I was 15-years-old when I got my first job. For four days a week I was a busser at an Italian restaurant. It was a great first job: always let off before closing, free freshly baked bread and a pay check of $5.15 an hour plus tips. I saved up my paycheck to wet my eBay appetite. I settled on two things: Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness” on 7″ and Soft Cell’s Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret. So these two became the first two albums I ever bought with my own money I had earned with a paycheck.
The problem was buying them on eBay. Not having a car meant not being able to go to a record store. Not much is worse than anticipating a package in the mail. The Soft Cell album arrived when I was at work one Saturday night. I remember seeing it in its packaging on the kitchen table when I came home. I grabbed it and immediately ran upstairs to put it on the turn table.
Listening to this album for the first time made me feel like I had entered my own secret world. It was sleazy and unknown place to my sweet innocent mind. Yet there was a sort of hollowness and sadness that I could really connect to in songs like “Bedsitter” and “Say Hello, Wave Goodbye” (which were both released as singles). Marc Almond’s voice struck such a violent chord with me. I was in love before the end of side A.
For many Americans, Soft Cell remains a one-hit-wonder for their superb cover of Gloria Jones’ “Tainted Love” that appears on this album. As usual, America made a mistake of letting another interesting British band slip by. But in many ways, it’s easy to understand where the translation didn’t really work. Although a Leeds band, Cabaret sounds like London’s Soho feels to me. That’s obviously something I couldn’t connect with until I went to London for the first time. By then I had listened to this album countless times. Each became one and the same.
Unfortunately, the Otis Redding single was stolen a few years ago like many others. It was real love of mine, but I was at least left with this Soft Cell record to remember my early days of learning how to spend my paychecks unwisely. Nothing really sticks with someone more than their first time at an awakening.