Soft Cell – Tainted Love – 1981

Tainted Love” is a song covered and reworked by British synthpop duo Soft Cell in 1981.

Phonogram Records chose to release “Tainted Love” in 1981 as Soft Cell’s 2nd single. The label’s representatives implied that this single would be Soft Cell’s final release on Some Bizzare if it did not sell. 

Thanks to a memorable performance on the BBC’s Top of the Pops chart show, “Tainted Love” reached #1 on the UK Singles Chart, and was known as the best-selling single of 1981 in the UK, until the Official Charts Company recalculated the data in 2021 (giving the title to “Don’t You Want Me” by The Human League). “Tainted Love” had 1.05 million sales in the UK in 1981, with that total increasing to 1.35 million copies as of August 2017.

Buoyed by the then-dominant new wave sound of the time, “Tainted Love” became a major hit in the US during the Second British Invasion, with the song spending a then-record breaking 43 weeks on the US Billboard Hot 100. In the American Top 40 it reached #8 during the summer of 1982.

“Soft Cell, a tweezy synthesizer and singer duo whose fondest subject was sexual perversion, had a huge turntable hit in the clubs with “Tainted Love”, which then crossed over to radio, enjoying the longest tenure, at forty-three weeks, of any single in Billboard history.”

A video was recorded specially for Soft Cell’s video album Non-Stop Exotic Video Show, featuring David Ball as a cricketer meeting Marc Almond in a toga on what seems to be Mount Olympus.

Soft Cell’s version of “Tainted Love” ranked #5 on VH1’s 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders of the 1980s. It was also heavily sampled on Rihanna‘s 2006 single “SOS” and the Veronicas‘s 2007 single “Hook Me Up“. In 2015, the song was voted by the British public as the nation’s 4th favourite 1980s number one in a poll for ITV.

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