Soft Cell

  • British synthpop duo formed in 1977 from Leeds England. The duo consists of Marc Almond (vocals, songwriting) and David Ball (instrumentation, backing vocals, songwriting).
  • Almond and Ball met while in art school at Leeds Polytechnic, a school with a long history of artistic excellence. Almond was a great fan of David Bowie, and later Marc Boland (he changed the spelling of his name to Marc to emulate Boland). Almond and Ball had similar tastes in music, and they borrowed £2,000 from Ball’s mother to record a 4 song EP of synthesizer-heavy tracks, titled Mutant Moments – the 2,000 vinyl copies are highly collectible today. By 1980, they were a cult underground duo, with bizarre performances including dressing in drag and simulated sex.
  • A record label soon signed them, and the song The Girl With the Patent Leather Face was included in an anthology album titled Some Bizarre Album by the record company in 1981 – also on the album were songs by up and coming new wave acts, including Depeche Mode and The The. Later that year, they released 2 singles, neither of which were successful.
  • Their next single made them famous. They did a cover of an obscure 1965 soul song originally recorded by Gloria Jones, the girlfriend of Marc Boland when Boland died in 1977. Soft Cell’s new wave, synthpop version of Tainted Love became a #1 song in the UK (the best selling single of 1981) and 16 other countries. In the U.S., it set a record at the time for the song remaining on the Billboard Hot 100 for the most consecutive weeks – it stayed on the chart for 43 weeks, peaking at #8. The song is considered one of the best US-one-hit-wonders of the 80s decade – but they would never again break into the top 100 in the U.S.
  • With the success of the single, Soft Cell’s debut album – Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret – was released in late 1981, followed by Non-Stop Erotic Dancing the following year. Three songs from these albums landed in the top 5 in the UK, and a fourth non-album single, Torch, peaked at #2. The songs from these albums were erotic, dance-friendly pieces.
  • By 1983, the duo was falling apart, due to Almond’s heavy drug use. That year, they released the aptly titled album The Art of Falling Apart. The album had decent sales in the UK, but the 2 singles from the album were only moderately successful in the UK. In February 1984, the duo announced that they were finished, and a final album, This Last Night In Sodom was released in March that year. As Almond and Ball were no longer performing together, the album was not supported by a tour, and sales in the UK were weak.
  • Almond and Ball concentrated on solo work and other collaborations for 17 years after Soft Cell split. Then, in 2001, they reunited for a mini tour. They recorded a new studio album, Cruelty Without Beauty, which was released in 2002. In February 2018, they performed a single farewell concert in London, which was live streamed in the UK and Ireland.
  • While they were a flash-in-the-pan in the U.S., if you grew up in the early 80s, Tainted Love was an indelible part of your youth. Watch them perform (lip sync) the song on the British music show Top of the Pops in 1982.

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