The punk movement expanded rapidly in the United Kingdom in 1976. At the time, Rose McDowall and Jill Bryson were part of the bohemian art scene who adored the New York Dolls and who followed Scottish punk band Nu-Sonics during their career, with McDowall playing and recording with Paisley punk band The Poems.
Bryson studied for four years at the Glasgow School of Art where she achieved a BA honours degree in mixed media.
As friends, McDowall and Bryson socialised in Glasgow pubs, catching many local bands at the time. One of these bands was Orange Juice, fronted byEdwyn Collins. Members of New Pop and Orange Juice had recorded a live version of "Felicity" as a flexi-disc and intended to release it. A fanzine, to be titled Strawberry Switchblade after a James Kirk song, was planned to promote the flexi-disc but never materialised. The "Felicity" flexi-disc was eventually released in conjunction with the debut Orange Juice single, "Falling and Laughing". McDowall and Bryson adopted the fanzine title as their band name.
Strawberry Switchblade played at a John Peel gig in Scotland, and he invited them to record a session for his BBC Radio 1 show in October 1982. They also recorded a session for David Jensen's Radio 1 show three days later. On both sessions the band were augmented by James Kirk from Orange Juice on bass and Shahid Sarwar from The Recognitions on drums.
The band's first single, "Trees and Flowers", was released in July 1983 through 92 Happy Customers, an independent record label run by Will Sergeantfrom Echo & The Bunnymen, and sold over 10,000 copies. It was featured at number 47 in John Peel's 1983 Festive 50. "Trees and Flowers" was written by Bryson about her medical condition agoraphobia.
Drummond signed the band to Warner Music Group subsidiary Korova in 1983. They got a full backing band with whom they toured and began recording an album with producer Robin Millar. However, at the record company's behest, they reverted to the duo of Bryson and McDowall and for production duties they hired David Motion, who would soon go on to produce hits for Red Box.
In late 1984 their second single, "Since Yesterday", was released. Having been given a large marketing push over the festive period, it became a UK top ten hit in early 1985, peaking at number 5, and also met with success in Europe and Japan.
Their cover version of "Sunday Morning" (originally by Velvet Underground) was released as an extra track on the 12" of "Since Yesterday". It was not included on any of the Strawberry Switchblade albums.
In March 1985 they released their next single, "Let Her Go", a tune in a similar vein to "Since Yesterday".
Following the release of their eponymous album in April, in May 1985 they released a further single, the ballad "Who Knows What Love Is", one of two tracks on the album produced by Phil Thornalley of The Cure.
Their fifth single, an electro-pop cover of Dolly Parton's "Jolene", was issued in September 1985 in the UK and Japan.
Although their commercial success had waned in the UK they remained popular in Japan and two later singles, "Ecstasy (Apple of My Eye)" and "I Can Feel", were only issued in that country. The second of these only featured McDowall as by this time the partnership had irreparably fractured. By early 1986, the group had disbanded.
In December 2005, Warner Bros. Platinum Records released a career retrospective of the band, made up of sixteen different tracks from various recordings on one compact disc.
Spiegel was seen by some as a pioneer of the New York new-music scene. She withdrew from this scene in the early 1980s, believing that its focus had shifted from artistic process to product. While she continues to support herself through software development, Spiegel aims to use technology in music as a means of furthering her art rather than as an end in itself. In her words, "I automate whatever can be automated to be freer to focus on those aspects of music that can't be automated. The challenge is to figure out which is which."
Spiegel's best known and most widely used software was "Music Mouse—an Intelligent Instrument" (1986) for Macintosh, Amiga, and Ataricomputers. The "intelligent-instrument" designation refers to the program's built-in knowledge of chord and scale convention and stylistic constraints. Automating these processes allows the user to focus on other aspects of the music in real time. In addition to improvisations using this software, Spiegel composed several works using Music Mouse including "Cavis muris" in 1986, "Three Sonic Spaces" in 1989, and "Sound Zones" in 1990. She continued to update the program through Macintosh OS 9, and as of 2012, it remained available for purchase or demo download from her Web site.
In addition to electronics and computer-based music, Spiegel's opus includes works for piano, guitar and other solo instruments and small orchestra, as well as drawings, photography, video art, numerous writings and computer software. In the visual domain, Spiegel wrote one of the first drawing or painting programs at Bell Labs, which she expanded to include interactive video and synchronous audio output in the mid-1970s.
Pursuing her concept of visual music, she was a video artist in residence at the Experimental Television Lab at WNET Thirteen in New York (1976).She composed series music for the TV Lab's weekly "VTR—Video and Television Review" and audio special effects for its 2-hour science fiction film The Lathe of Heaven, both under direction of David Loxton.
