Initially, losing their singer didn’t seem to affect Bronski Beat’s prospects. Their first single without him, released in the autumn of 1985, was Hit That Perfect Beat, a Top 10 hit. Meanwhile, Somerville’s new partnership, The Communards (initially billed as The Communards/Jimmy Somerville-Richard Coles), only managed #30 with their first single, You Are My World. Both acts issued follow-up singles in the spring of 1986 with similar results: Bronski Beat made #20 with C’Mon C’Mon while The Communards improved on their previous chart performance by just one position with the perhaps prophetically-titled Disenchanted. (As it spent fewer weeks in the charts than their debut, it probably sold fewer copies overall.) Finally, though, fortunes were reversed when it came to albums. Bronski Beat’s Truthdare, Doubledare was issued first, in May ‘86, and reached #18. But it charted for fewer than two months and had disappeared by the time Somerville’s and Coles’ Communards appeared in July, beginning a 45-week run that would see it make the Top 10. This was a comparable performance to that of the first Bronski album on which Somerville had featured (The Age Of Consent), which also made the Top 10 and was an album chart fixture for a whole year.
Somerville certainly knew how to annoy the mainstream media, so maybe that’s why the initial response to The Communards was muted. Naming their duo after a Parisian socialist movement active towards the end of the Franco-Prussian war probably didn’t help; neither did publicity photographs of Coles and Somerville waving red flags. The reversed ‘R’ in their name on the cover of their album was one step too close to the Kremlin for some, as well. “Actually, I’m more or less the same in my political stance and interests as I was when I was with Bronski Beat,” Somerville said at the time Communards appeared in the shops. “But Richard, he’s more political than a dozen Larrys or Steves. I’m definitely not a communist, I’m anything but.”
Coles admitted that the name was “all intended to be quite tongue-in-cheek. The last thing we see ourselves doing is supporting the Soviet Union. But at the same time, we are socialists, and that is very important to us.” To that end, they had contributed to the first ‘Red Wedge’ tour at the beginning of the year with other stars sympathetic to their political leanings, such as The Style Council (and Bronski Beat, as it happened), the purpose being to start to engage young people in politics prior to the next General Election. Given their beliefs, Smash Hits asked how they felt about “earning loads of cash”. “Lovely!” said Coles. “For a whole year I was guilt-ridden about the idea that I was going to make money. But one day I just said to myself, ‘why feel so guilty?’,” said Somerville. “Oh yes, tomorrow I’d give it all up, take up arms for the revolution, I’d hand it all over and I’d be quite happy simply getting paid a wage, just like someone in a factory. But the way things go, it just doesn’t work like that.”
It would take a cover version of Don’t Leave Me This Way, in the summer of 1986, to give The Communards their biggest hit, so they could at least look at it this way: they were making money for the writers in royalties, it wasn’t all going in their own pockets. The following year brought their second biggest hit, Never Can Say Goodbye, another cover version outperforming their own repertoire. This was a shame as the songs they wrote themselves, of which Tomorrow is a prime example, were infinitely superior. Still, the cover versions helped to shift albums which in turn led to more people hearing the fine original material.
NEW SINGLES on sale from Aug. 31
The MIGHTY WAH! (Pete Wylie) Weekends (How Come We Always End Up Here?) (Eternal BEG117)
The COMMUNARDS (Jimmy Somerville) Tomorrow (London LON143)