|History Bronski Beat|
The beginning of Bronski Beat by Steve Bronski
Bronski Beat happened whilst Jimmy Somerville and Connie Giannaris,
and Larry Steinbachek and Steve Bronski all lived
together with Jill Whisson in her 3 bedroomed flat, Lancaster House, in
Brixton, south east London where "Sex Gang Children" occupied
the apartment directly above, and in the flat below was Regine, a French
performance artist. Jills artwork was commissioned for the sleeves of
singles "Smalltown Boy" and "I Feel Love".
The name "Bronski Beat" was a pun on the group name of "Roxy
Music", and suggested by Steve.> Agreed by Jimmy, Larry and Steve
one evening whilst traveling on the London Underground system on the way
to an informal dinner party held by a friend, Gena, a silver jewelry designer.
A previous name for the act was "God Forbid". The novel by Gunter
Grasse, The Tin Drum, was inspirational to Steve and was where he found
and chose his "stage name" The "Bronski Beat" name
was just an fleeting idea and not debated over and didn't mean anything.
It just had a pleasing sound and seemed appropriate. Oscar, the main character
in the story, would scream at very high pitch and
smash glass to manipulate his family to get his own way, and indeed, later
this audio idea found its way onto the single "Tell Me Why".
The sound, smashing of glass, on the recording was of empty Perrier bottles,
thrown into a corner of the NYC recording studio, recorded and sampled
bands producer Mike Thorne.
Bronski Beat became a bona-fide "band" after Jimmy saw an article in London's premier gay newspaper at the time,"Capital Gay", stating that the Greater London Council (G.L.C.) were funding a Lesbian and Gay Arts and Music Festival called "September In the Pink". Bursting into Larry's room and brandishing the paper, a very excited Jimmy demanded that they do something for the festival. All attended a 1st meeting at the Oval House, a local community center, with Colin Bell of London Records and others residing on the committee, to whom the band played their demo tape and were invited to participate in the festival. Other artistes who participated in the festival included Toby Jug, Abandon Your Tutu, Protein, Steve Swindles, and the lovely Sheila Smith, who, incidentally, performed some of her own songs during the first few Bronski Beat gigs. Pete Townsend, songwriter and guitarist for "The Who", kindly donated studio time and equipment for the "September In the Pink" festival artistes to create demo tracks and backing tracks at Eel Pie Studios near Carnaby Street in London's west end.
Bronski Beat's very 1st gig was at "The Bell" in London's Kings Cross at which only six songs were performed: Screaming, Cadillac Car, Red Dance, Run From Love, Junk and Walking. The audience responded enthusiastically then demanded an encore, so the band, having no more material available, had to do the whole set again. Line up at the time included a 4th band member, a bass-guitar player, Fred, whom Jimmy, Larry and Steve later asked to leave the band after their 2nd live gig at "The Fridge" in London's Brixton when they realized that they preferred to be a trio.
Jimmy and Connie flitted from Jills flat and shared an apartment on a high rise housing estate near the Oval, Camberwell New Road, south west London. Shortly afterwards Larry and Steve also moved to a separate flat on the same estate. All were squatting. Jimmy and Connie applied for and received a council tenancy for their apartment whilst Larry and Steve were eventually evicted from theirs. Just before the eviction order was enforced, Jimmy and Connie's friends arranged a political demonstration march at Peckham Town Hall at which hundreds of people demonstrated on behalf of Larry and Steve's impending loss of their home. At the hearing, the judge ruled against the pair and issued a warrant for them to vacate the premises. After the imposed eviction, a lovely friend, Amanda Barnes, kindly offered Larry and Steve her only spare room in her flat to store the music equipment and flat contents.
The song "Close to the Edge" was recorded for New Musical Express as a free give-away single, was recorded in the studio of movie composer Hans Zimmer, and later re-worked, remixed and produced by Mike Thorn for the remix album "Hundreds and Thousands". Also on the album was "Run From Love", recorded during the sessions for the "I Feel Love" medley.
Bronski Beat signed a recording contract with London Records in 1984
after only doing 9 live gigs. This was the second offer from London Records.
Other labels interested were RCA, Virgin and Motown. The gigs were at
The Bell, 1983 Brilliance Books Xmas Party ( outside of which Larry was
gay-bashed after the show), The Brixton Fridge(x3), I.C.A. in Pall Mall
(sharing bill with band Redskins and solo singer-guitarist Billy Brag),a
benefit gig in Peckham at which BB did Smalltown Boy live for the first
time, Heaven and an open air afternoon gig at the Piazza in Covent
Bronski Beat once did a gig in a well known London church, St. James in Piccadilly. Previously they had all worked in the church's trendy cafe. The pastor had asked Jimmy if they would perform in the church and they eventually did, and but now rather famous the band had their pink stage and huge sound system installed where the alter is.
Steve "dragged up" in a silver wig, wore red six inch stiletto heeled shoes and a green goddess body stocking for the encore "I Feel Love" at a "miners benefit gig" at Stoke Newington, North East London. The lesbians at the show were not impressed. "Drag wasn't politically cool".
Connie directed a video for the single which featured Marc Almond ,"I Feel Love". Bernard Rose directed the videos for "Smalltown Boy" and "Tell Me Why". Bernard also directed "Frankie Goes To Hollywood" videos. "Tell Me Why" and "Aint Necessarily So" video "extras" were mostly friends of the band, and included Martin, for whom the song lyrics of "Tell Me Why" was written about, and definitely NOT a paedophile; Martin was simply having a ove affair with a younger man and the young man's family got angry and had threatened Martin with violence. At that time, the U.K. gay "age of consent" was 21, so Martin went abroad to escape the wrath. Also in the video "Tell Me Why" was Caroline Buckley who later joined Jimmy in the Communards. The video was so much hard work for the extras that they had a short strike for extra payments! The band, of course, paid up.
On the only 2 UK Bronski Beat tours, Jimmy took his bicycle with him, stored away in the back of the equipment van, and would cycle around town between sound check and the gig. Sometimes he was late for the show;-)
BB's first gig outside the UK was at Amsterdam's "Melk Weg". Sharing the bill was British transvestite theater group "Bluelips".
The only USA gig with Jimmy singing was at "The Pyramid" in New York's east village. This place was the first "bar venue" the band had visited on their first trip to New York for the recording of "Tell Me Why" and "Cadillac Car". On this first visit the dee-jay played the full 12" recording of "Smalltown Boy" and the people in the bar all did an almost ballet like dance to the slow beat-less first part of the, eight minute fifty five seconds, song.
After supporting Tina Turner in London's Victoria Theater, they were asked to be supporting group for Carmel at the same venue but Jimmy decided Bronski Beat would never be a supporting group again.
Contrary to published reports, Bronski Beat did
not do a gig with or support Elton John at Wembley Stadium. He had a business
interest in signing the band for publishing-rights and invited the Bronskis
to attend his Wembley show, and sent a huge limousine to take the band
Bronski Beat's first television appearance was for "The Oxford Road Show" for BBC and filmed in Manchester.
Richard accompanied Bronski Beat with his treble saxophone on "I Feel Love" medley for their last performances with Jimmy on lead vocals, Oxford Road Show and Montreax Festival.