Born Peter Marc Almond on July 9, 1956, in Southport, Lancashire, England. Addresses: Record company--Instinct/Shadow, 26 W. 17th St., Ste. 502, New York City, NY 10011; Management company--M.A.W. Management, New York City, NY, and London, England. Phone: (212) 727-1360 Fax: (212) 366-5878 E-mail: instinct@compuserve.com.

Before vocalist and songwriter Marc Almond commenced his acclaimed and prolific solo career, he earned fame as a member of Soft Cell, the pioneering electronic duo that created the smash hit "Tainted Love." But Almond's talents go beyond his ability to produce number-one songs. Instead, the internationally revered artist has made his most important contribution to music as a successful singer, songwriter, and performer adored by critics throughout Europe and the United States. "Listeners who acknowledge Marc Almond only as the voice behind Soft Cell's 'Tainted Love' do the English singer a great disservice," wrote Kurt B. Reighley in a profile for the Trouser Press Guide to '90s Rock. "Since that electro-pop landmark in 1981, Almond has steadfastly devoted his career to exploring the art of the song."

Throughout his career, Almond has always been happy to interpret other songwriters' music, regardless of the style. For example, he successfully covered the music of Jacques Brecht, tunes from the 1960s intended to be performed by female vocalists, and even pop superstar Madonna with his rendition of "Like a Prayer." Almond has collaborated with a wide range of artists as well, some of which included Gene Pitney, Nico, Nick Cave, The The, P.J. Proby, Coil, Bronski Beat, Jim "Foetus" Thirlwell, Psychic TV, Sally Timms of the Mekons, and Andi Sex Gang. And while he bounced from label to label as a solo recording artist, Almond, known as one of the most uncommercial yet commercial musicians in the pop world, maintained a devoted following and occasionally made a hit on the European and British charts.

Peter Marc Almond was born on July 9, 1956, in Southport, Lancashire, England. In 1979, in Leeds, England, Almond, acknowledged as the city's leading futurist and looking for a musician to accompany his cabaret act, teamed with keyboardist Dave Ball to found Soft Cell, Great Britain's first successful electro-pop duo. Their success resulted from Soft Cell's mix of personality a bow-tied Ball aside Almond's whipping boy persona and warm and shining but sometimes painful music. Although the press loathed Almond's overly stylized mannerisms, fans reveled in his on-stage antics. In just four years together, Soft Cell enjoyed a string of international hits, arriving in 1981 with their most successful, the multi-million selling version of Gloria Jones' northern soul song "Tainted Love." As popular two decades later as it was in the early-1980s, the single was followed by other popular hits like "Bedsitter," "Numbers," "Torch," and "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye." Soft Cells' first single, 1981's "Memorabilia," was the very first techno record, setting the stage for a whole new movement in pop music.

When Almond and Ball disbanded in 1984, Soft Cell had sold in excess of ten million records worldwide, and their style would influence the next generation of bands that followed, from the Pet Shop Boys and the Divine Comedy to Pulp, Blur, and others. Critics point to the duo's 1981 album for Sire Records, Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret, as Soft Cell's best offering. "Sandwiched between the steamroller of 'Tainted Love' and the used hanky of 'Say Hello, Wave Goodbye' is every shag Marc ever had, every tear ever cried and every rose dropped in the gutter," concluded Brian Connolly in Rock: The Rough Guide. "Almond takes every song by force, while Ball's arrangements have a simplicity that belies their age."

Meanwhile, beginning in 1982, Almond had put together an offshoot project called Marc and the Mambas as a less commercial outlet for his ideas. With fellow musicians Billy McGee and the classically trained Annie Hogan (both of whom remained with Almond during his solo pursuits throughout the 1980s), Almond recorded two double albums released in 1983: Untitled and Torment and Toreros. Featuring a mainly acoustic lineup and a small orchestra an element influenced by musicians and bands from My Life Story and Rialto to Tricky both in the studio and in concert, the Mambas firmly established Almond's credibility as an artist. Moreover, the project enabled Almond to explore a variety of styles other than electro-pop. With Untitled, for example, Almond covered songs by Jacques Brel, Scott Walker, and Lou Reed.

After retiring the Mambas, Almond announced that he was leaving the music business. However, his retirement was short-lived, as 1984 saw the release of a single entitled "The Boy Who Came Back," as well as his first solo album, Vermine in Ermine. The transition from band leader to solo artist proved fruitful, with Almond forging ahead to produce a string of diverse and critically noted albums that always took his audience in a new direction. He followed his debut, after leaving the Phonogram label and signing with Virgin Records, with Stories of Johnny, an album that displayed Almond's undoubted power as a torch singer rather than a traditional rock/pop performer, but managed to reward him with a hit single for the LPs title track.

