One Hit Wonders: Soft Cell (1982)

Soft Cell
Tainted Love
Album: Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret
A-side: "Tainted Love" / "Where Did Our Love Go"
B-side: "Memorabilia" / Tainted Dub
Released: July 17, 1981 (UK)
Released: January 16, 1982 (US)
Recorded: December 1980
Songwriter: Ed Cobb

Although Soft Cell had several hits in the UK, they only charted once in the USA. 

A  Rolling Stone's 
readers poll of the  Top 10 One-Hit Wonders of All Time, dated May of 2011, ranked "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell at number 5. It's listed at number five on VH1's 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the 1980s and number 2 on their all-time 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders,

Song

"Tainted Love" was composed by Ed Cobb. The songwriter told Blender magazine about his inspiration:  "I had a lover of whom you could say wasn't a good individual. I tried to go into her head and write a song from her standpoint. Once the word 'tainted' had popped into my head, the song was written very quickly, probably 15 minutes."

Gloria Jones 

American soul singer Gloria Jones recorded the original version of "Tainted Love" in 1964. It was the B-side of her 1965 single "My Bad Boy's Comin' Home." Neither side charted. 

Version 1964


While traveling to the United States, a club DJ named Richard Searling picked up a copy of the single in Philadelphia in 1973. The track's Motown-influenced sound fit the UK's Northern soul club scene of the early 1970s. Searling started playing it in his sets at Va Va's, a famous club in Bolton, England. It was a hit. Jones became known as "The Queen of Northern Soul."

Gloria Jones, Marc Bolan
 and son

This underground success encouraged Jones to re-record "Tainted Love" in 1976 and release it as a single from her album Vixen. It was produced by her boyfriend, Marc Bolan. She was a keyboardist and vocalist in Marc Bolan's glam rock band T. Rex at the time. She and Bolan have a son together.

Version 1976


Jones was driving the car at the time of the accident that killed Bolan in Barnes Common, South London, in 1977. She was devastated on both a personal and professional level, and her career never recovered. In 2014, New Musical Express (NME) ranked her version number 305 in their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Soft Cell

Soft Cell is an English synth-pop duo that came to prominence in the early 1980s. Vocalist Marc Almond and instrumentalist David Ball met in 1979 as students at Leeds Art College. They became aware of "Tainted Love" through its status as a UK "Northern soul" hit.

In 2010, DJ Ian "Frank" Dewhirst recalled he put "Tainted Love" on when Marc Almond, the duo's singer who worked at the bar as a cloakroom guy, came to ask if it was Jones' recording and for permission to tape it. Sometime after, Soft Cell began performing the song in their live setlist.

Soft Cell l-r: David Ball & Marc Almond

Almond is gay, but his record company had him keep that under wraps. As AIDS began to spread, this song took on new meaning. Almond said: "It was the first time we'd heard about this then-unnamed disease affecting gay men in America. It wasn't an intentional tie-in, but as the record hit the American charts, it took on this other meaning."

Video 1981

A video was recorded specially for Soft Cell's video album Non-Stop Exotic Video Show featuring band members David Ball as a cricketer meeting Marc Almond in a toga on what seems to be Mount Olympus.



In 1981, Soft Cell's version was Britain's best-selling single. The song entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 90 on January 16, 1982. It peaked at number 64 in its first run and fell to number 100 on February 27. After spending a second week at number 100, it started climbing again. 

It took 19 weeks to crack the US Top 40. The song reached number 8 during the summer of 1982 and spent a then record-breaking 43 weeks on the Hot 100.

Video 1991

A re-recorded version of the song was issued in 1991, seven years after Soft Cell's dissolution in 1984. The video for the performance, directed by Peter Christopherson, features a man pacing at night and dancing with starry apparitions while Almond sings amongst the stars. The song re-charted in the UK, hitting number 5.


Marilyn Manson

Marilyn Manson

Marilyn Manson covered "Tainted Love" in 2001 for the film Not Another Teen Movie. Their version did well in America but was especially popular in the UK, reaching number 5. At the Glastonbury Festival in 2002, Mark Almond jokingly said, "This is a Marilyn Manson song," before performing it.

Manson's version came with a video based on Not Another Teen Movie with appearances by the stars, including Chris Evans, Chyler Leigh, and Jaime Pressly

Version 2001

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