For those who think that Marc Almond's career began and ended with the single "Tainted Love" in 1981, then think again. Almond has built up an impressive body of work over the last two decades, creating over 16 albums of unique and diverse material. He has performed countless sell-out concerts, enjoyed numerous hit records, embarked on unique collaborations and produced some of the finest interpretations of the songs of both Jacques Brel and Charles Aznavour in recent history. He has brooded through the bleakest melancholia and basked in the glory of the purest pop. And here, at last, is the life and soul of the artist laid bare. Almond's autobiography, entitled Tainted Life
("what else?", asks Almond), charts his "dysfunctional" childhood in Southport through his wilderness years at Leeds School of Art to global pop stardom with electro- duo Soft Cell in 1981. And that's just the first few chapters. What follows entails the demise of the band in which he made his name, his fall from commercial grace and a career that would fluctuate wildly (as indeed would his mental state), all wittily retold with just enough bile and bitterness. The book's cover features a brilliantly striking portrait of Almond by Parisian artists Pierre et Gilles, which visually epitomises his artistic style in a splendid array of colour.
Whether you enjoy his music or not, love him or hate him, Almond has led such a recklessly exciting life that this book will make for a fascinating read, particularly appealing to those too scared to take a walk on the wild side for themselves. Yes, there are the usual rock 'n' roll tales of alcohol and drug addiction but what makes this book special is Almond's exploration of both the seedier aspects of life and the darker realms of the soul. Tainted Life also dissects the music business and the personalities who litter its corridors and includes such colourful characters as svengali manager Stevo and wayward singer Cindy Ecstasy, plus celebrities such as Madonna, Gene Pitney and Andy Warhol. Almond is an accomplished writer and looks back upon his hectic life with a critical eye and a dry sense of humour, recognising his triumphs and achievements, yet equally acknowledging his faults and failures. At times torch singer, at others arts maverick, Almond has always been an innovative and creative talent; he has recently enjoyed critical success for the album Open All Night (1999) and the book Beautiful Twisted Night, a collection of poetry, verse and prose. His autobiography is no exception, managing to inform and entertain in an intimate way while remaining honest and open throughout. The moment you begin the journey through Almond's Tainted Life you won't stop until you reach the end. --Robert Brookes