In addition to computer software development, starting in the early 1970s, Spiegel has supported herself by both teaching and by soundtrack composition, having had steady work throughout the 1970s at Spectra Films, Valkhn Films, the Experimental TV Lab at WNET (PBS), and subsequently for various individual video artists, animators, and filmmakers. Spiegel did much less accompanitive music in the 1980s, during which she focused on creating music software and consulting in the music technology field, as well as additional teaching at Cooper Union and NYU where she established NYUs' first computer music studio.
Spiegel's early musical experiences were largely self-directed, beginning with the mandolin, guitar, and banjo she had as a child, which she learned to play by ear. She taught herself Western music notation at the age of 20, after which she began writing down her compositions.
Spiegel attended Shimer College through the school's early entrance program, which allows students to enter college without having completed high school. She subsequently attended Oxford University, initially through Shimer's Oxford study abroad program, under which students spend a year continuing the Great Books core curriculum in Oxford while taking tutorials from Oxford.
After receiving her AB degree in the Social Sciences from Shimer in 1967, Spiegel stayed in Oxford an additional year, commuting to London to study guitar, theory and composition with John W. Duarte. After moving to New York, where she briefly worked in social sciences research and documentary film, she went on to study composition with Jacob Druckman and Vincent Persichetti at the Juilliard School from 1969 to 1972, privately with Emmanuel Ghent, then she relocated along with Druckman to Brooklyn College, completing her MA in Music Composition there in 1975.
Peter Mark Sinclair "Marc" Almond (/ˈɑːmənd/; born 9 July 1957,Southport) is an English singer-songwriter and musician. Almond first began performing and recording in the synthpop/New Wave duo Soft Cell. He has also had a diverse career as a solo artist. Almond's official website claims he has sold over 30 million records worldwide.
After his parents' divorce in 1972 he moved with his mother back to his home town of Southport. He gained two O-Levelsin Art and English and was accepted onto a General Art and Design course at Southport College, specialising inPerformance Art. He applied to Leeds Polytechnic where he was interviewed by Jeff Nuttall, also a performance artist, who accepted him on the strength of his performing skills. During his time at Art College he did a series of performance theatre pieces: "Zazou", "Glamour in Squalor", "Twilights and Lowlifes", as well as Andy Warhol inspired mini-movies. "Zazou" was reviewed by The Yorkshire Evening Post and described as "one of the most nihilistic depressing pieces that I have ever had the misfortune to see", to which Almond later commented in his autobiography, "So it was a success then."
Almond initially shot to fame in the early 1980s as one half of the synth duo Soft Cell, whose hits included "Tainted Love" (UK No. 1), "Bedsitter" (UK No. 4), "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye" (UK No. 3), "Torch" (UK No. 2), "What!" (UK No. 3), "Soul Inside" (UK No. 16), and the club hit "Memorabilia". Soft Cell's first release was an independent record (funded by David Ball's mother) entitled "Mutant Moments" via Red Rhino Records in 1980.
"Mutant Moments" came to the attention of music entrepreneur Stevo Pearce, who at the time was compiling a "futurist" chart for the music paper Sounds which featured young, upcoming and experimental bands of the new wave of electronic sound. He signed the duo to his Some Bizzare label and they enjoyed a string of nine Top 40 hit singles and four Top 20 albums in the UK between 1981-84. They recorded three albums in New York with producer Mike Thorne: Non Stop Erotic Cabaret, Non Stop Ecstatic Dancing and The Art of Falling Apart. Almond became involved with the New York Underground Art Scene at this time with writer/DJ Anita Sarko, and performed at a number of Art events, as well as meeting many New York Art luminaries, including Andy Warhol.
"Tainted Love", a cover of a Gloria Jones' Northern Soul classic, was number one in the UK and in many countries over the world, and was in the Guinness Book of Records for a while as the record that spent the longest time in theBillboard Top 100 chart in the U.S. It also won the best single award of 1981 at the first Brit Awards. Soft Cell brought an otherwise obscure Northern Soul classic to mass public attention and their version of the song is, to date, the UK's 59th best selling single of all time, selling over one million copies in the UK.
In 1982, Almond formed Marc and the Mambas as an off-shoot project from Soft Cell. Marc and the Mambas was a loose experimental collective that set the template for the artist that Almond would become. The Mambas at various times included Matt Johnson, Steve James Sherlock, Lee Jenkinson, Peter Ashworth, Jim Thirlwell and Annie Hogan, with whom Almond worked later in his solo career. Under the Mambas moniker, Almond recorded two albums, Untitledand the seminal double opus Torment and Toreros. He disbanded the collective when it started to feel too much like a regular band.
Soft Cell disbanded in 1984 just before the release of their fourth album, This Last Night In Sodom, though the duo reunited in 2001.
