Back on November 1st, 2019, I finally had the chance to see Marc Almond live.
Through the years, Marc Almond has always been one of my favorite performers. Like many others, I was introduced to him through Soft Cell. I was in my adolescence when Soft Cell’s version of Tainted Love hit the charts. In my late teens, someone passed on their copy of Non-Stop Caberet to my vinyl collection. That’s when I discovered the true essence of Soft Cell.
While Tainted Love was Soft Cell’s biggest hit, the band was so much more than a Northern Soul cover. The tune Tainted Love has it’s own history separate from Soft Cell. The original version was written by Ed Cobb, and sung by Gloria Jones back in 1965. Jones later re-recorded the song in 1976. She became romantically involved with Marc Bolan from the ’70s Glam rock band T. Rex. Her and Bolan had a child together, Rolan Bolan, born in 1975. From 1981 onward, Tainted Love is best known as part of the Soft Cell collection. The single has continued to be covered. The most notable covers since Soft Cell were from Coil in 1985, and in 2001 by Marilyn Manson.
Perhaps when I have time, I’ll do a blog post focusing just on Tainted Love itself.
Back to Soft Cell. Soon after listening to Non-Stop Caberet and the following E.P. Non Stop Ecstatic Dancing, I acquired the band’s other albums: The Art of Falling Apart and This Last Night in Sodom. Soft Cell broke up in 1984. Marc and his band mate David Ball didn’t get back together until 2002, releasing their final album Cruelty Without Beauty. In 2018, Soft Cell got together one final time. They did a sold out concert at London’s O2 venue. With that, I figured that was that. Marc Almond mostly plays in Europe. I had Marc himself back in 1988. He was doing a signing at a local NYC record shop called *Vinylmania. It was promotion for his solo album Stars We Are, a brilliant album that still holds up to this day. However, I was under the impression that to see Marc live, I would eventually travel to Europe. Which wouldn’t be a bad idea. It’s just not within my current budget. From time to time, I would curse myself for not catching any of his other past U.S. live appearances. Then during the late summer of 2019, a bit of news bleeped on my social media radar. Learned through Instagram that Marc Almond was doing a brief U.S. tour in junction with Lethal Amounts, a fashion, art and club collective from Los Angeles, California. As I was riding a local bus in Queens with cell in hand, I noticed the link for pre-sale tickets.
Fast forward to November 1st, 2019. I’d been looking forward to this show for a few months. The venue, Brooklyn Bazaar was on it’s last legs, apparent by the broken hand rail by the stairs and the worn carpets. Regardless, excitement could be felt, for the event was completely sold out. It was standing room only. Barely any room to stand, never mind walk. As I was squeezing through the crowd, I spotted artist and musician Anohni, (formerly Antony Hegarty, from Antony and The Johnsons). That shouldn’t been no surprise. Anohni always mentioned how much Marc had been influential with her own work. Over the years, her and Marc have collaborated on songs, together with David Tibet’s Current 93, and with the annual Meltdown festival back in August 2012.
After the brief opening act of Amanda LePore, (Check out the song Champagne) Marc took the stage with guitarist Neal X, formerly of Sigue Sigue Sputnik. Throughout the night, Marc did all the songs I’ve always loved throughout his career. He even performed tunes from his Marc and The Mambas era – my absolute favorite. Marc and The Mambas is right at the top spot, with Soft Cell, and then his album Stars We Are following. Oh, and yes, he did that cover of the Jacques Brel ditty Jackie.
That’s one of the amazing things about Marc Almond. The versatility throughout his career. How he can easily have one foot in classic pop, and another foot in the avant-garde. Not many can accomplish this feat, but Marc makes it look so easy. A mark of a true artist is how the artist can constantly reinvent. It’s genius, really.
Oh, and yes, he did all the Soft Cell classics. Marc did each and every Soft Cell song that I’ve had on constant rotation: Numbers, Heat, Sex Dwarf, Say Hello Wave Goodbye, and Torch, (the one with Cindy Ecstasy doing background vocals). To answer your question, yes he did Tainted Love. The same song that introduced me to Marc during my adolescence has now become my least favorite song in his catalog. Only because it’s been played so much over the years. Familiarly breeds contempt. It’s very similar to how everyone loves Karma Chameleon by Culture Club – but as a Boy George fan myself, I usually pass. But if you put on Marc and The Mambas, now you’re talking. That’s just me.
Afterwards, Hercules & Love Affair did a DJ set, but I didn’t stick around too long. Did a rare purchase of a concert tee – Marc Almond with the Sex Cells logo. It’s a shirt I’ll be proud to wear for years to come. Just like I used to have Marc’s autobiography until the book got damaged.
Anyway, thank you Marc for performing an awesome set that night. (Despite the crappy sound mixing from Brooklyn Bazaar.) When I eventually do visit Europe, hopefully I’ll get to see Marc live again. In the meantime, I did this quick sketch in Marc’s honor.
(*Editor’s note: Vinylmania had two stores on Carmine Street, West Village area in NYC. One was dedicated to House music. The other store dealt with Pop and imports. Vinylmania was where I brought one of my first ever ‘Goth’ records – a 12 inch of the Bauhaus single Bela Lugosi Is Dead. NYC record stores of yesteryear would make another good blog post.)
(** Editor’s note: For all the Soft Cell fans, you can also check out my other two blog post on Cindy Ecstasy, originally posted May 2012. For those into Marc and The Mambas, you can check out this post dated April 2012.)