[13] The Housemartins, ‘Happy Hour’

The Housemartins

Sure, I was born on the Yorks/Lincs border, but The Housemartins were a little too northern for me. By five I was in Berks, six Herts, and that’s where I stayed ‘til university. I’ve been lucky too to avoid the forced bonhomie of the rubbish post-work drink, “celebrated” here, what with my feckless career only carrying me to fun working environments where a cheeky half is with good company.

So what’s it doing here? I only bought it on impulse as part of a four-single box set at the end of 1986 (with ‘Caravan Of Love’ – a bit too Flying Pickets for me – ‘Flag Day’ and ‘Sheep’) and promptly gave the whole package to a girl I fancied, as a Christmas present. It didn’t work. Anyway, I had it on Now 7 too, so no great loss, and always liked its skittish bop and brevity. I grew to like the band more as they morphed into the yards better Beautiful South, though. Oh, it also had Furniture’s ‘Brilliant Mind’. Now 7, that is.

Junior listened, cogitated, ruminated and revealed, “It makes my shoulders go funky.” Which is a refreshingly compact way to describe a refreshingly compact record.

Don’t believe it:

[15] The Beautiful South, ‘Prettiest Eyes’

Junior strolled around the room for the duration, looking solemn but trying to hide a smirk. Well, how apt! Paul Heaton delivered his kitchen sink dramas and trad love songs with a figurative wink almost every time. Almost every time.

‘Prettiest Eyes’ sounds sincere to me, a warts-and-all celebration of a love grown old yet never stale. “Sixty 25th of Decembers/Fifty-nine 4th of Julys” are writ in every laughter line, “and I only write them down just in case/You should die”. It’s a great glob of sentiment, but that glob isn’t gloopy and Heaton inhabits the older man as if he’s the future he longs for. It’s all set in a typically radio-friendly arrangement, the type of comfortable noise that passed everyone by until they idly nosed at the greatest hits set at the end of this year and made it one of the fastest selling albums in history. That was a bolt from the blue.