The people who grinned themselves to death

When I was younger I went to boarding school. This was the 80s, 1986 to be precise for my first year. The house had approx 60 boys, which meant a lot of older brothers! My music taste was generated during these formative years. I was exposed to lots of 80s indie, rock, metal, and the odd blast of the Macc Lads. Sweaty Betty will live with me for ever.

A few bands stuck early. (I did move on to the Smiths and REM later), but first the wonderstuff and the Housemartins. I loved both of these groups, and having older ‘brothers’ I could get copies of their albums. Sprock (no idea of his real name or where he is) had a double tape deck, and a big collection. With a few packs of TDK 90 minuted tapes, I was set up. One album each side. This did mean I would often not hear the end of some albums – it took years for me to hear the final tracks.

One tape had the Housemartins two albums, London 0 Hull 4 with Happy Hour and The People Who Grinned Themselves To Death with Me and the Farmer, and Five Get over excited.

I still think it is a great album. It has really stood the test of time. Paul Heaton has grown as a songwriter through the Beautiful South, solo and now with Jackie Abbott. The political element still holds, maybe not as overly militant as the 80s.

But it is the title track of People I love. It holds up well still. A discourse on class and the British Royal family, the song could have been written this year.

Also strange to think the members of the band moved on to do many different things. On bass was Norman Cook, laterly Fatboy Slim, with the previously mentioned PD Heaton singing and songwriting. Dave Hemingway joined the Beautiful South and Stan Cullimore became a writer.

They didn’t last very long, but the impact of the Housemartins was great. For me, I listened to them for years, and go back every so often. And during the lockdown, I have been listening to a lot of music from my youth. It gives a sense of comfort, of looking back. Even when looking at the dreary 80s, living in the midlands in the UK!