Heel to toe to hair and hoof and it's head over heels and it's all but an ark-lark...

The Cocteau Twins’ 1990 Release “Heaven Or Last Vegas” Remains Beyond Blissful

  • By Jeffrey Thiessen
  • No Recess!
  • 16-May 2017

Along with Wax Trax!, no other label of the ’80s represented such a unique and distinct sound and approach to music as 4AD did. How many other labels do you know of that’ve had their flagship group not only write a song about the label head, but name it after him? (I’m referring to Cocteau Twins’ “Ivo,” of course.) People gravitated intensely and passionately to 4AD for many reasons, but one of which is the family aesthetic they created—or at the very least, the way they were able to cradle that perception to their fans during that decade.

Ostensibly, all roads ran through 4AD patriarch Ivo Watts-Russell, culminating in him being a quasi-integral member of one of the most important acts on the label, This Mortal Coil. Time has revealed his actual musical contributions were a bit of a cheap myth that were habitually overstated, but for his part, Watts-Russell was honest about discrediting this notion, evident to all those who read the fantastic chronicling of the label, 2003’s Facing the Other Way: The Story of 4AD. The wire scheme for this sculpture is too large, too overreaching to chalk it up to the vision of one man, even if that’s how it can seem at times. Having said that, Watts-Russell was much more hands-on and less interested in the business side of things than most label heads, and when reading Facing the Other Way, there truly is a sort of twisted family dynamic that emerges between him and the aforementioned Cocteau Twins.

Whether they like it or not, the push-pull dynamic between him and the group, existing in various forms and levels of conflict that range from the petty (Guthrie constantly fumed at the amount of attention Watts-Russell received) to the standard artist/label squabbles (marketing, financial dust-ups), led directly to Cocteau Twins’ most triumphant and influential album, 1990’s Heaven or Las Vegas.

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