Cocteau Twins – in concert from Columbus, Ohio – September 18, 1985 – Band soundboard –
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Cocteau Twins during their first U.S. tour. Recorded at Newport Music Hall in Columbus Ohio on September 18, 1985.
Cocteau Twins were active from 1979 to 1997. They were formed in Grangemouth by Robin Guthrie (guitars, drum machine) and Will Heggie (bass), adding Elizabeth Fraser (vocals) in 1981 and replacing Heggie with multi-instrumentalist Simon Raymonde in 1983. The group has earned critical praise for their distinctive ethereal sound and the soprano vocals of Fraser, whose lyrics often abandon recognizable language. They pioneered the 1980s alternative rock subgenre of dream pop.
After signing with the British record label 4AD in 1982, the band released their debut album Garlands later that year. The addition of Raymonde in 1983 solidified their final lineup, which produced The Spangle Maker EP (containing their biggest hit in their native United Kingdom, “Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops”, peaking at No. 29 on the UK Singles Chart) and their third studio album, Treasure in 1984.
Cocteau Twins’ sound on their first three recordings relied on the combination of Heggie’s rhythmic basslines, Guthrie’s minimalist guitar melodies, and Fraser’s voice. The band’s next full-length LP record, Head over Heels, relied solely on the latter two, following Heggie’s amicable departure after the tour that followed the release of Peppermint Pig (he would later join Lowlife). This led to the characteristic Cocteau Twins sound: Fraser’s voice, by turns ethereal and operatic, combined with increasingly effects-heavy guitar playing by Guthrie (who has often said that he is far more interested in the way the guitar is recorded than in the actual notes being played, though he later admitted that his reliance on effects and layering was initially due to his own technical limitations).
In 1985 4AD signed an agreement with Relativity Records for distribution of Cocteau Twins releases in the US and other territories. To commemorate the event, the compilation The Pink Opaque (1985) was released as a way of introducing the new, broader audience to the band’s back catalogue.
As a reminder of their first U.S. tour, here is their Columbus Ohio gig from September 18, 1985. Crank it up and enjoy.