Almond's first proper solo album was Vermin in Ermine, released in 1984. Produced by Mike Hedges, it featured musicians from the Mambas outfit, Annie Hogan, Martin McCarrick and Billy McGee. This ensemble, known as The Willing Sinners, worked alongside Almond for the subsequent albums Stories of Johnny (1985) from which the title track became a minor hit, and Mother Fist and Her Five Daughters (1987), also produced by Mike Hedges. The latter album was highly acclaimed in reviews, with Ned Raggett writing that the 'Mother Fist' album "embraces classic European cabaret to wonderful effect, more so than any American or English rock album since Bowie's Aladdin Sane or Lou Reed's Berlin."
McCarrick left The Willing Sinners in 1987 to join Siouxsie and the Banshees, from which point Hogan and McGee became known as La Magia. Almond signed to EMI and released the album The Stars We Are in 1988. This album featured Almond's version of "Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart", which was later re-recorded as a duet with the song's original singer Gene Pitney and released as a single. The track reached No. 1 in the UK. It also reached number one in Germany and was a major hit in countries around the world. The Stars We Are became his biggest selling solo album in the USA, and the single "Tears Run Rings" became his only solo single to peak inside the US Billboard Hot 100.
Almond's other recordings in the 1980s included an album of Brel songs, called Jacques, and an album of dark French chansons originally performed by Juliette Greco, Serge Lama and Léo Ferré, as well as poems by Rimbaud and Baudelaire set to music. This album was released in 1993 as Absinthe (The French Album), and was initially recorded in the late 1980s then finished in Paris in the early 1990s.
Almond's first release in the 1990s was the album Enchanted, which spawned the UK Top 30 hit "A Lover Spurned". A further single from the album, "Waifs and Strays", was remixed by Dave Ball who was now in the electronic dance bandThe Grid. In 1991, Soft Cell returned to the charts with a new remix of "Say Hello Wave Goodbye" followed by a re-release of "Tainted Love" (with a new video). The singles were issued to promote a new Soft Cell/Marc Almond compilation album, Memorabilia - The Singles, which collected some of the biggest hits from Almond's career throughout the previous ten years. The album reached the UK Top 10.
Almond then signed to WEA and released a new solo album, Tenement Symphony. Produced partly by Trevor Horn, the album yielded three Top 40 hits including renditions of the Jacques Brel classic "Jacky" (which made the UK Top 20), and "The Days of Pearly Spencer" which returned Almond to the UK Top 5 in 1992. Later that year, Almond played a lavish one-off show at the Royal Albert Hall in London, which featured an orchestra and dancers as he performed material from his entire career. The show was recorded and released as the CD and video 12 Years of Tears.
In 1993, Almond toured Russia and Siberia by invitation of the British consul in Moscow. Accompanied only by Martin Watkins on piano, he played small Soviet halls and theatres, often without amplification, and ended at the "mini Bolshoi" in Moscow. Transmitted live on television Almond made a plea for tolerance of gay people. The tour was fraught with troubles, which Almond detailed in his autobiography, but it marked the beginning of his love affair with the genre of Russian folk torch songs known as Romance.
Almond's next album Fantastic Star saw him part with WEA and sign to Mercury Records. Much of Fantastic Star was originally recorded in New York with Mike Thorne, but later after signing to Mercury, was reworked in London. Almond also recorded a session for the album with John Cale, David Johanson, and Chris Spedding; some made the final cut. Other songs were produced by Mike Hedges and Martyn Ware. Adding to the disjointed recording process was the fact that during recording Almond also spent several weeks attending a treatment centre in Canterbury for addiction to prescription drugs. However on its release Fantastic Star gave Almond a hit single with Adored and Explored, and also minor hits and stage favorites such as The Idol and Child Star. Fantastic Star was Almond's last album with a major record label, and the period also marked the ending of his managerial relationship with Stevo Pearce.
Almond re-invented himself and signed to Echo records in 1998 with a more downbeat and atmospheric electronica album, Open All Night. This featured R&B and trip hop influences, as well as torch songs for which he had become known. The album featured a duet ("Threat of Love") with Siouxsie Sioux as well as one ("Almost Diamonds") with Keli Ali (then of the Sneaker Pimps). "Black Kiss", "Tragedy" and "My Love" were the singles from the album Open All Night. Almond left the Echo label and signed to European label Tres Bis Viii where he stayed for the next four years.
