Bronski Beat Member Larry Steinbachek Dies At 56

The BBC reports:

Larry Steinbachek [center in photo], former keyboardist with 1980s synthpop group Bronski Beat, has died at the age of 56. Steinbachek formed the group with Jimmy Somerville and Steve Bronski in 1983 and they had chart success with songs including Smalltown Boy and Why?.

Their cover of Donna Summer’s I Feel Love with Marc Almond was also a hit. Steinbachek’s sister Louise Jones told BBC News he died last month after a short battle with cancer, with his family and friends at his bedside. The electronic trio were also known for raising awareness about gay rights.

In 1985, we drove from Orlando to Fort Lauderdale to see Bronski Beat at the Copa. Unknown to us, Jimmy Sommerville had left the band shortly before the US tour began and vocals were handled by Steinbachek and Steve Bronski. I’ll leave it to you folks to describe what Smalltown Boy meant to gay men in the 80s.

  • Lazycrockett

    side eyes 2017

    • safari

      Dont provoke it, love.

    • clay

      “Steinbachek’s sister Louise Jones told BBC News he died last month . . . “

      • ChrisMorley

        But it’s likely she has only just told the BBC, or they would have published the report earlier.

        The news has only just appeared at
        and the google machine hasn’t picked the news up anywhere else.

        • William

          Wikipedia has it.
          Steinbachek died of cancer in December 2016, with the death being announced in January 2017. [10]

          Former members
          Larry Steinbachek (died 2016) – keyboards, percussion (1983–95)

          • KCMC

            Fuck 2016.

    • PickyPecker

      Had a chance to sample the new tracks from ‘No Plan’ yet?

      • Rolf

        His voice is so beautiful here, so soft, gentle, tender.
        “No regrets”
        Oh what a lucky man he was.

    • Lane

      Nope — per the article, “Steinbachek’s sister Louise Jones told BBC News he died last month after a short battle with cancer[.]”

      This is 2016 still reaching out to claim victims.

  • Lazycrockett

    I honestly think that Small town Boy speaks to a whole group of young gays that became aware in rural settings no matter what decade.

    • Butch

      Yeah, that would be me.

      • KCMC

        welcome to group.

  • Do Something Nice

    Too young.

  • danolgb

    Looking back to my high school days, I find it quite revolutionary that I remember dancing to Hit That Perfect Beat at high school dances.. in Utah.

    • Gustav2

      I’m surprised you weren’t deported.

  • JoeMyGod

    Name me an illness, call me a sin?
    Never feel guilty, never give in!

    • tomfromthenews

      Remember hearing “Why?” in the disco scene from “Parting Glances”. Very powerful memory of the times for me.

      • MikeBoston

        Parting Glances still crushes me each time I re-watch it.

        • IamM

          Awesome movie. So deeply, richly complexly realized.

          • Sandrajstewart

            Google is paying 97$ per hour! Work for few hours and have longer with friends & family! !mj257d:
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      • gothambear

        And “Love and Money” – amazing moody song. RIP I loved that band.

  • Chris Deejay Smeejay Hodgson

    I caught that show that night at The Copa, too. Somehow I knew it would be a duo. Maybe from the Face or iD or any of the myriad of mags we used to devour back then. I never played Small-town Boy at Cathode Ray that a hush wouldn’t fall over the room, with every single person in it reflecting back on the importance of their iconic anthem. And today, we are still united, “fighting for our love”.

    • JoeMyGod

      Had you already moved by then? I thought you came down about the same time we did in 87?

      • Chris Deejay Smeejay Hodgson

        Pretty sure I was still in Lauderdale then. Waiting tables at the Chart House, next to the performing Arts Center, living in Vicky Park and just starting to hit up the South Beach clubs.

  • Craig S

    How sad. I still listen to Bronski Beat (and anything Sommerville) — helps me remember the good times and the bad. RIP

    • Nic Peterson

      I have a Pandora station that plays Bronski, New Order, PSB, Church, and the list goes on. Bittersweet, the memories that those songs will bring on. Hubby will sometimes catch me in a daze or even a bit misty eyed. The fact that we survived the 80s, informs me that we shall survive what is to come.

