Jimmy Somerville and Bronski Beat performing ‘Smalltown Boy’ on BBC’s ‘Oxford Road Show’, originally broadcast 9 March 1984
Bronski Beat was a popular British synth pop trio of the 1980s.
At their height, the band comprised distinctive and diminutive singer Jimmy Somerville, backed by Steve Bronski and Larry Steinbacheck, both of whom played keyboards and percussion.
Formed in 1983, their debut hit came the following year – the striking tale of a boy who was cast away by his family and neighbours for being gay. Called Smalltown Boy, it peaked at Number 3 in the UK and was accompanied by a memorable video of Somerville leaving home, forlornly eating an apple on a train, being attacked by a homophobic gang and being returned to his family by the police.
The song quickly established the trio as an outlet for gay issues – all three members were gay – and the follow-up single Why? pursued the same energetic and electronic formula musically, while the lyrics focussed more centrally and darkly on anti-gay prejudice. Again, it made the Top 10 in the UK.
At the end of 1984, the trio released an album which was provocatively titled The Age of Consent. The sleeve inside listed the varying ages of consent for homosexual sex in different nations around the world. At the time, the age of consent for gay men in the UK was 21.
A third single was released from it, again causing controversy. It Ain’t Necessarily So, the George and Ira Gershwin classic (from Porgy and Bess) which questions the authenticity of Biblical tales, reached the UK Top 20. Playing the clarinet solos in the song was Richard Coles, with whom Somerville would later team up to form The Communards.