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Jimmy Somerville

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38-year-old Glaswegian Jimmy Somerville first shot to fame back in 1984 with groundbreaking band Bronski Beat. "Smalltown Boy[?]", their debut single, made the top three in Britain and was a huge hit all over Europe. It not only introduced the world to Jimmy's unusual "falsetto squeal" as he once described it, but confronted them with a lyric addressing the isolation and rejection felt by a provincial gay youth forced into leaving town.

Although not the first pop song to deal with this topic, the chart-friendly early 1980s electronic dance sound and the everyday ordinariness and honesty of the three performers made "Smalltown Boy" the biggest obviously gay record there'd ever been.

Bronski Beat went on to have several lively pop dance hits in '84 and '85 including a cover of former gay icon Donna Summer's "I Feel Love[?]", on which they joined forces with Marc Almond[?].

A year of hit records across Europe and the UK, live performances, outspoken interviews and the pressures of new-found fame took its toll and, something of a reluctant star, he left Bronski Beat for a rest. In a matter of months, however, he was back forming The Communards with old friend and keyboardist Richard Coles. Over the next three years The Communards enjoyed a string of hits from their two big selling albums—Communards ( 1986 ) and Red ( 1987 ).

Jimmy's and Richard's material was a mixture of good old fashioned "gay" disco and more bluesy, acoustic, political and social comment songs, both of which made a strong impact in the Thatcherite 1980s and perfectly reflected the two sides of Jimmy's personality as well. One moment The Communards were hurtling to the number one spot, a position they held for four weeks in September 1986, with an energetic, hedonistic cover version of the Philly soul classic "Don't Leave Me This Way[?]", the next stunning audiences into silent awe with their touching lament for a loved one lost to AIDS, "For A Friend".

At the end of '88 Richard, a former church organist, left to pursue a career in the media as a religious commentator. Jimmy then embarked on a solo career which saw him chalk up another five hit singles and two albums; Read My Lips (1989) and The Singles Collection (1990). These included another stirring disco cover of Sylvester[?]'s "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)", which made the top five, and Francoise Hardy's "Comment Te Dire Adieu", a duet in French with June Miles Kingston[?]. He also contributed to the AIDS awareness project album Red Hot and Blue, recording a cover of Cole Porter's "From This Moment On".

Jimmy's continued outspokenness on gay issues didn't prevent his records being played and selling in huge quantities. His honesty as a gay performer almost certainly helped to pave the way.

Since he disappeared from the charts in 1991, Jimmy has deliberately taken time out of his high-profile celebrity existence to, as he puts it, live his life to the full as a gay man in the '90s. His new solo material draws, if anything, even more than before on his personal experiences and the periods of both elation and anger he has passed through in the last four years.

Although he has dabbled in some film work, appearing in Sally Potter's Orlando and setting up a gay film company "Normal Films", with Isaac Julien and others, to produce Postcards From America[?], which previewed at 1994's New York Film Festival[?], the singing voice has taken a long holiday.

"In the last few years" says Jimmy, "I've really lived life and discovered myself. I've also discovered what it's like to be a part of a peer group that's been touched by the grief and anger of AIDS, which has taken away several close friends. The new songs I've written deal with these very personal experiences of life, love, sex and death."

The album Dare To Love was released in June 1995 and is a typical rollercoaster mix of upbeat pop dance numbers and more serious songs exploring gay issues. The title track, about a man who loves a younger boy of 16 and is threatened with prison and persecution, is typically upfront and provides a topical link with his earlier material.

"It's still very much a pop album" enthuses Jimmy, "a bit of disco and some jazzy blues but basically just jolly pop, gay pop[?] if you like. I'm not going to come out with a pile of shit about being a mature artist now," he continues, "although I am more pleased with my vocals this time round. I've got more control over them than before and I wasn't scared to let go."

The first single from Dare To Love was "Heartbeat", released on January 16th 1995. It entered the UK charts at number 24 and was number one in the USA dance chart. The E-Smoove[?] and the Armand Van Helden[?] mixes are still being played in clubs today. This was followed by the fabulous cover version of Susan Cadogan[?]'s 1975 top four reggae hit Hurts So Good.

