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Marc Almond (born Peter Mark Sinclair Almond on 9 July 1957 in Southportmarker, Lancashiremarker) is an English singer, songwriter and recording artist, who originally found fame as half of the seminal synthpop/New Wave duo Soft Cell. He has sold over 30 million records worldwide.

Childhood and early life

Marc Almond was born on 9 July 1957 in Southportmarker on the Lancashiremarker coast between Liverpoolmarker and the Ribble Estuarymarker, the son of Sandra Mary Almond (formerly Dieson) and Peter John Sinclair Almond, Second Lieutenant in the King's Liverpool Regiment. He was brought up at his grandparents' house in Birkdalemarker with his younger sister Julia, and as a child suffered from bronchitis and asthma. When he was 4, they left their grandparent's house and moved to Starbeckmarker on the edge of Harrogatemarker, North Yorkshire. Two years later they returned to Southport, and then moved to Horsforthmarker (near Leedsmarker). Due to a car crash at the age of 14, Almond is nearly completely deaf in his left ear.

He then attended King George V Grammar Schoolmarker in Southportmarker. By this time his father had become an alcoholic, and Almond found solace in music, listening to British radio pioneer John Peel. The first album he purchased was the soundtrack of the stage musical Hair and the first single Green Manalishi by Fleetwood Mac. He became a great fan of Marc Bolan, Brian Eno and David Bowie and got a part-time job as a stable boy to fund his musical tastes.

He gained two O-Levels in Art and English and was accepted onto a General Art and Design course at Southport College, specialising in Performance Art. He applied to Leeds Polytechnicmarker where he was interviewed by Jeff Nuttall, also a performance artist, who accepted him on the strength of his mime skills.

It was whilst at Leeds Polytechnic that that Marc met David Ball a fellow student, forming Soft Cell in 1979.

Musical influences

As a child, Almond listened to his parent's record collection, which included his mother's Let's Dance by Chris Montez and The Twist by Chubby Checker, also his father's collection of jazz including Dave Brubeck and Eartha Kitt.As an adolescent Marc listened to Radio Caroline and Radio Luxembourg. He became a great fan of Marc Bolan after hearing him on the John Peel Show, buying the T.Rex single Ride a White Swan, from then on he 'followed everything Marc Bolan did'. He was also a great fan of David Bowie, Roxy Music, Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, Nico, the New York Dolls, Wayne County and Brian Eno. He went to Lou Reed, Captain Beefheart, and Cockney Rebel concerts in Liverpool. But the highlight was when he climbed over the barriers at the front of a David Bowie concert, reached out and was touched by the man himself.

Early career

Almond has had a long and varied career spanning almost 30 years. During this time, after a career with Soft Cell and Marc and the Mambas, he has collaborated with an extremely wide range of artists including Antony and The Johnsons, Jools Holland, Siouxsie Sioux, Nick Cave, P.J. Proby, Nico, Kelli Ali of the Sneaker Pimps, Neal X (on the albums Fantastic Star and Open All Night), Marie France, Agnes Bernelle, Lydia Lunch, Gene Pitney on the #1 UK single "Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart", Foetus (a.k.a. J. G. Thirlwell), Jimmy Somerville of The Communards and Bronski Beat, Psychic TV, Coil, Sally Timms of the Mekons, King Roc, John Cale, David Johansen of The New York Dolls, German band Rosenstolz and Greek composer Othon Mataragas.

Almond initially shot to fame in the early 1980s as one half of synth duo Soft Cell, whose combination of drama and peep show sleaze set to an electronic beat gave them hits such as "Tainted Love" (UK #1), "Bedsitter" (UK #4), "Torch" (UK #2), "Say Hello Wave Goodbye" (UK #3), "Soul Inside" (UK # 16), "What!" (UK #3) and the club hit "Memorabilia". They were first spotted by David Oddie, boss of Wakefield based Ambergris Records, in a Bradford club, who passed his enthusiasm onto Dead Good Records in Lincoln, famous for their Hicks From The Sticks compilation, who in turn approached Polygram, the newly formed amalgam of Polydor and Phonogram. Although Soft Cell disbanded in 1984 just before the release of their fourth album, This Last Night In Sodom, the duo reunited in 2001 for live shows and in 2002 released a new album entitled Cruelty Without Beauty, from which the single "The Night" (UK #39) was taken.

His biggest UK hits as a solo artist have been cover versions; the aforementioned 1989 number one duet with Gene Pitney and another near chart-topper in 1992, "The Days of Pearly Spencer", which peaked at #4. In 1985, he duetted with Jimmy Somerville and Bronski Beat on a cover of Donna Summer's "I Feel Love (Medley)" and it hit #3. The highest UK positions his self-penned singles have reached so far have been "Stories of Johnny" (#23 in 1985), "Tears Run Rings" (#26 in 1988 and #5 in the Netherlands) and "Adored and Explored" (#25 in 1995).

