It’s hard being a musician in a band. It might be harder to go solo, but not in all ways. The problem with bands is that the good ones last five to ten years. Think about that. You spend your early life trying to get good and get noticed, and then it’s over before you hit 30.

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Photo by Luke Thornton on Unsplash

The front man (or woman) have a higher profile and usually find it easier, though not easy, to start again. We have unashamedly focused our first season on Paul Heaton as the driving force of both the Housemartins and the Beautiful South. Although…


Roland Gift has been called many things, and one of those things is “the first black punk in Hull”. He was in a Hull ska band called Akrylykz . It would be easy to think that Roland started his most famous band, Fine Young Cannibals, but it wasn’t quite like that. In Akrylykz he supported the Beat on tour. When Andy Cox and David Steele of the Beat fancied starting a new band, they asked Roland to sing for them, even though he had started off as the sax player for Akrylykz.

FYC are sometimes described as a Birmingham band…


It is Christmas 1986 and Caravan of Love reaches №1, only to be knocked off by the inestimable Reet Petite by Jackie Wilson. The Transit Van of Love is where we left the story last time, and sadly the rest of the lyrics of this alternative version, chanted by Hull City fans at Boothferry Park, is lost to the mists of time.

After talking so much about a man named Paul, it is time to talk about Dave.

A man called Dave Hemingway joined the Housemartins in 1987, after the first album but in time to work on the band’s…


We stay in the 1970s for a look at the career of another Hull musician, Mick Ronson. He’s not widely remembered outside East Yorkshire or the crowd from Monsters of Rock, but in the summer of 2017, Hull’s year as City of Culture, a statue of Mick was installed in Hull’s East Park.

It was while he was painting white lines on the rugby pitches of that park, in 1970, that David Bowie caught up with him in the form of a man called John Cambridge.

John was putting together a new backing band for Bowie and he had Ronson…


The docks, Cod Wars, the Gaul

There is conflict at the heart of both the Housemartins and the Beautiful South and the source of the conflict is this: class war.

Paul’s family were very clearly middle class, but they spent Paul’s formative years in Steel City, Sheffield, in South Yorkshire, close to coal mines and iron foundries. Your cutlery was probably made there. Ours certainly was. …


The Housemartins: burning bright but brief

Towards the end of 1983, Paul, a new arrival in Hull, advertised for musicians to join him in his new band. Stan answered the call, and arrived at 70 Grafton Street in an odd mood. After stomping around the house looking for Paul, he stomped back out again. And so it began as it would end, oddly.

The band formed, re-formed and changed personnel several times in those early days, as happens to most bands. What perhaps you would prefer is a neat story split into chapters with a beginning, middle and end. …


This is more than one story. This is partly a story about music for anyone who knows where Hull is. No, it’s not. Partly, possibly. It’s partly a story about music. And the music of the 1980s, and what it became, what it led to, and how it died. You don’t need to have heard of Hull at all. If you have heard of Hull, this story will mean more to you than to the rest. If you lived in Hull, or live in Hull, or want to live in Hull, you probably already know somebody who lives there.

I…


Back in the day, the 1980s and 1990s, music needed a place to happen. Before the internet, Hull had music pubs. My brother and my friends rehearsed in the back room of a bike shop in Beverley. You didn’t need to go far to hear live music. It was everywhere, in every pub, in every street. And man, there were a lot of pubs, just like in every port. Hull is an equal of Liverpool, and I make the claim with no hesitation. Our words were ironic, sarcastic and cynical, not upbeat or happy. …


The big surprise was Sade. I knew about the Housemartins and the Beautiful South because they released records when I was buying them. And they really were records, but the CD was just gaining ground. Same for Fine Young Cannibals, especially when I heard that dad taught Gifty. But was that true?

Scarlet were even better: Cheryl’s dad sold us insurance in our living room throughout the 1980s, and Cheryl and Jo went to school with us, although we didn’t know it at the time. Debra Stephenson was there too for a while. But Sade? They didn’t sound anything like…

Straight Outta Hull

Exploring the Music of Hull from the 1980s and 1990s

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