      • Craig S

        Me too. I think I’m one of the few people with a Heaven 17 station on Pandora lol

        • Nic Peterson

          ‘Why Me?’ What a great tune. Need to add them to the list and you just made me remember Aldo Nova.

          MTV used to play music.

  • Bad Tom

    See, the idea that the dying would end at the end of 2016 was our idea.
    The Grim Reaper just laughed.

    • clay

      “Steinbachek’s sister Louise Jones told BBC News he died last month . . . “

      • TKW

        So damn you again 2016!!!

    • Dreaming Vertebrate

      The cycle of creative destruction is a constant.
      It has how nature remains timeless.

  • Shawn Cullen

    As Andrew Sullivan said back in 2006 re: Smalltown Boy, “The video is a record of the beginnings of a revolution. You can feel it coming.”

    • Gustav2

      You sure he wasn’t talking about his first love, Thatcher?

    • Gene

      he is a mixed bag, Andrew…but, now way to deny that the video was that. It was JUST that.

      Oddly, the conservatives realized that also..I can remember, on Christian radio and TV, their horror. it was…scar, over the top. One scamvangelist I remember saying that “MTV have perverts OGGLEING men in a swimming pool…and ANYONE can watch this sickness! No warnings! NOTHING!”

      It does tell us just how damn far we have come though. There WERE kids snailmailing hate to MTV over that video. The same age group now? to NOT be pro GLBT rights is the social kiss of death, even among kids in rural southern communities. The fundys can hurt us with laws, but, they have lost the culture. Bronski Beat played a REAL role in that, and I love them for it.

      PIP good Sir..and thank you

      • Prixator

        I know you meant to type RIP in your last sentence, but PIP is good, too – Party In Perpetuity!

  • boatboy_srq


    Another great talent lost.

  • PickyPecker


  • Rex

    I was about to curse 2017, but since he died last month it’s just 2016 twisting the knife. Listen up 2017 – the BAD can die young too.

  • TuuxKabin

    Such sad news. R.I.P. and thank you for all the dances. Loved you.

  • The Sentinel
  • The Sentinel
    • CanuckDon

      Have always loved that cover and still have my vinyl copy.

  • The Sentinel
    • Richard, another Canuck

      I have this record..yes, I still have records!

  • The Sentinel
  • Duh-David

    • Rolf

      Listening/watching the original brings back such raw feelings of isolation, fear, hope and longing, driven driven driven by its irresistible sexual beat, all of which more than anything else consumed my youth – the need to find others like me and hopefully find love.
      This is a beautiful variation on it, sort of the rose coloured glasses version.

  • The Sentinel
  • The Sentinel
  • Andymac3

    I bought Bronski Beat ‘Age of Consent’ on tape because it was easier to hide from my brother who would have made a huge deal out of it. I played it on my walkman with headphones, I didn’t know anyone else that was gay and didn’t live in a gay friendly town. I didn’t identify with Jimmy Sommerville but Smalltown boy still felt like the story of my life, and though I didn’t run off to London, I did run off to another city but it took me years to come out. I remember staring at the album art and wording, seemed so political and activist and empowering. The video of Smalltown Boy still gives me chills.

  • TimJ

    For better or worse – worse I think – I always associate Bronski Beat with the AIDS epidemic. We were dancing in the clubs, friends were dying, no one knew why exactly. There was a sense of dark desperation, hurry up and live life while it lasts, because it doesn’t last. Shit. RIP Larry Steinbachek.

    • CanuckDon

      I think “for better” actually….at least for me.

      I was newly out back then and within a few months found myself DJing in two local gay clubs. All of this wonderfully unfamiliar music to me that was part of this new culture that I soaked up quickly. And then, a few months into it, a 12″ single of “Smalltown Boy” by Bronski Beat appeared.

      Within all of this darkness and confusion with AIDS, how could a group of guys be so brave, so blatant and so forward in this turbulent time! It was empowering! It said “don’t hide”…”don’t cower”….”get stronger”! Combine that with Gloria Gaynor’s “I Am What I Am” which was huge at the same time and it helped strengthen us. Music has that power.

      • TimJ

        Thanks, thoughtful reply Don.

