Saturday, January 16, 2016

Philip Larkin and the Beautiful South ... "Love and Death in Hull."

Lately I've been fixated on video documentaries about writers and poets.

One evening, perusing the advertisement-littered back alleys of YouTube, my search yielded Love and Death in Hull, a biography of Philip Larkin (1922 - 1985), about whom I confess to knowing very little.

My attention was drawn to geography. Where is Hull?

The port city's full name is Kingston upon Hull, located in the northern English region of Yorkshire and the Humber. Hull is situated on the River Hull at the Humber Estuary, with the North Sea less than thirty miles away.

At one time, Hull was a booming place, but until very recently, it had devolved into what we Americans categorize as "rust belt," the type of city suffering grievously from post-war industrial decline and its ensuing socioeconomic degradation.

The Larkin documentary directly addresses this reality: Of all the places in England a poet might choose to live and work, why on earth pick Hull?

Throughout the screening, I kept thinking to myself that Hull had some other connotation in my inner world, and finally it dawned on me: The defunct English pop/rock band The Beautiful South (1988 - 2007), as emerging from the remains of the Housemartins ... which came from Hull.

Paul Heaton and David Hemingway had initially come to attention as (respectively) the lead singer and "singing drummer" of the successful Hull jangle pop band The Housemartins, who had scored seven UK Top 40 singles and two Top 10 albums between 1986 and 1988. (Heaton was with the Housemartins for their entire existence; Hemingway joined in time for their second and final album.) The band were known for blending overt socialist politics and a form of Christianity, having baited the British monarchy, the building industry and South African apartheid in their songs as well as including gospel elements in their music. The Housemartins often claimed to have set a fixed lifespan for themselves, and the members duly brought the band to an end in 1988 at the height of its success. Heaton and Hemingway immediately began work on setting up a new band, naming it "The Beautiful South" as a sarcastic comment on their staunch Northern roots.

Yes, it pleases me very much to connect Philip Larkin with The Beautiful South. Fortunately, a friend once gifted me with copies of the band's albums, and so catch-up listening is assured. Perhaps the library has a volume of Larkin's.

1 comment:

Randy Smith said...

Collected Poems
Contributor(s): Larkin, Philip (Author), Thwaite, Anthony (Editor)

ISBN: 0374529205 EAN: 9780374529208
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux (View Publisher's Titles)
US SRP:$ 17.00 US - (Discount:REG)
Binding: Paperback
Pub Date: April 01, 2004
Copyright Date: 2004
Publisher Marketing:
One of the best-known and best-loved poets of the English-speaking world, Philip Larkin had only a small number of poems published during his lifetime. "Collected Poems" brings together not only all his books--"The North Ship," "The Less Deceived," "The Whitsun Weddings," and "High Windows-"-but also his uncollected poems from 1940 to 1984.
This new edition reflects Larkin's own ordering for his poems and is the first collection to present the body of his work with the organization he preferred. Preserving everything he published in his lifetime, the new "Collected Poems" is an indispensable contribution to the legacy of an icon of twentieth-century poetry.