The COCTEAU TWINS: Grangemouth act formed in 1981 by former Liberators Robin Guthrie and Will Heggie. Guthrie's position as DJ at the International Hotel in Grangemouth allowed him to spot Liz Fraser, who the duo recruited as vocalist. Taking their name from an obscure song by Simple Minds, the Cocteau Twins won a session on John Peel's BBC Radio show, which in turn led to a recording contract with the 4AD label in London. The Cocteau Twins developed a unique sound, based around Heggie's rythmic bass and Guthrie's swirling guitar. The fact that Fraser's vocals were like another instrument, with deliberatly obscured lyrics sealing their instant reputation as an influential and critically aclaimed act.
The band released their debut album, "Garlands", in 1982, and began playing live dates with the likes of The Birthday Party and Modern English. Later in the year they produced an EP entitled "Lullabies" which once again sent critics into frenzies of ecstacy. This was followed early the following year by another EP, "Peppermint Pig", produced by Alan Rankin of The Associates. The use of an outside producer left the band with a bad taste in their mouths, and they vowed to do it themselves from now on. Subsequent touring led to Heggie leaving the band, with rumours of Guthrie & Frasers romantic relationship being too much for him. He subsequently returned to Grangemouth and joined Dead Neighbours. The duo embarked on a European tour supporting OMD, but left before the end after arguments over the sound. The next album, "Head Over Heels" was a classic of the 1980's, and feauring fellow Falkirk musician, Ally Gibb (of Pastis 51) on saxophone. Recorded back in Grangemouth, the band soon returned to London, where their neighbours signed a petition to evict them due to the noise. The band responded by playing their first American dates.
1983 also saw them becoming involved with another act, This Mortal Coil, which was the brainchild of 4AD owner Ivo. The duo recorded a version of Tim Buckley's "Song To The Siren" which soon began picking up airplay and almost made it into the top forty. In late 1983 the band recruited a new bass player, Simon Raymonde, who had previously played in Drowning Craze, and the first fruits were the single "Pearly Dewdrops Drops", which entered the charts in 1984, finally reaching #29. The band, peverse as ever, turned down a slot on "Top Of The Pops". The next project was the third album, "Treasure" in October 1984, which remains one of their most popular releases, although the band claim to hate it. The band then set out on a short world tour early in 1985, making a first visit to Japan where the band were mobbed by thousands of fans at airports and hotels. The crowds thought that Fraser was singing in Japanese!
This was the start of a particularly prolific period for the band, and the follow up EP, "Aikea-Guinea" was released just six months later. Guthrie & Fraser also found time to guest on "The Legendary Wolfgang Press and Other Tall Stories", an album by label mates, The Wolfgang Press. The next two EP's were released soon after, entitled "Tiny Dynamite" & "Echoes In A Shallow Bay", recorded in their own London studio. The Cocteau Twins signed an international distribution agreement in 1985, and to mark the occasion, and to give Americans some exposure to what the band had previously recorded, 4AD released a compilation album entitled "The Pink Opaque" in November. The album's ten tracks drew from material released from 1982 to 1984, and included songs from "Garlands", "Head Over Heels", "Sunburst and Snowblind", "The Spangle Maker", and "Treasure", as well as the previously unreleased track, "Millimillenary".
In early 1986 the band recorded and released a primarily acoustic album entitled "Victorialand". Raymonde did not appear on the album as he was at work on the second This Mortal Coil LP, "Filigree and Shadow". However, the album did feature Dif Juz member Richard Thomas on saxophone and tablas. Guthrie & Fraser returned the favour by appearing on the Dif Juz album, "Extractions", later that year, on which Guthrie was also engineer and producer. 1986 also saw the band complete a European tour. The band then started work on a collaborative project with Harold Budd, which was released as the album "The Moon & The Melodies". Keen to avoid this being seen as a Cocteau Twins project, the band members listed their names on the cover. The band returned to their own name later in 1986 for the single "Love's Easy Tears", after which they took time off to finish building their studio, as well as guesting with bands such as Felt, The Wolfgang Press & AR Kane. This silence was broken with the release of a new album, "Blue Bell Knoll", in October 1988. The album was the first on their new label, Capitol, a move which led to accusations of "selling out". Despite the major label, the band refused to tour or do any promotion, which did not stop the album raching number 14 in the UK. In place of any promotion the band returned to their private lives, with Raymonde getting married and having a son, and Fraser & Guthrie having a baby girl, Lucy Belle, in September 1989.
