652. ‘A Little Time’, by The Beautiful South

Let’s slow things down, with a little saloon-bar crooning…

A Little Time, by The Beautiful South (their 1st and only #1)

1 week, from 21st – 28th October 1990

1990 certainly is taking a mellower turn. After a spring of dance… I won’t say bangers, because I’m not sure that they were… but classics at least, we’ve arrived in an autumn of lower-case rock. ‘The Joker’, ‘Show Me Heaven’, and now the year’s most low-key hit, from The Beautiful South.

It’s a duet in the classic sense, as the male and the female vocals bounce off one another, telling a story. The guy is trying to wriggle his way out of a relationship: I need a little time, To think it over… A little space, Just on my own… His girlfriend is having none of it: Need a little room for your big head, Don’t ya, Don’t ya…?

Meanwhile a piano rolls, and some horns softly toot, and you’re left to wonder how this record found itself on top of the charts. A quiet week? The Beautiful South had already had hit singles, and this was the lead from their second album, so perhaps demand was there. And it’s far from unwelcome: it’s just very understated, and short, so that it’s over before you really start to appreciate how good it is.

By the end, the man has had the little time that he wanted, but the girl’s moved on. The freedom that you wanted bad, Is yours for good, I hope you’re glad… It’s sort of an earlier version of Beyonce’s ‘All the Single Ladies’; in sentiment, if not in sound. There’s a good amount of humour here too, while Briana Corrigan’s voice reminds me, somehow, of Cyndi Lauper.

Is this another late eighties’ ‘indie’ hit, to file alongside Fairground Attraction and The Housemartins? Or is it – bold statement incoming – the first Britpop #1? It’s probably the former, as it sounds nothing like your average Britpop hit (it’s got a woman on it, for a start) and the only reason I’m suggesting otherwise is due to the change of decade. But rock will be a constant, if never quite dominant, chart-topping force in the nineties, which it never really was for much of the eighties.

Speaking of The Housemartins, this record gives the second and third former members of the band a 1990 #1, after Beats International’s Norman Cook. Paul Heaton and Dave Hemingway (the wantaway male singer here) had formed The Beautiful South in 1988 after their former band split. Their debut single ‘Song for Whoever’ had made #2 the year before this, their only chart-topper.

The reason I suggest this as ‘Britpop’, is that The Beautiful South had definitely been lumped in with that scene come the middle of the decade, when they were scoring hits like ‘Rotterdam’, ‘Don’t Marry Her’ and ‘Perfect 10’. All of which were pop culture touchstones, a statement I’m basing on the fact that they were all popular in my school playground (especially ‘Don’t Marry Her’, with its incongruous swearing in the chorus). They would continue to have decent chart success until their split in 2007.


13 thoughts on “652. ‘A Little Time’, by The Beautiful South

  1. I like this! I never heard of them or the song but it sounds great. It has some meaning and the production was very clean.

      • I’ll check them out…It felt more real and organic than the dance hits which sound contrived to me.

      • Well…I’ll look them up lol. Every link and the video would not play because I’m not in the UK. I had to look the main song up today. I have people tell me the same thing at times with my links.

        My son is in England right now…I caught him on the Abbey Road cam! He is over visiting his German girlfriend and they hopped over to London.

      • Oh man that’s annoying. They’re all from the bands YouTube channel so I thought they’d be ok.

        That’s pretty cool about your son! I’ve never been to Abbey Road. Looks like the weathers finally turning nice too – he timed it well!

      • It happens to me also all of the time.
        Yes he did time it well…I’m getting a passport man…I gotta see that.

  2. It’s a lovely sweet sounding song and a step up for the band, just a shame Brian’s didn’t stay too long she had a great voice. Much better than Song For Whoever To boot. That said their great period was with Jacqueline Abbot I think.

    • Claire Grogan is a good shout. Her voice reminds me of Cyndi Lauper, and she looks a bit like Kirsty MacColl. She left the band shortly after this, and most of their later big hits were with a different female singer, Jacqui Abbot.

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