"It seemed such a great song to do," says Jimmy, "it's about putting up with anything, about being brave in the face of emotional and physical abuse[?] and bouncing back."

Hurts So Good stormed into the UK charts at number fifteen and was followed by an outstanding Top Of The Pops[?] performance. It was Europe's fourth-most-played record for four weeks. The next single By Your Side was released in late October '95 and was supported by a UK tour.

1996 saw Jimmy and his singers doing PAs around the world including such places as San Francisco, Beirut, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Canada and throughout Europe.

Jimmy was involved in a project called "Respect" which was organised by the TUC[?] in London; proceeds of the release of a single and a free festival, which was held on July 20th 1996, were donated to the Unite Against Racism[?] campaign.

Jimmy and his band also completed a European tour during the summer of '96 covering many of the summer festivals.

Aside from live work, Jimmy has collaborated on singles with the The Weathergirls[?] and Sparks. He has also worked on a BMG[?] project called The Heavens, written the title music for British TV series Glasgow Kiss and sung the part of a swallow in an children's animation of the Oscar Wilde story The Happy Prince filmed by Case Television[?] for Channel 4 UK which was shown on Christmas Day 1996.

In spring '97 Jimmy released a single on various European labels entitled "Safe"—the track was taken from the album Dare to Love and was remixed by Todd Terry[?] and DJ Tonka[?]. It reached no. 1 in the Spanish charts and was played around the rest of Europe.

This track is available on the following record labels, along with releases on various other labels and compilations:

Having left London Records[?], Jimmy then signed a new deal with Gut Records[?] in the summer of 1997 and a new single "Dark Sky" was released in September 1997. This track is quite different from anything he has done before and included mixes from Sure is Pure[?], Tony De Vit[?], Dillon and Dickins[?] and The Only Child[?].

This single "Dark Sky" is available on the following labels: (see discography for formats)

  • Gut Records - UK
  • SPV - Germany, Austria and Switzerland
  • Scandinavian Records - Scandinavia
  • Ginger Music (Tribute label) - Spain
  • Festival Records - Australia
  • RPM / Gallo - South Africa
  • FM - Greece.

Jimmy performed at Europride[?], Paris in June '97 and at the St. Christopher Street Day Parade[?] in Cologne in July '97 with a broken arm—he fell off his bicycle whilst cycling too fast down a hill in Hampstead Heath.

He took the words "Easily Broken" from the lyrics of the song "Dark Sky" and wrote them on his plaster for a photo shoot done for the single release.

During the summer of '97, along with writing and promoting, Jimmy appeared live with his backing singers at Summer Rites[?], London, Mardi Gras in Manchester, Blackpool, Glasgow, Barcelona and many other places.

He helped to raise awareness for the Hannover Lighthouse[?] by performing live at a gala benefit concert and filming a documentary which was televised in Germany. The Lighthouse is a rest place where HIV positive[?] and AIDS patients can stay. Jimmy spent time with patients and doctors and talked about the importance of such places and about their funding. The concert helped raise a contribution towards the funds needed to keep the Lighthouse open.

In the autumn, Jimmy performed at the Astoria[?] in London at the 10th Anniversary Party for the gay newspaper "The Pink Paper[?]" along with The Human League, Kylie Minogue, My Life Story[?], Heaven 17 and many others. He also sang at the Royal Albert Hall during the 1997 Stonewall event.

In early 1998, Jimmy travelled a little further afield to Australia where his single "Dark Sky" was being released on Festival Records[?], and performed live at The Metro Club[?] in Sydney with Adeva and Frankie Knuckles[?], and also at the Apollo Dance Festval[?] in Melbourne along with Ultra Nate[?], Daft Punk, Fluke[?], BBE[?], DJ Sneak[?] and Jeremy Healy[?]. Jimmy loved Sydney so much he stayed on for a few weeks' holiday. He was then approached to appear as a surprise guest at the famous Sydney Mardi Gras[?] festival and ended up closing the show by arriving on the middle of the stage via a trapdoor dressed only in a Freedom flag!—he sang an a cappella version of "Small Town Boy" and a full version of "Never Can Say Goodbye" to an audience which stretched back for miles.

