break-up.
The original line-up was as follows:
Ted Key left the band before they signed to GO!, to concentrate on the other band of which he was member, The Gargoyles
. He was replaced by Norman Cook
. Hugh was also a member of the Gargoyles, but remained with the Housemartins until after their first album, at which time he was replaced on drums by Dave Hemmingway
The band's musical style was not easily pigeonholed, but key elements were Cullimore's jangly guitar and Heaton's sweet soul voice, which sometimes veered into falsetto. Heaton and Cullimore were a prolific song-writing team, but the band's biggest hit, an a capella version of Caravan of Love, was a cover version. Other notable singles include Happy Hour, Sheep, Me and the Farmer and Five Get Over-Excited.
The band were notable as much for their politics as their music: they were committed socialists, and although their tunes were generally quite cheerful, their lyrics were often quite angry. They also put their politics into practice: all the band's earnings were put into a central fund, and the band members were paid a living wage. The rest of the money was earmarked for projects related to political education and activism. The band drew a clear link between socialism and Christianity, claiming to preach the "Left-wing gospel". The roots of this Christianity, however, came more from Paul's love of gospel music than a religious background.
Another stance the band took was of being deliberately unfashionable. They had their own style in clothing, drawing heavily on charity shops. Their look in fact became very fashionable during the "Madchester" indie music explosion in 1989. They also made much of hailing from the nowhere town of Hull, although only Hugh had actually been born in the town.
The band's breakup can be put down to the classic "Musical Differences", although at the time they claimed that the band had only ever intended to last for three years. In fact, Paul was increasingly getting into Gospel, and Norman had begun to experiment with dance music and hip-hop.
Paul Heaton and Dave Hemmingway went on to form The Beautiful South, Stan Cullimore went on to write childrens' books and the mighty Norman Cook went on to form Beats International, Freakpower and has more recently attained god-like status as Fatboy Slim.