Year by Year: Cocteau Twins – 1985

1985 was a year in which Cocteau Twins played around with expectations a good bit, perhaps randomly, but perhaps also a reaction to how close they had sailed to the mainstream the year before with the successes of ‘Pearly Dewdrops’ Drops’ and ‘Treasure’. Starting off their main releases for the year with a single/EP release, by year’s end the band released what most likely would have ordinarily been issued as an album as two separate 12″ EPs instead. Meanwhile, exclusive versions of existing tracks would keep on coming on compilation releases. Plus, the band’s first ever compilation of choice cuts from their back catalogue – albeit one that was intended to gather up single tracks, obscurities and album tracks rather than anything as obvious as a singles or ‘best of’ collection.

Electronic Soundmaker and Computer Music – magazine and compilation cassette – February 1985 issue

Electronic Soundmaker and Computer Music February 1985 magazine - compilation cassette - side A
^ Electronic Soundmaker and Computer Music February 1985 magazine – compilation cassette – side A

A real obscurity this one – since the magazine contained an interview with the band, somewhat reluctantly mulling over the previous year’s ‘Treasure’ album, the accompanying cover-mounted cassette contained one of the band’s tracks, ‘Otterley’ – a different, more basic version compared to the album mix by the sound of it – this text is from the magazine;

Featured on our cassette this month is an original version of Otterley, the second to last track on the album. I wondered whether that too began with a drum track.

Simon: “No, that one didn’t. There was a click. It was an open tuning that began it.”

Robin: “All there is on it, in fact I think this might illustrate what I mean by treating and mucking about with instruments, when you hear this particular version, all there is on it is two tracks of guitar, one track of bass and one track of percussion. We only used four tracks. I like to create a sort of space, but not through sort a’ not playing a lot…”

Sadly, I have yet to come by this cassette – anyone out there with a copy?
Thanks, as ever, to Lieutenant030 and his treasure trove of a collection for some photos of this item and a tape of the version, which is indeed another take – closer to the John Peel session version in its minimal style – it is noticeably more of an electric guitar take rather than acoustic guitar, to my ears – and, again, no voice from Elizabeth.
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Year by Year: The Durutti Column – 1979

The first post in a long-running arc that will look in some depth across one of my long-standing, enduring favourites, The Durutti Column. A fascinating discography to dig into – as well as the prime album releases there is a rich variety of quality work that first saw light of day on obscure compilations, one-off releases with a variety of friendly labels and the like. Unlike the Cocteau Twins, I wasn’t there from the off and it wasn’t until 1982 that I started to buy Durutti Column records – but been collecting from then forward, on and off. So, I am no expert – along the way I’ll likely learn much, so if the band is one you’ve never quite known, but you are curious, this may be a good beginners guide – I’m sure I’ll learn a lot of new things too as I delve back into researching some more of the weird and wonderful releases.

I expect to dip in and out and feature whichever versions of the release I may have – over the years, along the way, some of my original copies have parted company, including a lovely copy of the original sandpaper cover debut album pressing, when it could still be had for a decent price second-hand… (sighs)… But The Durutti Column have been a well loved musical obsession and there have been many re-issue programmes over the years which have brought previously difficult to find works back to the light.

An assemblage of Durutti Column releases from over the years
^ An assemblage of Durutti Column releases from over the years

Lets start then with where it began, a release that in its original format is near impossible to find in mint quality and, even if you did find it, the price would doubtless be eye-watering… Continue reading “Year by Year: The Durutti Column – 1979”

Year by Year: Cocteau Twins – 1984

1984 was the year that Cocteau Twins popularity would rise enough to make the top 30 of the UK singles chart and to skirt the edges of the mainstream, first with the release of the ‘Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops’ single and amplified by year’s end with ‘Treasure’, a third album from the band that contains many a fan favourite to this day and arguably the emerging dreampop sound. They were also filling concert venues the size and likes of The Royal Festival Hall in London and The Usher Hall in Edinburgh – a mere two years on from their debut album. Along the way, the independent spirit was retained with exclusive tracks on some more obscure cassette compilations. Starting with…

Cassette compilation: ‘State Of Affairs’ (Pleasantly Surprised, 003)

A various artists compilation from a period where sturm und drang was very much in fashion and is reflected in many of the tracks found here, the Cocteau Twins connection here is an exclusive remix of ‘In Our Angelhood’ that has never been reissued anywhere else. It appears that there were plans to issue this track as a single from the ‘Head Over Heels’ album, but it never came to pass. The intended single release is mentioned on the text in the booklet that accompanies this cassette, but I don’t know for sure if this remix was the planned single mix or not. Its a good bit different from the album mix for sure, though the sound quality here is not the best, it must be said. The arrangement on the version recorded for the October 1983 BBC Radio 1 David ‘Kid’ Jensen session is quite similar.

Various artists - 'State Of Affairs' compilation cassette front cover and cassette side one
^ Various artists – ‘State Of Affairs’ compilation cassette front cover and cassette side one

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Year by Year: Cocteau Twins – 1982

An opening post in a long-running series that will be appear periodically, the aim is to document one of my long-standing, enduring favourites – Cocteau Twins. This is a band where I bought their records from the very first release, ‘Garlands’, shortly after its release, and onwards. Much like another of my favourites, Durutti Column, the Cocteau Twins have an interesting discography to examine since they were very much an act where you found fine quality work not only on albums but on 12″ EPs (a Cocteau Twins speciality) as well as gifted to obscure compilations (more often than not exclusive tracks or versions).

Cocteau Twins assemblage of releases
^ An assemblage of Cocteau Twins releases from over the years

Year by year, the plan is to document when a primary release first made an appearance and to highlight the obscurities that can be found here and there on compilations and the like. Like other post-punk acts of the era, there have been re-issues over the year, in some cases where bonus tracks have ended up removed so as to restore original album running orders to match the original vinyl releases. (Wire also spring to mind here…)

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