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