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, All Music Guide