Friday, April 13, 2007

Soft Cell

Tainted Love

Soft Cell was an English synthesizer duo during the early 1980s. They consisted of Marc Almond (vocals) and David Ball (synthesizers). They had a huge world-wide hit in 1981 with the above video, a cover version of "Tainted Love".

They became the prototypical synth duo. They emerged from the New Romantic and New Wave era, but were part of the 'futurist' scene, alongside the likes of Depeche Mode, OMD, The Human League and Gary Numan. The darker nature of their music also made Soft Cell popular in the emerging Goth scene.

Both Marc Almond and David Ball grew up in seaside towns (Southport and Blackpool respectively), and later met while students at the Leeds Polytechnic Fine Arts University (now Leeds Metropolitan University). Almond, a performance artist, collaborated with Ball on a few avant-garde multi-media performances at the university. Although Ball's musical background consisted of guitar, he had access to the university studio and was experimenting with the nascent synthesizer technology at the time.

Early Soft Cell
Their initial efforts at recording resulted in an EP called Mutant Moments, made with a simple 2-track recorder. This was released independently with only 2000 vinyl copies pressed and has since become a highly valued collector's item among Soft Cell fans. Their early shows and EP caught the interest of certain record labels, such as Mute Records and Some Bizarre Records, both of which pioneered the new wave of synthesizer bands. Soft Cell's next recording, "The Girl with the Patent Leather Face," appeared as a contribution to the Some Bizarre compilation album, which featured other (then unknown) bands such as Depeche Mode, The The, and Blancmange. Their first single, "A Man Can Get Lost" 7"/"Memorabilia," 12" was produced by Daniel Miller, the founder of Mute Records. While the single was a major club hit, Soft Cell remained essentially unknown.

Tainted Love
Showing impatience, Soft Cell's record label permitted them to release one final single in an attempt to score a chart hit. The band opted to record a radically reworked cover version of "Tainted Love", a 1964 northern soul classic originally sung by Gloria Jones (the wife of Marc Bolan) penned by Ed Cobb of The Four Preps. Released in 1981, Soft Cell's "Tainted Love" was a number-one hit in seventeen countries, including the United Kingdom, as well as a number eight single in the United States during 1982, and went on to set a then-Guinness World Record for the longest consecutive stay on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart (43 weeks). The 12 inch single of the song featured "Tainted Love" joined in a medley with the classic Motown hit "Where Did Our Love Go?" by The Supremes. At the peak of its popularity many radio stations opted to play the full medley, utilizing their own edits to bring the track's original extended running time to a more radio-friendly length while still showcasing both songs.

According to Marc Almond's book, "Tainted Life," Soft Cell had left the "Tainted Love" recording sessions with only modest expectations that the track might dent the UK Top 50. Further, Almond wrote that his only significant contribution to the song's instrumentation (besides the vocals) was the suggestion that the song begin with a characteristic "bink bink" sound which would repeat periodically throughout. While "Tainted Love" was Soft Cell's only major hit in the United States, the band had a string of hits in the UK, including "Bedsitter", "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye", "Torch", and "What!", each of which broke the UK Top 5.

Covers and Sampling
Due to its cult status, the band's version of "Tainted Love" has been covered and sampled a number of times, including:
1984 Coil covered Tainted Love as one half of the double A-Side Panic/Tainted Love this record was the first ever AIDS benefit record and Marc Almond would provide vocals on the groups next release Horse Rotorvator.
1999 Australian punk/rockabilly band The Living End covered the song as a B-side for their single "All Torn Down".
2001 Glam/hard rock band Marilyn Manson covered the song on the album Not Another Teen Movie O.S.T. and Lest We Forget: The Best Of Marilyn Manson. Also as a bonus track on The Golden Age of Grotesque.
2004 German techno producer Thomas Schumacher samples "Tainted Love" on his single Tainted Schall.
2005 Pussycat Dolls covered the Soft cell version with Tainted Love and Where Did Our Love Go? combined as one song for their debut album, PCD.
2006 Rihanna samples "Tainted Love" on the single "SOS" from her album A Girl Like Me.
2006 Psytrance producer Bulletproof samples "Tainted Love" on the vinyl EP Tainted Love.
In 1982, the duo spent most of their time recording and relaxing in New York City, where they met a woman named Cindy Ecstasy. It was Cindy Ecstasy who introduced them to the new club drug of the same name. By their own admission, most of Non-Stop Ecstatic Dancing was recorded and mixed under the influence of ecstasy.

By now, the shadow of "Tainted Love" was beginning to haunt the band, and the pressures of stardom, not to mention the constant drug use, were taking their toll. Marc Almond also formed the group Marc and the Mambas, featuring collaborations with The The's Matt Johnson and future Almond collaborator Annie Hogan, as an offshoot in order to experiment out of the glare of the Soft Cell spotlight. Soft Cell followed their remix album with a full length album appropriately titled The Art of Falling Apart. The singles were modest successes in Britain. Again, Soft Cell courted some controversy when their second single from the album, "Numbers," was banned from the BBC due to references in the song to the drug speed.

By 1983, they had decided amicably to dissolve the band and released one final album called This Last Night in Sodom, a critical success but a commercial failure. The album departed from its predecessors by having a much grittier feel, featuring more live drums and guitars than previous albums.

Almond and Ball's reunion as Soft Cell became official with well-received initial concerts followed by the release of Cruelty Without Beauty in 2003, featuring their first new songs together in almost twenty years. One of those songs was their 2003 single "The Night" (UK #39). Soft Cell had considered recording "The Night" back in 1981 in place of "Tainted Love" as their last-ditch attempt to score a chart hit. In a 2003 interview with BBC's Top of the Pops, keyboardist David Ball asserted, "I think history has kind of shown that we did make the right choice."

1981 Non-stop Erotic Cabaret #5 UK
1982 Non-stop Ecstatic Dancing #6 UK
1983 The Art of Falling Apart #5 UK
1984 This Last Night In Sodom #12 UK
2002 Cruelty Without Beauty #116 UK (reunion album)
2003 At the BBC - In Session (shows in 1981-1983)
2003 Live (Soft Cell) Live (2003 European tour)
2005 The Bedsit Tapes (recorded in 1978-1980)

1980 Mutant Moments 4 Track E.P. "Metro M.R.X./Frustration/Potential/L.O.V.E Feelings"
1981 A Man Can Get Lost 7" Version which later became A Man Could Get Lost on their Non-Stop Ecstatic Dancing mini-album B/W Memorabilia 7" Vesrion
1981 Memorabilia 12" Version B/W Persausion
1981 Tainted Love (/ Where Did Our Love Go? medley) #1 UK, #1 AUS, #8 USA 12" Version Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go B/W Tainted Dub/Where Did our Dub Go
1981 Bedsitter B/W FAcility Girls #4 UK
1982 Say Hello, Wave Goodbye B/W Fun City #3 UK
1982 Torch B/W Insecure Me #2 UK
1982 What! B/W So... #3 UK
1982 Where the Heart Is B/W It's A Mug's Game #21 UK
1983 Numbers / Barriers #25 UK
1983 Soul Inside #16 UK
1984 Down in the Subway #24 UK
1991 Say Hello, Wave Goodbye #38 UK
1991 Tainted Love 1981 #5 UK
2002 Monoculture #52 UK
2003 The Night #39 UK

External links
Soft Cell singles list
BBC Top of the Pops Interview
Unofficial Soft Cell Webpage

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