Panic/Tainted Love

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"Panic / Tainted Love"
Single by Coil
from the album Scatology
  • "Aqua Regis"
  • "Panic"
B-side"Tainted Love"
LabelForce & Form, K.422, Some Bizzare (UK), Wax Trax! (U.S.)

"Tainted Love":
Ed Cobb
  • Coil
  • JG Thirlwell
Coil singles chronology
"Panic / Tainted Love"
"The Anal Staircase"
Music video
"Tainted Love" on YouTube
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic2.5/5 stars[1]

"Panic" and "Tainted Love" are songs recorded by British experimental music band Coil. These were released in 1985 through Some Bizzare in the UK and Wax Trax! Records in the US respectively, as the band's first[2][3] single[a], and the sole one from their 1984 debut studio album, Scatology.[7][8] Originally released on twelve-inch vinyl discs, the single was regarded as the first AIDS benefit release, and has been reissued several times on compact discs.

"Panic", co-written and co-produced by the band with JG Thirlwell, is the second track on Scatology, and explores the theme of an initiatory approach to experience, as well as the using of fear; its remixed version is featured on the single's A-side.[b] "Tainted Love", originally written by Ed Cobb and popularly known after its recording by new wave duo Soft Cell, was included as the B-side,[b] having been drastically re-arranged to reflect HIV/AIDS epidemic, emerged in early 1980's. The music video for "Tainted Love", directed by the band's member Peter Christopherson and featuring Marc Almond, has caused a minor controversy during its release, and has been purchased by the Museum of Modern Art.

Themes and composition[edit]


"Panic" was written by John Balance, Peter Christopherson, and J. G. Thirlwell.[11] It is four minutes and twenty-one seconds long, and is the second track on both vinyl and compact disc versions of Scatology.[12] According to linguist and music blogger Georgiy Starostin, the song starts off being "an ordinary drum machine driven dance-pop number," but later unveils itself as a "sonic nightmare," which was proposed to presumably "recreate the mental state of a panicking person."[13] Musically, the song contains use of guitar feedback, rhythmic drum machine parts and Balance's "feral" vocal styling.[14] The song ends with a vocal outro chanting, "The only thing to fear is fear itself".[13][11][c]

The liner notes of Scatology feature an extended commentary on the song, which is allegedly attributed to John Balance.[14] According to Balance, "Panic" is intended to be "about the deliberate nurture of states of mind usually regarded as dangerous and insane," and is also about "using a fear as a key [...] to crystallize and inspire."[11][15] Balance also writes about a so-called "murder in reverse" that means "performing [...] psychic surgery - in order to restore the whole being." Liner notes for the single feature the similar text,[16] and so does A Coil Magazine which was published in 1987.[17][18] A Coil Magazine editors John Sanders and Mike Gaffney interpreted the song's lyrics as a hymn to Pan as an incarnate of liberating aspect of chaos.[17] David Keenan gives a same statement, adding that the song deals with theme of initiatory approach to experience which was concurrent theme throughout later Coil's work.[18]

The A-side of the single features a remixed version of the song, extended to last approximately seven and a half minutes.[19] The remix features Marc Almond's band bassist Bill McGee playing on double bass,[16][1] and is being preceded by "Aqua Regis", an instrumental track which was said to be "a restructured version" of "Panic".[20] Dubbed "the Dionysian remix" in the liner notes of Unnatural History III, it was described as a "curious and somewhat clumsy consctruction" since it was edited on the digital ​34-inch video system.[3][21]

"Tainted Love"[edit]

A cover version of Ed Cobb's song "Tainted Love", which was originally recorded by American singer Gloria Jones and became popular after being recorded by British band Soft Cell, was included on the single's B-side.[22] Referred to by the band as "desecratory but sensitive,"[5] it became widely viewed by commentators, as well as the band's members, as a reflection on then-emerged HIV/AIDS epidemic.[23] In the 1992 interview, Christopherson said that "Tainted Love" was "one of the first records that was supposed to have a moral as well as an entertaining aspect".[24]

