Some of you might think I’m cheating this week, but with a bit of music that is this exceptional, I’m prepared to bend the rules a bit.

This Mortal Coil are NOT a Scottish band and so shouldn’t really be in this alphabetical series.

This Mortal Coil was a project led by Ivo Watts-Russell, co-founder of the 4AD record label. Although Watts-Russell and John Fryer were technically the only two official members, the band’s recorded output featured a large rotating cast of supporting artists, many of whom were signed to, or otherwise associated with 4AD.

One of the label’s earliest signings was Modern English. In 1983, Watts-Russell suggested that they re-record two of their earliest songs, Sixteen Days and Gathering Dust as a medley on the basis that the band was closing its sets with such a medley and the label owner thought it was strong enough to warrant a re-recording. When Modern English rebuffed the idea, Watts-Russell decided to assemble a group of musicians to undertake the task and a 12″ EP, Sixteen Days/Gathering Dust, resulted from the sessions.

Recorded as a B-side for the EP was a cover of Tim Buckley‘s Song to the Siren, performed solely by Elizabeth Fraser and Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins. Pleased with the results, Watts-Russell decided to make this the A-side of the 7″ single version of the EP.

Cocteau Twins were a Scottish act, and I therefore claiming this version of Song To The Siren as eligible for this series.

mp3 : This Mortal Coil – Song To The Siren

A work of genius. Watts-Russell originally wanted it to be a cappella but ended up including what was a one-take of Guthrie, and I quote ‘leaning against the studio wall bored out of his mind playing these chords’.

Fraser’s vocal was also, quite astonishingly, recorded in one take.

5 thoughts on “SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SINGLE (Part 110)

  1. You must disqualify this record from your series on the basis that it is one of my ’20 songs to take to my grave’ for October and I want it to myself!!!

    A simply astonishing record though!

  2. Love this track and the mystifying beauty of that First This Mortal Coil album. I have to say one thing about Cocteau Twins. As much as they may have amazingly done both the vocals and guitars in one take, with my experience of them live back in the early 80s’, I wouldn’t be surprised if those 1 takes involved the producer/engineer leaving the mixing desk in record mode and heading out to dinner and drinks – with Cocteau Twins NOTHING happens quickly. Now that’s not a negative dig at the band, just an observation from a fan who waited from 9pm until 2am for them to make it to the stage for their first NYC show.

  3. I intend to have this played at my funeral. I’ve loved this since it came out when I was 16. I’m 47 next week.

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