KEXP’s very own Kurt B. Reighley - perhaps better known to listeners as DJ El Toro - has written a delightful eBook on the life and times of nu-wave legends Soft Cell for Rhino Music’s Single Notes series. Single Notes is a new series of digital short-form eBooks that focus on bands and albums that make lasting impact on pop culture, featuring such titles as Super Freak: The Last Days Of Rick James and Careless Memories of Strange Behavior:
My Notorious Life as a Duran Duran Fan. In Say Hello, Wave Goodbye, Kurt Reighley gives us a whirlwind look at Soft Cell’s timeless album Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret and the group’s “tainted” stardom thereafter, all the while mixing both researched fact and amusing personal anecdotes. And if you thought Soft Cell was nothing more than a one hit wonder, keep reading!
The more I learned about Soft Cell, the more I liked. With his small frame, oversized pipes, and penchant for drama, it wasn’t hard to identify with Marc Almond. The UK music press was often merciless to him, attacking his singing, his looks, and particularly how he conducted himself on stage. Having been singled out for comment by the school paper after my band played its first talent show (“the lead singer swings his hips too much”), I certainly could relate...
And Dave Ball? ... “Dave Ball was just gorgeous,” recalls Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons. “But he was also supremely embracing of Marc, so he was a hero in a way. ‘Who is this straight guy that’s into supporting this histrionic queen?’ It was almost too good to be true.”
Soft Cell’s brief career was a party out of bounds. Marc and Dave lured us in with Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret, then made us shake our asses maniacally to its follow-up, Non-Stop Ecstatic Dancing. Thirty years later, we’re still reeling. The guests who left the party early, before things grew really interesting, smiled politely when VH1 ranked Soft Cell at #2 on their countdown of “100 Greatest One Hit Wonders” in 2002. But they’re wrong. Soft Cell was revolutionary.
Kurt Reighley writes a history that is as inviting as it is informative. Soft Cells’ rise to fame is an interesting one. After the international success of their big hit “Tainted Love” and the UK chart success of several other tracks off Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret, the band attempted a danceable club-driven follow-up with Non-Stop Ecstatic Dancing. After all, groups like Human League were topping charts with electronic music that remained challenging and true to the roots of nu-wave. But Soft Cell was destined to ride the wave of “Tainted Love” into the 1990s, with new recordings and alternate videos and so forth. Reighley does an excellent job conveying the struggle the band faced in choosing to pursue artistry or plausible success. All in all, Say Hello, Wave Goodbye is a short but sweet read that you should grab for your morning bus ride or afternoon leisure.