Wonderhall 2021: Marc Almond ready to say hello again to Fylde for a night of big hits
Soft Cell singer songwriter Marc Almond may have waved goodbye to the north west nearly five decades ago but is set to say hello again in an emotional homecoming.
Back in 1975 before the future popstar found fame with hit ‘Tainted Love’ he was selling men and women’s fashions in Blackpool’s South Shore .
The 64-year-old recalls making the daily commute from his home in Southport, he says: “I worked in Blackpool in the Summer of 1975 at a unisex boutique called His and
“I worked at its sister shop in Southport at first then travelled every day over to Blackpool to work in the shop there.
“As we were only minutes from the Pleasure Beach ,my lunch times were spent alone on various rides. Probably a sad sight.”
More than 45 years later and Almond, having sold in excess of 30 million records worldwide, is the star attraction and later this summer will bring pleasure and live music to audiences on the Fylde coast with a headline gig at the inaugural Wonderhall Festival at Lytham Hall.
Opening on August 25, the six-day event will welcome Almond alongside superstar artists from Tom Jones to Jools Holland and UB40. The Soft Cell frontman will bring his new wave magic and a collection of hits to the Saturday night with support from The Coustics, Touch of Pearl, Steve Norman of Spandau Ballet and the Sleezy’s and The Real Thing.
It is a night in the calendar the 64-year-old music icon is relishing after a ‘frustrating’ time for performers globally.
He says: “The past two years have been difficult and frustrating, I’m very much a live performer and the summer festival season is usually a busy time for me. Of course there’s been nothing and it’s been immensely hard for many musicians.”
Like many fellow artists performing with a live audience is something he doesn’t take for granted.
“I’ve been able to do some online shows but it’s hardly the same as having a real live audience.
“I’ve missed the audiences of course and whole atmosphere of live shows and festivals.
“The build-up and the excitement and the band interaction. I perform shows all year and it keeps you mentally and physically fit and keeps your voice trained which as you get older is so important. Losing two years is detrimental in so many ways.”
Almond, who was awarded an OBE for services to arts and culture in 2018 has not been shy in his criticisms of the Government and the support afforded for to those in all areas of the industry during the pandemic.
He says: The Government didn’t give the support needed as they don’t take music, theatre or the arts seriously enough.
“Loans were made to some people but already the Government is asking for them back and it’s not all over. I think people who suffered most were the backstage tech people that make a show work. They were virtually ignored.
“Many musicians got letters suggesting they become welders to scaffolders, insulting really.”
Almond says he used the time in lockdown to be creative, streaming performances on digital platforms to keep in touch with people but adds he still found the period ‘extremely challenging.’
His campaigns for mental health issues are well-documented. The singer spent a month in a coma after a near-fatal motorcycle accident in 2004.
In recovery, he endured the return of his childhood stammer and was forced to learn to sing again before returning to record more music.
He later became a patron of brain trauma charity Headway.
Almond adds: “It has been extremely challenging in the past year and a half to say the least.
“I was lucky in respect that I was able to stay creative, even if it was just doing songs from home on my Instagram. I did a number of online shows from a studio in London, always different and usually for free.
“People generously made donations to pay the musicians as it was a very difficult period especially if most of your income comes from live work.
“I think online shows are a good format going forward as it’s an easy way to reach a world audience but at the moment people I feel have had enough of them and want a return to real live music.”
The musician, met other half of electric duo Soft Cell David Ball, who grew up in Blackpool, at university in Leeds. He said music was his escape growing up after an unsettled time in his childhood where for a time he lived with his grandparents in Southport.
Listening to Radio Luxembourg late into the night was where he discovered his love for the likes of T Rex and David Bowie.
He recalls: “My parents bought me a little transistor radio for my 10th Birthday on which I discovered Radio Luxembourg and Caroline, playing pop music late into the night..
“Music was really my own discovery and escape and as soon as I was able to buy records at the beginning of the 1970’s, I bought a single a week, Progressive Rock and Blues bands like Jethro Tull and Free and eventually T.Rex, David Bowie and Roxy Music. I educated myself and that still goes on till this day.
“I had young parents and though they didn’t have a big record collection, pop music stations were always on in the house when I was growing up as well as the pop shows of the time in the 60s, shows like Ready Steady Go, Thank
Your Lucky Stars and Juke Box Jury. It’s probably why I’m still influenced by 60s and early 70s music more than any other.”
Of course Almond, who has gold and platinum selling albums to his name has also had the joy of working and touring with some of the biggest names in the business, including music supremo Jools Hollland, who will close Wonderhall Festival with his Rhythm and Blues band
He adds: Working with Jools and his wonderful band is always a great joy, I’ve toured with him many times now and I think we have a good chemistry and it was wonderful to make an album with him ‘ A Lovely Life to Live&’ a few years back.”
Almond also gives a nod to the late Gene Pitney, who he worked with on hit track ‘Something’s Gotten Hold of my Heart ‘.
“Gene Pitney was fantastic to work with, such a consummate professional, and then the varied Russian artists I worked with on my album Heart on Snow was one of the best times of my life.
“I’ve always learned something from the different people I’ve worked with and each time successful or not it’s always been a valuable experience.”
He promises to bring all the hits from his catalogue when he returns to the Fylde next month to entertain fans old and new.
“ I always think a festival audience wants to hear the most familiar or popular songs from your repertoire, too many new songs or unfamiliar songs bore people, maybe a recent single or a well known cover but it’s not the time to be overly self indulgent .
“I’m lucky to have some big hits which are tried and tested festival audience favourites and get a great response. You have to remember that a lot of the audience are not necessarily hardcore fans and you have to win them over.”
And beyond the summer there is no chance of slowing down again with the promise of new music and a highly anticipated Soft Cell album in 2022.
“It’s coming out probably early next year now as there is a current vinyl shortage.
“One good thing about lockdown for me is that I was able to concentrate on writing lyrics. I’ll then do a solo record in 2023.
“Hopefully I’ll be working on a theatre project too but everything has been put back a year or two.”
Marc Almond, at Wonderhall, Saturday August 28
Wonderhall is a brand new six-day live music festival coming to Lancashire
Launched by the team behind the hugely popular and successful Lytham Festival, WonderHall will see six nights of live music taking place in the grounds of historic Lytham Hall from Wednesday August 25 to Bank Holiday Monday 30th August.
For tickets and more information on the line-up visit https://www.wonderhall.co.uk