Sunday, March 13, 2011

Soft Cell -- "Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go" (1982)

Once I ran to you
Now I run from you
This tainted love you've given
I give you all a boy could give you
Take my tears and that's not nearly all!
Tainted love . . .

Shakespeare's tragic hero, King Lear, knew what he was talking about when he said:

How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
To have a thankless child!

I might revise the immortal bard's words slightly, and say instead how sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless Chief Executive Senior Contributing Editor.

The original SBFH
That title is very complicated, so we'll need to pick a nickname that's a little less clumsy.  Hmmm . . . let me think.  I suppose we could call her "Linda."  But I think I will call her "Super Bitch From Hell" since that's what she is acting like.

It's tempting to call her "Hillary," but that would really be hitting below the belt.  Actually, is it even considered bad form to hit a woman below the belt?  That's no worse than hitting her above the belt, is it?  

Recently, Super Bitch From Hell (or "SBFH" for short) and I were discussing Scala & Kolacny Brothers, the wonderful Belgian girls' choir that does these ethereal versions of pop songs.  I found a Youtube video of them performing a cover of the old Soft Cell hit from 1982, "Tainted Love," in Montreal, and mentioned what a guilty pleasure that song was.

OMG, that set SBFH off on such a rant that you wouldn't believe it:
Don't even get me started on "Tainted Love." One of the worst songs in the history of songdom, IMO. Can't really even put my finger on why I hate it, I just do.  
Very persuasive logic, eh?

Being the a**hole that I am, I couldn't resist egging her on.  I sent SBFH this message:
The Soft Cell "Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go?" medley is probably one of the 10 greatest accomplishments of Western culture to date -- will have to write a "2 or 3 lines" post praising it just to annoy you.
To paraphrase David Bowie, I knew I was putting out the fire with gasoline with those words.  And, sure enough, SBFH rose to the bait:
I may have to have a "Soft Cell Sucks" t-shirt made up & post a pic of it right under the announcement of your Soft Cell post. Controversy = more readers, right?

It wasn't enough for her to taunt me about 2 or 3 lines.  I had told her that Scala & Kolacny Brothers was performing in Washington next month, and that I really wanted to see them but didn't want to go alone.  So she had to taunt me about that: 

You should get [your 16-year-old son] to go to the concert with you.  [NOTE: Oh sure, like that's happening.  My son's a good kid, but he would rather cut off an arm than go to a concert with his father.  And how pathetic would it be for me to take a 16-year-old to an edgy downtown club because I couldn't find a date?]  Just tell him it's a bunch of hot Belgian chicks singing rock songs. No need to elaborate on what they actually sound like. Or, why don't you take your hot French g/f?  
I don't think SCFH -- oops, I meant to type SBFH -- really believes that I have a hot (age-adjusted, as I'm always careful to note) French girlfriend.

Not a Soft Cell fan
I left it at that, figuring that would be the end of it.  But n-o-o-o-o-o-o . . . within hours, SBFH sent me a very intemperate attack on "Tainted Love," which you would think was Hitler's favorite record or something, and dared me to post it.

What could I do?  I couldn't just ignore her -- although I knew the folks in the marketing department would soil their drawers if I told them I was tearing up the FY 2011 2nd quarter posting schedule and inserting an unplanned post on the spur of the moment.  

You would think that SBFH might have a little more concern for the good of 2 or 3 lines -- after all, it is the only blog I'm aware of that has given her carte blanche to ramble on about her glory days.

We even let her get away with that disturbing little story about relieving herself in a coffee mug in her minivan.  (Goodness gracious, "Linda," have you no shame?  Wouldn't that story have better been kept to yourself rather than splashed all over the pages of a wildly popular blog?)

Ted
But no, it's a-l-l-l-l about her.  So rather than just deep six her contribution, which would no doubt precipitate a major hissy fit by Ms. SBFH -- I so hate it when I'm forced to call Ted, our chief of security, to escort an employee who has misbehaved out of the building -- I've decided to turn the other cheek and accede to her desire to unload on "Tainted Love" in 2 or 3 lines.

My non-italic comments are interspersed throughout her italicized screed, which begins with the following sortie: 

One of the many benefits of my lofty position with 2 or 3 lines is occasional permission to voice a dissenting opinion.

Am I imagining things, or is there the tiniest hint of sarcasm here?  
Disagreement with upper management, while tolerated, is not necessarily appreciated.  Shameless toadying is the preferred modus operandi for underlings.

I'm pretty sure now that I wasn't imagining that sarcasm.
You know who
In this case, though, I feel compelled to express my complete distaste for “Tainted Love.”  I have a sneaking suspicion that the hot (age-adjusted) French girlfriend must have somehow influenced our fearless leader in his adoration of this song.  How else does one explain such an obvious lapse in judgment?  
Hold it right there, sister.  I've liked this song since it was released in 1982.  (It helped that I didn't own the record and heard it only infrequently on the radio, so I didn't wear it out for myself.)  The French girlfriend had nothing to do with it.
The squiggly synths and mechanized drum loops, coupled with the whiny vocals, are just completely unappealing to me. I don’t have a problem with synthesizers and drum machines, in principle. A lot of early eighties bands used them and produced great music. The Eurythmics come to mind, as well as Blondie, Devo and Depeche Mode.  

(Depeche Mode produced "great music"?  ARE YOU FRIGGING KIDDING ME?)  

