It was an immense pleasure to attend an audience with Marc Almond hosted by Richard Strange, The Godfather of Punk, in the great company of Rowena Sian Morgan, Musical Geisha and cover girl from The Music of Business. Marc Almond has been referred to as The Judy Garland of the Garbage Heap, The Acid House Aznavour and Marc Bolan and Juliette Greco’s love child. Richard Strange helped launch Marc Almond’s career with Soft Cell, featuring him and his work at the wonderfully decadent Cabaret Futura in the 1980’s. Since then Almond’s career has gone from Electro Pop through French Chansons to Russian Romantic Gypsy ballads and beyond …
Here’s some of the highlights of the evening with some transferable lessons for all:
Almond On Critics
The Yorkshire Evening Post reported on one of Soft Cell’s early pieces “This is one of the most nihilistic, depressing pieces I have ever heard” Whereas most artists would have been destroyed by such feedback, Marc Almond was delighted. It does not always pay to listen to critics …
Almond On Developing a Unique Offering
At some point in the early development of Soft Cell, Marc decided that they wanted to be as outrageous as possible. “This included smearing my naked body with cat food on stage” he said. Soft Cell’s songs were also unusual. Almond mused
“Dave Ball mainly wrote about household products and the boredom of daily life”
Soft Cell’s name hinted at the core of their identity – both a bitter and sweet quality to the songs. Soap powder crises and sofa dramas are unlikely topics to get record companies excited. As a result, their first single “Mutant Moments” was financed by Dave Ball’s mum! The lesson here is dare to be different!
Here’s Almond singing “Tainted Love” to a video of some disk drives playing the piece electronically. Marc spotted the video a while back and agreed to add a vocal line to the piece. Quite different:
Almond On Diversity
Marc has continued to pursue an eclectic collection of influences, starting with “Torment and Torreros”, which brought in influences from South America, Turkey, through Jaques Brel to his infatuation with Russian Gypsy ballads:
“They like Russian songs in Russia, they just don’t want Russians singing them!”
Marc’s Russian obsession developed after The British Council adopted him to do a tour of Russia, Siberia and The Baltics. It sounds such a strange idea that The British Council would do this and it gave me great hope for our “men in grey suits” that they would sponsor such a mission. Indeed it’s entirely possible that Marc’s appearance in Siberia did more to reform the communist system than Ronnie Reagan and Margaret Thatcher combined! Value requisite diversity.
Almond On The Soul Inside
Almond has always sought to get inside the heart of the singer when presenting other people’s material, such as his work with Charles Aznavour, Jacques Brel, Gene Pitney et al. Dig deep to find your soul.
I asked Marc whether his beautiful singing voice had received any training at all and he said that the major contributions to his vocal development were stopping chainsmoking and spending six weeks in Canterbury getting off ‘prescription drugs’. He did also take some lessons in breathing and projection from two voice coaches later on, but without looking after the basics, this would have been fruitless.
Here’s some pieces that give witness to Almond’s ability to reach inside the artists heart and transmit that to his audiences. Firstly a piece from his album “Jacques”, dedicated to Jacques Brel, then the Charles Aznavour number “Yesterday When I Was Young”, one of his Russian ballads from “Heart On Snow”, a new piece of electronica entitled “Worship Me Now”, featuring a low budget video inspired by David Bowie and finally a tribute to Don Black via the theme from Thunderball:
Huge thanks to Richard Strange for putting together such an amazing evening and to Rowena for her kindness and good company as always. Catch us at Cabaret Futura soon.
About the Author: Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching. Contact via firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 (0) 7725 927585.