Steve Bronski: 1960-2021

The classic Bronski Beat lineup [L-R] Steve Bronski, Larry Steinbachek, Jimmy Somerville

There was another significant death in this immediate period that came through as I was already writing the last PPM obituary. I can’t pretend that I have a lot of Bronski Beat in the Record Cell; my esteem is for their less-popular second album, but Steve Bronski’s death at 61 is particularly early, and his standing in the LGBT musical community will always be profound.

When Bronski Beat debuted with the powerful “Smalltown Boy,” it was a wake up call for queer pop. While there had been no shortage of queer artists before then, at best fans had to make do with larger than life queer kabuki that had little to do with the day-today lives of any fans [Bowie] or else coded messages and subtexts. With many gay performers avoiding the elephant in the room entirely. In that context, the debut album “Age Of Consent” was a powerful and up-front statement; even if I can never embrace it due to my issues with Jimmy Sommerville’s singing style. That falsetto was like nails on a chalkboard to me, no matter how much I liked the songs.

At the time I wrestled with the disconnect between artists saying important things in styles that I enjoyed and the voice of the singer. In the early 80s, I was a pushover for the hi-NRG style. I one made myself a mix tape of it, drawing from the acts in my Record Cell because that relentless energy was infectious. Fortunately, by that time I was able to include Bronski Beat since, as my luck would have it, Jimmy Sommerville departed the band for greener pastures fairly quickly, giving me a chance to have a Bronski Beat album with a very different vocalist in John Jøn, so I immediately bought the “Truthdare Doubledare” album when it came out and it’s been in the Record Cell ever since.

I was immediately won over by the storming, last gasp of hi-NRG that was “Hit That Perfect Beat” just as House Music would sweep hi-NRG off the stage in the same way that it did with other dance genres. But following that album, Bronski Beat seemed to just disappear. There was no internet than and I only just found out that John Jøn left the band after that album in 1987. I remember that Brosnki Beat resurfaced in 1995 on the German ZYX label; a logical place if a bit downscale for a band that had their impact. But I’ve never heard that album, or anything with the Bronski Beat name since then. I only just saw that Steve Steinbachek had died in 2016 from cancer, leaving only the various vocalists from the band still walking the earth. So today let’s listen to “Smalltown Boy” in whatever version we have [I’m partial to the B.E.F. cover on “Dark.”] and imagine what a galvanizing experience it must have been for any LGBT music fan to hear that song going to the top of the charts in 1984.

-30-

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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3 Responses to Steve Bronski: 1960-2021

  1. Taffy says:

    I rather love Jimmy Somerville’s voice, but can see how it’s not for everyone. Anyway, was gutted to hear about the death of Bronski, as The Age of Consent was a pivotal album for me in 1984/85. To gay kids in the 80’s, it was a literal lifeline. Smalltown Boy is the crowning jewel, but the entire album struck a chord. I followed Somerville’s career with the Communards and solo, but thought Truthdare Doubledare a decent effort too. I was saddened by the untimely death of Steinbachek, but (perhaps shallowly) Bronski’s hits harder, if only due to him having lent the band his name and been its only constant. I’m DJing my monthly indie party tonight and Smalltown Boy will get an airing.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Taffy – I know! The record was packed with vital info for an audience that needed it; not the least of which was the 24 hour phone number of the London Gay Switchboard hotline in the dead wax of the UK 12” single! I had no idea until I read The Guardian’s obituary. What a great idea.

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  2. I liked the whole of Age of Consent a great deal, and I think the Communards contributed possibly the greatest 12″ ever with their cover of “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” but Truthdare Doubledare was another fine record and I do get that for some people Sommerville’s high falsetto was off-putting. There were a few reissues and remakes of the AoC hits after the band broke up but real lightning only struck twice with Bronski Beat.

    Still — their well-timed kick-in-the-doors celebration of queer music assures their immortality in the story of openly LGBTQ+ positive music.

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