When I’m penning a bunch of similarly themed posts, such as this consecutive run of Cracking Debut Singles, the occasional lazy shortcut is needed to save time and energy. Here’s a re-post from September 2014, which was Part 110 in the very long-running series entitled ‘Saturday’s Scottish Single’

“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.”

It is utterly sublime and totally overshadows its largely instrumental reverse side:-

mp3 : This Mortal Coil –Sixteen Days (reprise)



  1. To release this as your debut could only ever make what came after seem a little less attractive. I played the 7″ on repeat until I was shouted at. I listened and listened and listened. On purchasing the 12″ I was utterly blown away by Sixteen Days/Gathering Dust; despite the length of the song time just flew by.

    Funny-ish story. The first time I went to buy the single I was told by staff at Virgin Megastore it was only available as a 12″. I purchased the 12″ from the counter, bagged. I got home, didn’t look at the cover and skipped the tracks to find Song to the Siren. I couldnt find it. I couldn’t find it because the staff member had sold me the 12″ Peppermint Pig ep. I was really pissed off until I heard Hazel. Some mistakes are happy mistakes.

  2. Spellblinding, sublime, astonishing, unique.

    I can only think in superlatives about this brilliant track. One more : beautiful.

    Haven’t ever heard the 12″ version, want to now. Bought myself a turntable last week, will make tracking down a 12″ of this my mission.

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