Jimmy Somerville’s post-Bronski Beat group took their name from the group of French revolutionaries who held Paris between 18 March and 28 May in 1871.
Somerville formed The Communards in 1985 with classically trained pianist Richard Coles. Many assumed the new group would take an even more determined political stance than the Bronskis’ gay activism.
The new group participated heavily in the Socialist Red Wedge movement but graphics aside, you would never have known it from their records.
The first Communards release was the disco-styled You Are My World which reached the UK Top 30. The follow-up, Disenchanted, was another minor hit, and their self-titled debut album climbed to #2.
In September 1986, the group unexpectedly reached #1 with an over-the-top revival of Don’t Leave Me This Way (a 1977 hit for Thelma Houston). The song was most memorable for the vocal interplay between the falsetto of Somerville and the husky tones of guest singer Sarah Jane Morris.
Her statuesque presence added much to the group’s live appeal, especially when dancing alongside the diminutive Somerville.
A further UK Top 10 hit followed with So Cold The Night.
After touring extensively, the group issued a second album, Red, produced by Stephen Hague. A series of singles were culled from the album, including Tomorrow (their comment on wife-beating), which reached #23.
The group returned to the Top 5 with a stirring revival of the Gloria Gaynor tune, Never Can Say Goodbye.
In 1988, they registered two more minor UK hits with For a Friend, and There’s More To Love. With their fusion of disco-revival and falsetto pop, The Communards proved to be one of the more accomplished new acts of the mid-late 80s and seemed likely to enjoy further success in the new decade.
As with Bronski Beat, however, Somerville showed a restlessness with the British music scene and wound down the group’s activities, after which he went solo.
His first solo album maintained the non-stop modern dance momentum with catchy hi-NRG grooves and included a version of Sylvester’s You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) before relocating to San Francisco.