The band leased studio space in Twickenham and christened their new home "September Sound" in honor of the month in which their children were born. Guthrie found himself in demand as a producer, working with such bands as Lush, Chapterhouse, The Veldt and Shellyan Orphan, and Fraser made a guest vocal appearance on the song "Candleland" by ex-Echo and the Bunnymen singer Ian McCulloch.
Afterwards the band set about recording what was to become their most successful album, "Heaven Or Las Vegas", which was preceeded by a single, "Iceblink Luck" in August 1990. Fraser's vocals were recorded while she held her baby in her arms, and the songs were more coherant and commercial than previously. The band then set out on their most extensive and elaborate tour to date, including their first headline US tour. For the tour two new guitarists were brought in: Mitsuo Tate and Ben Blakeman, allowing the band to reproduce the layered studio sound. As the tour ended in Las Vegas the band were released from their contract with 4AD. Inside the band things hit rock bottom, with Guthrie abusing drugs and alcohol, and his and Frasers relationship being increasingly strained.
The next couple of years were quiet for the band, with only an uncharacteristic version of "Frosty The Snowman" finding it's way onto a Capitol Records christmas compilation album. Part of the hiatus in proceedings was Guthrie's recovery from drink and drug addiction, which was to inform the content and sound of the next album, "Four Calendar Cafe". This album saw a change in the band's sound, with the emphasis more on songs, and Fraser's lyrics clear. The band had also signed a new record deal in the UK with Fontana (whilst Capitol continued to release them in the USA). In Autumn 1993 the band began a world tour to support the album, with addition musicians Benny DiMassa (drums) & David Palfreeman (percussion). The tour ended in 1994 and Guthrie and Fraser split, with Fraser having a nervous breakdown.
The following year saw the band working with other acts again, notably Medicine on the soundtrack to "The Crow", and Fraser on The Future Sound Of London's single "Lifeforms" and Fuel's "Timeless" EP. Moose and The Bathers also benefited from her vocals. Guthrie meanwhile appeared on the second Veldt album, "Afrodisiac". In spring 1995 the band returned with two EP's, "Twinlights" & "Otherness". During this time Fraser had met and fallen in love with the doomed Jeff Buckley, and the end of that relationship informed the content of the two EP's.
The following year saw the band's last proper album being released, "Milk & Kisses". The album was written in a rented house in Brittany (home of Guthrie's new wife, Florence), and was recorded by the band in the same room at the same time for once. A number of television and live radio performances in the UK were followed by an extensive European and North American tour in late spring and early summer.
The Cocteaus had established their own independent record label, Bella Union, while continuing to work as a group and run September Sound as a commercial recording studio. However, while recording, in 1998, what was to have been their last album, the Cocteau Twins finally called it quits. That year saw Fraser being voted 60th best vocalist ever in Mojo magazine.
In 1999, Bella Union, in cooperation with the BBC, released a two-disc set of BBC radio session recordings, compiled from the band's numerous live studio appearances from 1982 to 1996. Raymonde released solo recordings under his own name, whilst Guthrie formed a new act, Violet Indiana. Fraser re-located to Bristol with her new partner, Damon Reece (of Spiritualized), where she hooked up with Massive Attack on their "Mezzanine" album and "Teardrop" single. She also sang on an album by Craig Armstrong, as well as lending her voice to songs on the soundtracks to the movies "The Winter Guest" & "In Dreams". A Cocteau Twins retrospective, "Stars & Topsoil" was released by 4AD in 2000, whilst the following year Fraser gave birth to her second child, Lily. Fraser also added vocals to two tracks from the "Lord Of The Rings" trilogy soundtrack in 2001 and 2002. 2006 saw her feature on an unreleased track on the Massive Attack best of album, "Collected", and also appear with the band at the Coachella Festival in California. A reported collaboration with Scott Walker never materialised, however she did tour with Massive Attack on their "Greatest Hits" tour later that year. In 2008 The Cocteau Twins won an "Inspiration" award from Q Magazine, and also ruled out any re-union.
