Knowing that Paul Heaton of Beautiful South lives in the next neighbourhood to mine gave me the creeps even before I’d heard his latest warble, Manchester . You can read the lyrics here, but just look at the artwork; a bus station that’s not even in Manchester.
Here we have two very old buses, services 33 and W3, decked out in a livery that dates the pic to between 1974 and 1981. The W3 is no more, but the 33 continues to serve Wigan. So that’s where we are; an admittedly grim fringe of the county of Greater Manchester at its mid-to-late 1970s worst.
It’s no coincidence that Brian & Michael’s supposed tribute to LS Lowry is a contemporary of this photo. They sat at number one for two weeks a couple of years after the death of one of our greatest artists and alleged that, ‘he painted matchstalk [not matchstick] men and matchstalk cats and dogs’.
Paul Heaton probably thinks he’s ever so clever; embracing a negative outdated image of Manchester and saying that what you hate is what makes us great. But just as Brian & Michael destroyed Lowry’s reputation by portraying him as a mere populist, a Jack Vettriano if you like, he just reinforces old stereotypes.
Anyway. If Paul Heaton’s so fond of grim northern towns, why doesn’t he slink off back to Hull?