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SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG :#43 : BRONSKI BEAT

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I’ve featured the singles on many an occasion in the past, both here and on the old blog.

Bronski Beat were a hugely important group.  They weren’t, by definition, a Scottish act.  But frontman Jimmy Somerville is from these parts and I’m always happy to feature them here.

From the incredibly brave and groundbreaking LP The Age Of Consent:-

mp3 : Bronski Beat – No More War

Still resonates 30+ years later.

A LAZY STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE : 45 45s AT 45 (27)

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ORIGINALLY POSTED ON WEDNESDAY 17 APRIL 2008
AND AGAIN ON SATURDAY 7 SEPTEMBER 2013

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I’ve written about Bronski Beat before. And I make no apologies of repeating what I said then – it really is all too easy to forget how brave Jimmy Somerville and Bronski Beat were for being so open about their way of life and their views. Their records, and those of such as the Pet Shop Boys and Frankie Goes To Hollywood took the celebration of queer culture into the mainstream, and made many people realise, probably for the first time, that homophobia was every bit as distasteful as racism and apartheid.

This was a band that came from out of nowhere. They inked a deal with London Records after a mere handful of gigs, and the debut single, Smalltown Boy, sold by the barrowload, hitting #3 in the UK charts in May 1984. It also made the Top 50 in the USA and Top 10 in Australia.

A trio of follow-up singles and the debut LP all sold in great quantities and the band seemed set for a long and successful career. But out of the blue, vocalist Jimmy Somerville (and acknowledged by everyone as the band spokesman) announced he was quitting the band to pursue an outlet that would allow him to be ‘more political.’ In due course, he would find massive success, including #1 records, with Communards. He also became part of Red Wedge, the conglomeration of musicians who campaigned for the Labour Party at the 1987 UK general election.

As for Bronski Beat – they did manage a couple of hits with new vocalist John Foster (who in retrospect sounds awfully like Andy Bell who would later come to prominence with Erasure), but they were very much overshadowed by the success of Communards. They soldiered on for a few more years, ever more fading into obscurity from the mainstream.

There’s just something about the early Bronski Beat records that make them sound so special. There’s a bit of the inventiveness of Giorgio Moroder in there, along with the pop-savvy touch of Human League and Heaven 17. There’s also the choir-boy falsetto vocals of Somerville that recalled, in some ways, Russell Mael from Sparks. Theirs were records that struck a chord with so many people, from the hard-core gay militants to the indie-kids and the disco-divas with their handbags and stiletto heels.

The look adopted by Jimmy Somerville for the video to the debut single is one that has become synonymous with young gay men in the early 80s. If you want proof, look no further than the recent BBC cop/sci-fi series Ashes to Ashes which was set in 1981, but in an episode centring on a young gay man, that particular character was dressed straight out of a Bronskis video from 1984.

That’s the impact and legacy of this one song –

mp3 : Bronski Beat – Smalltown Boy (extended version)

 

BITEX 1, BITEX 2, BITEX 3

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NPG x87636; Bronski Beat (Steve Bronski; Jimmy Somerville; Larry Steinbachek) by Eric Watson

The title of today’s posting refers to the catalogue numbers given to the 12″ versions of the first three singles released back in 1984 by Bronski Beat.

It is impossible not to write about this band without acknowledging how groundbreaking they were in terms of using pop music to make salient and hard-hitting points about homophobia. Tom Robinson a few years earlier during the post-punk new wave era had openly come out and indeed had somehow managed to get his anthem Glad To Be Gay played on BBC Radio 1, but it was still an era when pop stars more or less hid their ‘sordid secrets’ (copyright every tabloid newspaper of the era), so when Steve Bronski, Jimmy Somerville and Larry Steinbacheck put their queer lifestyle and culture right into the heart of the mainstream it was something to behold.

They, along with the likes of Marc Almond of Soft Cell, Holly Johnston and Paul Rutherford of Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Andy Bell of Erasure, were at the forefront of driving home a message that homophobia was every bit as unacceptable as those causes such as racism and apartheid that brought millions onto the streets to march in protest.

One of the most remarkable things about Bronski Beat is how quickly they rose from seemingly nowhere. They inked a deal with London Records after less than ten gigs and a matter of months after forming they found their debut single, Smalltown Boy – the tale of a gay teenager having to flee his family and hometown on account of nobody accepting him for what he was) went Top 3 in the UK, The song which has all the inventiveness of Giorgio Moroder along with the pop-savvy touch of Human League and Heaven 17, had huge cross-over appeal and was loved by the hard-core gay militants, the indie-kids and the disco-divas with their handbags and stiletto heels in equal numbers.

As a follow-up, the band went real HI-NRG as Why? lyrically asked questions about anti-gay prejudices across society on the top of a tune that was tailor-made for radio and clubs. It reached #6 in the charts and still sounds remarkably fresh and lively more than 30 years on.

The third single was a cover version that was came after the release of the debut LP Age of Consent, a record that reached #4 in the album charts. It Ain’t Necessarily So originally dated back to 1935 having been co-written by George and Ira Gershwin as part of the opera Porgy and Bess. A lyrical attack on the authenticity of the stories in the bible, it certainly made for an interesting pre-Xmas single from Bronski Beat but still managed to climb to #15 in the charts and so round off a stunning year for the band who just 12 months earlier were complete unknowns.