An arrangement for Coil's version of "Tainted Love" was heavily changed in contrary to Soft Cell's version, slowed down to the point when it gives a terrifying impression.[25][26] Beside from synthesizer and percussion parts, Balance sings with an a capella approach, giving one of his "most harrowing vocal performances".[27] Remembering Christopherson upon his death in 2010, Thirlwell attributed this appoarch to an improvisation which came about during the recording: feeling that Balance's vocals were too "deadpan", Thirlwell asked Christopherson to go into the vocal booth with Balance and wrench the latter's arm behind his back, and pull on it, "to put a bit of pain into the performance."[28]


The "Panic/Tainted Love" single was initially released in April–May 1985, shortly after the release of Scatology, by Force & Form and K.422.[29][6] In the United States, the single was licensed by Wax Trax! Records;[1][30] it was reissued in 1990 on CD by Wax Trax!, and later in 1994 by TVT Records.[31] An extended edition of single was issued in 2015 as part of the Threshold Archives series.[32] The single's first pressing featured a textured sleeve, with the first 1000 copies also being produced on red vinyl; some copies included an A4 insert with an advert for the single and Scatology on one side, and a listing of other Some Bizzare releases on the other.[31] The artwork for the single was designed by artist Eddie Cairns, who was said to be friend of the band members, and later died from AIDS-related disease.[33]

Profits from the single's sales were reportedly successful,[34] and had been donated via the Terrence Higgins Trust for the AIDS research, as it was announced in the single's liner notes;[35][5][36][37][38] since then, it is regarded as the first AIDS benefit music release.[d]

"Aqua Regis" and "Tainted Love" were included on the 1988 release of Scatology. The single version of "Panic" is in a 1997 compilation Unnatural History III, while the album version is featured on compilation albums Posobie dlya konchayushchikh: Volos Zlata and The Golden Hare with a Voice of Silver.[41]

"Tainted Love" video[edit]

The music video for "Tainted Love" was directed by Peter Christopherson with an £8.000 advance,[42] and was aired around same time the single was released. The video features Balance, portrayed as an AIDS victim in his last days, and Christopherson as a hospital orderly.[30] At one point, Marc Almond appears as a leather-clad hospital visitor, viewed by some commentators as representing the angel of death.[43][30]

In August 1985, the video was featured on an exhibition held by the Museum of Modern Art,[44] and was later purchased into the latter collection,[45][46] of which the band was said to be proud.[42] In 1994, the video was featured on a Wax Trax! video compilation, Black Box: Retrospective, Vol. 2.[47]

Track listings[edit]

Original 12" release (1985)
1."Aqua Regis"2:27
3."Tainted Love"5:52
Total length:15:50


All credits adapted from the liner notes of original release.[48]

Release history[edit]

Region Date Label Format Catalog
United Kingdom 1985 Force & Form LP FFK 5.12
United States Wax Trax! Records WAX 013
1990 CD WAXCD 013
1994 TVT Records TVT 7013
2015 Threshold Archives T-ARCH 005CD



  1. ^ Some sources referred to it as a single,[4] while others call it an extended play.[5][1][6]
  2. ^ a b Depending on what considered the A-side, different sources refer to the release as either "Panic"[9][1] or "Tainted Love".[2][10][3][7]
  3. ^ In the liner notes of Unnatural History III Balance admitted that "these days" (in times of the aforementioned compilation release), he was "scared of everything", commenting the last line of the song (Coil 1997, "Panic (12" Version)").
  4. ^ In the 1995 interview to a German experimental music magazine Auf Abwegen, John Balance reported that Coil had been recognised by Wax Trax! as "the first band who made an AIDS benefit record, 'Tainted Love' in 1984."[10] The band reiterated this point in liner notes of the 2001 CD reissue of Scatology,[39] and so did several commentators since then.[7][40][30]