      • KCMC

        so much yes.

  • Six Pins Delores

    Sad to hear this. Their music was great as well as the accompanying videos, I will never forget when boarder agents gave them shit about entering the U.S. because they were gay

  • The Return of Traxley
    • greenmanTN

      Sweet as candy.

  • Gerry Fisher

    Hearing “Small Town Boy” and seeing the video was like living to the age of 23 without ever having seen your reflection and then looking into a mirror for the first time. Shock-exhilaration.

    • Gene

      that….thats NAILS it.
      well stated Gerry. Perfectly stated

  • Ragnar Lothbrok

    damm..jesus, I’ve said this before, but I put Jimmy / BB on for loong loong playlist just about once per week.
    Of course, I knew of the popular songs back then but there is so much more to enjoy that I have only just discovered in the last couple of years.

  • David Milley

    I keep the songs from “Age of Consent” active in my playlist. Good for celebrating being queer and steeling my resolve. It was a milestone in my life and a touchstone for our times.

  • ErikDC

    I can honestly say I’ve never heard of Bronski Beat or any of these songs (and I did just sample them). This isn’t a situation where I’ve heard of them in a vague context and simply couldn’t name their work. I’ve never heard these songs played anywhere and have never heard the name Bronski Beat. That said, the Smalltown Boy video is quite sad.

    • CanuckDon

      That’s kinda sad to hear but this is music from the ’80s so not surprising. “Smalltown Boy” did get remixed many many times over the years and certainly was/is a dance club classic. It would be just certain DJs these days that would still honour that and mix it into their sets.

      In 2006, a mashup of “Smalltown Boy” and “Why” by Supermode was quite huge in the gay clubs. Certainly packed my floor back then….

      • ErikDC

        That’s a good mashup, but still don’t think I ever heard it, Lol.

    • IamM

      Bronski Beat, Communards, Jimmy Summerville, Yaz were part of the experience with the local gay college groups in the late eighties/early nineties. At least somewhat due to the founders.

      Very heavy on the synth pop, I know, and often on the melancholy too but very pretty and culturally resonant at a time of limited out presence in popular culture.

      • Spudman

        Indeed! I had a radio show in college, c.1986-88. Adding to your list: Smiths, Depeche, Echo/Bunnymen, Cure, Duran, Romeo Void, Adam Ant, Wall of Voodoo, Psych Furs, OMD, New Order, INXS, Simple Minds, Talk Talk, Alphaville, Church, Soft Cell, Thompson Twins, Petshop Boys, Talking Heads, Bananarama, B-52s, R.E.M., Bowie, Tears for Fears, Siouxsie, Joy Division, … We had these great extended singles and imports and I’d get an occasional “fanboy” call-in and/or request. Got me thru some interesting years!

      • ErikDC

        I know Yaz. A few years back their song “Only You” was used prominently in an episode of the TV show “Fringe” and I shazamed it. On further review I figured out I was familiar with a couple of their other songs. But Bronski Beat just never found its way to me apparently.

        • Lazycrockett

          Upstairs at Eric’s is still one of the best albums ever. It hold up amazingly well.

        • IamM

          So you have an idea of the general esthetic. Melancholy hope, melancholy love, melancholy strength, melancholy defiance etc.

          Watch the movie Parting Glances a few times. It’s a beautiful and important piece of art from the same time and the soundtrack includes three songs by Bronski Beat. Plus, hey Steve Buscemi’s first major movie role and introducing Kathy Kinney before she was Mimi on Drew Carey.

          • ErikDC

            Parting Glances is not on iTunes, Netflix, or Amazon Prime. 😟

          • IamM

            It seems to be on Amazon video Fandor whatever that is and Netflix has the DVD. I’d recommend buying the DVD, it needs rewatching (complicated story, flashbacks to fire island, Nick’s visions) and it’s worth owning.

            A sampler:

            An endorsement:

            It looks like you could find the full movie on YouTube if you want to watch before you buy.

          • IamM

            And someone really needs to bring that long tail of content that digital promised us.

            Relatedly: if anyone’s been looking for Mass Appeal the download can be rented or purchased through Amazon or iTunes or Amazon will burn it to DVD.

