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.
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:-