WHO CARES WHAT SHE’S SINGING?

This might well be the most extraordinary piece of music to have ever come out of Scotland and become a hit single:-

mp3: Cocteau Twins – Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops

It reached #29 in May 1984, spending four weeks in the Top 40. Sadly, the producers at Top of The Pops didn’t see fit to invite the band to the studios for a performance.  It truly would have been incredible television to see Liz, Robin and Simon miming away as the balloons were bounced around among the surely bewildered pop fans who were there to catch sight of Duran Duran, Nik Kershaw or The Thompson Twins, all of whom were riding high in the charts that week.

To be fair, the first week of June 1984 had a decent looking Top 30 –  OMD, Blancmange, New Order, Human League, Depeche Mode, The Special AKA, Scritti Politti, The Cure, Sandie Shaw/The Smiths, and Echo & The Bunnymen could be found alongside Cocteau Twins.

There was always something ethereal or even abstract about the music the trio made, but the fact they enjoyed some degree of commercial success would indicate there was much more love for them out there in the mid 80s than perhaps they ever anticipated or indeed were prepared for.

Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops is not a lyric that would ever qualify for the great short stories series – indeed, it is nigh on impossible to know what precisely is being sung with different sites offering up different interpretations.  But it really doesn’t matter when the voice is as wonderfully expressive as this – at times it sounds as if Liz is undergoing some sort of exorcism – with a musical accompaniment which is singularly unique but somehow offers reminders of a number of the other above-named bands who were also in the Top 30 that week, as well as the guitar work of John McGeogh.

The b-side wasn’t too shabby either:-

mp3: Cocteau Twins – Pepper-Tree

One of the strangest things about the release of this single was that the 12″ version not only featured an extended version, but that it was stuck on the b-side, with a completely different lead track as the a-side:-

mp3: Cocteau Twins – The Spangle Maker

Here’s the thing……The Spangle Maker has even more of a ‘wow’ factor. For the full sonic experience, turn it up loud and put on a decent set of headphones.

JC

9 thoughts on “WHO CARES WHAT SHE’S SINGING?

  1. I didn’t buy too many singles back in the day but I bought this one. Nothing to compare it to. No idea if there are actual lyrics, apart from the title. Absolutely gorgeous. Still sounds amazing nearly 40 years after it came out. Thanks, JC, this one’s an all-time favorite.

  2. Day made. Thanks. A prized possession (12″).

    I cared not a jot about the lyrics. It was the vocal sound immersed in that music. Wow! True innovators and the best band ever to originate from Scotland. Nothing like them then. Nothing like them now.

    If requested to choose between favourite bands of that time I would have thrown The Smiths under a double-decker bus.

    In later years not even Fontana could kill the elation that the Cocteau Twins exceled in.

  3. This music is simply orgasmic! I was an American watching the Steve Blackness monthly music magazine on MTV USA called “London Calling.” It was a MTV reaction to the “2nd British Invasion” that was must watch TV. Blackness would interview bands and play videos, but there was a segment called “Blacknell’s Bits” where one would see maybe 45 seconds of a video by 5-6 artists in a three minute segment.

    I saw and heard an excerpt of “Pearly Dewdrops’ Drops” and was spellbound by the emotive overload that the band was putting down on wax. I had heard nothing like it at the time [or since, really] and RUSHED out to buy it as an import IMMEDIATELY. The stores did not have it yet, so I bought the only Cocteau Twins record I could find, their “Head Over Heels” album and never looked back. I had yet another new, favorite Scottish band to obsess over, and obsesses was what one did with The Cocteau Twins!

    It would be a six year wait, but I eventually saw the band live in America and got the chance to tell Ms. Fraser how much the music had meant to me afterward when their “Heaven + Las Vegas” tour came to the neighboring state in Atlanta. And unlike so many other UK bands I could name, when I finally saw them six years later, it was still transcendentally fantastic! How I wish I had never sold off the 12″ers and LPs that I had re-purchased on CD. That was a bad policy of mine at the time.

  4. When the EPs and singles were compiled as Lullabies to Violaine, both Pearly Dewdrops’ Drops and the follow-up single, Aikea-Guinea, both had ‘alternative’ versions swapped for the original versions. Buy the compilation for the tracks AND the beautiful Vaughan Oliver design.

  5. FFF is correct: ‘Nothing like them then. Nothing like them now.’ And
    I have FFF to thank for knowing this band.

    Semi-related is something I’m, sure I read about My Bloody Valentine
    telling the record company to just make up the words for a mandatory lyric
    insert insisted upon for the Japanese territory.

    Might be apocryphal, but this post reminded me of that tale.

  6. Genuinely one offs pretty much- and it’s the sound of these songs, the entirety of the vox/guitars/ FX and the mix that makes them so special.

  7. My older brother had the Sunburst And Snowblind 12″ and It’ll End In Tears by This Mortal Coil on cassette. I was 13 years old, this was my first introduction to Cocteau Twins and the voice of Liz Fraser and a lifelong love affair began right there with my first listen.

    Always a delight to hear her (sometimes unexpected) guest appearances, too. Her version of She Moves Through The Fair with The Insects appeared in the BBC services The Living And The Dead and was incredible. Likewise, her guest vocals on The Moon Shines Bright by Sam Lee was a highlight of 2020.

    Strangeways: great MBV anecdote – that’s got to be true, hasn’t it?!

  8. Update on my earlier comment: I have just listened to the original 12″ and popped on the ‘alternative’ version on the end. The only things to distinguish it from the originals is a slightly different timing, due to an early fade out and that Robin Guthrie mastered it F***ING LOUD! In fact, the guitars are so loud and fuzzy (not in a good way), they drown out most of the bass and some of Liz’s lower register. I listened to the rest of Lullabies to Violaine and it’s all the same – fuzzy, like listening to the EPs with water in your ears.
    This might be what Guthrie was looking for, but IMHO the tracks need a new remaster, picking out the clarity of Liz’s vocal and Simon’s bass noodling, as well as Robin’s beautiful effects.

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