Saturday, August 16, 2008

Tainted Knowledge

There comes a time, I believe, in every music fan's life when she realizes that she is stupid.

Okay, maybe "stupid" is too strong a word. Perhaps it's more accurate to say that, armed with limited information, she made an assumption that turned out to be incorrect.

When I was twelve years old, drinking in all I could from my local radio station KROQ, I heard a little synth-pop tune by Soft Cell called "Tainted Love." It enjoyed a fairly heavy rotation on KROQ, alongside The Go-Go's, Missing Persons, Toni Basil and other stars of the day. I liked the song, quite a bit actually, as did many of my fellow sixth graders. I especially liked the occasions when KROQ would play the 12" version, where "Tainted Love" was married to Soft Cell's cover of the Supremes' "Where Did Our Love Go."

The song made Soft Cell the perfect little one hit wonder band.

I am fairly sick of good old "Tainted Love" now, given that somehow it managed to endure and take a seemingly permanent position on just about every adult contemporary radio station out there these days. I hate that I am the target demographic of radio stations that also play Celine Dion.

Anyway, I was perfectly happy living with "Tainted Love" in the background of my musical tapestry until it was thrust front and center this morning... when I learned that Soft Cell did not write it, Ed Cobb did. Soft Cell's version is an out and out cover of the song, which was first released in 1964 by R&B singer Gloria Jones, pictured above. Of course, the Gloria Jones version kicks Soft Cell's collective ass, but that's really not the point.

How could I have thought for 26 years that Soft Cell wrote that song? Or at least that they sang it first? I don't claim to know everything about music, but I know a few things. I know "Twist and Shout" was a hit for the Isley Brothers before the Beatles covered it. I was very familiar with the La's version of "There She Goes" before Sixpence None the Richer turned it into a U-S hit. "A Message to You, Rudy," by the Specials? Cover. And all that said, I'm certain there are scores of cover songs out there that I don't recognize as such. But to walk around for a quarter century identifying "Tainted Love" solely as a Soft Cell song? That's just wrong.

My friend Wendell pointed out that nothing else in the Soft Cell catalog is nearly so good as "Tainted Love"; so that fact, along with the pairing of "Tainted Love" with "Where Did Our Love Go" could have, decades ago, given me a clue that it is a cover. He makes a good point. "It's A Mug's Game," for example, while a somewhat cute new wave nugget, doesn't even compare. However, Wendell also noted that perhaps I shouldn't beat myself up for not knowing the Gloria Jones version.

Okay, I won't beat myself up, but I now vow to pay better attention. The next thing you know, I'll learn that the Monkees didn't write the vast majority of their songs. Oh, wait...

(P.S. For the record, I know the Supremes didn't write "Where Did Our Love Go," even though I refer to it in this rant as a Supremes' song.)


Scott said...

Someone should have written it on the card, eh?

Anonymous said...

you obviously are quite young - Soft Cell were much more than a one hit wonder band. They were huge for a few years and had many top 10 hits.

Sassy Hair said...

Hey, thanks for calling me young! Seriously. About Soft Cell, I do remember other songs by them, but it is my understanding that "Tainted Love" was by far their biggest U.S. Hit.

Wendy said...

Not to mention how disturbing it is to write (let alone THINK) that there is anything we have done for 26 years!!!!) YEE GODS!!!! love ya honey, wendy