“Tainted Love” just sounds way too sterile and mechanical to me. The accompanying video , a mishmash of togas, tennis outfits (or maybe cricket), and children, is vaguely homoerotic but mostly just silly and not very entertaining. 
Yes, it was cricket, not tennis -- the fact that the guy in the video was holding a CRICKET BAT instead of a tennis racket was a dead giveaway, I thought.  The video is awful -- and very creepy -- but I believe we were talking about the song.  Attacking the video is attacking a straw man.




"VAGUELY HOMOEROTIC"?  (This is akin to saying that Sarah Jessica Parker has a vaguely equine face.)  SBFH is playing the "gay" card on me, I think.  When a woman has exhausted her supply of other nasty, belittling comments and it's still not time for Sex and the City or Cake Boss to come on, she will often fill the time by hinting that her husband's or boyfriend's inability to satisfy her sexually is probably explained by the fact that he is secretly gay.  The man will usually answer by pointing out how old and fat the woman is, and there's really nothing for the man to do at that point except to lawyer up and start concealing assets.

If you want a video that is "vaguely homoerotic," how about this one by the a cappella group, Straight [sic] No Chaser?  Do these guys think this video makes them look like a neo-"Rat Pack"?  Maybe we're supposed to see it and think of the cool guys in The Hangover.




He is kinda hot
If SBFH is trying to get a rise out of me by implying that I am gay if I like Soft Cell's "Tainted Love," it's not going to work.  I'm not embarrassed by the fact that I am in touch with my feminine side -- in fact, I am usually in touch with it at least a couple of times each week.  Nor am I embarrassed by my son's accusing me of having a man-crush on Derek Jeter and Tom Brady.

And those who were in New Orleans with me and saw my Mardi Gras outfit know that I am not embarrassed by the incongruity of being 6' 2" and weighing 199 pounds and having a luxuriant growth of body hair and still dressing up as a jeune fille.
  
Neither Marilyn Manson nor the Pussycat Dolls, who both covered the song, could make it palatable, either. 
I beg to differ.  Here's the Marilyn Manson video.  Watch the hot-tub scenes and tell me they aren't palatable.





Ditto for the Pussycat Dolls cover.  Nothing "vaguely homoerotic" here:




(I will now cede the floor to SBFH for her closing argument.)
Coil’s version is the most unusual and interesting of the covers. An industrial music band formed in the early eighties, Coil released “Tainted Love”  in 1984. It was the first musical release to have all of its profits donated to a foundation dedicated to AIDS education and prevention. Coil’s video of the song is on permanent display in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Well, I guess that settles it.  Of course, one might ask how truly noble it was for a band no one has ever heard of to donate the profits from a record that nobody bought to a good cause?

As for Coil's version of the song, it reminds me of what a 45 rpm record sounded like on my parents' stereo when I accidentally played it at 33 rpm.  And as for the video, my advice is not to view it after a big meal unless you're a bulimic, in which case it's perfect!

I think SBFH may have confused New York City's Museum of Modern Art ("MOMA") with the Museum of Bad Art ("MOBA") in suburban Boston.  MOBA's permanent collection includes 500 pieces of art "too bad to be ignored," according to one critic.

From MOBA's permanent collection, here is an anonymous tribute to the famous pointillist artist Georges Seurat, which the anonymous artist titled "Sunday On The Pot With George":


And here is one more piece from MOBA's collection for those of you who prefer artworks that present the lovely female form rather than anything "vaguely homoerotic."  This painting (also anonymous, not surprisingly) is called "The Itch."  Whether "the itch" is under her right armpit or it is her back that itches isn't clear -- perhaps it's both.


(SBFH wraps things up:)
Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion.  Far be it from me to try to take on the title of arbiter of musical taste.  But, Gary, I’m sorry – “Tainted Love” is just . . . wrong!
 
There certainly is something that's just wrong here, but it ain't "Tainted Love."

(I know, that was kind of a weak ending, but the lawyers wouldn't let me talk about taint.)

Time to wrap this post up.  "Tainted Love" was originally recorded by Gloria Jones in 1965.  (Jones was an American soul singer who was the girlfriend of the late glam rocker, Marc Bolan, who was a member of T. Rex.)




Explain this to me.  Soft Cell's version of "Tainted Love" ranked #2 on VH1's 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders, but #5 on VH1's 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the Eighties.

Here's the version of "Tainted Love"/"Where Did Our Love Go?" that I remember hearing on the radio way back when:




Here's a much longer version that I'm guessing was very popular in the clubs back in the day:




Here's a link you can use to buy the long version of the song on iTunes:

Tainted Love / Where Did Our Love Go? (Extended) - Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret (Deluxe Edition)


Here's a link you can use to buy it on Amazon: 

1 comment:

  1. I don't understand why you go on to trash Coil because of your disdain for your boss.

    "Of course, one might ask how truly noble it was for a band no one has ever heard of to donate the profits from a record that nobody bought to a good cause?"

    Does the amount of fame one has (or seeks) from a charitable act a real factor in their nobility? Also the parts about the Museum of Bad Art is irrelevant.

    I was never a Coil fan but their contribution to music shouldn't be belittled because of your work/personal issues and while you may not have heard of them, their influence still carries weight within the world in the music world by way of bands/artists that cite them as an influence.

    Any way, I agree that your boss has some irrational dislike for the music, though I wonder how much of it is really about your relationship with each other and not Soft Cell. Hopefully you can move on to bigger and better things rather than festering in a stew of mutual disdain.

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