Thursday, 5 February 2015

Communards 'Don't Leave Me This Way'

Chart Peak: 1 (4 weeks)
Charted at No. 28 on 19th August, had shot to No. 1 by 9th September where it remained for 4 weeks. The previous (1977) hit versions were by Harold Melvin And The Bluenotes and Thelma Houston.
The first of three Number One singles on Now 8, which doesn't seem a lot for a year with only two volumes but there are always contractual concerns (and the last four chart-toppers of the year all ended up on Now 9 anyway). At least this proved to be the biggest single of 1986, something of a crossover success for the policitised synth-pop duo. I'm not sure whether they covered this as a commercial move, or in attempt to make some sort of point by recasting a disco hit into a Hi-NRG one, though the effect seems to have been the same either way. In the longer term, though, because they repeated the formula to only slightly lesser success with 'Never Can Say Goodbye' it wasn't really until I started doing this project and immersing myself more in 80s music that I realised there was actually more to the Communards than cover versions. It took me long enough to find out that "Communards" was an actual word before they named the band after it.

I'm pretty sure that 'Don't Leave Me This Way' is the first record I can remember hating; if it wasn't that, it was the aforementioned 'Never Can Say Goodbye', but I think I remember the offending track being announced as a Number One before I started shouting "WHAT A LOAD OF RUBBISH". Quite a surprising reaction, but I suppose I was emerging from the childhood stage where I liked everything that was on the radio, or at worst was simply bored by it. I can't remember at all why I was so offended by this of all tracks, when I can't have expressed a preference for the original(s) or anything like that and I didn't mind plenty of other music from that era that was similar in style and production. I'm sure I wouldn't even have known that the Communards were gay at that age, even if I had been the sort of child who would have objected to that and I'd like to think I wasn't. Almost thirty years on, my critique of this song is a more nuanced one - I certainly don't hate it, I wouldn't even say I dislike it, I just find it a bit weak. Obviously I have over the years acquired a preference for the Philly soul style of the Harold Melvin original and the disco style of Thelma Houston's version over the style of this current version, and I find the arrangement here a bit too simplistic and the production too glossy and harsh, maybe a bit too upbeat and celebratory for the mood of the lyric. I don't think it's a good showcase for the soul of Jimmy Somerville's voice either, and it only really catches fire when he's duetting with the contrasting vocal of Sarah Jane Morris (credited on the single sleeve but not here). Perhaps they could have worked that section up into something more interesting in its own right but the rest of the track is a bit dull.

This is the first track from the vinyl/cassette Now 8 not to show up on the CD version, as it had appeared a few weeks earlier on the CD-only release Now '86 [note the apostrophe, distinguishing this from the Now 86 that was released in 2013] alongside four others that would cross over with the main analogue volume.

Also appearing on: Now 6, 9, 10, 12
Available on: The Platinum Collection

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