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When little Jimmy quit Glasgow for the alleged bright lights of London back in the early 1980s, little did he or the rest of the country know the huge impact he would have on British life. His debut work with Bronski Beat ("Smalltown Boy" and "Why") accomplished the previously unthinkable: mixing overtly gay lyrics with catchy melodies, while at the same time becoming substantive Top Ten hits. Quitting the band at their peak (following their smash re-working of "I Feel Love" with Marc Almond), Somerville hooked up with Richard Coles to form The Communards
. Although success wasn't immediate for the new pairing, Somerville and Coles achieved their first UK No. 1 in 1986 with their cover of another disco classic "Don't Leave Me This Way". The Communards rise also coincided with HIV/Aids entering popular consciousness, resulting in a unique mix of socialism, disco and torch songs ("For a Friend", "You Are My World" and "So Cold the Night"). By the end of the 80s Jimmy had decided to go it alone and his solo work continued the musical styles he had previously helped establish ("Comment Te Dire Adieu", "Read My Lips (Enough is Enough)" and "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)"). As is demonstrated by this collection, the cover versions may have provided Somerville with his biggest hits, but the original material is still truly unique and powerful. An accessible, popular musical account of 80s lifestyle politics, and the radical potential music has for social and cultural change. --John Galilee