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THE BREAKOUT CLUB.

The Pet Shop Boys aren't the only gay-affirming Brits from the go-go '80s who are still grooving

By the mid '80s gays and lesbians on both sides of the Atlantic had plenty to react to, from the conservatism of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher to AIDS, In that milieu many British rockers--like gay Jimmy Somerville of Bronski Beat and Dead or Alive's bisexual Pete Burns--announced they were mad as hell and queer as hell, and they took that fierceness all the way to the charts. Along the way they provided for a generation of gay youths their very first touchstones. Burns, who contributed to the recent Madonna tribute compilation Virgin Voices, and Somerville continue to pop up now and then, while several other major trailblazers are still crankin' out the tunes.

Holly Johnson of Frankie Goes to Hollywood

"The '80s was a very creative and queer-flavored era in British pop," says Johnson, Frankie's provocative former leader. "I hope our openness helped the gay kids to reel good about themselves. I still get letters on that subject. We all need role models, although I did not feel that was my responsibility at the time."

Johnson's openness didn't stop there, He may never have managed to achieve on his own the kind of success he enjoyed with Ids cohorts--who shot to fame with the testosterone-packed 1984 bit "Relax"--but his bold announcement in 1993 that he is HIV-positive elevated him to hero status.

"I went from welfare 10 the top of the charts in a matter of moments, so I was on cloud nine for a while," says Johnson, who detailed his wild past in a biography (naughtily titled A Bone in My Flute). "But I don't really miss the '80s." Still, Johnson does miss his since-passed friends from those days, like disco sensation Sylvester and alterna-rocker Klaus Nomi.

The singer, who lives in London, has lately concentrated on painting; his colorful Gauguinesque looks at island men have been exhibited in Europe. Not that he has fallen out of the groove. Soulstream, his first full-length release since 1991, should wash up soon on these shores as an import via his own record label, Pleasuredome. A video to its first single, "Disco Heaven," an homage to Studio 54, includes an appearance by ...

Boy George

Culture Club's arrival on the '80s scene was embellished by kooky video antics, a wild wardrobe--and their lead singer's sweet voice, heard on chart-toppers such as "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me" and "Karma Chameleon." Thanks to traumas like a messy split from Club drummer and beau Jon Moss, George has never really been out of the spotlight or tabloid pages since, He's tried other bands (Jesus Loves You) and a solo career, wrote the unapologetic biography Take It Like a Man, and had a success with the title track to the hit film The Crying Game. But the past decade has mainly found him filed under the heading "Nostalgia."

Interest generated by VH1 shows like Behind the Music have once again reignited his career--and helped reunite him with his old mates. The Club's appearance on the network's Storytellers series coincided with the release of a companion CD retrospective on Virgin Records, Their next CD--slated for a U,S release early next year--will feature all new songs.

Marc Almond of Soft Cell

When he fronted Soft Cell, Almond slot only sang about "Tainted Love" in the group's smash hit cover of 1964's Gloria Jones tune, he also dove headfirst into the seedy world of sex shops, sex clubs, and the inhabitants of that realm. And while some of the messages on the group's 1981 album Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret were couched. there was no mistaking the object of Almond's desire when he exclaimed, "Look, it's so huge!" in tire hit "Sex Dwarf."

Soft Cell produced two more albums before calling it quits in 1983, and Almond went on to record a string of solo albums, The recently released Open All Night(instinct Records) is Almond's first solo album since the early '90s, and critics are rediscovering his clever, cutting lyrics (like "My love / Smokes like Bette Davis / In short vicious drags" from "My Love"). Expect more camp and circumstance in Tainted Life, Almond's fell-all autobiography scheduled to hit U.S. bookstores next year.

Andy Bell of Erasure

What list of "gay ties" bands would be complete without Erasure? The group's Vince Clarke is straight, but that didn't stop his better half, Andy Bell, from being way out from the start. Sometimes dressed in heels, sporting a hoop skirt, or appearing nearly naked on their extravagant world fours, Bell continues to belt out high drama on songs like "Oh L'Amour" and "A Little Respect" in his inimitable falsetto--and the torchy ballads seem to be sung expressly for heartsick young gay men. No wonder Erasure, which is in the studio recording new tunes for an early 2000 release, still boasts an unusually devout following.
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Article Details
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Author:Gdula, Steve
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 9, 1999
Words:823
Previous Article:Happy together.
Next Article:Meet the Butchies.
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