As the frontman of the pop duo soft cellSinger Marc Mandel still has one of the most recognizable voices in British pop.
The synthpop act had a slew of hits throughout the ’80s, but it’s their signature track Tainted Love they still remember best, and the song continues to be played consistently on radio and clubs around the world.
“I suppose the music of the ’80s still resonates today because of the sweet naivety and emotion that came from so much creativity coupled with the visual excitement,” says Marc.
“It was outrageously funny, hedonistic, sometimes political, and often had a hymn of liberation in such oppressive times.”
Marc Almond in 1981 (Photo: Fin Costello via Getty Images)
“It was a time when things were really new for everyone, not just one generation,” adds Marc of the ’80s as he prepares for a special Live From The Upside Down concert in collaboration with stranger things and Doritos.
“So it’s great that there are new young artists who are taking it and reinterpreting it.”
In honor of Proud Month ago, Marc told HuffPost UK about growing up without queer role models, his modern day LGBTQ+ heroes and why he feels the community “stand together” to “hold on to the achievements we have made and ensure a better world for all”…
Who was the first queer person you looked up to?
You know I grew up in the 70’s and it doesn’t sound like my age it’s incredibly hard to understand how homophobic Britain was in the 70’s and even more so in the 80’s.The way gay people were portrayed on TV was clichéd stereotypes that I couldn’t identify with as a young man. And the news was full of scandals, gay shaming or public outings that destroyed careers.
It was difficult to find a role model in this toxic background, so I honestly can’t remember one.
Marc on stage last year (Photo: Jim Dyson via Getty Images)
What was the first LGBTQ+ TV show or film that you remember resonated with you?
THere the film was victim, a 1961 British neo-noir suspense Movie Directed by Basil Dearden.I’d never seen a film that portrayed gay life – or “homosexuals” as everyone called them back then – in a sympathetic way. I’ve just never seen it, and that in itself has to be incredible for people to understand.
The TV movie The Naked Official was a revelation to me, a groundbreaking performance Quentin Crisp, the British-born writer, storyteller and actor and his account of his openly gay life in London when he dared to be himself. It brought a defiant look at gay life into people’s living rooms, in totally uncompromising colour. But there was also history John Hurtwho as an actor dared to play Quentin Crisp at a time when actors were reluctant to touch gay roles for fear of being tainted by them.
Quentin Crisp and John Hurt pictured in 1975 (Photo: Fremantle Media/Shutterstock)
Which song do you associate with your own coming out?
I never came out as such because I don’t remember ever being in the closet. People just looked at me and well, some things are just too obvious to hide.
I grew up with glam rock, a kid of the 70’s. Watch after David Bowie or Marc Bolan filled me with amazement, or the film Cabaret. I’m thinking of Lou Reed’s Walk On The Wild Side or Sylvester’s You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)..
What was the last LGBTQ+ show or movie that impressed you?
If I had to choose oneGod’s own country by Francis Lee is something very special.
Josh O’Connor and Alec Secareanu in God’s Own Country (Photo: British Film Institute/Kobal/Shutterstock)
Who is your ultimate queer icon?
I hate to choose one person over another, partly because it’s absurd to say that that person’s journey or contribution is better. And then — and this is arguably the sad part — a fear that I’ll say or choose someone and it provokes a torrent of hateful comments on social media because they don’t agree. Many gay people are afraid to speak out for fear of being attacked by others in their own community, and this division deeply troubles me.
But I’ve always loved Dirk Bogarde, and while he wasn’t openly gay, he was so gay and he tried to tell us and change something by putting signifiers in his work. He was funny and gentle and extremely talented, and much of his work was deeply subversive.
I also have a deep affection for Lindsey Kemp, the late dancer and choreographer. He dealt openly with gay issues and faced considerable hostilities. He had a lasting influence on my sense of theater and performance.
Dirk Bogarde photographed at home in the 1980s (Photo: TV Times via Getty Images)
Who is currently a queer public figure that excites you about the future?
Ryan Murphy is extraordinary and has changed television in many ways with groundbreaking work. Simply brilliant. Telling stories, human stories, gay stories, retelling them in the mainstream, and that’s an incredible achievement
Billy Porter speaks eloquently about how we are at the forefront of telling our own narrative. It is no longer in the hands of other people who are outside the community. Like him, I feel so blessed to have lived long enough to see this day.
Billy Porter and Ryan Murphy (Photo: Kevin Mazur via Getty Images)
Why do you think Pride is still important today?
It’s no less important than ever. It’s about being proud of ourselves. I suppose early trans rights activist Marsha P. Johnson was right: “If a transvestite doesn’t say, ‘I’m gay and I’m proud and I’m a transvestite, then no one else is going to jump up there and say I’m gay and I’m proud and I’m a transvestite to them’.”
I would also like to add that as a performer, whenever I can, I choose to play Prides in smaller towns across Europe, those places where LGBTQ+ people are on the front lines – it’s easy, in the anonymity of a Being proud and proud of the city, but in small towns it’s still a terrible challenge.
Marc performing at a Pride event in 2004 (Photo: Jo Hale via Getty Images)
What is your message to the next generation of LGBTQ+ people?
The fight isn’t over yet. Our freedoms balance precariously on an abyss. The right and nationalists would curtail all freedoms if they could.
And also, especially through social media, I see divisions in the community – be kinder to one another and realize that only together can we hold on to what has been achieved and ensure a better world for all.
There’s no shame in being what you are. You are the only one who can say who you are. Each generation struggles not only to find its place, but also to find a context. I know older gay people who are still not out there, unable to embrace this changing world, unfamiliar with this new openness, and whose closets are locked by decades of shame or abuse. Try to see the world from their point of view as well, maybe you will learn something about your own past.
Stranger Things and Doritos team up for the first-ever Life From The Upside Down concert, featuring performances from Soft Cell, The Go-Gos, Charli XCX and Corey Hart.
To snag a ticket, pick up a bag of Doritos or Doritos 3D Crunch with the limited-time Stranger Things packaging, or visit Snacks.com
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.