London 0 Hull 4
Posted on August 28, 2014
Out of my several thousand tracks on my iPod, few have survived my personal test of time like London 0 Hull 4, the début album in the short career of The Housemartins, that was released in 1986.
What is so striking and indeed depressing about it, is that so many of the tracks are as relevant in 2014 as they were in the summer of 1986. Mixing the anger of The Clash, the soulful voice of Paul Heaton and some catchy, almost poppy sounding riffs, The Housemartins somehow got their political message into the mainstream when Thatcher ruled the waves.
I first remember hearing the first single of the album, Sheep, on Radio 1 early in 1986 and thinking, “Wow, this will be a major hit”. Alas, I was wrong, as it only reached number 56 in the UK Charts.
It wasn’t until the follow up, Happy Hour, when The Housemartins got noticed in the mainstream and a rise up the single charts. Happy Hour on the face of it, was a great pop song, but it was with huge irony that many of the masses who tapped their feet to it in pubs and wine bars didn’t realise it was an ironic dig at the plethora of the hideous, opportunist yuppie types of that era…
What a good place to be
Don’t believe it
‘Cause they speak a different language
And it’s never really happened to me…
Happy Hour the single became a summer anthem and propelled London 0 Hull 4 up to number 3 in the UK charts and follow up, the brilliant Think for a Minute reached the top 20 in the autumn. I love that song, a poignant take on the streets of the north, where jobless people had lost their pride through no fault of their own…
Something’s going on, a change is taking place
Children smiling in the street have gone without a trace
This street used to be full, it used to make me smile
And now it seems that everyone is walking single file..
The album goes on and on with each track banging out lyrics that will stick in my mind forever…
Get up of Our Knees
Paupers will be paupers, bankers will be bankers
Some own pennies in a jar, some own oil tankers
What may sound like tomorrow could be ours today
There’s no more need for sorrow if we get off our knees to pray
Anxious ( a great pop song this)
I really thought I’d have my tongue tied if I stood up to shout
But all they did was listen without their ears
And I thought I’d be beheaded if I stuck my neck out
But they just gave me a hanky for my tears
Anxious: Check out Norman Cook (Fatboy Slim) on bass
Sitting on A Fence
Sitting on a fence is a man who looks up to his guardian
Sitting on a fence is a man who swings from poll to poll
Sitting on a fence is a man who sees both sides of both sides
Sitting on a fence is a man who looks down on opinion
However, in my humble opinion, the greatest track on that album has to be Flag Day, a dig at the hopelessness of people trying to save the world with charity functions as the elite and the aristocracy hoard all the cash. It is a relevant today as when it was written.
Too many Florence Nightingales
Not enough Robin Hoods
Too many halos not enough heroes
Coming up with the goods
So you though you’d like to change the world
Decided to stage a jumble sale
For the poor, for the poor
It’s a waste of time if you know what I mean
Try shaking a box in front of the Queen
‘Cause her purse is fat and bursting at the seams
It’s a waste of time if you know what they mean
I will always find it hard to find better lyrics than that.
Of course, The Housemartins were not around long and after the commercial mega-hit, a cover of Caravan of Love, reached the number 1, the follow up album The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death, went silver, but never received the the acclaim of London 0 Hull 4.
However, Paul Heaton and Dave Hemmingway went on to achieve massive commercial success with The Beautiful South, somehow managing to appeal to the mainstream with clever pop ditties featuring sinister lyrics that were laced with tales of domestic abuse, alcoholism, sexism and politics…To many, the Beautiful South were a middle class bastardisation of The Housemartins. Check their lyrics and think again.
Heaton then went solo without much success but in my opinion, Acid Country, was a glorious reminder that he has lost none of his beliefs and resentment to the aristocracy; it is a great track, a nine minute rant that rolled back the years.
Just recently, Heaton re-established his working relationship with former Beautiful South singer, Jacqi Abbott, resulting in a glorious commercial comeback with the excellent album, What Have We Become.
I saw them at the V Festival a couple of weeks back and as we jigged away to a Heaton back catalogue, I couldn’t help but think that there aren’t many performers on this planet who my kids enjoy just as much as I do; though I suppose they have had no choice after having London 0 Hull 4 drummed into them since they were in the womb.
If you haven’t got London 0 Hull 4, download it, it is as good as ever.