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Tainted Love by Soft Cell

Album: Non-Sop Erotic CabaretReleased: 1981Charted:
  • This is a cover of a 1964 song by the American soul singer Gloria Jones, whose original version was released as the B-side of her single "My Bad Boy's Comin' Home." A club DJ named Richard Searling picked up a copy in Philadelphia and in 1973 started playing it in his sets at Va Va's, a popular club in Bolton, England that was very influential on the UK northern soul circuit. The song found new life, and Jones recorded a new version in 1976 that was released on her album Vixen. This version was produced by her boyfriend, Marc Bolan of T-Rex (Jones joined the group as a backup singer and keyboard player in 1974). Jones was driving the car (a Mini) at the time of the accident that killed Bolan in Barnes Common, South London in 1977.
  • This was written by Ed Cobb, who was the manager of the Standells and the Chocolate Watchband, for whom he also wrote songs, including "Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White." Cobb was also a member of the Four Preps, and wrote songs for Brenda Holloway, including "Every Little Bit Hurts." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Nick - London, England
  • Soft Cell is the duo of Marc Almond (vocals) and David Ball (instruments), who met in 1979 when they were students at Leeds Art College. They embraced electronic music, and worked to give it a less robotic sound, which proved successful. Early on, they performed inside a white padded cell with pink and blue bars as part of their stage act.
  • The duo started recording this as a "throwaway cover song." The choices were "Tainted Love" or a Frankie Valli tune, "The Night."
  • In the book 1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh, Marc Almond called this song "A mixture of cold electronics with an over-passionate, over-exuberant, slightly out of key vocal." Almond recalls, "Dave (Ball) introduced me to the record and I loved it so much and we wanted an interesting song for a encore number in our show. Dave loved northern soul and it was a novelty to have an electronic synthesizer band doing a soul song. When we signed with our record company, they wanted to record it. They told us to put bass, guitar and drums on it as they said it was too odd. They put it out anyway and the next thing it was gathering radio play and then it was #1. I was fascinated that it was originally by Gloria Jones, the girlfriend of Marc Bolan and I'd always been a T-Rex fan."
  • A variety of electronic instruments were used on this track. The bass generated with a Korg Synthe-Bass that David Ball used at live shows (the B-52's used the same instrument to create the bass in "Rock Lobster"). The whip-crack sounds were made on hand-held synth-drums, and the piano sound came from a Synclavier.
  • The song is about a toxic relationship, with the singer realizing he's got to leave it. "I love you though you hurt me so," he sings, as he struggles to move on.

    The song's writer, Ed Cobb, told Blender magazine: "I had a lover for 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."
  • As AIDS began to spread, this song took on new meaning. Marc Almond said: "It was the first time we'd heard about this then-unnamed disease that was 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."

    Almond is gay, but his record company had him keep that under wraps.
  • In the US, Soft Cell is a one-hit wonder, but they did very well in the UK, scoring many other hits like "Bed Sitter," "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye" and "Torch." Their second-biggest hit in the US is "What!," which reached #101 in 1982.
  • In 1981, this was Britain's best-selling single. It re-charted there in May 1991, hitting #5.
  • This song was released in various versions with Soft Cell's cover of the Supremes hit "Where Did Our Love Go." The original single has the 2:39 "Tainted Love" on the A-side with "Where Did Our Love Go" as the flip, but other single releases featured the two songs segued together as the A-side. The 3:58 edit is the one most often heard on the radio, but a 12" single with the combined songs running 8:57 was also released.
  • Marc Almond's vocal is the first take he recorded. That take was actually a run-through so they could tweak the settings, but it had just the right emotion, so that was the one they used.
  • The style of the backing vocals was copied from "Heart Full of Soul" by the Yardbirds.
  • This was used in a Levi's commercial where the sound of an EKG in an operating room starts to sound like the song and the staff begins singing along.
  • Gloria Jones has said that she considers the Soft Cell version to be the best one. "I loved the emotion in his voice," she said. "Their version was far better than mine."
  • This reached #1 in 17 different countries. In the US, it spent 43 weeks on the Top 100 chart, which was a longevity record at the time. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Adam - Dewsbury, England, for above 2
  • Marilyn Manson covered this in 2001 for the film Not Another Teen Movie. While performing at Glastonbury in 2002, Mark Almond jokingly said "This is a Marilyn Manson song" before performing it. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Adam - Dewsbury, England
  • Rhianna's sampled this on her 2006 song "S.O.S (Rescue Me)."
  • This was covered by the Palast Orchester and their singer, Max Raabe - German performers who play in the style of 1920s-1930s dance bands. It's on their 2002 album Super Hits Nummer 2, which also features renditions of "Lady Marmalade," "Uptown Girl" and "Let's Talk About Sex." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Katie - Melbourne, Australia
  • This was used in the 1993 movie Coneheads in the scene where Dan Aykroyd's character is bringing his daughter and some friends to school. The friends mock the musical notes after the vocal phrase, "Sometimes I feel I have to...Get away" >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Chet - Saratoga Springs, NY
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Comments: 73

