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The Communards’ Richard Coles opens up on duo’s ‘tricky’ success: ‘I was the boffin and Jimmy was the star’

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Richard Coles has spoken openly about his time in The Communards while marking the 35th anniversary of the duo’s second and final album ‘Red’.

Featuring the UK smash hit single Never Can Say Goodbye, the record peaked in the UK Top 5 and gave Richard and Jimmy Somerville their highest-charting LP. 

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Looking back on the period in the November 2022 issue of Retro Pop, the musician – who later found success as a broadcaster and Church of England priest – admits performing in the shadow of his bandmate and close friend took its toll. 

“Jimmy had a much more natural feel for the music, the genre, and he was much more comfortable in that than I was,” he explains. “I was the boffin and he was the star, and we had that sort of relationship. 

“It’s quite tricky sometimes, and if I’d been a bit older and a bit more experienced, I would have not minded so much that he got all the attention. But at the time, I found that quite difficult; I felt that my own contribution wasn’t given due credit, sometimes, and got a bit precious about that.”

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Following the release of ‘Red’ – which has been expanded and remastered for a new reissue – the duo called it quits, but looking back Richard is proud of the legacy they carved – particularly when it comes to the impact their politically-charged pop had on attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community. 

“What I wanted to do was to use pop music as a means of evangelising young people, to get them engaged with politics, and to bring in a new era of justice and equality,” he shares.

“In 1980, if you look at the index of social attitudes, 80 per cent of people thought gay relationships are always wrong. By 1990, that got down to 20 per cent. And I’m very proud that we played a part in that.”

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More than three decades on, Richard and Jimmy remain close friends – and the pair are still in contact with Don’t Leave Me This Way collaborator Sarah Jane Morris too!

“Like all gays over 60, we’ve now migrated to the south coast,” he laughs. “So Jimmy is in Brighton, I’m in Eastbourne, and Sarah Jane – she’s not gay, but she was part of our world – she’s in Hastings. 

“It’s always good to see him and I will always be very grateful for him and love him very much.”

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‘Red: 35th Anniversary Reissue’ is out October 28 and available to pre-order now.

Read the full interview in the November 2022 edition of Retro Pop, out now. Order yours or subscribe via our Online Store, use our Store Finder to locate your nearest stockist, or get Digital Copies delivered direct to your devices.

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