Official Charts Flashback 1981: Soft Cell - Tainted Love

Look back and listen to the Top 40 this week 36 years ago, including Human League, Rolling Stones and Bucks Fizz.

The story behind synth-pop duo Soft Cell's breakthrough hit Tainted Love is an often forgotten one. The song was originally an obscure Northern soul track written by Ed Cobb (formerly of male vocal quartet The Four Preps), and recorded by American soul / gospel singer Gloria Jones (who would later go on to become the partner of T Rex frontman Marc Bolan). The track appeared as the B-side to Jones’ commercially unsuccessful 1965 single, My Bad Boy’s Comin’ Home.

While looking for covers for their early live sets, Soft Cell keyboardist David Ball suggested Tainted Love to frontman Marc Almond. The pair took the song apart, and completely reconstructed it into a timeless electronic pop classic, which is now regarded as the definitive version of the track.

Climbing to Number 1 on the Official Singles Chart this week in August 1981, Tainted Love held onto the top spot for two weeks and also reached the summit in more than a dozen other countries. It won the Single Of The Year gong at the 1982 BRIT Awards, and Soft Cell’s arrangement of Tainted Love has inspired numerous covers over the years, including Pussycat Dolls and Marilyn Manson, whose heavy metal version became his biggest UK hit at Number 5 in 2002. 

To date, Soft Cell's Tainted Love has sold more than 1.35 million copies in the UK, and it still gets plenty of love in 2017; last week it was downloaded 130 times and picked up 186,000 plays on streaming services in the UK alone.

Official Charts caught up with Soft Cell's Marc Almond about the track a few years ago Watch below:

Elsewhere in the Top 40 this week in 1981, Soft Cell had knocked Aneka's one-week reign at Number 1 with Japanese Boy down to 2, and The Human League's Love Action (I Believe In Love) reached its peak at Number 3. 

Gary Numan landed his fifth Top 10 single with She Got Claws, up from 15 the previous week to Number 6, Sir Cliff Richard was on the cusp of scoring his 45th Top 10 with Wired For Sound, up 16 to Number 11, and The Rolling Stones made a big climb with their classic hit Start Me Up, vaulting 15 spots to Number 13 ahead of its peak the following week at Number 7. 

View the Top 100 Official Singles Chart from this week in 1981 here

Article image: Eugene Adebari/REX/Shutterstock