On January 10th 1982, "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; and on July 11th it peaked at #8 (for 2 week) and spent 43 weeks on the Top 100 (amazingly, it spent only 3 weeks on the Top 10).Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
That song is so relevant to me right now. It speaks very well of being attracted to someone and knowing for various reasons there is no future in that relationship.Martin - Fresno, Ca
The Scorpions did a great version for this, better than Manson. But the original is always the best.Polina - Rishon, Israel
i think Marilyn Manson's version is WAYYY better!Logan - Indianapolis, In
Okay, change of mind here. A little slow on the uptake, I had the brilliant idea to search YouTube (Wow!) and found three versions of Tainted: Coil, DM, and MM. I'd only seen Marilyn's 'party invasion' vid once, some time ago, and then only half of it. I just watched it again, and I like it. But Depeche Mode is still my fave.Nightthorn - Sacramento, Ca
I love this version of the song, where I don't really like Marilyn Manson's. Not my thing. But the one that really moves me is Coil's version of Tainted Love. It's very slow and begins with deep bells, almost funereal. It comes across like a dirge, certainly speaking of AIDS and death. The video backs that up with images of hospitals and illness. Wish I could find it again.Nightthorn - Sacramento, Ca
Another 80's song that will always be around and never forgotten!!!!!!Chris - Sevierville, Tn
I always thought Soft Cell had the lyrics as "And you think Love is to Prey (not 'pray') but I'm sorry, I don't Prey that way." If you regard a love to be tainted by someone who uses it for the wrong reasons, it could be regarded as preying on the other party.Leah - Brooklyn, Ny
When this song came out, it was considered very original because of the way that it used synthesizers to create bizarre effects. Granted, new wave bands like the Cars or Blondie touched on that kind of thing, but this was a really new sound, even more far out than Human League. After this was a big hit, everyone copied its sound, but never to the same arresting effect.Liquid Len - Ottawa, Canada
Im new to this so forgive me if this is inappropriate to ask here but im looking for a particular version of "tainted love" I know there are MANY versions but the one im looking for came out during the mid to late 90's, it was a group and the leader singer was a female and possibly from the uk. This has been driving me crazy. any help?Sue - Ny, Ny
I love this song Tainted Love by Soft Cell But Marilyn Manson's remake was rubbish some songs though should be untouched and a cover should never be made of them this was like a five minute cover the remake SUCKS BIG TIME !!!Kevin - Birmingham, United Kingdom
Tainted Love= awesome (no matter who sings it.) S.O.S.= TORTURE. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad or poorly written song, but you try spending your junior year of high school listening to it OVER AND OVER AND OVER while the dance team (funny name for a bunch of girls that can't dance) practices their routine to it every stinking day in the commons while you wait for your mom to pick you up, at a volume so loud your mp3 player won't block it out without killing your ears. Grr. And they never did perform that routine in any kind of performance... not to mention the dance team broke up after that year because the girl who started it graduated and no one wanted to be in charge. Maybe that's a good thing.Marissa - Akron, Oh
I like the flavor of Soft Cell's version.
I sing it when tooling through the marsh
when going red fish & speck fishing.
Robert - West Monroe, La
As much as I like Gloria Jones's original version of this song, I don't think of Soft Cell's version as a cover because the spirit of each version is so different.

