The band was formed in 1983 by Paul Heaton (vocals), Stan Cullimore (guitar), Ted Key (bass) and Chris Lang (drums). The band's membership changed quite a lot over the years. Ted Key was replaced by Norman Cook — the future Fatboy Slim — and drummer Chris Lang was replaced by Hugh Whitaker, former drummer with The Gargoyles, who in turn was replaced with Dave Hemingway.
In 1986, having recorded two John Peel sessions, the band broke through with the single "Happy Hour", which reached No.3 in the UK charts. The single's success was helped by a claymation animated pop promo of a type that was in vogue at the time, featuring a cameo by TV comedian Phill Jupitus, who toured with the band under the stage name "Porky the Poet". At the end of the same year, they narrowly missed out on the Christmas No.1 single with a cover version of Isley Jasper Isley's "Caravan of Love", when it was knocked off the top spot by Jackie Wilson's "Reet Petite" on 23 December.