And here’s all three of those single in their 12″ glory plus their b-sides:-

mp3 : Bronski Beat – Smalltown Boy
mp3 : Bronski Beat – Infatuation/Memories

mp3 : Bronski Beat – Why?
mp3 : Bronski Beat – Cadillac Car

mp3 : Bronski Beat – It Ain’t Necessarily So
mp3 : Bronski Beat – Close To The Edge
mp3 : Bronski Beat – Red Dance

Some of the production tricks to extend the tracks out into extended territory now sound a bit naff but I hope nonetheless that you’ll still enjoy them

A NOVEL WAY TO CELEBRATE YOUR 45th BIRTHDAY

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RCA-Portable-Record-Player1

A guest posting from long-time reader Jim Chambers

So… the vinyl villain inspired me – he didn’t know it but I can’t thank him enough for planting this particular seed in my mind and he is indirectly reaponsible for my hangover a few weeks ago. It was his 45 45s series that got me thinking…

I’ve just celebrated my 45th birthday so I’m of the generation when a 7″ single really meant something. I threw a party – the first house party since I was a student I think. (You know the way you get slightly precious about the carpet and all that.)

I invited 45 people to my house. The only condition was they had to bring their favourite 7″ single. I hired decks, a smoke machine and strobes (it was a package – honest I didn’t get carried away)…

Everyone got into the spirit of it, bringing along some absolute classics. And everyone is a secret DJ – given the chance. Even if they want to play Remember You’re A Womble. My mates spoke about what they were going to play in their ‘set’ as if they were headlining the dance tent at Glastonbury, which was all quite amusing. The night got a little hazy after the third round of sambucas but I can remember a good friend of mine and me dancing away and shouting all the words to Lost Weekend at each other much to the astonishment of everyone else. If only I’d remembered my schoolwork as well as I could remember lyrics…

There was serious drinking, dancing, grown men hugging each other and much laughter.

And obviously when you get to ‘a certain age’ it’s unusual to see so many of your friends in the same room – it’s normally reserved for weddings etc so personally the night was a sheer delight. It wasn’t without its moments… The occasional row etc but nothing too serious. The carpet didn’t get ruined, nothing got damaged and the neighbours didn’t complain so all in all a great, memorable night.

The records I’ve chosen are all Scottish (in honour of JC) and all went down well on the night.

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & the Commotions – Lost Weekend
mp3 : Bronski Beat – Smalltown Boy (12″ version)
mp3 : Big Country – In A Big Country (LP version)

So thanks JC for inspiring me and thanks for allowing me to share the story. My friends are now all looking forward to a 78s party which I expect will be a much more sedate affair.

JIM

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SINGLE (Part 26)

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Back on 8 October 2011, I started a series called ‘Saturday’s Scottish Single’.  The aim was to feature one 45 or CD single by a Scottish singer or band with the proviso that the 45 or CD single was in the collection. I had got to Part 60-something and as far as Kid Canaveral when the rug was pulled out from under TVV.

I’ll catch up soon enough by featuring 5 at a time from the archives..except that the single which was Part 26 is so important it is being featured on its own with words I had penned back in April 2008 when It was part of the 45 45s at 45 rundown:-

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I’ve written about Bronski Beat before. And I make no apologies of repeating what I said then – it really is all too easy to forget how brave Jimmy Somerville and his bandmates were were for being so open about their way of life and their views. Their records, and those of such as Pet Shop Boys and Frankie Goes To Hollywood took the celebration of queer culture into the mainstream, and made many people realise, probably for the first time, that homophobia was every bit as distasteful as racism and apartheid.

This was a band that came from out of nowhere. They inked a deal with London Records after a mere handful of gigs, and the debut single, Smalltown Boy, sold by the barrowload, hitting #3 in the UK charts in May 1984. It also made the Top 50 in the USA and Top 10 in Australia.

A trio of follow-up singles and the debut LP all sold in great quantities and the band seemed set for a long and successful career. But out of the blue, vocalist Jimmy Somerville (and acknowledged by everyone as the band spokesman) announced he was quitting the band to pursue an outlet that would allow him to be ‘more political.’ In due course, he would find massive success, including #1 records, with Communards. He also became part of Red Wedge, the conglomeration of musicians who campaigned for the Labour Party at the 1987 UK general election.

As for Bronski Beat – they did manage a couple of hits with new vocalist John Foster (who in retrospect sounds awfully like Andy Bell who would later come to prominence with Erasure), but they were very much overshadowed by the success of Communards. They soldiered on for a few more years, ever more fading into obscurity from the mainstream.

There’s just something about the early Bronski Beat records that make them sound so special. There’s a bit of the inventiveness of Giorgio Moroder in there, along with the pop-savvy touch of Human League and Heaven 17. There’s also the choir-boy falsetto vocals of Somerville that recalled, in some ways, Russell Mael from Sparks. Theirs were records that struck a chord with so many people, from the hard-core gay militants to the indie-kids and the disco-divas with their handbags and stiletto heels.

The look adopted by Jimmy Somerville for the video to the debut single is one that has become synonymous with young gay men in the early 80s. If you want proof, look no further than the recent BBC cop/sci-fi series Ashes to Ashes which was set in 1981, but in an episode centring on a young gay man, that particular character was dressed straight out of a Bronskis video from 1984.

That’s the impact and legacy of this one song –

mp3 : Bronski Beat – Smalltown Boy (12″ version)

And here’s the b-sides:-

mp3 : Bronski Beat – Infatuation

mp3 : Bronski Beat – Memories

PS to last week’s Scottish singles ‘effort’

I messed up with links to the Bloomsday single.  So sorry.

mp3 : Bloomsday – Strange Honey

mp3 : Bloomsday – Night Storm