NPG x87636; Bronski Beat (Steve Bronski; Jimmy Somerville; Larry Steinbachek) by Eric Watson

The title of today’s posting refers to the catalogue numbers given to the 12″ versions of the first three singles released back in 1984 by Bronski Beat.

It is impossible not to write about this band without acknowledging how groundbreaking they were in terms of using pop music to make salient and hard-hitting points about homophobia. Tom Robinson a few years earlier during the post-punk new wave era had openly come out and indeed had somehow managed to get his anthem Glad To Be Gay played on BBC Radio 1, but it was still an era when pop stars more or less hid their ‘sordid secrets’ (copyright every tabloid newspaper of the era), so when Steve Bronski, Jimmy Somerville and Larry Steinbacheck put their queer lifestyle and culture right into the heart of the mainstream it was something to behold.

They, along with the likes of Marc Almond of Soft Cell, Holly Johnston and Paul Rutherford of Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Andy Bell of Erasure, were at the forefront of driving home a message that homophobia was every bit as unacceptable as those causes such as racism and apartheid that brought millions onto the streets to march in protest.

One of the most remarkable things about Bronski Beat is how quickly they rose from seemingly nowhere. They inked a deal with London Records after less than ten gigs and a matter of months after forming they found their debut single, Smalltown Boy – the tale of a gay teenager having to flee his family and hometown on account of nobody accepting him for what he was) went Top 3 in the UK, The song which has all the inventiveness of Giorgio Moroder along with the pop-savvy touch of Human League and Heaven 17, had huge cross-over appeal and was loved by the hard-core gay militants, the indie-kids and the disco-divas with their handbags and stiletto heels in equal numbers.

As a follow-up, the band went real HI-NRG as Why? lyrically asked questions about anti-gay prejudices across society on the top of a tune that was tailor-made for radio and clubs. It reached #6 in the charts and still sounds remarkably fresh and lively more than 30 years on.

The third single was a cover version that was came after the release of the debut LP Age of Consent, a record that reached #4 in the album charts. It Ain’t Necessarily So originally dated back to 1935 having been co-written by George and Ira Gershwin as part of the opera Porgy and Bess. A lyrical attack on the authenticity of the stories in the bible, it certainly made for an interesting pre-Xmas single from Bronski Beat but still managed to climb to #15 in the charts and so round off a stunning year for the band who just 12 months earlier were complete unknowns.

And here’s all three of those single in their 12″ glory plus their b-sides:-

mp3 : Bronski Beat – Smalltown Boy
mp3 : Bronski Beat – Infatuation/Memories

mp3 : Bronski Beat – Why?
mp3 : Bronski Beat – Cadillac Car

mp3 : Bronski Beat – It Ain’t Necessarily So
mp3 : Bronski Beat – Close To The Edge
mp3 : Bronski Beat – Red Dance

Some of the production tricks to extend the tracks out into extended territory now sound a bit naff but I hope nonetheless that you’ll still enjoy them

2 thoughts on “BITEX 1, BITEX 2, BITEX 3

  1. Whilst I enjoyed the tracks at the time (and bought the album), it’s only over the passage of time that I’ve really come to appreciate what a fantastic first three singles these were. The only other one of theirs I can recall is Hit That Perfect Beat with the new vocalist – it was OK but not a patch on these. Oh, there was the I Feel Love medley with Marc Almond as well – wasn’t so keen on that, preferring the original

  2. This great wee tale came in via an e-mail….just had to share it with you!!

    “Reading your feature about Bronski Beat and in particular Small Town Boy brought back some memories.

    When our older son [now aged 26] was tiny he wasn’t the easiest baby to settle down to sleep. We used to play him a tape compilation which would calm him down except for Small Town Boy which would set him screaming. As that track approached on the compilation one of us would have to race across the room and turn the volume down.

    Don’t know what he disliked so much but it certainly provoked a pretty strong reaction!”

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