"Garlands" (vinyl album, 4AD, 1982)
"Lullabies" (12 inch single, 4AD, 1982)
"Peppermint Pig" (7 inch vinyl EP, 4AD, 1983)
"Head Over Heels" (vinyl album, 4AD, 1983, UK charts #51)
"Sunburst & Snowblind" (12 inch single, 4AD, 1983)
"Pearly Dewdrops Drops" (7 inch single, 4AD, 1984, UK charts #29)
"Treasure" (vinyl album, 4AD, 1984, UK charts #29)
"Aikea-Guinea" (7 inch EP, 4AD, 1985, UK charts #41)
"Tiny Dynamite" (12 inch EP, 4AD, 1985, UK charts #52)
"Echoes In A Shallow Bay" (12 inch EP, 4AD, 1985, UK charts #65)
"The Pink Opaque" (vinyl/cassette album, 1985, USA only)
"Victorialand" (vinyl/cassette album, 4AD, 1986, UK charts #10)
"Love's Easy Tears" (7 inch single, 4AD, 1986, UK charts #53)
"Blue Bell Knoll" (vinyl/cassette/dat album, 4AD, 1988. UK charts #15)
"Carolyn's Fingers" (7 inch single, 4AD, 1988)
"Iceblink Luck" (7 inch/cassette single, 4AD, 1990, UK charts #38)
"Heaven Or Las Vegas" (vinyl/cassette/CD album, 4AD, 1990, UK charts #7, US charts #99)
"Evangeline" (7 inch/cassette single, Fontana, 1993, UK charts #34)
"Four Calendar Cafe" (vinyl/cassette/CD album, Fontana, 1993, UK charts #13, US charts #78)
"Winter Wonderland" (CD single, Fontana, 1993. UK charts #58)
"Bluebeard" (7 inch cassette single, Fontana, 1994, UK charts #33)
"Twinlights" (7 inch/CD EP, Fontana, 1995, UK charts #59)
"Otherness" (12 inch/CD EP, Fontana, 1995, UK charts #59)
"Milk & Kisses" (cassette/CD album, Fontana, 1996, UK charts #17, US charts #99)
"Tishbite" (12 inch single, Fontana, 1996, UK charts #34)
"Violaine" (12 inch single, Fontana, 1996, UK charts #56)
"The BBC Sessions" (double CD album, Bella Union, 1999)
"Stars & Topsoil" (CD album, 4AD, 2000)
"Lullabies to Violaine" (CD album, 4AD, 2005)
As Harold Budd, Liz Fraser, Robin Guthrie & Simon Raymonde:
"The Moon & The Melodies" (vinyl/cassette album, 4AD, 1986, UK charts #46)
The Wolfgang Press: "The Legendary Wolfgang Press and Other Tall Stories" (vinyl album, 4AD, 1985, featuring Liz Fraser & Robin Guthrie)
Dif Juz: "Extractions" (vinyl album, 4AD, 1986, featuring Liz Fraser, produced by Robin Guthrie)
The Wolfgang Press: "Standing Up Straight" (album, 4AD, 1986, featuring Liz Fraser)
AR Kane: "Lollita" (single, 4AD, 1986, produced by Robin Guthrie)
Harold Budd: "The White Arcades) (album, 1988, produced by Robin Guthrie)
Ian McCulloch, "Candleland" (album, 1989, featuring Liz Fraser)
Lush, "Scar" (e.p., 4AD, 1989, produced by Robin Guthrie)
Chapterhouse, "Whirlpool" (album, 1989, one track produced by Robin Guthrie)
The Future Sound Of London, "Lifeforms" (single, 1994, featuring Liz Fraser)
Fuel, "Timeless" (EP, 1994, featuring Liz Fraser)
The Bathers, "Sunpowder" (CD album, Marina Records, 1994, featuring Liz Fraser)
The Veldt, "Afrodisiac" (album, 1994, featuring Robin Guthrie)
Simon Raymonde, "Blame Someone Else" (album, Bella Union, 1998, featuring Liz Fraser & Robin Guthrie)
Massive Attack, "Mezzanine" (album, 1998, featuring Liz Fraser)
Massive Attack, "Teardrop" (single, 1998, featuring Liz Fraser)
Craig Armstrong, "The Space Between Us" (CD/cassette/minidisc album, Melankolic Records, 1998, featuring Liz Fraser)
Craig Armstrong, "This Love" (CD/cassette single, Melankolic Records, 1998, featuring Liz Fraser)
Massive Attack, "Collected" (CD album, 2006, featuring Liz Fraser)
Mahogany, "Conectivity" (CD album, 2006, featuring Robin Guthrie)