The Communards formed in 1985 after singer Jimmy Somerville left his earlier band Bronski Beat to team up with classically trained musician Richard Coles. Though mainly a pianist, Coles played a number of instruments and had been seen previously performing the clarinet solos on the Bronski Beat hit "It Ain't Necessarily So". They were joined by bass player Dave Renwick who had also played with Bronski Beat. Somerville was well known for his falsetto singing style, and for being openly gay during a period of increasing socio-political debate and conflict in the UK regarding lesbian and gay rights.
The name Communards refers to the revolutionaries of the 1871 Paris Commune. Karl Marx said of the uprising that "Yes, gentlemen, the Commune intended to abolish that class property which makes the labour of the many the wealth of the few... this is communism." Somerville seems to have used the term to express his political sympathies while avoiding immediate connections to contemporary activism. However, the use of the term and Somerville's left-wing politics drew frequent accusations that he was a communist.
The band had their first UK Top 30 hit in 1985 with the piano-based number 30 single "You Are My World". The following year, they had their biggest hit with an energetic Hi-NRG cover version of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes' soul classic "Don't Leave Me This Way" (in a version inspired by Thelma Houston's cover) which spent four weeks at number one and became the UK's biggest selling single of 1986. It also made the US Top 40. It featured Sarah Jane Morris as co-vocalist, taking advantage of the contrast between Morris' deep and rounded contralto and Somerville's soaring falsetto. Morris performed both backing and co-lead vocals on many of the Communards' other recordings, and appeared in group photos as an unofficial third member.
Later that year, The Communards had another UK Top 10 hit with the single "So Cold the Night", which reached number 8. In 1987, they released an album titled Red, which was partly produced by Stephen Hague. Red featured a cover version of the Jackson 5 hit "Never Can Say Goodbye" (in a version inspired by Gloria Gaynor's cover), which the Communards took to number 4 on the UK chart. Their last released single was "There's More to Love (Than Boy Meets Girl)" in 1988, which reached number 20 and was their final Top 20 hit. Red is also noteworthy for "Victims" and "For a Friend" (also released as a single), which address people living with and having died from HIV/AIDS.
They split in 1988, allegedly after Coles lied to Somerville that he had HIV/AIDS, a lie that would permanently strain relations between the two.
Shortly after, Somerville began a solo career. Coles followed his Christian leanings and, after periods as a journalist for The Times Literary Supplement and The Catholic Herald, he was ordained in the Church of England, spending time as the curate of St Botolph's (The Stump) in Boston, Lincolnshire, and as assistant priest at St Paul's Knightsbridge and chaplain to the Royal College of Music. In 2011, he became vicar of Finedon in Northamptonshire. He is the regular presenter of the Saturday morning BBC Radio 4 programme Saturday Live.
- Communards (1986)
- Red (1987)
- Communards, The. Allmusic. Retrieved 07-31-2013.
- on YouTube
- on YouTube
- Karl Marx, "The Civil War in France" contained in the Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Volume 22 (International Publishers: New York, 1986) pp. 307–359.
- "Bronski Beat-Communards-Jimmy Somerville". TrouserPress.com. Retrieved 2013-10-30.