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From left: Dave Hemingway, Paul Heaton, Norman Cook, Stan Cullimore
|Also known as||The Fish City Five|
|Origin||Hull, England, United Kingdom|
|Labels||Go! Discs, Elektra|
The Housemartins were an English indie pop group formed in Hull who were active in the 1980s, and charted three top ten albums and six top twenty singles in the UK. Many of their lyrics were a mixture of socialist politics and Christianity, reflecting the beliefs of the band (the back cover of their debut album, London 0 Hull 4, contained the message, "Take Jesus – Take Marx – Take Hope"). The group's a cappella cover version of "Caravan of Love" (originally by Isley-Jasper-Isley) was a UK Number 1 single in December 1986.
After breaking up in 1988, Paul Heaton and Dave Hemingway formed the Beautiful South, while bassist Norman Cook became an electronic dance music DJ and music producer, founding the groups Beats International, Pizzaman and Freak Power, before rebranding himself as Fatboy Slim.
Heaton and Cullimore recorded a demo tape with Ingo Dewsnap and Sharon Green of Les Zeiga Fleurs which brought them to the attention of Go! Discs. They then expanded by recruiting Ted Key (bass), former guitarist with the Gargoyles. Their first live performance as a band was at Hull University in October 1984. The band's membership changed considerably over the years. Key left at the end of 1985 and was replaced by Norman Cook (the future Fatboy Slim). Drummer Chris Lang was replaced by Hugh Whitaker, former drummer with the Gargoyles, who in turn was replaced with Dave Hemingway.
In 1986, having recorded two John Peel sessions, the band broke through with their third single "Happy Hour", which reached No. 3 in the UK Singles Chart. The single's success was helped by a claymation animated pop promo of a type that was in vogue at the time, featuring a cameo by television comedian Phill Jupitus, who toured with the band under his stage name of "Porky the Poet".
Debut album London 0 Hull 4 was released later in 1986 and contained their previous two singles as well as alternative versions of first single "Flag Day" and follow-up to Happy Hour, "Think for a Minute".
"Caravan of Love"
At the end of 1986 they had their only UK No. 1 single on 16 December with a cover version of Isley-Jasper-Isley's "Caravan of Love". It was knocked off the top spot by Jackie Wilson's "Reet Petite" on 23 December, denying the Housemartins the coveted Christmas No. 1 single.
The a cappella style of "Caravan of Love" was not to the taste of all Housemartins' fans, although a cappella material had always been part of the band's repertoire. "Caravan of Love" was first performed by the band in their second Peel session in April 1986, prior to their initial chart success. At Peel's suggestion, the band then recorded another session (under the name the Fish City Five), consisting entirely of a cappella performances, and on at least one occasion (at The Tower nightclub in Hull, the same concert at which they were filmed as the Housemartins for the BBC programme, Rock Around the Clock), played support act for their own performance under this alternative name. The "Caravan of Love" single featured four a cappella gospel songs on the B-side.
Second album and after
The Housemartins' second album The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death was released in September 1987, and included their two previous singles "Five Get Over Excited" and "Me and the Farmer". A third single from the album, "Build", was released in November; a Peel Session from the same month provided a recording used for their last single "There Is Always Something There to Remind Me" in 1988.
A farewell compilation album, Now That's What I Call Quite Good was released later that year.
After the split
The band split in 1988, but the members have remained friends and have worked on each other's projects. Norman Cook has enjoyed significant success with Beats International and then as Fatboy Slim, while Heaton, Hemingway and roadie Sean Welch formed the Beautiful South.
In August 2009, Mojo magazine arranged for The Housemartins' original members to get together for a photo-shoot and interview, for the first time in many years, but in the interview all the members maintained that the band would not re-form.
