WEEKEND | The bizarreness of Soft Cell’s ‘Tainted Love’ videos

Today, you should care about Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” even if you don’t plan to watch VH1 Classic this afternoon.

Originally a northern soul track by Gloria Jones, Soft Cell’s hit cover, the first of many, is clearly the best. But what has tied the song together throughout the years, despite the transformative failures along the way (see The Pussy Cat Dolls’, Rihanna’s and Marilyn Manson’s versions for just a few), is the singular weirdness of the videos that come along with each successive cover.

There are two (equally strange) videos made for Soft Cell’s of “Tainted Love”. Why the first version was remade is clear; less evident is why the second was made in its place.

The earlier video, produced in 1982, shows synth-pop pair Marc Almond and David Ball on Mount Olympus. Dressed as a Greek god, Marc Almond directs the ‘pain’ about the ‘love we share’ to a little girl, pushing away fruit a woman seductively offers by his side. There are two ways to go with the allegory: 1) pederasty — Almond wiggles his fingers at the girl as he intensely sings “Once I ran to you / Now I’ll run from you”. 2) playfully––The girl is used as a proxy for what he wants to say to reject the woman trying to win him back.

To complicate matters further, in 1991, another video, coinciding with a new release of the song, was produced. This time, Almond is in the sky. An insomniac’s horoscope flashes on the screen — “The full moon means you’re in for a bumpy ride, planetary alignment brings you trouble in love” — and then comes true. What’s really not at stake is whether the star-filled specters in the man’s bedroom are a real menace or hallucinations from a dream. This is only because Almond’s floating facial expressions in the astral field, too eerily prescient of Alan Cummings’s performance in Spy Kids 2, are disturbing enough to fade out the rest.

That said, compared even to Manson’s hair and the ethos of PCD, both of Soft Cells’ versions are relatively tame. As Billy Corgan has always said, “To each his own.”

Tomorrow, VH1 will play “The Big 80s 2″ (real title) at 7:30pm.

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