I think Gloria Jones's rendition underscores love that has ended, while Soft Cell emphasized the end of that love. Also, I think Gloria Jones was, in some way, uniting soul with British rock and folk music, while Soft Cell's version was a break (as much as the whip-crack sounds) with disco and punk, which had been the two main driving forces in rock music for about half a decade.

The spirit of "lashing out" drove Soft Cell's version, but it didn't have the kind of satire, whimsy or pure-and-simple recalcitrance of the best punk. I mean, can you imagine the Dead Kennedys, the Sex Pistols or even the Ramones putting out something as earnest as this song? And--as if to rebuke disco--Soft Cell's "Tainted Love" is probably one of the least danceable tunes ever recorded. I don't mean that as a put-down; I mean that, as I said earlier, the song was definitely a "break" with what had been popular for several years up to its 1981 release.

So..two thumbs (snapped) up for this song.
Musicmama - New York, Ny
and what about ramones??Mirna - Portoviejo, Ecuador
This Has to Be My Altime Favo. Song.
Like its not in my Time Period. But my Daddy and Mommyy used to constantly play this and it stuck :] 13 years later.

ps; Marilyn you Suck :]
Melea - Covington, Ky
"Tainted Love" is unpure love and could very well be about an affair where a man loves a woman who is already spoken for. He has given all he can give and now must run away to end the pain.Jim - Madison, Al
Great tune! Wasn't Ed Cobb also a member of the Four Preps of "Down By The Station", "Big Man" and Medleys fame? Yes he was! This conversation is now over.J - Toronto, Canada
I always thought it was about an STD, but maybe not. Also, I didn't even know this was a re-do of an original song, I've never heard of it, so that kind of proves that this one is better. Marilyn Manson is disturbed, and I've never heard Rhianna's version and I really don't want to; it would probably offend me.K - B-town, Nc
I still haven't the faintest idea how love could possibly be tainted. Does that mean that it's been covered in blood and poison?Annabelle - Eugene, Or
I still haven't the faintest idea how love could be tainted? Does that mean it's been covered in blood and poison?Annabelle - Eugene, Or
TO Jazzz in Frankfurt: What Ed Cobb wrote was

And you think love is to PLAY
but I'm sorry I don't PLAY that way

Soft Cell changed the lyrics and every group
since then sings pray not play.The 1968 Gloria Jones version says play.