Although Almond's mainstream popularity started to diminish, his reputation within the music business and among critics and colleagues only strengthened. They took notice of his improving vocals, his interpretive powers and willingness to perform others' songs, and his sense of humor and irony combined with a hint of bitterness. In 1986, Almond released the mini-LP A Woman's Story, an obscure collection of cover songs that, given the singer's open bisexuality and fascination with cross-dressing, proved he could tackle songs intended for women without changing the gender. The twisted, controversial but musically stunning Mother Fist and Her Five Daughters, arrived in 1987 to supportive reviews.

In reference to the above efforts, Melody Maker's Ben Myers insisted that "Almond created a number of masterpieces which easily rivaled anything by the likes of Edith Piaf, Otis Redding and Rogers & Hammerstein. Add to this the destructive wit of Oscar Wilde and you'll be fleetingly touched by moments of genius." The performer's greatest asset, Myers continued, "is his willingness to absorb the past to create albums which are not merely a collection of songs, but a series of instances as immediate as the greatest of cinema and as lasting as a classic novel." Nonetheless, chart action still eluded the performer, and Virgin decided not to renew his contract.

Ironically, Almond's first release for the Parlophone label, 1988's The Stars We Are, became his greatest commercial success; the duet "Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart," sung with George Pitney, gave both artists their first number-one hit as soloists. In 1990, Almond returned with an album of Jacques Brel songs, Jacques, followed by Enchanted. But despite including some of Almond's finest work, neither received much popular attention. However, Almond returned to the charts in 1992 when a remake of David McWilliams' "The Days of Pearly Spencer," from Almond's Tenement Symphony, entered the British top five.

In the fall of 1992, Almond made a second attempt to bid farewell to a high-profile career by performing two retrospective concerts at London's Royal Albert Hall, documented on the 1993 album Twelve Years of Tears. A low-key album entitled Absinthe: The French Album, a collection of old French songs and arrangements of poems by Baudelaire and Rimbaud, arrived that year as well. Then two years later in 1995, Almond released Treasure Box, featuring the glam-rock single "The Idol" and returned to the stage with a new band. The following year, the performer released Fantastic Star, recorded in New York City with a larger band and offering a lush, more traditional pop sound. A less conventional effort with Jim Thirlwell that mixed camp and industrial music, the disturbing Flesh Volcano/Slut appeared in 1998.

In March of 1999, Almond released Open All Night, "a mature, meditative journey, each track outstanding and definitely Marc Almond today, more relevant than ever," according to the musician's website. Tackling an array of styles, including the jazz-inspired "When Bad People Kiss" and the poignant "Tragedy," the album drew from a well of musical sources, including rhythm and blues, trip hop, Latin, and gospel. The album also featured two duets: "Threat of Love," with Siouxsie Sioux and the Creatures, and "Almost Diamonds," with Sneaker Pimps' vocalist Kelly Dayton.

To add to his long list of musical credits, Almond also wrote an anthology of poems and lyrics entitled A Beautiful Twisted Night, made available in April of 1999 by the publishers Ellipsis, and an autobiography entitled Tainted Life, published by Macmillan.

by Laura Hightower

Marc Almond's Career

Member of Soft Cell, 1979-84; founded Marc and the Mambas, 1982; released first solo album, Vermine in Ermine, 1984; released the controversial Mother Fist... and Her Five Daughters, 1987; released greatest commercial success, The Stars We Are, 1988; released Twelve Years of Tears, documenting 1992 farewell performance at London's Royal Albert Hall, 1993; released Open All Night, a book of poems entitled A Beautiful Twisted Night, and the autobiography Tainted Life, 1999. Performed and recorded with a wide range of artists including Gene Pitney, Nico, Nick Cave, The The, P.J. Proby, Coil, Bronski Beat, Jim "Foetus" Thirlwell, Psychic TV, Sally Timms of the Mekons, and Andi Sex Gang.

Famous Works

Recent Updates

November 11, 2003: Almond's album, Heart of Snow, was released. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bb/releases/week_3/rock.jsp, November 12, 2003.

October 17, 2004: Almond sustained severe head injuries in a car/motorcycle accident in London, England. Source: USA Today, www.usatoday.com/life/people/2004-10-18-almond-crash_x.htm, October 18, 2004.

Further Reading

Sources

BooksPeriodicalsOnline

Visitor Comments Add a comment…

almost 8 years ago

To me, Mother Fist and Her Five Daughters is Marc's best album and my favourite album for all these years. Even though there was not one from the album on the chart, all of the songs are, even with so dark content, so beautifully written and arranged and sung. If i could only bring three albums in an isolated island like Robinson Crusoe, Mother Fist must be one of them!