They were an odd couple: Dave Ball broodingly poking his keyboards in the background while out front, Marc Almond – all black eyeliner and utter conviction – seized stardom firmly by the throat, acting out every song as if his life depended on it.
Their debut album, Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret (1981), was concentrated pop genius. The Lancastrian duo drew heavily on Northern Soul, recodifying it for 80s consumption most effectively on their cover of Tainted Love (1981), a minimal masterpiece – and still a dance floor staple today.
Their pension-ensuring reworking of Gloria Jones’ 1964 track topped the charts in 17 countries and became the biggest selling 45 of the year.
Almond and Ball revelled in their roles as ambassadors of sleaze – until a filthy video they had made for the high-camp song Sex Dwarf was sent to the tabloids (apparently by the starring midget) and the furore led to police raids, confiscation and censorship.
But the most notable thing about their reception was the way that Almond’s very open homosexuality and rent-boy image were received. Pop had frequently been camp – and there had been many openly gay musicians – but Almond changed the landscape of gay pop by being so matter of fact – neither hiding his homosexuality nor making a political issue out of it.
The band eventually imploded when an on-the-brink Almond reacted to a bad review in Record Mirror by storming into their offices and lashing the writer with a bullwhip.
At the end of 1983, the duo announced their proposed dissolution and undertook a final tour in 1984 followed by their farewell album, The Last Night In Sodom.
Almond and Ball reunited as Soft Cell in 2001 with a series of live dates. A new album, Cruelty Without Beauty, was released in 2002, followed by a European tour and a small US tour during early 2003. The second single from the album, a cover of The Four Seasons‘ The Night, reached #39 in the UK.
Marc Almond had a serious motorcycle accident in 2004.
In February 2018, Soft Cell announced that they would reunite for one last concert at the O2 in London on 30 September 2018.
Keyboards, synthesizer, drum programming