When I first heard the lin
Chris - Boston, Ma
I love this song, but Soft Cell's version has always bugged the hell out of me. Now I know I'm being picky, but dear GODS this song was sung out of key... the singer's voice is always singing a higher note than the song requires; he's consistently one note off. Maybe it's just because I grew up in a musical household, but it just sets my teeth on edge.Jameson - Lexington, Ky
Can somebody explain to me what Ed Cobb, the song writer, meant by saying "And you think love is to pray, but I'm sorry I don't pray that way"? Where does that come from? Did he have a church background? Or is the praying a metaphor for something else (for example, non-bodily love)? Any ideas out there? Heaps of thanks!Jazzz - Frankfurt
Boy..I Say Boy..Can You Disco Down?Tyler - Orangeville, Canada
Soft Cell were not one-hit wonders - they actually had 12 big hits between 1980 and 1987. Marc Almond later went on to have many more hits as a solo artist, while Dave Ball formed dance act The Grid in the 1990s, who had a Top 3 hit in 1994 with "Swamp Thing". In 2001, folk singer David Gray released a cover of Sodt cell's 1983 hit "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye"Dave - Cardiff, Wales
It was also used for an episode of "Friends," where Danny DeVito played an over-the-hill stripper for a Bachelorette Party. He was dressed as a cop, and danced to the opening notes, then kept being interrupted, and tha final time, collapsing with a heart attack.
For Port Charles, it was not only used during promos, but also was "sung" by the character Caleb Morley ( Michael Easton, now on One Life to Live ), in his guise of a rock singer. Caleb was a vampire, and had been "staked," but came back, with his rock band. They had a "concert," where Caleb "sang" ( really, lip-synching to another man's voice )"Tainted Love."
Danarose - Fullerton, Ca
DAYA: According to leoslyrics.com, the song is Cheryl "Pepsi" Riley - Thanks For My ChildDiane - Brooklyn, Ny
U RockKeegan - Chicago, Il
This song played during TV ads for the cancelled soap opera Port Charles. Did you also know that hip-hop singer Rihanna sampled this song for her 2006 hit S.O.S.Matthew - Dalton, Pa
I can't believe this that this was a throw away song. I guess now they were glad they didn't pick the other song(s). Anyway I love this song Both the lyrics and the music (electric synthesizer) make it a great song.Roberto - Las Cruces, Nm
PLEASE HELP!!I am trying to figure out the name and title of an R&B song that was out in early 90's. It goes....thanks for my child..im really thanking you the lord above...thanks for my child...your bring me so much joy.....at the end it says your father ran away and even though your father ran away.....Daya - Davie, Fl
I think the version of Tainted Love by Marilyn Manson was actually good at least he sings it really well. Also when i first heard it by Marilyn Manson you couldn't tell it was him singing it so wats the point in laughing about him singing a really good song. And also he ain't that creepy.Zoe - Bundaberg, Australia
Boots the Band did a stunning cover of this song. It was by far my favorite.Kika - Nyc, Ny
I can't believe no one will stand up for the Ramones! C'mon people, how come I have to be the one taking a stand. The Ramones are good, they don't deserve that kind of treatment, Ted.Johnny - Los Angeles, Ca
I love this song! And I think soft Cell is Cooooool! I wonder, If it's Tainted Love, does that mean it's love that's been covered in poison and stained with blood? Also, somebody said that there are drums in this version that sound like a whip crack. Which drums are they talking about? And by the way, what's that little noise in the intro that sounds like lasers going off?Annabelle - Eugene, Or
I always thought this song was about the 'herp (herpes)Dennis - Chicagoland Burrows, Il
Never heard the other versions, but Soft Cell's version is quite possibly the worst song ever put down on tape. Glad to see the band cntinued to suck and dissappeared :)Derek - Brampton, Canada
I give Marilyn props for doing a cover, but yeah it does sound totally different and unlike Soft Cell or GloriaLucas - Someplace In Ca, Ca
BART, the Bay Area Rapid Transit system of San Francisco, still makes the toot toot noise :) I like it a lot! :DJavier - Tacna
I think The clash made a cover of the song too?Jackie - Montreal
Marilyn Manson covered this song... how funny and what a contrast!Stefanie Magura - Rock Hill, Sc
When this was a hit I noticed that the characteristic "honk honk" sound in it sounded exactly like the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit System (BART) car's horn. I got laughs out of singing, "Tainted Love" whenever a train pulled up. As I havn't been to Frisco since then I don't know if the trains still have that sound...Wes - Springfield, Va
I really like Marilyn Mansons version but prefere Soft Cells, Its a great song.Ville - Chicago, Il
For all who do not already know, a group by the name of Coil also did this song long before Marylin Manson had his first fleeting idea of becoming an Americana idol of the damned. In 1985 Coil released the album panic/tainted love on wax trax records, and re-released on cd form in 1990. Four years after soft cell version, which by the way was the song that introduced me to the world of electronic music.....thank you soft cell.Lordjupiter - Sioux Falls, Sd
Soft Cell version all the way. MM's version is alright but it doesn't match up.Aj - Cleveland, Ga
Dark Side of The Moon the album broke the longevity record on the billboard top 500...

