The Guardian has a tribute to Soft Cell, in honor of the new Greatest Hits CD.
Their record label was called Some Bizarre, and there was something very bizarre about Marc Almond and Dave Ball - a short, skinny imp in bondage gear backed by a bouncer dressed like a louche bin-man.
[In 1981,] Soft Cell release a cover of an old Northern Soul record called Tainted Love, and suddenly everything in Britain goes a bit de Sade. The single goes to Number one. The imp and the bouncer appear on Top of the Pops. Mums and dads look at each other across the sofa and wonder what the hell is going on. Teenagers drop the 'head' from 'headbanging' and embark on an orgy of sex and drugs.
It was always OK to laugh at Soft Cell, but not in the same way as one laughed at Dollar. Soft Cell knew they were being laughed at, and their tongues were shoved firmly into their cheeks. Spandau Ballet may have put on make-up, but you always suspected they were a bunch of East End louts masquerading as shop dummies. Duran Duran were sexier, but somewhat idiotic. Depeche Mode were Home Counties squares.
But Marc Almond looked like he'd lived every sleazy, seedy line he composed. His sexuality was an extended national joke. No-one really fancied him (short, skinny, odd hair), but he just looked like he was shagging all the time.
Here's an mp3 of one of my favorite mixes of Tainted Love. Warning - it's a 9 minute, 8MB file.