THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF MARC ALMOND (Parts 18-20)

My huge thanks to everyone who took the time to read the posting that’s been sitting on the blog for the past seven days…I’m especially grateful to those of you who added your own eloquent tributes to Tim.

This was the posting originally scheduled to appear and I had meant to place it into storage, but mistakenly back-posted it to 2012….which some of you may have picked up via notifications you’ve installed for all published posts.  In my defence, my mind was a bit elsewhere at the time.

Tenement Symphony, released in October 1991, is the last album from which any hit single was lifted – the fact, almost 30 years that Marc Almond can still command impressive numbers audience wise whenever he takes to the stage, is testament to the affection he is held by his legions of fans who have never given up on him, even though he has long been unfashionable.

One single was lifted just prior to the album’s release, and two more would follow:-

(18) Jacky b/w Deep Night (September 1991 – #17 in the UK charts)

I wrote about this particular single just last October, in a posting that also looked at the Scott Walker and Momus versions of the Jacques Brel number.  As I said at the time all versions are well worth a few minutes of your time for a listen but if pushed, I’d say I preferred Marc’s take on things for the bravado shown by him and the production/arrangement/mixing cohorts of Trevor Horn, Anne Dudley and Youth in throwing absolutely everything at it to turn it into a genuine camp classic which has stood the test of time.

Here’s a bonus with the 12″ bits of music

mp3 : Marc Almond – Jacky (extended)
mp3 : Marc Almond – Deep Night (extended)
mp3 : Marc Almond – Jacky (alpine mix)

All concerned would wait until the new year before the next 45.  The interesting thing was that the new single was one of three songs on the parent album that had been co-written with David Ball – the duo were more than happy to be working together again and indeed in later years would reform Soft Cell and embark on an extensive tour across Europe.

Tenement Symphony had come out on yet another new label, WEA, the biggest of all the majors and the budget stretched to enabling a number of studios to be used at different times and multiple producers – in the end, it became a work of two halves, with the first five songs being the work of the Soft Cell duo along with long-time solo collaborator  Billy McGee, and the other half put in the hands of the afore-mentioned Trevor Horn.  In later years, Marc would state that  the album’s concept was largely down to Rob Dickins, the head of WEA, and that he personally didn’t feel it truly reflected his artistic direction at that time, albeit he had enjoyed working with Horn.

As if to illustrate this, it was Horn’s version of what would become the next single which saw light of day rather than any take on it by its composers:-

(19) My Hand Over My Heart b/w Deadly Serenade (January 1992 – #33 in the UK charts)

It’s another one of those songs that, if it had been released at a different time than the period when Britpop was dying and Grunge was emerging, it would likely have been a very big hit as it is tailor-made for radio – it’s the sort of song that boy bands would have taken to #1.

And so, to the last time that Marc Almond bothered the charts:-

(20) The Days of Pearly Spencer b/w Bruises (April 1992 – #4 in the UK charts)

Another cover….and another massive hit.  I still find it bemusing that the record buying public, over the years, made a success out of the songs that Marc has chosen to reinterpret rather than his own compositions.  This one dates originally from 1967, by the Northern Irish singer-songwriter David McWilliams.  An acoustc ballad that got a fair bit of play on the pirate station Radio Caroline, especially give it was a b-side, but the newly emerging BBC Radio 1 didn’t give it or its a-side, Harlem Lady, much of a showing and so its author remained largely unknown until Marc’s later success with it.

mp3 : David McWilliams – The Days of Pearly Spencer

JC

3 thoughts on “THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF MARC ALMOND (Parts 18-20)

  1. It’s easy, in retrospect to see how heavy a hand Trevor Horn had over Tenement Symphony. Overall, I’d still say that the album is a bit of a triumph! You are so right JC in mentioning that the time and tide were never going to be right for the songs on the album, but the fact that there was enough respect for Almond and Horn to get the job done is a feather in WEA’s cap for me. Rob Dickins may have been a bit of an overlord during his time at WEA, but he had some good instincts.

    I’ve always thought that the video for Jacky should have been Marc singing the song in a tornado with everything, including the kitchen sink (and maybe a Wizard of Oz cow) flying by as he sang his way through the storm…but then nobody ever asked me…

    Hand Over My Heart is everything you could hope for from Soft Cell meeting ZTT with The Grid along for the ride. It’s such a classic sound that it transcends any Pop era. Marc is in full Soft Cell voice and Anne Dudley does everything required to give the song a beautiful wall of sound. Every single time I hear Hand Over My Heart it makes me break out in a smile.

    That wonderful orchestration is in full effect on Days of Pearly Spencer as well. Marc teases out the Jacques Brel DNA from the song to make it his own. According to Wikipedia, McWilliams’ original demo’s had a much more “documentary” quality to the vocals. Marc was obviously tuned in to how the song “should” be sung with his approach.

  2. I have a lot of fondness for this period. I bought all of the CD singles as well as the album and for me, it’s the last great Trevor Horn production until he made “Fundamental” with Pet Shop Boys. I’ve never heard a bad version of “Jacky” though my preference is always Scott Walker there. “Hand Over My Heart” is just a sumptuous heartbreaker of a song. I am shocked to see that it was the UK commercial runt of the litter! I bought the US edition with a generous six tracks, but “Pearly Spencer” was import only. I found the numbered, textured foil cover with the holographic CD inside. No remix, but the B-sides were excellent material. Indeed, all of the B-sides from Marc Almond that I ventured to buy showed an embarrassment of material at his beck and call. I maintain that one could have concocted extremely viable albums out of his “chaff.”

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