Almond relocated in 2000 to Moscow where he rented an apartment. With the encouragement and connections of executive producer Misha Kucherenko, he embarked on a three-year recording project of Russian romance and folk songs, called Heart on Snow. Featuring many Russian stars old and new such as Boris Grebenshchikov, Ilya Lagutenkoof the Russian band Mumiy Troll, Lyudmila Zykina and Alla Bayanova and featuring The Rossiya Folk Orchestra conducted by Anatole Sobolev, it was the first time that such a project had been undertaken by a Western artist, many of the loved Soviet era songs sung in English for the first time. The album was produced by musician/arranger Andrei Samsonov. Almond performed many times at the famous now demolished Rossiya Concert Hall with Lyudmila Zykinaand Alla Bayanova, and with the Rossiya Folk Orchestra.
In 2001, Soft Cell reunited briefly and released their first new album in 18 years, Cruelty Without Beauty. Two singles came out of this album, "Monoculture" and a cover of the Frankie Valli's "The Night", which reached No. 39 in the UK charts.
In October 2004, Almond was seriously injured in a motorbike accident near St Paul's Cathedral, London. Near death and in a coma for weeks, he suffered two huge blood clots and had to undergo emergency surgery twice. He also suffered serious head injuries, multiple breaks and fractures, a collapsed lung and damaged hearing. After the accident he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. He began a slow recovery determined to get back on the stage and in the studio.
In June 2007, Almond released an album of cover songs, Stardom Road. Picked to tell a story of his life and career, the album featured songs as diverse as "I Have Lived" by Charles Aznavour, to "Stardom Road" by Third World War, Frank Sinatra's "Strangers in the Night", and "Kitch" by Paul Ryan. The album featured his first new song since the motorbike accident, "Redeem me (Beauty Will Redeem the World)". Stardom Road was to be one of three albums for theSanctuary label, the UK's largest independent record label up until 2007 when it got itself into financial difficulty and was sold off in June 2007 to Universal Music Group.
In July 2007, Almond celebrated his 50th birthday on stage at the Shepherds Bush Empire in London and in September performed at a tribute show to Marc Bolan, his teenage hero. At the concert he dueted with Bolan's wife, Gloria Jones, on an impromptu version of "Tainted Love".
In October 2007, the fashion house Yves Saint Laurent picked Almond's "Strangers in the Night" to represent their show at London's Fashion Rocks. Almond performed for the event at the Royal Albert Hall.
In 2008 and 2009, Almond toured with Jools Holland throughout the UK as well as guesting at shows by Current 93, Baby Dee and a tribute show to the late folk singer Sandy Denny at the Festival Hall.
In October 2009, Almond released his second album of Russian Romances and Gypsy songs in an album titledOrpheus in Exile: Songs of Vadim Kozin. The album was a tribute to Russian singer Vadim Kozin, who was exiled to the gulags of the Arctic Circle. The album was produced by Alexei Fedorov and features an orchestra arranged by Anatole Sobolev.
In June 2010, Almond released Varieté, an album of crafted personal songs, his first studio album of self-penned songs in almost a decade. Almond has stated this will possibly be his last fully self-penned album. He also announced a new concert tour in Autumn 2010 to celebrate his 30 years in music. Almond was awarded a Hero Award by the music magazine Mojo. He undertook his most successful tour celebrating thirty years of being a recording artist with a show of mostly hits and A-sides entitled "All A's".
In 2011, Almond released an album Feasting with Panthers. A collaboration with musician and arranger Michael Cashmore. It featured poems of Count Eric Stenbock put to music as well as decadent and homoerotic poems by Jean Genet, Jean Cocteau, Paul Verlaine and Rimbaud. Almond took part in a unique music-theatre work Ten Plagues held at Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre from 1–28 August 2011. Ten Plagues is a one man song cycle based on Daniel Defoe'sJournal of the Plague Year (which dates back to 1665), with metaphors of Aids and epidemics. It was a collaboration between Almond, theatre director and designer Stewart Laing, libretto author Mark Ravenhill and composer Conor Mitchell. The show won the Scotman's Fringe First Award.
On 9 August 2012, Almond performed at Antony Hegarty's Meltdown Festival in London's Southbank. He sang the whole Marc and the Mambas Torment and Toreros album for the first time live. Some of the original musicians in the album performed with Almond: Gini Ball, Anne Stephenson, Martin McCarrick, Jim Thirlwell and Lee Jenkinson. Hegarty sang "My Little Book of Sorrows" with Almond.
Almond has lived in London for over 30 years. He divides his time between London, Moscow and Barcelona. In an interview in 2010, Almond said: "The London I love seems to be disappearing every day. For all its faults, it is the greatest city."
Almond has stated that he dislikes being pigeon-holed as "a 'gay' artist", claiming that such a label "enables people to marginalize your work and reduce its importance, implying that it won't be of any interest to anyone who isn't gay". In 2010, Almond said that he has "a fulfilling work life and a comfortable private life". He has been with the same partner for over 20 years.