Bronski Beat

Bronski Beat’s Larry Steinbachek dies, aged 56

Former Bronski Beat keyboardist Larry Steinbachek has died from cancer at the age of 56, it was announced today. Steinbachek was a founding member of the group and played on all seven of their UK top forty hits between 1984 and 1989.

Formed in London in 1983 by Steinbachek with his flatmates Jimmy Somerville and Steve Bronski, Bronski Beat found immediate success with début single Smalltown Boy which reached number 3 in 1984. This and follow-up single Why?, also a top ten hit, both highlighted the problem of homophobia in their lyrics, while top five début album The Age of Consent was named in protest at UK law of the time which prohibited gay sex between participants under the age of 21, compared to 16 for heterosexual acts. Another track from the album, a version of George and Ira Gershwin’s It Ain’t Necessarily So, was another top twenty hit while the album’s closer, a medley of I Feel Love and Johnny Remember Me, was re-recorded with additional vocals by Marc Almond for another number 3 hit in the spring of 1985.

Somerville quit the band a few months later to form the Communards with keyboardist Richard Coles. Bronski and Steinbachek continued Bronski Beat, releasing remix album Hundreds and Thousands (1985, #24) and recruiting John “Jon Jon” Foster as their new vocalist. Their first single together, Hit That Perfect Beat, was another number 3 hit at the end of 1985. Bronski Beat would release only one album with Foster, Truthdare Doubledare (1986, #18), and one further single C’mon! C’mon! (1986, #20) before he too departed the band. Work began on a third album while Bronski and Steinbachek searched for a replacement, but they were dropped by London Records before it could be completed.

In 1989 Bronski Beat made a surprise return to the chart in collaboration with singer and latter-day gay icon Eartha Kitt, reaching #32 with Cha Cha Heels in 1989. Although he did not appear on the single, by this time the band had recruited Jonathan Hellyer as vocalist, releasing further singles in the early ’90s without UK chart success. Steinbachek left the band in 1994 before the release of third album Rainbow Nation. Recorded by Bronski, Hellyer and new keyboardist Ian Donaldson, the album included re-recordings of the band’s early hits as well as new material co-written with Steinbachek. The set was not released in the UK and the band subsequently split, although Bronski revived the Bronski Beat name in 2016 with Donaldson and another new vocalist, Stephen Granville.

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After his departure from Bronski Beat in 1994, Steinbachek moved to Amsterdam and continued to make music, becoming stage director for Remote Control Productions, a theatre company founded by avant garde choreography Michael Laub. In January 2017 Steinbachek’s sister Louise Jones confirmed that he had died in December 2016 after a short illness.