Almond's work runs the gamut from electronica and dance music to French chanson, traditional piano ballads, and Russian romance songs, as exhibited on his 2003 album Heart on Snow. Influences include David Bowie, a childhood hero of his, as well as early 1960s Northern Soul and disco. Other major influences have been Scott Walker from the Walker Brothers and Jacques Brel, 12 of whose songs Almond reworked in English for his 1989 album Jacques. Almond's own lyrics are a creative expression of what he sees and are not to be confused with his own life. He also operates a record label, Blue Star Music, on which he has released many of his solo and collaborative records in the UKmarker.

As Soft Cell, after becoming quite successful with a string of 5 top 10 hits, they deliberately chose another route. With the The Art of Falling Apart this route paid off. They received high critical acclaim. Their final and last album of the early period This Last Night in Sodom did even more so. However, sales faltered severely and their record company Phonogram began to lose interest. But due to their still existing pop stardom they had sold out farewell concerts at the Hammersmith Ballroom in January 1984.

The demise of Soft Cell probably had to come, since Almond and Ball went crazy (and the drugs were just a sign for that) over pop business and sell-out of artists. Marc put all his frustration in the incredible work of Torment and Toreros, which was released in September 1983. It was an incredible departure from the early Soft Cell stuff and did not only receive favorable reviews. Because of that Almond had a nervous breakdown and declared his retirement from the recording industry altogether. That never happened though. What followed was an incredible busy end with Soft Cell, mixed with farewell concerts of the Mambas and four concerts in New York and Washington with Clint Ruin (Foetus), Nick Cave and Lydia Lunch under the name The Immaculate Consumptive by the end of 1983.

After the end of all that, it took Marc only a few months to "come back" with his first solo album (under the name Marc Almond and the Willing Sinners, later La Magia)) Vermin In Ermine, which featured musicians from the Mambas outfit, Annie Hogan, Martin McCarrick and Billy McGee. McCarrick left in 1987 for Siouxsie and the Banshees and they finally parted ways in 1988.

Since 1984, Almond released no less than 12 solo studio albums and numerous live recordings. He took singing classes and could now oppose his critics who had poked fun of his singing style in his early career.

But in a way, the general public was right: he consistently did struggle with pop stardom, since he still liked having "hits" but only had them occasionally (among them "Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart", "The Days of Pearly Spencer" and "Jacky". And at the same time, he wanted to be underground, always working with underground artists (Psychic TV, Foetus, Coil), but proving to have too many pop sensibilities to really make it. His solo efforts were also very eclectic and his most outstanding efforts are probably Mother Fist and Her Five Daughters (1987), an acoustic, folkish outing with many Brel influences and Open All Night (1999), where he uses a mostly trip hop influenced style.

In 1999 Almond was initiated into the Church of Satan by his friend and fellow musician Boyd Rice, which he details in his autobiography Tainted Life, as well as the influence that The Satanic Bible had upon him.

Later career and life

2001 saw the return of Soft Cell, and while the 2002 released album Cruelty Without Beauty was not as consistent as their earlier albums, it still had some strong songs. And the live shows, starting with the comeback shows at Oceans in March 2001, and combining new and old material, were celebrated by old and new fans alike. Following this outing, he also took up dj-ing (something he originally had done before Soft Cell had taken off) and recorded with a couple of dance artists like Ferry Corsten. Soft Cell came to a halt again after his accident in October 2004.

In 1999, Almond received attention and accolades for his autobiography, entitled Tainted Life, which confronts details of his early life, creative ventures, his sexuality (Almond is gay ), and drug addiction, for which he was hospitalized in 1994. Almond wrote the autobiography without a ghost writer and his publishers subsequently commissioned him to write a travel book, In Search of the Pleasure Palace: Disreputable Travels, whose publication in 2004 was accompanied by a book-signing tour.

Living in in Moscow in 2003 Almond recorded a project of Russian Folk and Gypsy Romance. Produced by Andrey Samsonov, Heart On Snow features collaborations with some of Russia's biggest musical legends and stars, Lyudmila Zykina and Alla Bayanova, Boris Grebenshchikov and Ilia Lagutenko as well as a the Russian Naval Choir and the famous Rossiya Folk Orchestra. The album included such famous Russian songs as "The Storks", "So Long The Path" and others. "Tenderness" was an outtake, but later released as a download single through Official Marc Almond site. It was a project never before undertaken by a Western artist.

On 17 October 2004, Almond was badly injured in a motorbike accident in Londonmarker, in which he was a pillion passenger. Although the initial prognosis was considered poor, he was discharged from Royal London Hospital on around 6 November 2004 and was said to be making a "remarkable" recovery. Two months later he was giving press and TV interviews saying he could not wait to get back on stage. His recovery was, however, to take longer than he thought, involving several operations and counseling for post traumatic stress disorder.

