Playing electronic instruments and singing openly gay lyrics in a shrill falsetto, this London trio burst onto a complacent music scene in 1984.
Scottish-born Jimmy Somerville had a memorably piercing voice and the duo of Larry Steinbachek and Steve Bronski (born Steve Forrest) played a powerful brand of electro techno-dance music, (including a monster version of the Donna Summer hit I Feel Love).
After only nine gigs they were offered a recording contract with music journalist Paul Morley’s ZTT label, but turned it down, saying he wanted to market them on the basis of their sexuality (he signed Frankie Goes to Hollywood instead).
They signed instead with London Records, which released their records on the Forbidden Fruit label.
Bronski Beat took two singles, Why? (dedicated to playwright Drew Griffiths who was murdered in a homophobic attack in 1984) and Smalltown Boy into the Top 10 and their debut LP The Age of Consent into the Top Five.
Following tensions within the group, Somerville left in the summer of 1985 and Bronski and Steinbachek drafted in a character by the name of John Jon (real name, John Foster) – a competent but far less distinctive singer.
While the songs continued to address gay issues, the lyrics became vague and subtle enough to be overlooked by casual listeners.
The group had two more Top 20 singles, Hit That Perfect Beat (1985) – which featured in the movie Letter To Brezhnev – and C’mon C’mon (1986) as well as a successful album, Truthdare Doubledare (1986).
When Foster left, Bronski Beat went through several vocalists – including Jonathan Hellyer when they toured the US and Europe – before disbanding in 1995.
Larry Steinbachek moved to Amsterdam and continued to make music and worked on various stage musicals. He died in December 2016 after a short battle with cancer. He was 56.
Steve Bronski, the group’s guiding light, kept the memories alive by teaming up with singer Stephen Granville and “programmer” Ian Donaldson – who had played keyboards with the band in the 1990s – to rework The Age of Consent, retitled The Age of Reason, in 2017.
Bronski died in December 2021, aged 61, following a fire at his home.
Steve Bronski (Steve Forrest)
John Jon (John Foster)