25/12/15 – The Housemartins – London 0 – Hull 4 – 1986 / Think For A Minute – 1986

Album Of The Day

The Housemartins London 0 Hull 4 Album Cover 1986As it’s Christmas day and I was still conceptually in the north east, I was looking for something that was jolly and dark – you know like Star Wars. So hard as it is to grasp the link between The Housemartins and Star Wars, I saw some kind of affiliation between them.  Nerdy, commercially viable but still Indie kids would like it, a sense of humour, sarcasm – together I would see them as The Smiths dressed as Kiss. Flash bombs, merchandising, good and evil, inspiring both men and women (Paul Heaton went onto form The Beautiful South where he shared lead vocals with three different female lead singers). Plus there’s the powerful machine being breached by the underdog, The Housemartin’s went on to have big hits – am I losing you here?

Perhaps the greatest thing about The Housemartin’s was the title of their album – London 0 Hull 4 (No.3 Uk). In recent years Hull played Chelsea in the FA Cup final and were winning – it really looked like it could happen (they lost), but losing made the fantasy of the title even stronger. Lyrically they mixed Marxism and religion, cardigans and humorous dancing, singing seriously about hypocrisy and challenging political issues whilst acting the clown – not exactly Darth Vader but putting on costumes is involved. Then there’s the famous sidemen, Hans Solo might be seen as a Norman Cook. Guitarist Stan Cullimore is a mathematics graduate so I guess he would be some kind of scientist and drummer Hugh Whitaker went to prison for 6 years in 1993 after assaulting his former business partner with an axe – there must be a Star Wars character like that? He was replaced by Dave Hemingway, Hemingway followed Heaton into The Beautiful South.

It might come as a surprise that this is a great jangle pop album with Think For A Minute contender for best forgotten Pop song of 1986. This band can be a frantic Prefab Sprout, a sixties revival group, eighties Indie guitar pop with Soul leanings from Paul Heaton’s oddly contrary mix of English Pop and empathy with the working classes, mixed with a studied political manifesto and a passion for Gospel music. They are a lot of things disguised as less than they seem. You get the feeling that they may have formed in a scary pub like that famous bar in Star Wars over a pint of mild, the equivalent in Hull of an intergalactic cocktail.

The Housemartins only made one more studio album – The People Who Grinned Themselves To Death in 1987 (No.9 UK). A compilation, Now That’s What I Call Quite Good (No.8 UK) was released in 1988. But in their short tenure they managed five Top 20 singles, Happy Hour making it to No.3 on the UK chart. They released a non-album single, an a cappella cover of Ernie and Marvin Isley Brothers and cousin Chris Jasper’s No.1 single from 1985, Caravan Of Love. It was released in between their two albums and made it to No 1. on the UK chart and hit high on various charts around the world.

Star Wars was also a hit…






Note, the video version of Think For A minute is a much slower and quite different version to the more up tempo and poppier version on the album.


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6 Responses to “25/12/15 – The Housemartins – London 0 – Hull 4 – 1986 / Think For A Minute – 1986”

  1. SAW December 26, 2015 at 12:44 am #

    Well there’s a singalong album I never expected you to review. Ha! I love how they sing sad/mad songs in a major key. And how the phrasing allows you to echo the vocal line.

    Back when this cassette came out we had a garage band. We asked our lead singer’s mom, who played piano for the baptist church, to double check our “cover” chords. She just smiled — roller he eyes — and tapped her foot. That foot tapping is a dead giveaway of approval. 😉 I still play this album when I am in a good/bad mood.

    p.s. It was great being part of the festivities at your show in San Francisco at the Rite Spot. That’s my kind of gig. Also fun chatting with Signe about her States adventure! I’ll send the photos I took of your performance your way. Good times. very merry, SAW

  2. delay plus chorus December 26, 2015 at 10:13 am #

    Years ago when I was doing a Friday afternoon college radio gig alongside an impossibly cute girl, we used “Happy Hour” as our closing theme as we signed off into the waiting night. Oh days of youth, where have you gone…

    • delay plus chorus December 26, 2015 at 10:13 am #

      ps. Google-image “Star Wars Tusken raider” and you’ll find your ax-wielding drummer.

  3. PacoJim December 28, 2015 at 2:21 am #

    I’m sorry I just cant go with this one – There is a type of vocal that sounds like the singer has flem in his throat and I find that irritating. I want to get my thumb and tap on his adams apple or something, of course they are all accomplished musicians that know what their doing he sings in key in time and all that , its just a matter of taste , rather than seeing the Smiths dressed as Kiss my mind conjures up Peter Allen playing the maracas with his shoulders shaking .
    “Get up of your knees ” oh dear makes me want to smash something its just so weak . I don’t think chart success is indicative of quality at all , often the opposite .
    I know It’s supposed to be all in good fun and one would hope that with age the mind opens up and expands but I hated these guys in 85 and I must admit I still could not sit through this album even for the sake of character building .
    Thanks Marty at least I know where I stand…

    • Marty Willson-Piper December 28, 2015 at 12:19 pm #

      Hey Paco Jim, I agree, but the chart info is just sharing the facts, it’s not supposed to impress anyone or have anything to do with the quality of the work. As I said in the Chris Rea post…I’d much rather listen to Echo And The Bunnymen but the idea of the archive is to present music and a story and this Marxist Christian, sarcastic, working class, north eastern character that is Paul Heaton is a story worth sharing I think. Also I think that the song, not the video version, but the album version is a rather good pop tune.
      Plus the birth place of Fatboy Slim is another story, even though I’d rather listen to Echo and The Bunnymen than him too.
      Also I don’t hear Phlegm?
      Smiths dressed as Kiss was the playful idea of putting together two disparate entities – Star Wars and The Housemartins and finding a connection however spurious. Ha Ha.
      Actually I expected more criticism than I got and was surprised to see that a lot of people responded positively but then as I mentioned they are only being wacky because Heaton is a thoughtful man and he uses that lightweight vehicle to spread a deeper message further.
      But thanks for the comments I actually agree with most of what you are saying although poor old Peter Allen…he must have had something deep about him for Liza Minnelli to marry him, don’t you think? Especially when you read this comment from Liza “I married Peter and he didn’t tell me he was gay. Everyone knew but me. And I found out…well, let me put it this way: I’ll never surprise anybody coming home as long as I live. I call first!”
      Happy new year and thanks for reading.

      • PacoJim December 30, 2015 at 2:30 am #

        Peter Allen and Liza Minnelli is a very funny proposition.
        Thanks Marty you have a good new year as well.

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