In 2005, he continued his recovery, did some DJ gigs all over Europe and guested at the Meltdown Festival in London in June 2005, hosted by Patti Smith. Almond contributed two songs to this night of Brecht music, "Bilbao Song" and "What Keeps a Man Alive". In October, November and December 2005, Almond went on tour with Jools Holland and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, singing two songs during the shows, "Say Hello Wave Goodbye" and "Tainted Love", which had a new arrangement done by Holland. 2006 saw Almond concentrate on recording, making few public appearances, though he did headline the Manchester Gay Pride Festival in August of that year. In 2005 he also contributed a track to the Serge Gainsbourg tribute album Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited.

Almond's new album of cover songs, Stardom Road, was released on 4 June 2007, and features artists such as St Etiennemarker's Sarah Cracknell and Antony from Antony and the Johnsons. Two of the cover versions included in this new album are Dusty Springfield's "I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten", which he has recorded with Sarah Cracknell, and Gene Pitney's over the top "Backstage (I'm Lonely)", as a tribute to the late crooner, featuring a guest appearance by Jools Holland. The album also includes one new self-penned song, "Redeem Me (Beauty Will Redeem the World)", his first composition since the near-fatal motorbike accident.

Almond also appears on the 2006 album Black Ships Ate the Sky by experimental band Current 93. He made his return to the London stage for a three-night run at the historic Wilton's Music Hallmarker for three dates in May 2007, his first full-length UK shows since his accident. He had been warming up with shows in Barcelona, Athens and Moscow. He then recorded a BBC Radio special which was broadcast on Radio 2 on 1 June, and played a mini-tour in June and July, culminating in a 50th birthday concert before 2,000 fans and friends at Shepherd's Bush Empire in London on 9 July. During the almost three-hour-long concert he was overcome with emotion on a couple of occasions especially when paying tribute to Gene Pitney.

On 29 July 2007, Almond made his first ever live appearance in his home town of Southport as a guest of Jools Holland's Rhythm and Blues Orchestra. He performed "Say Hello Wave Goodbye" and "Tainted Love". He also performed with Holland at the British International Motor Show on 1 August 2008, held at the ExCeL Exhibition Centremarker.

In the same year, alongside Current 93 frontman David Tibet and sopranist Ernesto Tomasini, he sings on Digital Angel, the debut album of Greek composer Othon Mataragas.

2009 sees the release of a new Russian-style album Orpheus In Exile and the start of a UK tour, supported by Baby Dee, with a London concert, on the 1st of November, at the historical Roundhouse.

2010 will see the release of his so-called "last self-penned" album.

Almond currently lives in the Bermondseymarker area of south east London. In his autobiography he describes previously living in Earl's Courtmarker, in a converted church in Fulhammarker and most memorably in Sohomarker's Berwick Streetmarker, where he lived in a flat overlooking the Raymond Revuebar.

Discography

Albums

with Dave Ball as Soft Cell



as Marc & the Mambas/Raoul and the Ruined

  • 1982 Untitled #42 UK
  • 1983 Torment and Toreros #28 UK
  • 1984 Bite Black and Blues Live (Fan club only release)


as The Willing Sinners/La Magia

  • 1984 Vermin in Ermine #36 UK
  • 1985 Stories of Johnny #22 UK
  • 1987 Mother Fist & Her Five Daughters #41 UK
  • 1988 The Stars We Are #41 UK


as Flesh Volcano (side project with Foetus)



with Michael Cashmore

  • 2008 Gabriel and The Lunatic Lover


Solo

  • 1986 Violent Silence (mini album)
  • 1986 A Woman's Story (mini album)
  • 1987 Singles 1984 - 1987 (compilation of singles from The Willing Sinners era)
  • 1989 Jacques
  • 1990 Enchanted #52 (UK)
  • 1991 Tenement Symphony #39 (UK)
  • 1992 A Virgin's Tale - Volume I (1985-1987 B-sides & remixes from The Willing Sinners era)
  • 1992 A Virgin's Tale - Volume II (1986-1987 B-sides from the Mother Fist album era)
  • 1993 Twelve Years of Tears (Live at the Royal Albert Hall)
  • 1993 Absinthe: The French album
  • 1995 Treasure Box (rarities compilation)
  • 1996 Fantastic Star #54 (UK)
  • 1998 Marc Almond & La Magia Live in Concert
  • 1999 Open All Night
  • 2000 Liverpool Philharmonic Hall (Fan club only release)
  • 2001 Stranger Things
  • 2001 Live at the Union Chapel (Fan club only release)
  • 2002 Little Rough Rhinestones Volume 1 (Fan club only release)
  • 2003 The Willing Sinner Live in Berlin
  • 2003 Marc Almond in Session Volume 1 (BBC)
  • 2003 Heart on Snow
  • 2003 Marc Almond in Session Volume 2 (BBC)
  • 2006 Little Rough Rhinestones Volume 2 (Fan club only release)
  • 2007 Stardom Road (covers album) #53 (UK)
  • 2009 Orpheus In Exile


