Best tunes of 1990: #15 The Beautiful South “A little time”

Being that I grew up in small-town Southern Ontario, Canada, in an age before the wonders of the Internet, it often happened that I came upon a band’s more popular and successful material, long after I did their less successful work. I discovered The Beautiful South’s “A little time” and their second album, “Choke”, years after their debut and third albums had become close friends. Truly, by the time I came across this song and the album on which it appears, I had listened to “0898” countless times (had written all my first year university essays to it), was intimate with each song, and knew most of the lyrics therein, like I knew every acne scar on my young twenty-something face. I never knew then that their third record was seen as a bit of a letdown after “Choke” and that none of its singles had reached as high on the UK singles charts as did “A little time”, their only tune to reach the number one position.

None of this is really surprising given that the band never achieved the same success here in North America. However, I was super eager to follow them as soon as I learned that they were an offshoot of 80s indie pop group, The Housemartins. Formed around the vocals of Paul Heaton and Dave Hemingway, The Beautiful South added Briana Corrigan as a third vocalist for “Choke” after she had guested successfully on their debut, “Welcome to the Beautiful South”. And it was the interplay between the three vocalists, especially the male/female sparring, that marked the group’s sound, set them apart, and along with their smart and jarring lyrics, was the likely reason for the modicum of success they achieved over their nine-album career.

“A little time” is a perfect illustration of the band’s magic. Featuring Hemingway and Corrigan on vocals, it jingles and jangles and tells the story of a relationship that sours after the male decides he needs “a little time” to, as he puts it, “think things over” and “find himself”. But when he decides he’s ready to settle down, he learns that the female didn’t sit by the phone to wait for him.

You had a little time
And you had a little fun
Didn’t you, didn’t you
While you had yours
Do you think I had none?

It’s not a little. It’s lots of fun. “A little time” plays the Brechtian-irony card well, pitting the dark and cynical vocals against the rays of the sunshine in the instrumentation. And even if you are familiar with the tune, you should check out the Brit Award-winning video below. It takes the themes of song and expounds upon them, hinting at a domestic battle of epic proportions, leaving the familial domicile a wasteland of flour and pillow feathers.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1990 list, click here.

8 Replies to “Best tunes of 1990: #15 The Beautiful South “A little time””

    1. It’s amazing how that works. He’s so popular there but no one really knows who he is in North America. I’ve heard some of his stuff with Abbott and am only mildly interested. Loved the Beautiful South though, especially the first handful of albums.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha. I get what you mean. Elbow headlines festivals in England and I saw them at a mid-sized club venue in a Toronto a few years ago. I had the same experience with Levellers 16 years ago.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I enjoyed plenty of their work but very few people knew them here in Canada. My wife and I saw them play an acoustic show at a small-ish club in Toronto and this English guy behind kept saying, “These guys are huge. I can’t believe they’re playing a club this small.”

        Liked by 1 person

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