Bronski Beat’s ‘Smalltown Boy’ turns 40 with new reworked version of the gay classic

Bronski Beat’s ‘Smalltown Boy’ turns 40 with new reworked version of the gay classic

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Before “Born This Way” and “Vogue”, for gays of a certain age there was Bronski Beat’s “Smalltown Boy.”

Released on May 25th, 1984, the haunting electro-pop track became an instant gay anthem of LGBTQ+ liberation as it detailed the experience of many queers who left their repressive towns for life in the big city.

The video features Bronski Beat lead singer Jimmy Somerville in a semi-autobiographical role as the young man who faces oppression and violence in his small town and eventually finds his tribe as he embarks on a bigger life in London.

To celebrate the iconic single and video’s 40th anniversary, London Records has released a new reworked version by London-based DJ and producer ABSOLUTE (a.k.a. Ant McGinley), known for his past remixes of Kylie Minogue’s “Padam Padam” and Fever Ray’s “Shiver.”

The reworked single is set to the original video and is as powerful as ever.

Following the release of the new version, ABSOLUTE shared a poignant message of getting to put his mark on a classic song that is important to so many.

“What a very emotional honor to rework one of the greatest tracks of all time, Smalltown Boy,” he wrote in an Instagram post. “With a message that still resonates deeply with so many LGBTQ+ people today, creating this felt like I’ve been given an opportunity to add a very small piece to its legacy in queer history.”

Somerville, who is the last surviving member of Bronski Beat, commemorated the song’s milestone anniversary by belting out a few of the lyrics in his amazing falsetto singing voice before sharing his own recollection of being an out gay band performing the queer single around Europe in the ’80s.

“It was three young gay men — out, proud, in your face. And we had a message and that message now still resonates 40 years later,” the 62-year-old said.

Somerville then addressed how the world seems to be going backwards with the current rise of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in right-wing areas.

“We seem to be regressing in so many places, in so many countries,” he added. “Rights are being chipped away and there’s a real surge of homophobia, aggression, and discrimination toward anyone who basically wants to be themselves and love who they choose.”

He continued: “And you know what? Piss off! Just get on with your own life and let everyone else live theirs.”

In addition to the reworked version, fans can purchase a limited-edition fluorescent pink vinyl of “Smalltown Boy” and other merch, including a transparent CD single, a music box edition and various “Smalltown Boy” T-shirts.

All are available for pre-order on the official Bronski Beat Store ahead of their release on July 26.

The impact of “Smalltown Boy” has been felt far and wide touching the queer community of different generations.

In 2020, Spanish singer Ricky Merino released a cover of “Smalltown Boy” with 2014 Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst.

The re-imagined version goes deep as the pair’s complementary voices transforms the track into a powerful duet.

That same year, out country crooner Orville Peck gave the synth single some twang with his trademark lower register vocals on a new cover.

Peck also put his signature on the anthem by changing the track’s repeated phrase “cry boy cry” to “cowboy cry.”

After leaving Bronski Beat in 1985, Somerville went on to form the Communards the following year.

He’s released six albums since going solo in 1989, with 2015’s Homage being the most recent.

40 years later, “Smalltown Boy” continues to move us emotionally and physically whether alone at home or on a crowded dance floor.

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