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Almond, Marc

Marc Almond

Singer, songwriter

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. The internationally revered artist has made his most important contribution to music as a successful singer, songwriter, and performer, acclaimed 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 music by pop superstar Madonna with his rendition of "Like a Prayer." Almond has also collaborated with a wide range of artists, some of which included Gene Pitney, Nico, Nick Cave, Psychic TV, and Andi Sex Gang. And while he bounced from label to label as a solo recording artist, Almond 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, Almond, acknowledged as a 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. Although the press criticized 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, including a 1981 multi-million selling version of Gloria Jones's northern soul song "Tainted Love." As popular two decades later as it had been in the early 1980s, the single was followed by other popular hits such as "Bedsitter," "Numbers," "Torch," and "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye." Soft Cell's 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, from the Pet Shop Boys and the Divine Comedy to Pulp, Blur, and others. Critics have frequently named the duo's 1981 album for Sire Records, Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret, as Soft Cell's best offering. In Rock: The Rough Guide, Brian Connolly concluded that "Almond takes every song by force, while Ball's arrangements have a simplicity that belies their age."

Beginning in 1982, Almond put together an offshoot project called Marc and the Mambas as a less com- mercial 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 released two double albums in 1983, Untitled and Torment and Toreros. Featuring a mainly acoustic lineup and a small orchestra, the Mambas firmly established Almond's credibility as an artist. 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 titled "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. After leaving the Phonogram label and signing with Virgin Records, he released Stories of Johnny, an album that displayed Almond's undoubted power as a torch singer rather than a traditional rock/pop performer, and managed to reward him with a hit single for the LP's 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 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, was "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, 1987'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. Despite including some of Almond's finest work, neither received much popular attention. However, Almond returned to the charts in 1992 when his remake of David McWilliams's "The Days of Pearly Spencer," from 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 titled Absinthe: The French Album, a collection of old French songs and arrangements of poems by Baudelaire and Rimbaud, arrived that year as well. 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.

For the Record …

Born Peter Marc Almond on July 9, 1956, in Southport, Lancashire, England.

Member of Soft Cell, 1979-84; founded Marc and the Mambas, 1982; released first solo album, Vermine in Ermine, 1984; released Mother Fist… and Her Five Daughters, 1987; The Stars We Are, 1988; Twelve Years of Tears, 1993; Open All Night, 1999; released A Beautiful Twisted Night (book of poems) and Tainted Life (autobiography), both 1999; released Stranger Things, 2001; Heart on Snow, 2003; Stardom Road, 2007; performed and recorded with wide range of artists including Gene Pitney, Nico, Nick Cave, Bronski Beat, and others.

Addresses: Management Company—IAG Management, e-mail management.ma@googlemail.com. Web site—Marc Almond Official Web site: http://www.marcalmond.co.uk/, Official MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/marcalmondofficial.

In March of 1999 Almond released Open All Night. 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 credits, Almond also wrote an anthology of poems and lyrics titled A Beautiful Twisted Night, published by Ellipsis in 1999, and an autobiography, Tainted Life, published by Macmillan in the same year.

For Almond's first studio release in the new millennium, Stranger Things, he found another collaborative foil in Icelandic keyboardist Johann Johannson. The pair seemingly attempted to provide a contemporary soundtrack to a nonexistent British spy film. His next studio outing, the 2003 release Heart on Snow, eliminated electronica and trip-hop completely in favor of acoustic instruments that provided a musical background for Russian folk music-tinged existentialist contemplations. On two separate pieces, Almond dueted with Russian singers Ludmilla Zukena and Alla Bayanova, and the British singer even sang several verses in the Russian language. According to All Music Guide critic Tim DiGravina, the album "really is essential listening for Almond fans. [These are] heartfelt, solid songs that show Almond going strong with great emotional depth and a wonderful range of musicality more than 20 years after his first solo album."

In 2004 Almond was involved in a motorcycle accident that resulted in a fractured skull, a broken shoulder and ruptured eardrum, a collapsed lung, and a ten-day coma. Despite his near-death experience, Almond was performing onstage again within a year. He also rebounded creatively by recording an album of carefully chosen cover songs (2007's Stardom Road) by songwriters as diverse as Bobby Darin, David Bowie, Al Stewart, and Charles Aznavour, in what many critics perceived as Almond's successful attempt to create a musical autobiography of his musical and lyrical influences.

Selected discography

Solo

Vermine in Ermine, Phonogram, 1984; reissued, 1998.

Stories of Johnny, Virgin, 1985.

A Woman's Story, Virgin, 1986.

Violent Silence, (EP) Virgin, 1986.

Melancholy Rose, (EP), Virgin, 1987.

Mother Fist and Her Five Daughters, Virgin, 1987.

Singles 1984-1987, Virgin, 1987.

The Stars We Are, Parlophone, 1987.

Jacques, Rough Trade, 1989.

Enchanted, Parlophone, 1990.

Tenement Symphony, WEA, 1991.

A Virgin's Tale Vol. I, Virgin, 1992.

A Virgin's Tale Vol. II, Virgin, 1992.

Twelve Years of Tears, Warner, 1993.

Absinthe: The French Album, Thirsty Ear, 1994.

Treasure Box, EMI, 1995.

Fantastic Star, Mercury, 1996.

Live in Concert, Thirsty Ear, 1998.

(With Jim Thirlwell) Flesh Volcano/Slut Some Bizarre, 1998.

Open All Night, Blue Star/Instinct, 1999.

Live at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, 1992, Blue Star Music, 2000.

Stranger Things, XIII Bis, 2001.

Live at the Union Chapel: December 12, 2000, Import, 2001.

Little Rough Rhinestones, Vol. 1, Blue Star Music, 2002.

The Willing Sinner: Live in Berlin, Import, 2003.