          • ErikDC

            I don’t own a DVD player anymore, Lol. I sold all my DVD players a couple years ago since I didn’t use them anymore.

          • IamM

            External DVD drives are cheap. 😉

          • IamM
    • Cousin Bleh

      Bronski Beat is an important band, but they didn’t catch on the way Depeche Mode or Erasure did (please tell me you’ve heard of them!).

      It’s still surprising you haven’t heard “Smalltown Boy,” which is an iconic song. It’s been covered many times and plays in several movies, most notably “Edge of Seventeen.” And I think a lot of people would say it’s the most important gay song ever recorded.

      Don’t know if you like The Killers, but on Brandon Flowers’s 2015 solo album, the best song on the album is built on a sample from “Smalltown Boy.”

      • ErikDC

        Of course I’ve heard of Depeche Mode and Erasure, Lol.

        I do like Brandon Flowers and believe I streamed that song once. I haven’t really been that into his later work. I can hear the sample now though.

        I guess despite being an iconic gay song, Smalltown Boy has just somehow eluded me all these years.

        • Cousin Bleh

          Oh, thank gawd! A few years ago, I was ordering a drink at a gay bar, and “Personal Jesus” came on. DM is my favorite band, so of course I’m all smiles and singing along. The twink next to me asked me, who is this? I glared at him and then walked back to my friends while crying into my vodka.

          • ErikDC

            “Personal Jesus” is a great song. I’m not sure I can name even one other Depeche Mode song though off the top of my head. I’m pretty sure there is another one from the early 90’s I like.

            My favorite band is My Chemical Romance.

          • IamM

            People are People (so why should it be…)
            Enjoy the Silence
            Policy of Truth

            They’re kind of an ‘oh yeah,that song’ band.

          • ErikDC

            Enjoy the Silence! That’s the one! All I ever wanted… All I ever needed… something, something… Lol

      • The Sentinel

        Anti marriage equality Mormonoid.

  • beariac

    RIP Larry. I will always be grateful you were such a pioneer and a huge part of the soundtrack to my youth.

    • Rolf

      Whoa, that first ‘cry’ at 0:22 gave me goosebumps and brought tears to my eyes.

      • beariac

        Beautiful, isn’t it?! Jimmy has the only falsetto that I enjoy listening to.

        • Piona O.

          Paul Heaton from the Housemartins and The Beautiful South also has a great falsetto, although he didn’t rely on it as exclusively as Sommerville did.

  • Dazzer

    This is just some trivia about the video of Smalltown Boy. The guy in the black Speedos who was the hunk/gay basher was a model called Alix Sharkey. Despite filling out the trunks nicely, he wasn’t a great swimmer (or diver).

    He later went on to become aq journalist and was editor of i-D magazine for a time. I used to work in the same office as him for a couple of years, and it was precisely no problem coming into work every morning – the man had a fantastic body and his cheekbones were immaculate.

    He was also incredibly pleasant and – although evangelically straight with virtually every woman he met – definitely not a homophobe.

  • MT YVR

    I would’ve been twelve when it came out. But it was the video that did it for me. Living in the countryside of Ontario on a farm meant, in those days, you purchased music or you didn’t get it. Some nights, sure, during my insomniac years I would listen to the strange signals that would randomly come into focus and hear music I couldn’t describe or explain. With no breaks and no commentators I never did know most of the bands I listened to.

    But Much Music and MTV and videos. We saw those. We found ways to see them. And if you got the station it was on you didn’t just change it, you watched everything. Good and bad and inbetween.

    I still recall the summer day. The smell of cut grass. The feeling of green. Things growing. And the blue light of the sky out the window behind the tv. And this song. This song came on and started to play. At first I was confused, I didn’t understand what the point was. Which was often the case for those early videos and me. But something in me, looking back it’s laughable to realize, something knew that I didn’t want other people to see me watching this video.

    I was 20 before I realized I was gay. I never had any encounters, I didn’t have experimentations. I had no clue. It was in the middle of nowhere in Ireland on a trip that I finally figured out I found some people attractive. And they were male.

    But every single time I see or hear that video and song. I’m that small kid in front of the tv, knowing in his gut in a way he’s never known anything, ever, that he resonated with this music. With this story.

