The second single from Suede's Coming Up album, this song's working title was "Dead Leg" after bassist Mat Osman threatened to give new guitarist Richard Oakes a dead leg if he was unable to write a Top 10 single. Oakes reached into his back pocket and came up with a riff that he'd had for a long time. He and co-writer vocalist Brett Anderson then built the whole song around it.
According to an interview with NME, they tried it on 20 different guitars before they were happy with the final recording.
It was worth the effort: the song did reach the UK Top 10, peaking at #8.
Brett Anderson told NME his lyrics were intended "to be a celebration of the madness of our lives." The title was changed from "Dead Leg" to "The Beautiful Scum" but Anderson thought that "was a bit too marginal as a title. It was a bit odd and sounded like it was trying a bit too hard so I changed it to 'Beautiful Ones.' It's just a list of craziness I suppose."
The video was directed by Pedro Romhanyi, who had filmed the clip for Suede's 1993 single, "Animal Nitrate." That one caused some controversy when it was banned for its depiction of two men engaging in a kiss, but this visual was more straightforward featuring the band shot in black and white performing the song, interspersed with some cutaways. Asked for his memories of the video, Osman said:
"I think it's a really typical '90s video in that, we look good in it, we're playing the song, there are a couple of cutaways, and it probably cost £100,000. It's OK, it's a nice video, it shows what we looked like at the time and captures some of the excitement of the song."