Cocteau Twins

TrackAlbum / EP
Blue Bell KnollBlue Bell Knoll
Dear HeartBBC Sessions
Great Spangled FritillaryEchoes In A Shallow Bay EP
In Our AngelhoodHead Over Heels
PersephoneTreasure
Road, River And RailHeaven Or Las Vegas
Seekers Who Are LoversMilk & Kisses
The Spangle MakerThe Spangle Maker EP
SummerheadFour-Calendar Café
Those Eyes, That MouthLove's Easy Tears EP

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Contributor: Joyce Gibson

In 1982 I was introduced to the band who have remained my favourite of all, Cocteau Twins. I heard them on John Peel but more vividly, I recall seeing them on TV, playing live at Brixton. The singer had shaved some of her hair, with the rest piled high, decorated with chicken bones. She wore a leather skirt, pixie boots, the uniform of my generation. She was my generation. And her voice was like none I’d ever heard – the one and only Elizabeth Fraser. Paired with this incredible voice was an amazing guitar sound and booming bass, courtesy of Robin Guthrie and Will Heggie. I was transfixed and over 30 years later I still am.

The fact they were from Grangemouth, an ugly town completely overshadowed by a huge oil refinery, about 30 miles or so from where I live, made them even more appealing. Added to that the fact that Robin spotted Liz dancing and asked her to join a band – with no idea she was such a gifted singer. The serendipity that the two of them lived so close by and were born within a couple of years of each other still blows me away.

Heggie’s distinctive bass sound departed after only one LP and two EPs and he was eventually replaced by Simon Raymonde. I always felt Raymonde’s style was a bit in awe of Heggie’s, but he brought to the band real musicality and he is of course the man who founded and runs Bella Union, one of the UK’s best indie labels. Son of Ivor Raymonde, who worked with Dusty Springfield in the 1960s, he has an ear for a tune and his impact was great.

For the vast majority of their career, the band didn’t have a drummer, preferring to use a drum machine and this also added to their unique sound – a proper drummer was only used on their final two albums.

I always loved going to see them live, especially with sceptical friends who refused to believe Liz could sing like that live. She most certainly could – and still can!

The band released several LPs and EPs on 4AD before departing in the 90s for Fontana. They also recorded an album with Harold Budd, though this is one I never really took too – it’s mabye a little too polished for me.

The quality definitely dipped a bit during the Fontana era but there are still really great songs on both of these albums. Robin and Liz’s relationship had ended, largely due to Robin’s drug addiction. They tried to hold things together for the band, but eventually in 1997 Liz called time and after a failed attempt to reunite for Coachella in the mid noughties, it’s pretty safe to say now that there won’t ever be anything else from this finest of bands. A half finished album remains in the vaults but it’s unlikely to see the light of day. Although I find this sad on one level, on another I find it perfectly right. Nothing lasts forever and I’m glad they stopped while they still had it, rather than carry on when they had nothing left to give.

This is my top 10. Tomorrow it will be different – which is testament to how rich their back catalogue is.

(The Spangle Maker, Those Eyes That Mouth, Great Spangled Fritillary are also on the Lullabies To Violane compilation)

Cocteau Twins Official Website

Cocteau Twins biography (iTunes)

Once again, we can put out a call for band members’ side-project toppermosts – over to you.

TopperPost #84

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