The whirlwind success Bronski Beat experienced during its mid-'80s beginnings took a major toll on singer Jimmy Somerville, who surprised a lot of people with his decision to leave the group after only one full-length album. Thanks to the popularity of singles like "Smalltown Boy" and a cover of Donna Summer's "I Feel Love," both of which showcased Somerville's singular falsetto, Bronski Beat found itself at the forefront of several countries' pop scenes. Though Somerville's departure from the group left many wondering what would become of one of the gay community's most prominent figures, the singer and songwriter didn't take long to resurface with classically trained pianist and longtime friend Richard Coles. Initially named the Committee, Somerville and Coles eventually changed names to avoid confusion with another similarly named outfit. They opted to become the Communards, in tribute to a sect of 19th century French Republicans. Stylistically, the duo balanced celebratory and sophisticated dance-pop with more subdued material that played to Coles' strengths while allowing the versatility of Somerville's voice to come to light. Covers of two disco classics, Thelma Houston's "Don't Leave Me This Way" and Gloria Gaynor's "Never Can Say Goodbye," hit the Top Five of the club chart in the U.S. At the other end of the spectrum, "Reprise" was one of the sharpest attacks on Margaret Thatcher; "For a Friend" was a powerful song written for a close friend of the duo whose life was taken by AIDS. Both 1987's Communards and the following year's Red performed well commercially, spawning a number of minor hits in addition to those mentioned above. In 1988, Coles opted to leave music to be a religious commentator. Somerville responded by going solo; by 1989, he already had Read My Lips, his first album, out in the shops. He recorded sporadically throughout the following decade.
© Andy Kellman /TiVo
© Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 1, 1986 | London Music Stream
Despite the inability of the music to live up to the high standards of Jimmy Somerville's ridiculously skilled falsetto voice, the Communards' first album achieved platinum status in several countries. Somerville's spirited duet with Sarah Jane Morris on a cover of Thelma Houston's "Don't Leave Me This Way" helped push the record into the Top Ten on the U.K. charts, and a decent blend of other dancefloor fillers with Richard Coles-centric piano ballads lends variety for the ears that can't take a full album's worth of dance music. Both "Breadline Britain" and "Reprise" continue Somerville's activist ideals; the latter has to be one of the sharpest dissections of Margaret Thatcher. Compared to the following Red, much of the duo's self-titled debut sounds flat, lacking punch -- all the more surprising from a Mike Thorne (Wire, Marc Almond) production. [The remastered version adds a lengthy mix of "Don't Leave Me This Way."] © Andy Kellman /TiVo
Pop - Released January 1, 1987 | London Music Stream
Opting to have Pet Shop Boys and New Order producer Stephen Hague lend his skills to half of their second record proved to be a smart move for Jimmy Somerville and Richard Coles. Red tops their respectable debut in nearly every aspect. Increasingly melodic, increasingly polished, and increasingly tight, the front-to-back strong album is a defining Euro-dance record of the latter half of the '80s. The re-working this record is based around is Gloria Gaynor's version of "Never Can Say Goodbye," which stands apart from any other recorded rendition thanks to Somerville's distinct vocals. Again, the poppy disco is broken up by the occasional piano workout, and Somerville continues to bounce around with differing lyrical subjects, including the gripping "For a Friend," written for an AIDS victim close to him and Coles. The two other singles from the record, "Tomorrow" and "There's More to Love Than Boy Meets Girl," are stronger than anything on the debut. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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