Writer(s): Ed Cobb (see lyrics here)
Released: July 17, 1981
First Charted: August 1, 1981
Peak: 8 US, 7 CB, 58 HR, 7 RR, 12 AR, 12 UK, 13 CN, 13 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): -- US, 1.35 UK, 1.45 world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 24.5 video, 481.51 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
While most people know this song because of Soft Cell, it actually originated in the mid-‘60s. Ed Cobb, a former member of the U.S. group the Four Preps, wrote the song about toxic relationships. He told Blender magazine, “I had a lover for whom you could say wasn’t a good individual. I tried to go into her head and write a song from her standpoint.” SF
The resulting song was recorded by American R&B singer Gloria Jones and released as the B-side of her 1965 single “My Bad Boy’s Comin’ Home.” While the song didn’t take off at the time, it found an audience years later when Richard Searling, a club DJ, picked up a copy of the song in Philadelphia in 1973. He began playing it during his sets at Va Va’s, a popular club in Bolton, England. The song found life again and Jones re-recorded it in 1976. SF
The duo of Dave Ball and Marc Almond formed Soft Cell in 1979 and, at Ball’s suggestion, recorded the song to use as an encore for their shows. KL “It was a novelty to have an electronic synthesizer band doing a soul song.” KL Soft Cell’s record label wanted them to record the song, but add bass, guitar, and drums. As Almond said, though, “We wanted to be a guitarless band…We were looked on as rubbish, but we had the last laugh.” KL
Indeed. In their native UK, Soft Cell’s recording of “Tainted Love” became the best-selling single of 1981. WK The song didn’t chart in the U.S. until the following year. By the summer of 1982, it reached #8 and before its run was done, it had accumulated a then record-breaking 43 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100. WK The DMDB ranks the song as one of the top 5 new wave/college rock songs of all-time.
First posted 4/17/2019; last updated 9/26/2022.