New Wave Hall Of Shame: Soft Cell – Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go?

Inasmuch as the New Wave movement was a breath of fresh air to someone who had risen through the harsh ranks of seventies Top 40 pop, there came a point in the timeline when it wasn’t all skittles and beer. By the early 80s, the trend had begun to spread out pretty wildly, and where art forms spread to cover more territory, they tend to get a little thin on the ground, so to speak.

At a certain point it would transpire that some songs might get so popular that their perceived left field status would all but evaporate as they grew in popularity and challenged the Rod Stewarts who held a tight grip on the charts. There would come to be a clutch of songs that, while standing tall in the New Wave canon, would come to be so overplayed that the end result to my ears would be not unlike a song by The Eagles when all is said and done!

And that’s saying a lot. Let us now begin the roll call of infamy; New Wave songs that either overstayed their welcome… or even worse… never had one to begin with!

Soft Cell: Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go
I liked Soft Cell. I bought their debut album and thought it was just fine. Marc Almond was a great frontman who wore his heart on his sleeve in a winning fashion that set him apart from all of the would-be Bowie/Ferry clones of the New Romantic period. “Tainted Love” was a good, quirky New Wave cover of an obscure Northern Soul song that most people outside of Wigan Casino regulars were probably not familiar with. As a 2:38 pop song it’s always welcome to my ears as it follows my first rule of this dirty business called show: always leave them wanting more!

I can’t say the same for the interminable 12″ version that was a medley with the far more overplayed Supremes classic “Where Did Our Love Go!” The two songs are stretched out to a dissolute 8:57 that hearing once was tiresome enough. But over the years, this seems to have been made the go-to mix of the song! I have heard this played in clubs far too much, but the sad fact is that I hear it about 50% of the time on public Muzak systems! I’ve heard it in grocery stores, for crying out loud! It is one of the tracks that would always make me leave the club floor; a DJ disaster!

It’s gotten to the point where whenever I hear the distinctive intro to this song, I enter a state of anxiety until I can ascertain that I will be subjected to the relief of the 7″ mix instead of the dreaded medley 12 inch! I suppose this is a factor of the song’s record breaking 55 week stay on the US Billboard Hot 100. That it took a year for this song’s charms to peak was probably down to the traditional resistance of the US market to that “weird” synth pop stuff. If this song helped to break down that barrier, then I certainly owe Soft Cell a debt of gratitude. But even that doesn’t rate a karmic payback the size of the “Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go” 12″ medley!

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21 Responses to New Wave Hall Of Shame: Soft Cell – Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go?

  1. zoo says:

    I HATE that song/those songs. This is not an overstatement…I do not use the word “hate” lightly.

    That’s all I have to say. :)

    Like

  2. Brian Ware says:

    I totally concur. I’m sure you recall that The Pragmatix covered “Tainted Love” and we actually rehearsed the medley and tried it one night. Hey, the song was always a crowd pleaser, so we thought it was worth a shot. The tedium set in immediately and we realized our folly. I recall cutting it short, and we never did it again.

    I’m intrigued at your upcoming Hall Of Shame. I’m wondering if my all time worst will be included. I’ll say no more for now.

    Like

  3. Taffy says:

    Very interesting and fun concept for a series of entries, but I think it’s important to differentiate between overplayed and just plain bad. Bad is subjective, overplayed is less so (probably everyone can agree on what constitutes played out). As for Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go – we’ll have to (agree to) disagree.

    Like

  4. Echorich says:

    I heartily agree that the 12″ TL/WDOLG is hugely unnecessary and diluted the importance of Tainted Love. I will NEVER however, say a bad word against the 7″ or anything from Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret. As for the popularity grabbing Non-Stop Ecstatic Dancing I truly dislike this release in the same way I dislike Human League/League Unlimited Orchestra – Love & Dancing. I saw them both for the cash in that they were even at the time.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – I just got NSED on CD so I heard it for the first time since it came out and it seemed less crass 30 years later. As for “Love + Dancing” why not give it its due as the Martin Rushent solo album that otherwise never was. His embrace of dub technique was pretty fly for a white guy, and its application to electronic music was important and even ground breaking.

