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Music / Soft Cell

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Left to right: Dave Ball and Marc Almond
"Sometimes I feel I've got to—
Run away, I've got to—
Get away from the pain you drive into the heart of me."
"Tainted Love"

Consisting of Marc Almond (vocals) and Dave Ball (keyboards), Soft Cell were an English synthpop duo who rose to prominence in 1981 with their cover of Gloria Jones' song "Tainted Love". While their first album Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret was a success (ranked at #5 on the UK charts), the duo only lasted three more years, releasing three more albums in that time. However, the breakup was amiable, and the duo reformed in 2001, went on tour together and released one more album in 2002. Since then, they have released several compilation albums (mostly consisting of previously-unreleased songs) and a remix album. Marc Almond has also had a fairly high profile solo career including a number one hit in collaboration with Gene Pitney, "Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart". The band played what is widely believed to be their farewell concert "Say Hello/Wave Goodbye" at the London O2 on the 30th of September 2018 though they have not officially broken up permanently; as of 2019 they are working on a new album but do not plan to do large-scale tours.


  • Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret (1981)
  • The Art Of Falling Apart (1983)
  • This Last Night In Sodom (1984)
  • Cruelty Without Beauty (2002)
  • The Bedsit Tapes (2005) (compilation of early amateur recordings)

Non-Stop Erotic Tropes:

  • Abusive Parents: "Where The Heart Is".
  • Berserk Button: If you ever meet Marc Almond, do NOT imitate the opening synth riff from "Tainted Love".
  • Blackmail: "Secret Life".
  • Break-Up Song: “Say Hello, Wave Goodbye” is the song of a man breaking up with a woman who, he has evidently concluded, he just doesn’t like very much. (Or maybe he’s making excuses for dumping her.)
    You and I, it had to be
    The standing joke of the year
    You were a sleep around
    A lost and found
    And not for me I fear...
  • Club Kid: The narrator of "Bedsitter" lives so much for the nightlife that he has no money to buy food after spending it all going clubbing.
  • The Cover Changes the Gender: "Tainted Love" swaps the gender from Gloria Jones' original: "I gave you all a boy could give you..."
  • The Corrupter: The "protagonist" in "Sex Dwarf", given his repeated lines about "Luring disco dollys to a life of vice."
  • Cover Version: "Tainted Love", of course, but they also covered "Where Did Our Love Go" by The Supremes, "The Night" by The Four Seasons and "What?" by Judy Street. Prior to getting a record contract they also recorded a cover of "Paranoid".
  • Depraved Bisexual: The protagonist in "Sex Dwarf". At one point he alludes to having a foursome with the sex dwarf, a "disco dolly", and his dumb chauffeur.
  • Fun with Homophones: Done in the second verse of "Tainted Love". Though the official lyrics has the word as "pray" both times, the implication is that the love interest being sung to has a different spelling of "pray" in mind.note 
    And you think love is to pray
    But I'm sorry, I don't pray that way
  • Intercourse with You: "Sex Dwarf" in spades, along with a whole bunch of other very NSFW activities.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: 99% of their music is bouncy electronic pop with lyrics about failing relationships, drug abuse, and general self-destructive living.
  • Obligatory Bondage Song: Hooh boy - "Sex Dwarf", even by modern standards, is a very no holds barred song about BDSM. In 1981 the screams of the Moral Guardians could be heard from miles away.
    I would like you on a long black leash,
    I will parade you down the high streets,
    You've got the attraction, you've got the pulling power,
    Walk my doggie, walk my little sex dwarf!
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Marc Almond was the red to Dave Ball's blue, his flamboyant persona contrasting with Ball's more restrained presence.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: The protagonist of "Secret Life" says that he might abandon his life and run somewhere new to start over, after being blackmailed by a former lover.
  • Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: Oooh boy. They loved their "substances" - if it was out there, they'd try it. The stomach-pumping story may be an urban myth, but it's not particularly outlandish considering what they did get up to. For a blow-by-blow account, check out Almond's autobiography Tainted Life, which at times reads like a catalogue of which songs were produced under the influence of which drugs.
  • Silly Love Songs: "Torch".
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Gender-flipped in "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye": After the end of a stormy affair, Almond expresses his desire for:
    A nice little house wife,
    Who'll give me a steady life,
    And won't keep going off the rails.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: After years of verbal and emotional abuse, the protagonist of "Where The Heart Is" inevitably turns away from their family and starts going out late and slipping the leash. Their parents finally start giving a fuck, but it's far too late.