“Don’t Marry Her” — The Beautiful South

Photo by zelle duda on Unsplash

Their 1996 album “Blue Is The Colour”, which included the very funny and somewhat quirky “Don’t Marry Her”, really defined The Beautiful South as a band…

Beautiful South co-founders Paul Heaton and Dave Hemingway had both been in The Housemartins previously. That Hull-based band had enjoyed success in the 1980s with hits including an a capella cover of the Isley-Jasper-Isley song “Caravan Of Love”, which reached Number One in the UK singles charts during December 1986.

The Housemartins spawned another important British musical act beyond The Beautiful South…their bass player Norman Cook would go on to find considerable success of his own as Fatboy Slim with hit records like “The Rockafella Skank”, “Praise You” and “Right Here, Right Now”.

The Beautiful South were one of my favourite bands of the 1990s. Initially Briana Corrigan provided the lead female vocals for hits like “A Little Time”, but by the time “Blue Is The Colour” came along, Jacqui Abbott had joined as the female lead vocalist.

While The Beautiful South continued on The Housemartins’ path of recording somewhat quirky, politically-infused songs…and would later develop their unusual brand of wry social commentary into an art form…for me, Jacqui Abbott’s voice remains one of the warmest, smoothest voices in recent musical history. Her tone absolutely hits the spot as far as I’m concerned…every day is a better day if I’ve heard Jacqui Abbott sing,

The combination of Jacqui Abbott’s wonderful voice and the quirky, satirical lyrics of Paul Heaton proved pretty irresistible to the British record-buying public right through the mid-to-late 1990s.

We’d already been introduced to Jacqui Abbott’s voice on “Rotterdam”, the first single released from “Blue Is The Colour”, which made the UK Top 10 in 1996. But The Beautiful South’s trademark combination of great tunes, satirical lyrics and wonderfully smooth vocals really came to the fore with “Don’t Marry Her”, the second single from their “Blue Is The Colour” album.

I should say before we go any further that if you search “Don’t Marry Her” online, be very careful which version you listen to. The album version includes a fair bit of language not suitable for radio broadcast and the hit single had a number of words and phrases replaced by expressions the BBC and other broadcasters would be prepared to play on the radio.

However, we try to keep it a family show round here, so you’ll be glad to know we’re opting for the radio-friendly version from here on in.

“Don’t Marry Her” is essentially Jacqui Abbott telling a guy all the reasons he shouldn’t get married to someone dull and conventional, but run away with her instead.

We’re all different, of course, and some people will opt for the conventional over the exciting in a heartbeat. But Paul Heaton’s lyrics certainly don’t make it sound like an attractive proposition…

It gets worse…

If you’re old enough to remember the video for “Don’t Marry Her” on Top of the Pops or MTV, you might remember there’s a really beautiful old Jaguar car in the driveway, which our unhappy suitor washes and polishes throughout the song while Jacqui Abbott sits in the passenger seat singing.

Surely I can’t have been the only person to have thought…however unexciting that life sounds, I might be sorely tempted if it involved having a old-style Jaguar as beautiful as that one…

In fact the combination of that lovely Jaguar and Jacqui Abbott singing to me in the front seat might have been more than I could take. I might well have leapt in and headed off into the sunset…as indeed (spoiler alert) the object of her affection does by the end of this three-minute video.

Paul Heaton’s lyrics always make me laugh. I’ve never met him in person, but he strikes me as someone who’s always got a twinkle in his eye and a wry remark to hand, delivered with a perfectly straight face, so you’re never quite sure if he’s being serious or not.

I’m sure that’s one of the reasons I enjoy The Beautiful South…and indeed Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott’s more recent collaborations…so much. I had an old boss who could do that perfectly…once I got used to him, he was great fun to be with, although it was a little unsettling at first until I worked out his modus operandi…

Let’s face it, apart from Paul Heaton there are very few lyricists around who would write lyrics like this for a UK Top 10 hit…

The Beautiful South had big hit singles with Briana Corrigan as the female lead vocalist before Jacqui Abbott joined the band… “A Song For Whoever” and “A Little Time” reached Number Two and Number One in the charts respectively.

However The Beautiful South’s “Blue Is The Colour” album and their follow-up “Quench”…which contained the Number Two single “Perfect 10”…played a significant role in defining The Beautiful South’s sound for the British record-buying public. Both “Blue Is The Colour” and “Quench” were Number One albums in the UK and the single releases from those albums still receive plenty of airplay.

The irresistible combination of Paul Heaton’s wry, satirical lyrics, Dave Rotheray’s wonderful jangly guitars and the warm, velvety-smooth voice of Jacqui Abbott sold a lot of records.

But you can always sense considerable nervousness from radio DJs when they line up “Don’t Marry Her” as the next tune…they know they’re just one push of a button away from ending their careers if they click the album version of the song on their screen instead of the radio-friendly single. You sense they don’t completely relax until “Don’t Marry Her” gets through the first chorus without destroying their careers…

Perhaps that added frisson is what makes “Don’t Marry Her” one of my favourite Beautiful South songs, and indeed one of my favourite songs of the 1990s.

You might need to listen to this track twice…once for the humour in the lyrics and once to fully appreciate Jacqui Abbott’s velvety-smooth voice…but please do listen to this great song from (gulp) nearly quarter of a century ago. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Sadly, Spotify only has the non-radio friendly version so I haven’t linked to that as I normally would at this point. If you’re especially interested, it’s not difficult to find on that platform or elsewhere, but the radio version on YouTube is just as good…maybe even better…so I’ve linked to that below instead.

Here’s The Beautiful South with “Don’t Marry Her”…

Without words, it’s just a nice tune. Add words — now you’ve got a song. And songs can change your world. I write about some that changed mine.

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