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Oldies 17/08/2003

RETRO: Soft Cell

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Gillingham, Kent, UK (By Mikey: martin.grech@btinternet.com) - Successful synth-driven duo from Leeds: Marc Almond (vocals), David Ball (Keyboards). The visually striking pair's revival of northern soul classic 'Tainted Love' was the Top UK single of 1981 and went on to sell 1,135,000 and also broke the longevity record in the US Top 100.

Here's something for all you trivia fans. Apparently, back in 1981, when Soft Cell decided to record a synth-pop cover version of a '60s Northern Soul song, the choice came down to Tainted Love by Gloria Jones or The Night by Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.

Marc Almond went on to have a solo career and had numerous hits like 'I Feel Love' and a remix version of 'Tainted Love' and 'Days of Pearly Spencer', all Top 10 hits. His only No.1 hit as a Solo Artist was when he collaborated with the Sixties Legend Gene Pitney with 'Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart' given Gene Pitney's first British chart-topper and sold more than one million copies in Europe alone.

David Ball went on to form The Band - The Grid - with Richard Norris and had a Top 3 song way back in 1994 with 'Swamp Thing', and other numerous Top 40 hits, with 'Rollercoaster' and 'Texas Cowboys'. Marc Almond as an international artist is both critically acclaimed and hugely successful as a singer, songwriter and performer.

With Dave Ball he established the first successful British electro-duo: Soft Cell. Soft Cell had a string of international hits, the most successful having been their multi-million selling version of the northern soul song 'Tainted Love'. The song is as popular today as it was in 1981 and is regularly aired with the duo's other hit singles 'Bedsitter', 'Numbers', 'Torch' and 'Say Hello Wave Goodbye'. The record 'Memorabilia' was the first techno record ever, and set the pace for a whole musical movement. Soft Cell notched up in excess of 10 million record sales world-wide and established a style that was to influence several generations of musicians that followed - from Pulp to Blur, The Pet Shop Boys to The Divine Comedy.

An offshoot project called 'The Mambas' followed, recording two double albums, the seminal 'Untitled' and 'Torment and Toreros', an important turning point in Marc's career and one that imbued his artistry with further credibility. The Mambas featured an orchestra both in the studio and on-stage, establishing another first in the 80's - orchestration becoming a main feature of his sound throughout much of his career. This too was to influence so many musicians and bands from My Life Story and Rialto to Tricky.

The transition from group to solo star proved a major success as he produced a series of diverse albums, always surprising and leading his audience in a new direction. Retaining a sense of humour and a touch of bitterness, combined with a strong sense of irony, his themes are perhaps best reflected in the hymns to the 'Saints of the Underworld'; the brilliant and audacious 'Vermin in Ermine' and the reflective cabaret of 'Stories of Johnny'; the twisted and deeply musical 'Mother Fist', and his most successful solo album of the eighties, the lush and sparkling 'The Stars We Are'.

Though 2000 saw Marc promoting the album Open All Night around Europe and the US, it was a relatively quiet year. 2001 was, by contrast, an extremely productive and creative year. Marc recorded his album 'Stranger Things' for his French based label Bis XIII : the album collaboration with Icelandic songwriter and producer Johann Johannson, formerly of the Icelandic group Lhooq. 'Stranger Things' with a lush ethereal and sophisticated mix of electronic and organic is a natural progression from 'Open All Night'. Praised by the critics 'Stranger Things' contained what are perhaps some of the best songs of Almond's career, including 'Under Your Wing', 'Lights' and 'End In Tears'. The single taken from the album was the untypical, upbeat track 'Glorious' and was accompanied by a theatrical video directed by Yannick Sallet. It was in March 2001 that Soft Cell reformed to play their first series of concerts in 17 years to rapturous welcome, commentators called it not a revival but a rebirth. This was followed by a small British and European tour that set in motion events that will culminate in a new Soft Cell album and greatest hits compilation in 2002.

During 2001 Marc had two European hits, firstly with a dance collaboration record entitled 'Soul On Soul' with the trance producer Ferry Corstan. The track reached number one in many dance charts across Europe. In Holland it spent six weeks at the top of the dance chart. The second collaboration was with the German band Rosenstolz and created a Top 20 hit in Germany with the song 'Total Eclipse'. Further collaborative work included recording tracks with British garage/hip hop producer Mekon to be included on his album 'Relax with Mekon'. 2001 also saw Marc touring extensively with Jools Holland, and recording a big band version of 'Say Hello Wave Goodbye' for Jools Holland's double platinum album 'Big Band Small World'.

After 15 years apart with Marc Almond building a low-key solo career, Soft Cell reformed in early 2001 and signed a new contract with Cooking Vinyl in February 2002; the deal includes 'Cruelty Without Beauty', plus a live album early 2003. Another great 'brand-building' exercise occurred in February when Marylyn Manson released his version of 'Tainted Love'. With a revival in late 2002 with a brand new single 'Monoculture' and a studio album after a 10-year break.

The equally long awaited 'Soft Cell At The BBC' enhanced CD is to be released on 29 September. The CD features 'Bedsitter', 'Chips On My Shoulder', 'Seedy Films', 'Youth', 'Entertain Me', 'Soul Inside', 'Her Imagination' and 'Where Was Your Heart When You Needed It Most?' the first five tracks are from the Richard Skinner show on 26 July 1981, the last three are from the David Jensen show on 6 January 1983. The CD also contains video footage of Soft Cell performing 'Youth' and 'Sex Dwarf' live on the Old Grey Whistle Test programme recorded on 4 February 1982.

Single Discography
01 August 81 Tainted Love - peaked at No.1, 36 weeks on chart
14 November 81 Bedsitter - peaked at No.4, 12 weeks on chart
06 February 82 Say Hello Wave Goodbye - peaked at No.3, 9 weeks on chart
29 May 82 Torch - peaked at No.2, 9 weeks on chart
21 August 82 What - peaked at No.3, 8 weeks on chart
04 December 82 Where The Heart Is - peaked at No.21, 7 weeks on chart
05 March 83 Numbers / Barriers - peaked at No.25, 4 weeks on chart
24 September 83 Soul Inside - peaked at No.16, 5 weeks on chart
25 February 84 Down In The Subway - peaked at No.24, 6 weeks on chart
23 March 91 Say Hello Wave Goodbye '91 (re-recording) - peaked at No.38, 3 weeks on chart
18 May 91 Tainted Love (re-issue) - peaked at No.5, 8 weeks on chart
28 September 02 Monoculture - peaked at No. 52, 1 week on chart
08 February 03 The Night - peaked at No.39, 3 weeks on chart

Album Discography
1982 Non-Stop Ecstatic Dancing
1982 Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret
1983The Art of Falling Apart
1984 This Last Night In Sodom
1996 Say Hello to Soft Cell
1999 Singles
2002 The Very Best of Soft Cell
2002 Cruelty Without Beauty
2003 Soft Cell Live






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