Cullimore and Whitaker joined Heaton on stage during a show by Heaton and Jacqui Abbott in 2014 at Hull's The New Adelphi Club, on the stage where the band had signed their Go-Discs record contract, although it was not a Housemartins reunion. The trio performed the Housemartins hit "Me and the Farmer", and Cullimore and Heaton closed the show with a performance of "Caravan of Love".
London 0 Hull 4 was re-released on 22 June 2009, with a bonus disc featuring tracks released as additional content on 12-inch singles and demo tracks.
Musical style and lyrics
The band's early releases saw them described as jangle pop, which brought comparisons with bands such as the Smiths and Aztec Camera. David Quantick, writing for Spin, described them in 1986 as playing "traditional '60s-style guitar pop overlaid with soul vocals". Cook described the band as "religious, but not Christians", and the band's repertoire included gospel songs.
Many of the band's lyrics have socialist themes, with Cook stating that "Paul realized that he hated writing about love...and that writing politically came easier to him", describing some of their songs as "angrily political".
|Year||Album details||Peak chart positions|
|1986||London 0 Hull 4
|1987||The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death
|Year||Title||Peak chart positions||Album|
|1985||"Flag Day"||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||London 0 Hull 4|
|"Think for a Minute"||18||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|"Caravan of Love"||1||2||3||5||2||7||1||2||24||Non-album single|
|1987||"Five Get Over Excited"||11||—||96||—||—||—||—||—||—||The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death|
|"Me and the Farmer"||15||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|1988||"There Is Always Something There to Remind Me"||35||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||Now That's What I Call Quite Good|
|2003||"Change the World" (as Dino Lenny vs The Housemartins)||51||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||—||Non-album single|
- The Housemartins Christmas Box Set (November 1986) UK #84
- Now That's What I Call Quite Good (April 1988) UK #8
- The Best of The Housemartins (2004,Go! Discs/Mercury Records), released in two discs (1 CD and 1 DVD)
- Live at the BBC (2006, Universal)
- Soup (December 2007) UK # 15
(does not include "live" appearances on TV programmes)
- "Happy Hour"
- "Think for a Minute"
- "Caravan of Love"
- "Five Get Over Excited"
- "Me and the Farmer"
- "There Is Always Something There to Remind Me"
- "We're Not Deep"
- Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 460–461. ISBN 1-84195-017-3.
- "Official Charts > Housemartins". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved 1 April 2016.
- Musical Messages, Marxism Today, March 1987, p45-47 [Interview]
- "The Gargoyles - Hull Adelphi Club 1986". Sheffield Tape Archive. Retrieved 28 March 2020.
- Frame, Pete (1999) Pete Frame's Rockin' Around Britain: Rock'n'roll Landmarks of the UK and Ireland, Omnibus Press, ISBN 978-0711969735, p. 204
- "The Housemartins". Beautiful South and Paul Heaton Fans. Archived from the original on 26 December 2016. Retrieved 28 October 2016.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 261. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- Longhorn, Danny (6 October 2014). "Housemartins reunite for Adelphi Caravan of Love as Paul Heaton joined on stage by Stan Cullimore and Hugh Whitaker". Hull Daily Mail. Archived from the original on 10 October 2014. Retrieved 4 November 2016.
- Cooper, Kim & Smay, David (2004) Lost in the Grooves: Scram's Capricious Guide to the Music You Missed, Routledge, ISBN 978-0415969987
- Fletcher, Tony (2012) A Light that Never Goes Out: The Enduring Saga of The Smiths, William Heinemann Ltd, ISBN 978-0434022182, p. 548
- Quantick, David (1986) "Blinded by Gospel", Spin, December 1986, p. 16. Retrieved 15 July 2013
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- Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (Illustrated ed.). St. Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 142. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. N.B. the Kent Report chart was licensed by ARIA between mid 1983 and 19 June 1988.
- Stephen Thomas Erlewine. "The Housemartins". AllMusic. Retrieved 22 November 2015.
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- "Australian chart positions pre 1989". Australian-charts.com. Retrieved 18 March 2014.
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