Of the vast panoply of fresh, exiting, exotic and sometimes just plain odd stuff played by John Peel in the 80’s (when the We Love All That ghetto blaster was most frequently “locked” to Radio One between the hours of nine p.m and midnight), certain bands became staples. Often these bands were white boys with guitars from somewhere north of Watford: The Smiths, The Fall, The Wedding Present, New Order etc. While Peel himself loved and championed these bands he often lamented that he would have preferred to see a few more reggae, electro, rap or African records in his listener-voted Festive Fifty at the end of each year instead of the same old same old which clogged up the charts each Yuletide, rather like bland daytime pop dominating the regular Top 40.
Another such white guitar-wielding combo from north of Watford was Cocteau Twins, fronted as any fule kno by Elizabeth “Liz” Frazer… a vocalist for whom the word “ethereal” was invented. I would love to wax (and, indeed, wane) lyrical on her original inventive lyrical and vocal style which would alternately harangue and caress the ears of the listener, but knowing that this fellow on the official (?) Cocteau Twins website has done a far better job than I ever could, just click the link and read his in-depth analysis in your own sweet time.
In 1991 Peel even scrapped that year’s Festive Fifty due to the predictability of said hit parade, although he eventually caved in to his disappointed listeners and belatedly broadcast a “Phantom Fifty” in 1993, playing just two songs (or was it just one?) A WEEK. The whole chart has been lovingly collated and sewn together by venerable home taping curator Rico here, with bits of Peelie chatting before and after the tracks as befits the occasion.
But back to Cocteau Twins, who made an earth-shattering SEVENTEEN appearances over the lifespan of the Festive Fifty and were the fifth most popular act in the eyes and ears of those who sent their postcards to Peel and Walters for the chart (we can safely presume The Fall were sitting “pretty” in pole position), and a chance discovery made on the interweb this morning that I just HAD to share… a two hour (ish) Cocteau Twins mixtape, with talky bits and everything! Compiled and – nay – mixed by one Silinder, it’s a mix (an actual mix) of well-known and more obscure “cuts”… and you can even download it if you’re fast enough. Hats off, not to Harper, but to Silinder… and enjoy the (ahem) sonic cathedrals and celestial castles of Elizabeth Frazer, Robin Guthrie and Simon Raymonde: