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May 1993

Inspiral Carpets interview

On Tainted Love, b-sides and avenging goldfish

In 1993, the Inspiral Carpets undertook a low key tour to promote the album-bridging single 'How it should be'.

Opening with two lines from 'This is how it feels', the set is frenzied all the way to the climax of 'Tainted Love'. Mercilessly stripped of all its Soft Cell namby-pambiness, the Carpets' reading is driven by an angst-ridden vocal panted from the brink of despair.

Live photo by Sean McManus

Why did the band adopt this song for the NME's compilation Ruby Trax? "Because we had to do a song that had been number one and Martyn knew the bassline," says singer Tom Hingley simply. "Cover versions are dodgy territory because people always think they're a touchstone to your musical influences, which they aren't necessarily at all. The only reason I wanted to do Tainted Love was because it was originally done by Barbara Jones, Marc Bolan's wife. That was a way of reclaiming the song and saying that although it got to number one with Soft Cell, that is not the only way you can do it."

In 1990, the band contributed a cover version of the Stones' Gimme Shelter to another charity project. "I had never even heard the original song," says Tom. "I didn't realise what the chorus meant until I heard Jimmy Somerville and Motorhead or whoever it was doing their version. What I thought about the song and what it was meant to be about had no bearing on how the song turned out. I didn't think any of the other songs on that record were a patch on what we did."

Live photo by Sean McManus

The single 'How it should be' marked a turning point in the band's career, rejecting remixes in favour of extra tracks. "Over the last three years we've had a lot of dance remixes done and we're just very bored of that," says Tom. "So this time around, we're putting two unreleased tracks on it instead of paying someone a couple of grand to do an unrepresentative remix. We aren't a dance band."

We're renowned for being gloomy bastards

Track three on the CD is 'I'm Alive', which oozes uncharacteristic joy. "I'm Alive is quite a positive song," says Tom. "We're renowned for being gloomy bastards." Pessimism shows itself when Tom is asked how he would like to see the new century in. "I would like to actually see the new century in," he says. "because life expectancy seems to be going down all the time with all these diseases and people planting bombs everywhere. There's people f---ing fighting in Europe, so it would be nice to see the new century in."

The other b-side is 'It's Only a Paper Moon' (released in 2003 on the compilation Inspiral Carpets: Cool As). With vocals spoken above a hypnotic melee of guitar chaos, it tells the tale of the lust-driven nightclub underworld. "I got beered up one night and was watching 'A Streetcar Named Desire' and I thought that the film was just too good," says Tom. "So I recorded all the dialogue and paraphrased it for the lyrics. They aren't necessarily about that, that's just where the idea came from. It's very much a jammed out track."

The live set is dominated by tracks from Revenge of the Goldfish, an album that took its title from the cover photograph by Sandy Skoglund of goldfish floating around a bedroom. "It's just quite a whimsical image," says Tom. "It's quite striking, startling and individual. It's also very timeless because it was done in 1981 but it still looks new now. We thought that it would work well gilded onto the album because we felt the music had those sort of qualities." Listening to the album five years on, it's a perfect fit.


© Sean McManus. All rights reserved.

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