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      • Echorich says:

        Never meant to disparage Rushent, but I wonder had they not fallen in line with Virgin flogging the dying horse to death, if Rushent could have possibly asserted more control and made Hysteria the album it should have been.

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  5. Tim says:

    This post makes me miss the column that the magazine Uncut used to run called “The Reaper” where they would savage the over-rated products of yesteryear….Synchronicity, The Joshua Tree, a good chunk of REM’s catalog…..

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Tim – Don’t get me started on “Synchronicity!” What a horrific fall for a once decent [but never great] group, but then, “Ghost In The Machine” was certainly pointing in that direction even as it danced on the razor’s edge.

      Like

  6. Tim says:

    Synchronicity should have been a single called “Wrapped Around Your Finger.” A good pop song; not a great pop song but a fine pop song.

    Like

    • Echorich says:

      I have to agree, if Synchronicity was just a Double A side of Wrapped Around Your Finger and King of Pain, they could have jumped right to a greatest hits album and called it a day.

      Like

      • postpunkmonk says:

        Echorich – Actually, I don’t really care for anything from that album! And I was scarred from the concert that I saw on that tour. It was only the second rock concert I ever attended and being a stadium show it was extremely long and actually repulsive to me. What was the most terrible thing to me was that I had to attend the show in order to write a paper for my pop culture class in college. The choice was either that or pro wrestling! one of my regrets over the years is that I didn’t opt for the wrestling! It would have been over and done with in just three hours. And it would have been far less repellent to me.

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        • Echorich says:

          Your recollection of writing about The Police Stadium Tour reminded me of a music criticism class I had in the summer of 1983. We had to attend a concert and write a critical review of the show. My professor requested that we go see something we like but probably no one else would know. My luck gave me the opportunity to review Echo and the Bunnymen and it was the first time I had ever gone to a show where I wrote down the set list as it was played (I wasn’t up front so I knew I’d never get to take one of the ones taped to the floor for the band). I did well enough in my critic that my professor wanted to hear My White Devil from Porcupine – I dubbed the album on high quality cassette for him.

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  7. jfi says:

    I have to differ with you on this one .. Both Tainted Love and Where Did.. are/were genius re-workings of 60s classics .. with electronics full on and with tongue very firmly in cheek. This was just the right sound at the right time. Don’t forget that the 12″ was also a pioneering record in the ‘extended/dub/12″‘ version which still wasn’t a viable commercial proposition at that point in time .. Soft Cell and The Human League were pioneers in this field and many would follow suit. Both bands were also the first to produce ‘dance version’ albums in that vein.
    This 12″ along with the League’s “Hard Times/Love Action” are still a couple of the best in their genre, in my books anyway.
    Great blog!

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      JFI – Welcome to the blog! I think I would have preferred an EP of soul covers that maybe weren’t mixed together. “Tainted Love,” “Where Did Our Love Go,” and “What” as separate songs on a 12″ would have been thematically coherent, yet might not have seemed so looooong to me. If TL/WDOLG were 5:30 I would have no problem with it. It’s the extra three and a half minutes that feel like padding to my ears.

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      • jfi says:

        Fair enough .. but then you got 2 out of three of those on Non Stop Ecstatic Dancing anyway!

        Like

      • Vlad says:

        Strange that they opt for the 9 min. version as actually there IS a perfectly presentable edit of that medley which clocks at just 4:11 – it was released on 7″ in the USA in 1987 (and it had “What!” on the B-side :o).

        Like

  8. negative1ne says:

    ok, i give up on trying to figure
    out the line spacing on wordpress.

    so this is the way i’m going.

    anyways, with the super-duper
    deluxy thingy they are coming out
    with in a couple of months. there
    are 2 new songs on it.

    one of them northern lights, is pretty
    good. out on ewwwtube, and streaming
    sites, and the other is ‘Guilty (Cos I Say You Are)’.

    both will be on the single cd compilation, and
    not on the boxset. there will be an EP, vinyl
    7 inch, and digital release for just those
    tracks. so if you got the boxed set, you can
    still get them, without having to purchase the
    single disc version.

    i hope the line spacing on this post works.
    (if not, arrgggh)

    later
    -1

    Like

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