7″ Flexidisc: ‘Vinyl’ Magazine (‘Speak No Evil’)
‘Speak No Evil’ was intended to be one of the tracks on a planned debut 7″ single for 4AD by the band. That ended up being dropped when the recording of ‘Garlands’ was judged to be a stronger opening release on its own, so ‘Speak No Evil’ was instead given away as a flexidisc with the Dutch music magazine ‘Vinyl’. Obviously somewhat crackly in this flexidisc form, it was a welcome addition as a bonus track on the 1986 CD release of ‘Garlands’, but was removed on subsequent re-releases which opted to feature only the original eight track album running order. It has however recently been included on the four disc various artists compilation, ‘Make More Noise! Women In Independent UK Music 1977 – 1987’ released on Cherry Red in 2020. It has a downbeat, proto-‘Garlands’ type sound – the nearest comparison on ‘Garlands’ would likely be ‘Shallow Then Halo’, I feel. The flip side features the wonderful Thomas Leer with ‘Who’s Foolin’ Who’ – stylistically a good way away from the Cocteau Twins sound, originally also exclusive to this flexidisc, in recent years it found a home on his ‘1982’ compilation.
7″ / 12″ EP: ‘Peppermint Pig’ (4AD AD 303 / BAD 303)
Produced by Alan Rankine and the last recordings made by the original three piece line-up of Cocteau Twins that included Will Heggie. This single coincided with a higher level of exposure for the band while they supported Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark on their ‘Dazzle Ships’ tour. By accounts, it’s not seen by the band as a success, the pair up with Alan Rankine as producer a failed move.
The sound of these three tracks is a far drier, less mysterious sound than the reverb-drenched likes of ‘Garlands’ and ‘Lullabies’ (and what was to come later in the year with ‘Head Over Heels’). On paper, it probably seemed like a good pairing between the band and Rankine, especially given the lush sound of ‘Sulk’ and tracks such as ‘No’, but for whatever reason, it was not to be.
‘Peppermint Pig’ comes in two recorded versions – the shorter, more concise 7″ version and a longer 12″ mix that starts off highlighting the updated technology in the band’s drum machine choice (leaving behind the somewhat basic rhythms used on ‘Garlands’ for the far more state of the art LinnDrum). It’s also notable for featuring keyboards, by way of electric piano. Despite these advances, they didn’t end up improving the sound. It’s difficult to pin down exactly what it is about the production (helmed by fellow Scot, Alan Rankine, one half of Associates), but it seems dry and dull, a touch arid, after the glittering darkness of ‘Garlands’, ‘Lullabies’ and the second John Peel session. It’s especially evident on ‘Hazel’, found as the extra track on the 12″ release – compare and contrast with the version recorded for the Peel session for a direct A/B comparison. ‘Laugh Lines’ was to be found on both the 7″ and 12″ versions.
1991 would see the single re-released as part of the ‘Singles Collection’ boxed set, it’s debut on CD format. The CD included both the 7″ and 12″ mixes of ‘Peppermint Pig’ as well as the two tracks from the 12″ B side. Three of the four tracks have also since re-appeared on the ‘Lullabies To Violaine’ compilation CDs – for some reason the compilation chose not to include the 12″ version of ‘Peppermint Pig’.
Cassette: ‘Garlands – With Additional Tracks from John Peel Session Jan 83’ (4AD CAD C 211)
‘Garlands’ was only issued on vinyl in 1982, but the following year opportunity was taken to enhance its release on cassette format by way of including the bands incredible John Peel session that had been recorded and aired in January of that year. It was somewhat mind-blowing hearing that session at the time. Having already issued an album and 12″ in short succession, the band unveiled no less than three brand new tracks as part of this session – and two of them would end up being released nowhere other than the John Peel sessions recordings (‘Dear Heart’ and ‘Hear Say Please’). Were these just some makeweight run-of-the-mill tracks you could to some extent understand that – but far from it, these two are amongst the band’s finest. Perhaps that they were from the era with Will Heggie on board might explain why they never progressed come time for the second album, having since departed the band? Of the other tracks, there is ‘Hazel’, which a couple of months later would appear in studio recorded form on the ‘Peppermint Pig’ 12″ EP – for me, this session version, that includes guest vocals from Cindy Sharp aka Cindytalk, is really rather more of the expansive, lush take on the song. The session’s final track was the ‘Garlands’ favourite ‘Deaf, Dumb, Blind’ in re-recorded form.
LP: ‘Head Over Heels’ (4AD CAD 313)
Reduced in numbers by now to a duo, with the departure of Will Heggie as bass player from the band – but you would never know it from the expansive and adventurous sound of this wonderful second album. It is immense in every way. Brian Eno of all people clearly made note of the lack of sonic rule-keeping that was a feature of the band’s sound by this point, commenting on the opening boom or reverb-drenched kick drum on ‘When Mama Was Moth’ – it was just not the done thing! It sets the tone for this albums voluminous, rich, dark, sensual sound. I can barely begin to recommend favourite tracks as the whole album is a highlight from start to finish. This is where the ‘dream pop’ sound that would define the band would start to emerge.
Featured here is the original vinyl album cover – over the years and various format releases there have been a variety of designs, which we’ll get to as we progress…
12″ EP: ‘Sunburst and Snowblind’ (4AD BAD 314)
Seemingly, the band’s cup runneth over with material to release, which was good news with the release of this, the band’s first four track 12″ EP, not long after the release of ‘Head Over Heels’. A remixed version of Sugar Hiccup’ from the album is the notional lead-off track, accompanied by no less than three other new tracks for this release, none less than deserving a place on ‘Head Over Heels’, of equal quality.
‘From The Flagstones’ in particular is a real beauty and would have been right at home amongst the album.
‘Sunburst and Snowblind’ is documented on the current 4AD website noting its original release date as 7th November 1983, though I think this may have been delayed in reality – Record Mirror magazine dated 19th November 1983 listed it as a new release, meaning the release date may more likely have been Friday 18th November.
7″ Promo: ‘Sugar Hiccup’
Although there was no commercial 7″ release for the EP a promo-only one track, single-sided 7″ was issued with ‘Sugar Hiccup’.
Cassette: ‘Head Over Heels’ + ‘Sunburst and Snowblind’ (4AD CAD C 313)
Once again ensuring that fans of the cassette format were not short-changed, the tape format combined the album and its satellite EP into one and provided a new sleeve design variation, different from both the album and 12″ EP sleeves – somewhat classic 23 Envelope styling with the beautiful, close-up photography of Nigel Grierson doing the heavy lifting here. Thanks to Lieutenant 030 for the scans!
BBC Radio 1 sessions
Other things going in 1983 for the Cocteau Twins of note include a trio of BBC Radio 1 sessions including the band’s third John Peel session (broadcast 4th October 1983), a session for David ‘Kid’ Jensen (10th October 1983) and a live session on ‘Saturday Live’ on 3rd December 1983. We’ll get to them in 1999’s ‘BBC Sessions’ release.
Channel 4 live appearances
The UK broadcaster Channel 4 were early champions of the band, what with the 1982 and early 1983 television outings as part of the ‘Whatever You Want’ and ‘Whatever You Didn’t Get’ programmes, live versions recorded at Brixton Ace of ‘Alas Dies Laughing’, ‘Wax and Wane’ and ‘Hazel’.
This Mortal Coil 7″/12″ EP
There was also of course the no small matter of the debut release by This Mortal Coil… but that deserves an entry of its own.