I lived through & partied for much of the early 1980s with Marc Almond as my soundtrack, starting when I tasted his first leather clad success with Soft Cell.
Peter Mark Sinclair Almond claims he was sexually precocious as a young teenager & being gay was always a glorious struggle, growing up, after his parents divorced, with his grandparents in Yorkshire. In his song Trials of Eyeliner, Almond recalls being hit as a makeup wearing teenager by his soldier father, who on another occasion marched into his school, demanding to know whether his son was gay. Another song- Lavender, pays tribute to clandestine gay role models such as Dirk Bogarde. Almond: “difficult even now to come to terms with these liberated times. I’m always fearful that it’s going to change any minute.”
Artifice was the order of his day, from school, where he would pretend to have girlfriends whom nobody met, to his 1980s stardom, when he had “a PR company inventing girlfriends” for him. Almond: “You do get bruised and poisoned by your time. People my age still feel they need to be private in their lives: ‘This is my (nudge nudge, wink wink) special friend’.”
When he finished school, Almond studied music, dance & performance art at Leeds Poly, & then moved to London with a friend who was working as a hustler in Piccadilly Circus. In his memoirs Almond talks openly about his sexuality & his past illicit drug use that led to the demise of Soft Cell in the mid '80s. He is a crooner who strikes me as a true artist in every sense of its meaning, charting his own course beyond the fad of the moment. Almond works without compromise, making electro-pop, dueting with Gene Pitney, singing French chansons, performing Russians love songs or strutting down the stage on a VH1 fasion music show. He is still with the long term boyfriend he’s been with for decades. Almond: “That’s always part of my life, but something that I never really talk about.” About the only thing it seems. His 2 volumes are truly “tell-alls”.
My Marc Almond album favorite is 2007's Stardom Road. This collection features many of the genres that Marc has been associated with over the years, including the Torch Song; the 1950's crooners; the grand orchestral sounds of the early1960's; the over the top glam rock of the 1970's & the electro-style of the 1980's that made him famous as part of Soft Cell.
Stardom Road is his 1st album since his near fatal motorcycle crash in 2004. The crash proved life changing, as near death experiences seem to be. It features guest spots from Antony Hegarty of Antony & the Johnsons; Jools Holland, & Sarah Cracknell from St Etienne, who duets with Almond on the Dusty Springfield song I Close My Eyes & Count To10. This is a very moving & beautifully crafted album.
Backstage I'm A Lonely is a tribute to the late Gene Pitney & it really is a tear jerker. The album is far from maudlin, with tracks like Petula Clark’s upbeat tale of surviving against the odds- Happy Heart. The only original song- Redeem Me (Beauty Will Redeem The World) is a fantastic tune. Almond has sworn to only record covers, but he shows that he's still got great songwriting chops as well. Marc has never sounded as upbeat as he does here. Kitsch, camp, melodramatic, yet full of heartfelt emotion.
Drawing on cabaret, vaudeville, music hall & the ghosts of his heroes Charles Aznavour & Jacques Brel, his work is as witty & frank as he is; & sometimes painful, sometimes indulgent. Almond looks the same: well preserved at 54 years old, yet fragile; like something from a Tim Burton Film: dyed black crop, black jacket & jeans, eyeliner, & faded blue tattoos. His work is slightly twisted, cynical & dark while being romantic & deeply personal at the same time. Nobody wallows like Marc Almond. I adore him.