Tainted Love is a single
Ally - Bolton, England
Marilyn Manson's version of this song is probably the best version I've ever heard, whether it be on the radio or on a karaoke machine!!Lyzette - Moorpark, Ca
I think that The Cure did this song the best but thats just my opinion I am only 12 but I can still like the old stuff This is my favorite songQueen - Carmel, Ny
Marilyn Manson's version does completely rock.Ken - San Diego, Ca
I think that the Marilyn Manson cover is very good, but I personally prefer The Clash's version.Randi - Linton, Me
Marilyn Manson is awesome his version is much better then this oneMichelle - Pueblo, Co
The original version by Gloria Jones, is the best, the soft cell version is very good, and the Marilyn Manson version makes me laugh.Ben - Paris, France
Mark Almond recently got into a bad motorcycle accident...he will recover, but it will take a long time. (11/2004) BTW, he was also a great solo artist.
-Ed McMann
Ed - Boston, Ma
I am *ALWAYS* disappointed if I hear the song on the radio and it's not the 12" version (ie, followed by Baby Where Did Our Love Go) -- so many college memories!!!Carly - Upstate, Ny
I thought Time by Dark Side of the Moon held the longevity record.Andrew - Springfield, Mo
I like Billy Idol's version...Tessa - Ottawa, Canada
This song was also covered bt The Living End. I agree, if anyone trys to cover Nirvana they need to be choked.Lyndon - Christchurch, New Zealand
Shades apart covered this song, tooTawnee - Tucson, Az
[[It's like those dumb idiots trying to cover the Ramones. That's blasphemy. I still listen to most of the bands who covered the songs but they should have left the Ramones alone.]]

Everyone should leave the Ramones' songs alone. Like leave them alone and away from the CD player. Yikes! Worst band ever.
Ted - Los Angeles, Ny
What about the My Ruin version?Jo - Londonderry, Ireland
The Gloria Jones original is superior to either the cover versions by Soft Cell and Marilyn Manson. The original Jones version is a brassy, uptempo soul stomper with a whirring organ and a great, belt-it-out vocal by Jones. It has a great Motown feel to it; it sounds like a long-lost Martha and the Vandellas hit. But the test of a good song whether or not it can be redone in various styles, and "Tainted Love" definitely fits that bill.Gregory - Chicago, Il
The stripper at Phoebe's party used this song in season ten of Friends.Adele - Victoria, Canada
i like softcell's version, it's cool.Jme - Raleigh, Nc
I have absolutly NO idea who would be freaked out by marilyn manson. I think his version is much better but the song has been covered a few too many times i think. I agree that no-one should ever cover Nirvana, i'll help choke them.Katie - Dannevirke, New Zealand
in the second verse, "and they say love is to pray", that makes no sense. it should be "play"-which would make sense.Alatriel - Lothlorien, Other
Manson rocked this song but will never equal the original. It's like those dumb idiots trying to cover the Ramones. That's blasphemy. I still listen to most of the bands who covered the songs but they should have left the Ramones alone. If anyone ever covers Nirvana I will choke them.Alatriel - Lothlorien, Other
i personally like the softcell verison and the marilyn manson verison... they both have different sounds, that appeal to different moods and groups. and cover like marilyn manson's opens this song up to different audiences.Terri Lynn - Heart's Desire, Canada
When the song was played in the movie "Coneheads," it regained its popularity for a whole new generation. Radio stations began playing it more frequently than usual.Patrick - Conyers, Ga
"Tainted Love" is on the 1981 Soft Cell album, "Non-Stop Erotic Caberet" which is such a cool title I just had to share it....thanx!Micheal - Columbia, Md
Both versions of the song are good, but Soft Cell's is better.Steven - Market Harborough, England
Marilyn Manson ruined this song.Matt - Louisville, Oh
I think that a cover of this magnificent song was needed.Old great hits must be renewed by new artists.Nikko - Bucharest, Romania
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