Jimmy Somerville – Read My Lips


Jimmy Somerville first rose to prominence as the lead singer of Bronski Beat and later The Communards. Read My Lips was his debut solo album, released in 1989, and it is both of its time and timeless. On the surface it is an enjoyable electronic dance/pop album, but delve deeper and you will discover passion, protest, joy, sadness, defiance, anger, and love pervading the dance grooves.

Initially the album sets a course for Disco Heaven. The sparkling, vivacious ‘Comment Te Dire Adieu’, performed as a duet with June Miles-Kingston, was the album’s lead single (reaching #14). Its combination of delightful Gallic pop, House music rhythms and orchestral flourishes propels the song skywards and gets Read My Lips off to a soaring start.

The biggest hit on the album was a cover version of Sylvester’s euphoric ‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)’. It serves as a tribute to the song’s originator, who died from an AIDS-related illness in December 1988. The song is also an anthem to celebrating sexual freedom and being true to yourself – a potent message in the late 1980s. Covering a disco classic, as Jimmy had previously done with The Communards, is a way of reconnecting with the original disco era, harnessing its positive lyrical content and reclaiming its possibilities for love and freedom of expression. It also appropriates and brings into the present the positive visibility and inclusivity of disco that the LGBTQ+ community helped to create.

Read My Lips was released at a time when the LGBTQ+ community was being demonised. The Conservative government’s pernicious Section 28 laws had recently come into effect, prohibiting the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality by local authorities, causing many groups offering support and advice to self-censor or close completely. Its prohibition on teaching ‘the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship’ added to the social stigma. Set in this context, even songs of love and heartbreak such as ‘Perfect Day’, ‘Heaven Here On Earth (With Your Love)’ and ‘My Heart Is In Your Hands’ are an act of defiance, an expression of gay love and a repudiation of the dehumanizing media narrative. ‘And You Never Thought That This Could Happen To You’ is a call to action that takes aim at those ‘Building walls around me with their legislation’. I still think this would have made a great single!

However, the fusion of pop and politics finds no better expression than on the title track. The phrase ‘Read My Lips’ was adopted by Gran Fury, an AIDS activist artist collective from New York City. They were affiliated to ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), a political group that Jimmy was a committed member of, having witnessed firsthand the devastation of the AIDS epidemic, as well as the early inaction, and lack of funding from the Reagan administration. ‘Read My Lips (Enough Is Enough) is a great pop song with an unambiguous plea: ‘Money is what we need, not complacency’. The track demonstrates Jimmy’s ability to convey a message through a pop song in a way that is joyous, angry, hopeful, and moving.

Read My Lips is bolstered by a selection of remixes, bonus tracks, rarities, and demos. Everyone will have their favourites, but mine are ‘Not So God Almighty’, ‘Stranger’, ‘Run From Love’ (with vocals from Propaganda’s Claudia Brucken), the AMYL remix of ‘Read My Lips (Enough Is Enough)’ and of course the Pascal Gabriel Remix of the moody album closer ‘Rain’, which, like the original, is evocative and wonderful.

You can press play on Read My Lips and dance to it. You can read the lyrics and think about your response to it. Ideally both. Either way this expanded reissue of Jimmy Somerville’s excellent debut album is well worth seeking out.

Track List:

CD 1:

1. Comment Te Dire Adieu

2. You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)

3. Perfect Day

4. Heaven Here On Earth (With Your Love)

5. Don’t Know What To Do (Without You)

6. Adieu! (Madame Tata Mix)

7. Read My Lips (Enough Is Enough)

8. My Heart Is In Your Hands

9. Control

10. And You Never Thought This Could Happen To You

11. Rain

12. Not So God Almighty

13. From This Moment On

14. I Believe in Love

15. Tell The World

16. Stranger

CD 2:

1.Read My Lips (Enough Is Enough) (AMYL Remix)

2. You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) (Gerd Janson Remix)

3. Comment Te Dire Adieu (Commercial Mix)

4. Rain (Pascal Gabriel Mix)

5. You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) (Arpeggius Club Vocal)

6. Run From Love (ft. Claudia Brücken) (12” Remix)

7. Until I Get Over You (Demo)

8. I Won’t Let You See Me Cry (Demo)

9. And You Never Thought This Could Happen To You (Demo)

10. Read My Lips (Enough Is Enough) (Demo)

11. You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) (William Orbit Remix)