Inside Richard Coles’ three years of chart-topping success with The Communards

Reverend Richard Coles has just kicked off his new UK tour, but the shows are a far cry from his days as a pop star.

Described as “an intimate evening with a unique national treasure” amongst other things the star will discuss his time in the chart-topping band, The Communards.

The group achieved three UK top ten hits, including the best-selling single of 1986, their cover of Don’t Leave Me This Way.

“If my CV landed on my desk with a job application, I’d think it the work of fantasy,” he admitted to Classic Pop magazine. “But it is what happened.”

His pop star journey actually started years before the band formed when he met vocalist Jimmy Somerville in the gay scene among London’s squats in 1982. In his 2014 autobiography, he describes the encounter as “a charge, like electricity, that would switch off streetlights.”

Both were runaways, but that was all they appeared to have in common on the surface and they were from very different backgrounds.

“We liked each other because we were such opposite people,” Richard recalled in the Classic Pop interview. “Jimmy came from a tough working-class background in Glasgow, while I was a public school-educated Englishman from Kettering. We enjoyed the differences in each other.”

Jimmy enjoyed success with Bronski Beat whose first single Smalltown Boy hit number three in the charts. Despite being highly acclaimed Jimmy left the group in 1985 and formed the Communards with his friend Richard.

They took their name from 19th century French revolutionaries and their just over three years together was a musical whirlwind. Their first single, the piano-based hit You Are My World hit number 30 in the charts.

This was the beginning of an unbroken run of nine top 30 hits that ended with their final single There’s More To Love in 1988.

Richard recalled in his autobiography being so out of it on drugs at the height of their fame that he tried buying an aeroplane while shirtless in Ibiza.

“Fame wasn’t as distant from the world I knew as it was for Jimmy,” Richard reflected in Classic Pop. “Success was exhilarating for me, and so was the money. What I wasn’t prepared for was my own surging need for validation.”

Like all parties, this one had to end and in 1988 the band split and Jimmy went solo enjoying a string of hints including a cover of You Make Me Feel (Might Real) – a cover of the high NRG Sylvester classic.

For Richard’s part, he made a couple of attempts to remain in the music industry and says he did string arrangements and tried to write songs with a female singer. However, he eventually conceded that his moment had passed admitting that being a musician was never something he really wanted to do.

For years after The Communards, he and Jimmy drifted apart – but Richard gave fans hope that we may one day see them together again.

In a 2014 interview with The Independent to promote his autobiography he said: “We’re in the best place we’ve been in for a long time. We’re in touch by email and have a very sweet, revived relationship.”

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