Jimmy says it was the most moving live experience he's ever had!

Safely back at home in London, Jimmy spent the rest of 1998 writing new material with friend Sally Herbert[?] (of Banderas[?]) and completed recording and co-producing the album Manage The Damage early in 1999 with producer Ash Howes[?]. The first single, "Lay Down", was released on May 24th in the UK (and later in France and Australia) and has been remixed by 'Almighty', 'Sounds Of Life', 'Hoop' and 'Bonus'. "Something To Live For" was also released at the same time as a first single in other territories and was remixed by 'Sounds Of Life'. The video for "Something To Live For" was shot in Hamburg where Jimmy and some of the extras wore T-shirts bearing drug names used in combination treatment to coincide with the lyrics of the song.

The video for "Lay Down" was shot in London, one sequence being filmed in an amazing derelict ballroom in south London which hasn't changed since the 1800s. Performing at the benefit "Scotland Rocks For Kosovo[?]" was also a highlight in May.

The album followed in June and is available on the following labels: (see discography for formats)

  • Gut Records - UK
  • SPV - Germany, Austria and Switzerland
  • Musidisc - France
  • Scandinavian Records - Scandinavia
  • Blanco Y Negro - Spain
  • Festival Records - Australia
  • Planetworks - Greece
  • Instinct Records - USA
  • Rock Records - Japan
  • Next Era - Czech Republic / Slovakia
  • Records Express - Hungary.

Jimmy said of his new release: "The album is a rather eclectic selection of songs which I'm still interpreting for myself. 'Here I Am'—a song of death, God, an atheist, me and what if? 'Girl Falling Down' was written after reading a story in the paper about an everyday tragedy of a girl who's been robbed of any chance to have a life. People, society, the system had let her down. Abuse, violence, fear it's all she'd ever known and still no-one saw, heard, it's like she was invisible. Sadly her story is not unique. 'Lay Down' a song to the glory of oral...!!!! 'Dark Sky'—words of rejection. In all it's a collection of songs about life and love."

Throughout 1999 Jimmy performed all around Europe (Germany, France, Italy, Greece, Denmark & Sweden) including Christopher Street Day[?] in Berlin (July), Europride[?] in Stockholm (July) and Mermaid Pride[?] in Copenhagen (Aug). He also went on a six-day whirlwind tour of Australia in September.

In November Jimmy performed alongside George Michael, Boy George and Elton John and at The Royal Albert Hall in London for the Stonewall 'Equality Show' where he opened the evening with a version of "I'm Coming Out" and performed "For A Friend" with a string quartet.

During the millennium year of 2000, Jimmy continued to perform across Europe and especially in East Germany where he performed an emotional sold out show in Dresden (January) for the first time since the wall[?] came down. He also performed at a Baroque Viennese ball (February). "Manage The Damage" was released in the USA in January to subsequent wide critical acclaim. To support the release Jimmy embarked on a mini USA/Canadian tour in June, performing at many of the Pride festivals the highlight of which was San Francisco Pride[?] where he performed in the blistering heat to thousands of people. Other shows included a benefit in aid of the Matthew Shepard Foundation[?] (New York) and one at a gay resort in the semi-open air during a thunderstorm in Florida!

The tour also promoted the subsequent release of Root Beer, an exclusive EP featuring remixes and b-sides from Manage The Damage.

In August Jimmy released a new version of "Why" (Almighty Mixes) on Almighty Records in the UK and played a packed out show at G.A.Y.[?] in London's Astoria[?]. The CD also included a version of "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You" which has also been released as part of the Queer As Folk[?] 2 soundtrack out on Channel 4 Records. "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You" has also been released as a single by Atoll Music in France in March 2001.

Throughout 2000/2001 Jimmy was in the process of writing new material for his next album.

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