5
Jan 10

THE COMMUNARDS – “Don’t Leave Me This Way”

FT + Popular45 comments • 12,390 views

#576, 13th September 1986, video

As a straight man it’s easy for me to be complacent about this, but the Orwellian “THE COMMUNARDS ARE BANNED” business at the start of this video looks completely ridiculous to me now, and the fact that it does suggests genuine and positive social change. Around this time I remember reading a tabloid article suggesting that gay men be interned offshore, Anthrax-island style, until AIDS had burnt itself out: an extreme expression of the panic and fear surrounding the disease – and of who much of the public wanted to blame. From one angle it was a time of increasing, indulged, and with Clause 28 ultimately government-sanctioned homophobia, a lurch back between the several steps forward of 60s decriminalisation and 00s equality legislation.

Jimmy Somerville very much emerged as a pop star against this background – out and proud, making records with Bronski Beat about growing up gay, his falsetto keening over “Small Town Boy” as a lament and rebuke for the provincial towns which drove out young men like him. He was always a serious man, even when he made surging, celebratory records like this one. Partying was in itself political. In fact what gives “Don’t Leave Me This Way” its odd grain is the contrast between Somerville’s slightly aloof, elevated performance and the gusto the arrangement seems to demand.

Without that sense of hedonism the record feels too effortful. Somerville is acting the choirboy in a gospel song, floating over the listener when he needs to lift them up with him, and without his support the rest of the band try for Sylvester and end up closer to Black Lace – uncomplicated, manipulative party music. That whomping great hands-in-the-air “Whoooooooooooaaa – BABY!” is the least subtle moment all year, which probably explains why “Don’t Leave Me This Way” was ’86’s top-selling single. The sonics have aged terribly, though – it all sounds so thin now, which would block the song’s instrumental lunge for ecstasy, even if you didn’t leave it convinced Somerville is no fun to dance with.

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Comments

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  1. 31
    Ben on 11 Jan 2010 #

    I used to get confused between The Communards and The Commitments.

  2. 32
    Erithian on 11 Jan 2010 #

    Have to say that hearing this again just reminds me how much I absolutely love it. I may not be the prime audience for it, but what’s the use of a big gay anthem if it’s not life-affirming and inclusive? Love the way the voices interplay (Sarah Jane’s more impressive than Jimmy’s but they complement each other in a really odd kind of way); love the instrumental break (what James Hamilton used to call zingy cymbal schlurping I think, Mike, and a fab piano bit); and you’re right, that “aaaahhhh… BABY” takes it all to the next level.

    The video (which I’ve never seen in full either) is an oddity, that Big Brother figure looking a bit like Charles Bronson the high-security prisoner, and the subplot, though I’m sure it was a message about oppression by The Man, is a bit of a distraction – as a straight-up performance video it’s fantastic.

  3. 33
    Mark M on 30 Jan 2010 #

    So tonight’s odd ’80s pop postscript was Richard Coles and P Morley on The Review Show, as I believed it’s been rebranded, discussing angels(!) among other subjects, followed by Durutti Column playing some kind of tribute piece to Tony Wilson. Hmmm…

  4. 34
    Tiffany on 11 Feb 2010 #

    This is still one of my all time favorite records. I disagree it sounds thin, on my iPod it cranks up rather nicely thanks!

    Also, I came via Metafilter. This is a great project!

  5. 35
    Realmusiclover on 11 Mar 2010 #

    There’s a reason music of the eighties remains the antithesis of the word fag, its sad when you cant let it slip into oblivion where it belongs.

  6. 36
    Tom on 11 Mar 2010 #

    You don’t actually know what antithesis means, do you?

  7. 37
    swanstep on 12 Mar 2010 #

    ‘Antithesis’ means the antithesis of what he thinks it means (haw haw). Realmusiclover also appears to have failed to grasp that freakytrigger/popular is the antithesis of a site or project that’s slavishly devoted to some particular decade’s output.

  8. 38
    Jimmy the Swede on 12 Mar 2010 #

    …ergo, Realmusiclover is the antithesis of a real music lover.

  9. 39
    Anonymous on 20 Nov 2010 #

    COMMUNARDS – (2006) THE PLATINUM COLLECTION…

    I think your post is similar and trackback it. Thanks…

  10. 40
    ceo on 18 Jul 2013 #

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  11. 41
    thefatgit on 18 Jul 2013 #

    This isn’t the Hot Love thread, ceo.

  12. 42

    […] lets a woman run away with his song. This was “uncomplicated, manipulative party music,” in Tom Ewing’s words: 1986’s biggest selling single, a number one dance record and Top Forty hit in America. […]

  13. 43
    mrdiscopop on 10 Dec 2014 #

    I remember Simon Mayo playing this on Radio 1. When it got to the final, crucial “aaaaaaaah”, he cut to the Toy Dolls’ cover of Nellie The Elephant.

    At the age of 11, I thought this was hilarious. Still do, really.

  14. 44
    Mark G on 11 Dec 2014 #

    I’m laughing even thinking about it.

  15. 45
    Adam on 27 Mar 2015 #

    3 for me… Third-rate major-key lift of Tragedy.

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