The Case For And Against The Housemartins

Twitter thug Harry Flowers OBE revisits pop’s past and lays down the law of The Housemartins, most of whom weren’t even from Hull. Russ Litten disagrees.
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The Case Against


We were talking about music the other day and during the conversation, someone brought up The Housemartins. I’d forgotten about The Housemartins and I’d also forgotten how much I hated The Housemartins. The Housemartins were one of those bands who weren’t any good really, but because they come from some town up North that nobody has ever heard of and where nothing has ever happened, people think they are great for some reason and get all proud of them.. (See also The Waterboys, The Proclaimers and Primal Scream). They had success with their album “London 0, Hull 4”. The title of which was a dig at the nation’s capital. But the joke was on them, as there is not a football team called “London” and if there was, there is no way it would lose four nil at home to Hull.

The band was formed initially as a busking duo in 1983 by Marxist Christian Paul Heaton (Vocals) and Stan Cullimore (Guitar, Bradford City, Real Oviedo). It would have been nice if that’s as far as it went. But oh no. The Housemartins went on to recruit like-minded idiots – including Norman Cook. So not only are they responsible for the dire “Happy Hour” and an A cappella version of Isley Jasper Isley’s “Caravan Of Love” (A cappella being the most VILE form of music btw) but they have blood on their hands regarding the success of that song “Amsterdam” “Rockafeller Skank” and “Right Here, Right Now”. In fact, I hate all the Housemartin spin-off acts. Fatboy Slim, The Beautiful South and The Flying Pickets.

And that’s The Housemartins.

The Case For

Russ Litten via Scotts Menswear

If you grew up in Hull in the 80s, The Housemartins were the heroes you could sit with down the boozer. It didn’t matter that only one of them was actually born and bred in the city. It didn’t even matter that they adopted self consciously working class aliases when their real names were actually Ian and Quentin. Calling an album London 0 Hull 4 was a massive vote of confidence for our back yard and a cheeky two fingers raised to a capital that for so long had not even acknowledged our existence.

They seemed to come out of nowhere. One minute they were singing Bill Withers covers down the trades & labour, the next they were on Top of The Pops taking the piss out of white-collar middle management. Like the rest of their early material, “Happy Hour” was deceptively chirpy tune that hid a bilious heart of raging class war contempt.

Unabashedly left-wing in an era when the word “socialist” was the kiss of death to any nascent mainstream pop career, The Housemartins wasted no opportunity to nail their red team colours very firmly to the public mast. When a chirpy Saturday morning TV host asked Paul Heaton who his hero was and he answered “Arthur Scargill” you could almost hear the collective gulp in a hundred establishment throats. Who had let these impudent rascals into the party, with their upbeat ditties about decapitating the royals and nationalising the music industry? They may have looked like the cheerful crew-cut urchins next door who sang for their supper, but these songbirds were singing revolution.

They charged 99p for a gig at local grubby nightspot The Tower and asked us all not to buy their next single because they didn’t want to get back into the charts. Obviously nobody took any notice and hit followed hit after hit, culminating with an audacious bid for the Christmas Number One with “Caravan Of Love”, an acappella plea for universal brother and sisterhood. It got to number two, but it still felt like a victory.

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