#1: Why? by Bronski Beat

City: Guelph, ON
Radio Station: CJOY
Peak Month: May 1985
Peak Position in Guelph #2
Peak position in Vancouver ~ did not chart
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart
Peak Position on Australian pop chart – #10
Peak Position on Belgian pop chart – #3
Peak Position on Dutch pop chart – #2
Peak Position on French pop chart – #8
Peak Position on Irish pop chart – #6
Peak Position on Italian pop chart – #5
Peak Position on New Zealand pop chart – #11
Peak Position on South African pop chart – #7
Peak Position on Spanish pop chart – #2
Peak Position on Swiss pop chart – #7
Peak Position on UK pop chart – #6
Peak Position on West German pop chart – #5
YouTube: “Why?
Lyrics: “Why?

James “Jimmy” Somerville was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1961. He moved to London in 1980 and attended the London Gay Teenage Group. In 1983 he co-founded Bronski Beat with Steven Forrest, the latter adopted the stage name Steve Bronski. Forrest was born in 1960 in Glasgow. Larry Steinbachek was also born in 1960, in his case in London. He worked as an electrician and was studying to be a musician prior to forming Bronski Beat. The three mates were sharing a flat in Brixton when they decided to form a group. They first performed publicly at an arts festival, September in the Pink. The trio were unhappy with the inoffensive nature of contemporary gay performers and sought to be more outspoken and political.

The band’s debut single, “Smalltown Boy” is a song about a gay teenager leaving his family and fleeing his home town. It was a #3 hit in the UK and West Germany. It topped the pop charts in Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands, and ranked #2 in Austria and Switzerland. It was a Top 5 hit in Ireland and New Zealand, and a Top Ten hit in Australia, Canada, and France. The single was accompanied by a music video showing Somerville trying to befriend an attractive diver at a swimming pool, then being attacked by the diver’s homophobic associates, being returned to his family by the police and having to leave home.

The followup single to “Smalltown Boy” was “Why?”.

Why? by Bronski Beat

“Why?” was written by the three members of Bronski Beat. “Why? is a song brimming with a critique of anti-gay prejudice. The song gets right to the point with these lines: “Contempt in your eyes when I turn to kiss his lips. Broken I lie, all my feelings denied, blood on your fist. Can you tell me why?”

Why? by Bronski Beat

“Why?” peaked at #2 in Guelph (ON), #6 in Los Angeles, and #10 in Montreal. Internationally, the single reached the Top Ten in Australia, Belgium, France, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, the UK and West Germany.

“Why?” was one of the tracks on group’s debut album Age of Consent. The album – which commented on the higher age of consent for same-sex partners than opposite-sex – made the Top Ten on the album charts in Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, the UK, and West Germany. The album made the Top 20 in Australia, France, and Italy. A third single release from the album, “It Ain’t Necessarily So”, climbed to #16 on the UK singles chart in late 1984.

In 1985, Bronski Beat released a second album titled Hundreds & Thousands. The single release from the album was “I Feel Love”, a medley with a cover of the 1960 UK hit “Johnny Remember Me”. It peaked at #3 in the UK and Ireland, and the Top 20 in the Netherlands and West Germany.

“Smalltown Boy” had another chart run in 1991 in Ireland (#16), West Germany (#28) and the UK (#32), and in 1994 in Italy (#22).

Meanwhile, in 1985, Jimmy Somerville formed the pop duo, the Communards, with Richard Coles. The synth-pop, hi-NRG, duo had several Top Ten hits in the mid-80s. One of these was a cover of the Thelma Houston disco hit, “Don’t Leave Me This Way”. The single topped the pop charts in Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK. It also made the Top 5 in Australia, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, Switzerland and West Germany. The cover also made the Top Ten in Finland and France.

A second Top Ten international hit in for the Communards in 1986 was “So Cold The Night”. It was a Top Ten hit in Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland and the UK. As well, the single cracked the Top 20 in Austria, France and West Germany. A third Top Ten hit was the Communards’ cover of the Jackson 5 hit “Never Can Say Goodbye”. The cover made the Top Ten in Austria, Belgium, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain (#1), the UK, and West Germany. The single also made the Top 20 in Australia, South Africa and Switzerland. While the Communards were a different recording act from Bronski Beat, Jimmy Somerville was lead vocalist in both. This led to ongoing interest in the mid-80s in both acts.

When Somerville departed from Bronski Beat in 1985, he was replaced by John Foster. The third album by Bronski Beat, Truthdare Doubledare, was also released in 1985. It included “Hit That Perfect Beat”, featuring Foster on lead vocals, which climbed to #3 in Australia, Switzerland and the UK, #4 in West Germany, and #5 in Ireland, Italy and South Africa, and #11 in Austria. A followup single in 1986, “C’mon, C’mon”, peaked at #9 in Ireland, and #20 in the UK.

John Foster left Bronski Beat in 1987. In 1989, Bronski Beat teamed up with Eartha Kitt to record “Cha Cha Heels”. New Bronchi Beat vocalist Jonathan Hellyer, gave it his best in the studio with Kitt. The single reached #22 in Ireland and stalled at #32 in the UK.

More single releases followed into the 90s. But none were commercially successful. Bronski Beat split in 1995. Following the break up of the band, Steve Bronski lived in Thailand for many years, as well as Paris, France, before returning to the United Kingdom.

After the Communards split in 1988, Jimmy Somerville pursued a solo career. In 1989, he covered the Françoise Hardy (France) tune from 1968 titled “Comment Te Dire Adieu”. Somerville’s cover peaked at #14 in the UK and #3 in France. Then, in 1990, Somerville released a cover of the 1978 hit by Sylvester titled “You Make Me Feel Mighty Real”. The cover shot to #5 on the UK pop chart. Later that year, his cover of the BeeGee’s “To Love Somebody” reached #8 on the UK pop chart. Between 1989 and 2015, Somerville has released a half dozen solo albums.

In 2014, Somerville received the Tartan Clef Award from the city of Glasgow at a Scottish Music Awards ceremony. In February 2021, Jimmy Somerville released a cover of “Everything Must Change” with the proceeds going toward the UK non-profit End Youth Homelessness.

In 2016, Larry Steinbachek died after a short battle with cancer. Bronski had a stroke in 2018 which limited his mobility. He died from smoke inhalation in a fire at his home in Soho, London, on December 7, 2021. Bronski was 61.

February 19, 2024
Ray McGinnis

Barney Hoskyns, “What Is Bronski Beat?,” SPIN, May 1985.
Matthew Weaver, “Steve Bronski carer says musician died in Soho flat fire,” Guardian, December 13, 2021.
Bronski Beat keyboardist Larry Steinbachek dies at 56,” BBC, January 12, 2017.
Where Are They Now? Jimmy Somerville,” talkaboutpopmusic.com, April 11, 2021.
Homelessness charity launches new campaign with Jimmy Somerville,” Classicpopmag.com, February 24, 2021.
Beverley Lyons, “Tartan Clef Awards: Bronski Beat star Jimmy Somerville tells why he was proud to receive award in Glasgow 30 years after leaving,” Daily Record, December 2, 2014.
Steve Bronski, “The Beginning of Bronski Beat,” jimmysomerville.de.

Why? by Bronski Beat
CJOY 1460-AM Guelph (ON) Top 15 | May 9, 1985

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