  1. ^ a b c d e Chadbourne, Eugene. "Panic - Coil". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved November 10, 2017.
  2. ^ a b Lewis, Scott (May–June 1992). "Human Rites: Coil's Agony and Ecstasy". Option. No. 44. Retrieved April 13, 2018 – via Brainwashed archive.
  3. ^ a b c Coil 1997, "Panic (12" Version)".
  4. ^ Gossling 2003, p. 215; Bey & Bailey 2012, p. 396.
  5. ^ a b c "Coil — History" (PDF). The Feverish. No. 3. April 9, 1985. Retrieved February 12, 2018 – via Brainwashed archive. April sees the release of a 12" -a de-structured version of Panic, coupled with a short track called "Aqua Regis" and our desecratory but sensitive (!) version of "Tainted Love". A new slant is given to this title since all profits from this EP are being donated to AIDS counciling via the Terrence Higgins Trust.
  6. ^ a b Matt Keeley (August 14, 2016). "WATCH: The First Ever AIDS Charity Music Single was Incredibly Dark and Boldly Gay". Hornet. Retrieved May 10, 2017.
  7. ^ a b c Gabriele, Timothy (December 2, 2010). "Peter 'Sleazy' Christopherson: 1955-2010". PopMatters. Retrieved April 13, 2018.
  8. ^ Reed 2013, p. 143.
  9. ^ Sanders & Gaffney 1987, p. X, "Compilation Track Information".
  10. ^ a b Demtroder, Till (1995). "In the Temple of Abomination" (transcription). Auf Abwegen. Retrieved April 24, 2018 – via Brainwashed archive.
  11. ^ a b c Coil 1984, "Panic".
  12. ^ Coil 1988, track listing.
  13. ^ a b Georgiy Starostin. "Coil". Only Solitaire. Retrieved March 27, 2018.
  14. ^ a b Bey & Bailey 2012, p. 100.
  15. ^ Kopf, Biba (February 9, 1985). "Mined Like a Sewer" (scan). NME. Retrieved March 16, 2018 – via Brainwashed archive.
  16. ^ a b Coil 1985, "Panic".
  17. ^ a b Sanders & Gaffney 1987, pp. I-II, "Open the Bloodgate".
  18. ^ a b Keenan 2003, p. 283.
  19. ^ Coil 1997, track listing.
  20. ^ Gossling 2003, p. 215.
  21. ^ Jon Whitney (May 5, 1997). "Coil interview". Brainwashed. Brainwashed Inc. Retrieved November 23, 2017. [...] The Panic 12" here, we were using video recording techniques and we had never done it before and the guy working in the studio certainly had never done it before. We were editing sound digitally with videos and we had never done it before, but it's okay because we did it then.
  22. ^ Bey & Bailey 2012, p. 396.
  23. ^ Keenan 2003, p. 127; Reynolds 2005, p. 481; Diesel & Gerten 2007, p. 156; Worley 2017, p. 202.
  24. ^ Christopherson, Peter (January 1992). "UnCoiled". Convulsion (Interview) (3). Retrieved May 7, 2018 – via Brainwashed archive.
  25. ^ Sanders & Gaffney 1987, p. XVI, "The Evil Sound of Music?".
  26. ^ Reed 2013, p. 144.
  27. ^ Keenan 2003, p. 127; Bey & Bailey 2012, p. 103.
  28. ^ "Peter Christopherson: 1955 - 2010". Brainwashed. Brainwashed Inc. November 25, 2010. Retrieved May 7, 2018. When we came to record their version of "Tainted Love," I felt Geff's vocal was too deadpan. I asked Sleazy to go into the vocal booth with him and wrench his arm behind his back, and pull on it now and then, to put a bit of pain into the performance. They liked this idea and it improved the vocal immensely.
  29. ^ Sanders & Gaffney 1987, p. X, "Compilation Track Information"; Bey & Bailey 2012, p. 103.
  30. ^ a b c d Smith, Rod (March 27, 2014). "Wax Trax: An Introduction". Red Bull Music Academy Daily. Red Bull Music Academy. Retrieved April 11, 2018. Coil’s cover of Soft Cell’s cover of Gloria Jones’s 'Tainted Love' is a prime example. The first ever AIDS benefit release, the track was far too slow for any approach to dancing not rooted in comedy. But the video provided more than enough spectacle to compensate. Directed by Coil founder and Throbbing Gristle alumnus Peter Christopherson, it features Coil’s John Balance, first as an AIDS victim in the final weeks of his life, then as a dead person being wheeled around by Christopherson, who was dressed as a hospital orderly. (Soft Cell veteran Marc Almond’s brief cameo as a smirking hospital visitor marks the only appearance of another human.) The video’s marriage of artful surreality and gut-wrenching realism helped make it the Museum of Modern Art’s first music video acquisition.