In Session: Vol. 1, Strange Fruit, 2003.

The Radio One Sessions, Vol. 1, Strange Fruit, 2003.

Heart on Snow, Psychobaby, 2003.

In Session, Vol. 2, Import, 2003.

Gone But Not Forgotten, XIII Bis, 2005.

Other People's Rooms, Universe, 2007.

Stardom Road, Sanctuary, 2007.

As Marc and the Mambas

Untitled, Phonogram, 1983; reissued, 1998.

Torment and Toreros, Phonogram, 1983; reissued, 1998.

Soft Cell/Marc Almond

Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret, Sire, 1981.

Memorabilia: The Singles, Polydor, 1991.

Sources

Books

Buckley, Jonathan, et al, editors, Rock: The Rough Guide, Rough Guides Ltd., 1999.

Robbins, Ira A., editor, Trouser Press Guide to '90s Rock, Fireside/Simon & Schuster, 1997.

Periodicals

Advocate, November 9, 1999.

Billboard, September 25, 1999.

Los Angeles Times, November 24, 1999.

Melody Maker, December 16, 1995; December 13, 1997; August 8, 1998; May 1, 1999; July 31, 1999; November 3-9, 1999.

New York Times, November 30, 1999.

UPI NewsTrack Entertainment News, February 1, 2005.

Online

All Music Guide,www.allmusic.com (April 1, 2008).

Billboard.com,http://www.billboard.com/bb/releases/week_3/rock.jsp, (November 12, 2003).

Marc Almond Official Web site,http://www.marcalmond.co.uk/ (April 9, 2008).

Sonicnet.com, http://www.sonicnet.com (May 22, 2000).

—Laura Hightower and Bruce Walker

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Almond, Marc

Marc Almond

Singer, songwriter

For The Record

Selected discography

Sources

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 Almonds 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 Cells 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 citys leading futurist and looking for a musician to accompany his cabaret act, teamed with keyboardist Dave Ball to found Soft Cell, Great Britains first successful electropop duo. Their success resulted from Soft Cells mix of personalitya bow-tied Ball aside Almonds whipping boy personaand warm and shining but sometimes painful music. Although the press loathed Almonds overly stylized mannerisms, fans reveled in his onstage 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, 1981s 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

For The Record

Born Peter Marc Almond on July 9, 1956, in Southport, Lancashire, England.

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 Londons 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.

Addresses: Record company Instinct/Shadow, 26 W. 17th St., Ste. 502, New York City, NY 10011, phone: (212) 727-1360, fax: (212) 366-5878, e-mail: instinct@compuserve.com. Management company M.A.W. Management, New York City, NY, and London, England. Website Theatre of Marc AlmondThe Official Marc Almond Website, http://www.marcalmond.co.uk

Divine Comedy to Pulp, Blur, and others. Critics point to the duos 1981 album for Sire Records, Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret, as Soft Cells 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 Balls 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 orchestraan element influenced by musicians and bands from My Life Story and Rialto to Trickyboth in the studio and in concert, the Mambas firmly established Almonds 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 Almonds 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 Almonds 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 Womans Story, an obscure collection of cover songs that, given the singers 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 FisLand Her Five Daughters, arrived in 1987 to supportive reviews.

In reference to the above efforts, Melody Makers 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 youll be fleetingly touched by moments of genius. The performers 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, Almonds first release for the Parlophone label, 1988s The Stars We Are, became his greatest commercial success; the duet Somethings 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 Almonds 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 Almonds 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 Londons 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 musicians 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.

Selected discography

Solo

Vermine in Ermine, Phonogram, 1984, reissued, 1998.

Stories of Johnny, Virgin, 1985.

A Womans Story, Virgin, 1986.

Violent Silence (EP) Virgin, 1986.

Melancholy Rose (EP), Virgin, 1987.

Mother Fist, and Her Five Daughters, Virgin, 1987.

Singles 1984-1987, Virgin, 1987.

The Stars We Are, Parlophone, 1987.

Jacques, Rough Trade, 1989.

Enchanted, Parlophone, 1990.

Tenement Symphony, WEA, 1991.

A Virgins Tale Vol. I, Virgin, 1992.

A Virgins Tale Vol. II, Virgin, 1992.

Twelve Years of Tears, Warner, 1993.

Absinthe: The French Album, Thirsty Ear, 1994.

Treasure Box, EMI, 1995.

Fantastic Star, Mercury, 1996.

Live in Concert, Thirsty Ear, 1998.

(With Jim Thirlwell) Flesh Volcano/Slut, 1998.

Open All Night, Blue Star/Instinct, 1999.

Marc and the Mambas

Untitled, Phonogram, 1983, reissued, 1998.

Torment and Toreros, Phonogram, 1983, reissued, 1998.

Soft Cell/Marc Almond

Memorabilia: The Singles, Polydor, 1991.

Sources

Books

Buckley, Jonathan and others, editor, Rock: The Rough Guide, Rough Guides, Ltd., 1999.

Robbins, Ira A., editor, Trouser Press Guide to 90s Rock, Fireside/Simon & Schuster, 1997.

Periodicals

Advocate, November 9, 1999.

Billboard, September 25, 1999.

Los Angeles Times, November 24, 1999.

Melody Maker, December 16, 1995; December 13, 1997; August 8, 1998; May 1, 1999; July 31, 1999; November 3-9, 1999.

New York Times, November 30, 1999.

Online

Sonicnet.com, http://www.sonicnet.com (May 22, 2000).

Theatre of Marc AlmondThe Official Marc Almond Website, http://www.marcalmond.co.uk (May 22, 2000).

Laura Hightower

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Almond, Marc." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Almond, Marc." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/almond-marc

"Almond, Marc." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved October 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/almond-marc