    Our stories, in that bit of music, meant something. Calling out to each other. We were here. You were not alone. That message never, not once, has vanished in my life.

    • ErikDC

      I have a genuinely honest question. How could you not know you were gay during your teen years? Did you not masturbate or even think about sex? Was homosexuality never discussed or mentioned by peers? I don’t know the exact moment I realized I was gay, but I knew I was attracted to boys by the time I was 8.

      • MT YVR

        Oh, it’s fine. At some point everyone asks because it’s not your standard mainstream version of things.

        I was 14 when I started into a clinical depression. By the time I was 18 I’d attempted suicide 7 times and been hospitalized twice. I was diagnosed at 18 as, then, having manic depression. Additionally I was living in a family that was highly, highly abusive. Verbally, emotionally and psychologically. When they weren’t neglecting me.

        Essentially at the time other people were figuring out what made them tick I was trying to survive or understand why I’d want to survive. Yes, masturbation happened, but it was purely physical release and had no attached imagery or imaginings. Honestly, I was well into my mid-20s before I realized you COULD fantasize. Sexual release had been a purely physical process without any kind of attachment to anything. I was HUGELY damaged.

        Looking back? Of course there were signs. But when your head is down and you’re trying to just… get through? You don’t notice that this one guy you like… you REALLY like. With no idea how to socialize it was all a mystery. It took me years to quantify how to differentiate between like, lust, love and be attracted. They all sounded and felt the same. I had no idea how to form reasonable, healthy relationships. No model to work with.


        A lot of people assume the depression was due to denial or, or, or. Nope. My whole sexual functioning and orientation was frozen until about 20, 21 when I started to suddenly realize “oh THAT’S what’s cute is… ohwait. Uh… That’s a guy. Huh. Ok then.”

    • Rolf

      Thanks for writing that. It really captures what I (and I’m guessing many others) felt, the resonance, the recognition that hiding in plain sight in the video was something of crucial importance to our being that no one around us shared.

    • Nasty Girl Brianna

      The only music that kept me sane in the 80’s were on Much Music and Brave New Waves with Brent Bambury on CBC FM at 10pm at night. Oh that deep voice of his which lulled me to sleep every night of the week.
      We finally got a college FM radio station in 1985, and by 1988 I had my own show which lasted for 6 years. Everything else on the radio was crap, more crap, and even more crap.

      And nothing has changed 30 years later.

      • MT YVR

        Lord. That brings back memories.

        (lol) I had, back in the day, a horrible fear of crowds and being in front of them or in them. I, for whatever reason, agreed to go on a program (Radio Anthos for those that remember it) and talk about some of my teenage angsty writing. For half an hour. And before we started Patrick (host) explained it was a modest average audience of like 1.5 million.

        I shook so hard it sounded like I had a vibrato for the first half of the interview.

        Those were the days when people listened to anything. Even a hick farmer kid reading his horrible poetry. lol

    • jixter

      “I still recall the summer day. The smell of cut grass. The feeling of green. Things growing. And the blue light of the sky out the window behind the tv. And this song.”

      You made my day with that, MT YVR! Beautifully said. Thank you.

  • Will Parkinson

    I never realized they were so adorable as well as being amazing musicians!

    • Natty Enquirer

      Steve Bronski almost never smiles, but if you do catch him smiling, his face lights up in the most adorable way.

      • Will Parkinson

        So I see. <3

  • Dean

    Any excuse to post this exquisite song. RIP Larry. I used to catch Jimmy Somerville watching me when I was giving it some on various dancefloors around London. I would also see him from time to time when I worked in Heaven. I remember him coming into the bar I worked in in New York and staying for all of five minutes. On the way out he said remarked how he hadn’t been in the place five minutes and he’ d already been asked ” How much?” . I told him he needed to go downtown. He replied ” Och I know. I’m gonna jump in a cab now and go to The Bar. That’s much more my speed”.