  31. ^ a b "Coil, "Panic/Tainted Love"". Brainwashed. Brainwashed Inc. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
  32. ^ Aleks (October 14, 2015). "Coil | Reissues and unreleased music out on Threshold Archives". Retrieved August 6, 2017.
  33. ^ Everall, John (1995). "Hip Gnostics" (PDF). The Lizard. pp. 14–16. Retrieved April 30, 2018 – via Brainwashed archive.
  34. ^ Ledespencer, Madeleine (March 13, 2016). "There's Honey in the Hollows: Coil's 'Horse Rotorvator' 30 Years On". Heathen Harvest. Retrieved April 19, 2018. [...] Despite a successful AIDS fundraising effort with the Tainted Love EP and video, the duo were left to cope with the fact that friends and associates were continuing to die.
  35. ^ Coil 1985, "Tainted Love".
  36. ^ Vague, Tom (September 1985). "Boys From The Crap Stuff". ZigZag Magazine. Retrieved June 26, 2017.
  37. ^ Gill, John (1995). "Queer Noises" (excerpt; transcription). Queer Noises - Male and Female Homosexuality in Twentieth-Century Music. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press – via Brainwashed archive.
  38. ^ Aston, Martin (October 13, 2016). Breaking Down the Walls of Heartache: How Music Came Out (electronic book)|format= requires |url= (help). London: Constable. p. 366. ISBN 978-1-47212-245-2 – via Google Books.
  39. ^ Scatology (CD liner notes). Coil. Threshold House. 2001. LOCI CD15 – via Discogs. Our 12 single of 'Tainted Love' was the first record release ever to benefit AIDS charities. We would like to dedicate this release to all those suffering from HIV related illnesses, to their friends and families, and most of all, to those people who continue to care for them
  40. ^ Bey & Bailey 2012, p. 103.
  41. ^ François Couture. "The Golden Hair with a Voice of Silver - Coil". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved November 21, 2017.
  42. ^ a b Fringeli, Christoph (May 2006). "Interview with JOHN BALANCE from COIL from 1986". Datacide. No. 9. Retrieved July 4, 2018.
  43. ^ Gossling 2003, p. 215; Keenan 2003, p. 127; Diesel & Gerten 2007, pp. 156–157; Reed 2013, p. 144.
  44. ^ "Clips Receive an Artful Showcase". Video Music. Billboard. Vol. 97 no. 35. August 31, 1985. pp. 51–52. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved February 15, 2018 – via Google Books. [...] 'Tainted Love,' 1985, directed by the Coil, music by the Coil.
  45. ^ Neal 1987, p. 116; Gossling 2003, p. 215; Keenan 2003, p. 127.
  46. ^ Sonn, Marlena (May 1991). "Entering a More Pleasant Domain". Alternative Press. No. 38. ISSN 1065-1667. Retrieved April 1, 2018 – via Brainwashed archive.
  47. ^ Tobey, Matthew. "Black Box: Retrospective, Vol. 2 (1994) | Overview". AllMovie. All Media Network. Retrieved April 11, 2018.
  48. ^ Coil 1985. The personnel for the track "Panic" is listed on a front cover, while the personnel for the track "Tainted Love" is listed on a back cover.


Primary sources
  • Scatology (sleeve). Coil. Force & Form. 1984.
  • "Panic / Tainted Love" (sleeve). Coil. Force & Form. 1985.
  • Scatology (CD booklet). Coil. Force & Form. 1988.
  • "Panic / Tainted Love" (CD booklet). Coil. Wax Trax! Records. 1990.
  • Unnatural History III (CD booklet). Coil. Threshold House. 1997.
Secondary sources

External links[edit]