This is a cover of a 1964 song by the soul singer Gloria Jones, whose original version became something of a hit on the UK northern soul circuit. She was good friends with Marc Bolan and joined his group T-Rex as a backup singer and keyboard player in 1974. They later married, and she was driving the car (a Mini) at the time of the accident that killed him 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." (thanks, Nick - London, England)
Soft Cell is the duo of Marc Almond and David Ball. They 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."
The whip-crack sounds were made on hand-held synth-drums.
As AIDS began to spread, this song took on new meaning. Soft Cell's Mark Almond thinks there is an unintentional relation to this song to the rise of AIDS in gay communities when it was released.
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."
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.
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.
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. (thanks, Adam - Dewsbury, England)
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" (thanks, Chet - Saratoga Springs, NY)
Gloria Jones has said that she considers the Soft Cell version to be the best one: "I loved the emotion in his voice. 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. (thanks, Adam - Dewsbury, England, for above 2)
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." (thanks, Katie - Melbourne, Australia)