  • Lars Littlefield

    In the early 80s I wore a small AM/FM stereo radio headset when I worked in the garden and went for my daily run. During those years I listened to a station that played only Talking Heads, The Police, Depeche Mode, Boy George, Erasure, Tears for Queers, Men Without Hats, The Eurythmics, Bronski Beat, etc. I liked the music. It was certainly more interesting than the crap that took over in the mid 70s. Every time I heard the Bronksi Beat I thought they were young transvestite kids trying to imitate Annie Lennox. I never saw a video with them in it. But I mostly enjoyed their music. When the Stray Cats and Blink 182 show up in the obits I’ll be 120 years old. RIP Steinbachek.

  • greenmanTN
    • Joseph

      Thank you for this link. Amazing. Love that voice, love that man, the message of strength and courage, meant so much to me as a 15 year old kid. Wonderful.

      • greenmanTN

        You’re welcome. When you are a teenager the smallest things can mean so much.

        Personal example: I read comic books in my teens, and Spider Woman (she didn’t do webs, but had venom blasts) was set in San Francisco. In the far background of the comic panels there would be same sex couples holding hands, or a delivery truck advertising The Advocate magazine. In retrospect it seems really silly, but as a gay teenager in Tennessee it meant a lot to me that there were other people like me and those subtle things acknowledged my existence. It wasn’t much, but it was something.

        It’s literally been decades since I looked at a drawing of her, but damn she had big boobs! That went right over my head at the time, as boobs tend to do for gay boys.

  • greenmanTN

    Back in the 80s I thought pretty much every British male pop vocalist was gay.

    “He’s married? Really? To a woman?” They weren’t gay, just British.

    But Bronski Beat was upfront about it and made no apologies.

  • jomai

    I was 16, living in Alabama when my family first got cable. I would sit up late at night and watch MTV to catch all the music that I could never hear on the radio. I remember very clearly seeing Smalltown Boy, and the feeling it gave me in the pit of my stomach. It was the first time I ever saw myself represented on TV. I’m sitting here fighting back tears thinking about it. I didn’t understand the song fully then, but I KNEW somewhere deep inside, for the first time ever, that I wasn’t alone in this world. I will carry that late night moment with me for the rest of my life.

  • Skip Intro

    I was a DJ back in the mid ’80s at a little hole in the wall dive bar in Baltimore. New Order, Siouxsie, Cabaret Voltaire and Big Audio Dynamite 12″ mixes would play in heavy rotation. Whenever I would mix in the Bronskis, the manager would run over and plead “Take that record off! We’re gettin’ too many gays in here!” Chicago house was starting to trend at the time so I would play some artists like Farmboy. The manager freaked out. “Now we’re getting too gay … and too black!”
    On my last night there, I played the Hawaii 5-0 theme, “James Mason Reads Nabokov’s Lolita,” and the turntable mat.

  • Skip Intro
  • Shawn Dowling

    As much as I love these songs and his amazing voice, for me they bring to the surface strong memories of the dying times.

  • RJ Tremor

    Back when my second boyfriend sent me Smalltown Boy, I never did listen to it, and I kinda regret that now as I’ve heard it and understand so much why he did.

  • SDG

    This was the song that for me, made me admit to myself, that I was indeed gay. I first heard the album when I was college.

    So sad to have him leave his at such a young age.

  • JCF

    OK, I just watched (the video). In complete honesty, I’d never heard of “Smalltown Boy” (had I maybe heard the name Bronski Beat?) until I started hanging out here [It’s just a cultural difference: probably not many if any guys here are familiar w/ Cris Williamson, Holly Near, or Ferron—from roughly the same time period.] The song clearly meant so much to you all, that I just wasn’t ready to confess my unfamiliarity/listen for the first time.

    It’s a powerful video. The double violence we faced/face: violence from the outside world, the more painful emotional (if not physical) violence via the lack of loving care from those who SHOULD be most ready to give it (our families of biological origin).

    RIP, Larry. Thank you, to my gay brothers here, for letting an ignorant dyke be one of your Fam.

    • Prixator

      Far from ignorant!

  • Rick James Brown

    You’re not allowed to have a Pride Parade unless…you have multiple floats playing:

    Bronski Beat – “Smalltown boy,” and “Hit that perfect beat.”
    Gloria Gaynor – “I am what I am.”
    Sylvester – “You make me feel.”
    Lady Gaga – “Born this way.”