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Chapter Four

"We probably did get a bee in our bonnet about it not being Cocteau Twins, because that was Head Over Heels time and it felt more right to have success because of Cocteau Twins music." — Liz Fraser


Like it or not, and in spite of the confusion surrounding the project at the time, This Mortal Coil helped garner significant attention for the Cocteau Twins—although it wasn't their music for which they were being lauded. Since Head Over Heels and Sunburst & Snowblind were contemporaneous to the releases of This Mortal Coil, it created somewhat of an identity crisis for the band, although it hardly overshadowed the critical and commercial success of those records.

When asked about it, Robin cited for the writers of Dewdrops Magazine, "He [Ivo] was releasing This Mortal Coil records at the same time as ours. And he never played down the fact that This Mortal Coil is, in fact, NOT the Cocteau Twins. I mean, so he sold that first album [It'll End In Tears] by advertising the fact that me and Liz did "Song to the Siren," and that me and Liz were the Cocteau Twins at the time [although Simon, too, had joined Robin and Liz by then]. And that caused confusion...So it's left us with all these This Mortal Coil fans who think it's something we did. I don't really like that kind of music!" [Dewdrops #12, 1994]

Closer to the time, in 1983, Robin explained, "I was really sick when I saw that ["Song to the Siren"] getting played on the radio all the time and the Cocteaus had never been played. So the only way we could get played on the radio was to do somebody else's song under a different name. Regarding the video, it's very nice except I'm in it. That kind of spoils it. It's got a black background. There are all these leaves whizzing about, really autumnal. Then there's wee Betty here singing...she's in black and white on top of that." [Rorschach Testing, 1983.]

This Mortal Coil was and has been a project conceived by Ivo Watts-Russell, founder of 4AD Records. Originally, the project featured cover versions of material by other label and non-label artists as well as several original songs and instrumentals. The participants were drawn from the pool of talent on 4AD's roster (bands such as Cocteau Twins, Dif Juz, The Wolfgang Press, Dead Can Dance, Modern English, and Xmal Deutschland) with an occasional non-label guest performer.

The Cocteau Twins, once again a trio—as Simon Raymonde had joined the band by late 1983—participated in eight of the songs featured on the two This Mortal Coil releases from 1983/84: Sixteen Days/Gathering Dust, a single which featured a cover of the original Modern English song with Liz on vocals and "Song to the Siren" as the b-side, and the full-length release, It'll End In Tears.

The most successful track was, by far, Robin's and Liz's atmospheric, soulful, and melancholy cover of Tim Buckley's "Song to the Siren." The aforementioned video released for it said This Mortal Coil, rather than This Mortal Coil, featuring Cocteau Twins (as it perhaps should have). Hence, the subsequent confusion. The song was also performed live on a European television programme around this time, and was only slightly different in the interpretation.

When asked of her opinions on the whole situation, Liz said, "We've slagged that record off a lot and I think it's because there were a lot of bad things going on in our lives at the time—me and Robin—and we've always thought it was because of that record. But it wasn't; it was other things. It was just life, but we chose to—I don't know—use that as an excuse for us being so unhappy."

"We probably did get a bee in our bonnet about it not being Cocteau Twins, because that was Head Over Heels time and it felt more right to have success because of Cocteau Twins music. Having said that, though, I heard it played in a shop...and I liked it. I realised why I got in such a pickle and it wasn't because it was a bad recording of an amazing song. It is a beautiful song." [From Volume 5 Magazine, 1992].

It'll End In Tears was the last This Mortal Coil project in which Liz and Robin participated. However, Simon went on to feature prominently in the 1986 This Mortal Coil LP, Filigree and Shadow.

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