Track of the Day: 'Tainted Love' by Coil

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Matt, a reader in Seattle, has an unsettling selection for the cover series:

This is a probably bit out there, but I was reminded of it as I listened to yesterday’s Track of the Day. The song “Tainted Love” was originally written by Ed Cobb and recorded by Gloria Jones in 1965 (thanks Wikipedia). It became famous with the 1981 synth-pop version by Soft Cell.

Then in 1985, Coil covered it. Slowed it down. Released it as a benefit for an AIDS Charity. The slow version brought out a new meaning in the lyrics:

Once I ran to you, now I run from you
This tainted love you’ve given
I give you all a boy could give you
Take my heart and that’s not nearly all

It captured something of the despair and panic (the name of the b-side) of those early AIDS days in the gay and alternative world, where something terrifying was happening. I wasn’t aware of the video at the time, but it leaves little room for misinterpretation. Thirty years later and the emotion still comes through.

(Track of the Day archive here. Access it through Spotify here. Submit via hello@)