Singles

Year Title Notes U.K. Singles Peak IRE Singles Peak
1982 "Sleaze" as Marc and the Mambas, fan club only release - -
1983 "Black Heart" b/w "Your Aura" as Marc and the Mambas 49 -
"Torment" b/w "You'll Never See Me on a Sunday" as Marc and the Mambas 90 -
1984 "The Boy Who Came Back" b/w "Joey Demento" 52 -
"You Have" b/w "Split Lip" 57 -
"Tenderness Is a Weakness" b/w "Love for Sale" 88 -
1985 "I Feel Love" Bronski Beat Marc Almond 3 3
"Skin" as The Burmoe Brothers - -
"Stories of Johnny" 23 17
"Love Letter" 68 -
1986 "The House Is Haunted (By the Echo of Your Last Goodbye)" 55 -
"A Woman's Story" 41 -
"Ruby Red" 47 -
1987 "Melancholy Rose" 71 -
"Mother Fist" 93 -
"This House Is a House of Trouble" Sally Timms (Mekon) and The Drifting Cowgirls featuring Marc Almond - -
1988 "Tears Run Rings" also charted at #67 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 26 -
"Bitter Sweet" 40 -
"Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart" Featuring Special Guest Star Gene Pitney 1 1
1989 "Only the Moment" 45 26
1990 "A Lover Spurned" 29 -
"The Desperate Hours" 45 -
"Waifs and Strays" 88 -
1991 "Say Hello Wave Goodbye '91" Soft Cell Marc Almond 38 -
"Tainted Love '91" Soft Cell Marc Almond 5 4
"Jacky" 17 14
1992 "My Hand Over My Heart" 33 -
"The Days of Pearly Spencer" 4 8
1993 "What Make a Man a Man" 60 -
1995 "Adored and Explored" 25 -
"The Idol" 44 -
"Child Star" 41 -
1996 "Out There" / "Brilliant Creatures" 76 -
"Yesterday Has Gone" P.J. Proby Marc Almond featuring The My Life Story Orchestra 58 -
1998 "Black Kiss" 97 -
1999 "Tragedy (Take a Look and See)" 144 -
"My Love" / "Threat of Love" with The Creatures - -
2000 "Please Stay" Mekon featuring Marc Almond 91 -
2001 "Glorious" - -
"Total Eclipse" Rosenstolz + Marc Almond + Nina Hagen - -
"Soul on Soul" System F featuring Marc Almond - -
2003 "Gone But Not Forgotten" - -
2004 "Vanity Poverty Revenge/Neo Burlesque" Punx Soundcheck featuring Marc Almond - -
"Sheherezade" limited edition, vinyl only - -
"Face Control EP" Replicant featuring Marc Almond - -
2005 "Delirious" Mekon featuring Marc Almond limited edition - -
"Perfect Honey" Loverush UK! featuring Marc Almond limited dance release 154 -
"Baby's On Fire" T-Total featuring Marc Almond limited dance release - -
"Prime Evil" King Roc featuring Marc Almond limited dance release - -
2007 "I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten" with Sarah Cracknell, cd-single promo download only 43 -
2008 "Gabriel & The Lunatic Lover" with Michael Cashmore - -
"Smoke & Mirrors" Starcluster featuring Marc Almond - -


Other contributions



Books

  • 1988 The Angel of Death in the Adonis Lounge (poems)
  • 1999 Beautiful Twisted Night (poems, lyrics and prose)
  • 1999 Tainted Life (autobiography, reprinted in paperback in 2000)
  • 2001 The End of New York (poems and prose, including spoken word CD)
  • 2004 In Search of the Pleasure Palace - Disreputable Travels (autobiography)


DVDs

  • 1982 Soft Cell's Non-Stop Exotic Video Show (released 2004)
  • 1987 A Lover Spurned - Live at the Astoria, London 1987 (released 2002)
  • 1991 The Willing Sinner - Live at the Berlin Passionchurch 1991 (released 2002)
  • 2000 Live at the Lokerse Festeen 2000
  • 2000 Live at the Union Chapel Dec 2000 (released 2003)
  • 2002 Soft Cell Live in Milan
  • 2005 Sin Songs, Torch and Romance - Live at the Almeida Theatre 2004
  • 2007 Twelve Years of Tears - Live at the Royal Albert Hall 1992
  • 2008 Marc Almond: In Bluegate Fields- Live at the Wilton's Music Hall
  • TBA Marc and the Mambas LIVE - at the Duke Of York's Theatre, April 1983


References

External links






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