Back in the late 1970s, Elizabeth Fraser, the wide-eyed, waif-like wunder-vox of the Cocteau Twins, wasn’t always so mild-mannered. She used to have a Siouxsie tattoo on her arm, and was ejected from the family home aged 16 due to her punk tastes, which apparently included all the usual suspects.
“I was the sweetest punk rocker you’ve ever met,”
Born in Scotland’s heavily industrial town of Grangemouth, Fraser grew up as the youngest of six, and by the late 1970s, music had become her own personal escape pod.
Running into future band-mate and partner Robin Guthrie while dancing at a local club, and aged 17 with no previous experience, Liz became the singer and lyricist for one of post punk’s most revered and influential bands.
Whether you love the Cocteau Twins or not, it’s hard to deny that Liz Fraser stands out as one of the most original vocalists to come out of the post punk melee. She produced the kind of vocal sounds and hard to follow lyrics, that were more akin to tuning up and down the dial of a short wave radio, than a pop record. While you would occasionally hear snippets of words that you recognised, they were immediately replaced by words that still sounded a bit like words, but not in any language that you understood.
Sending their early demo tapes to both John Peel and Ivo Watts-Russell at 4AD records, their debut EP “Garlands” was released in 1982. Using a combination of drum machines, melodic bass lines and an entire swamp of guitar effects, it was Liz’s distinctive vocals that really set the band apart. Journalists initially wrangled about whether they were Goths, or if not then what on earth were they? – the combination of Liz’s vocals and the Cocteau’s trademark ethereal landscapes put them in a class of their own.
Another 4AD project, This Mortal Coil, saw Liz taking one of 4AD Ivo’s favourite songs, the Tim Buckley classic “Song to the Siren” from his 1970 album Starsailor, and making it entirely her own. The song tells of the Sirens, mythical sea Nymphs who would lure sailors towards the rocks with their songs. A few years later Liz would get even closer to the Buckley clan when she embarked on a relationship with Tim’s son Jeff Buckley.
Since disbanding in 1997, Liz has resisted the lure of the great comeback, even backing out of their much mooted Coachella appearance in 2005. The Cocteau Twins music still remains important, and Liz especially has been cited as a huge influence by fellow vocalists.
3 thoughts on “Elizabeth Fraser – The Girl with the Siouxsie Tattoo”
I remember the new Alma rd 4AD+Beggars banquet band offices as i was also a gothique chanteuse who wrote lyrics.I had been 2 a famous art school in London+was still in training to be a professional ballerina.None of the bands really spoke 2 each other but we all made use of coffee,phone calls,post.Xmal Deutchland,Cocteus+Sex gang+Southern Death cult were my contempories+so lucky was i.Ivo+Vaughan had their own area at the front whilst Martin Mills had an entire floorspace leading off it.I liked going there+all the bands with artistes like myself seemed to be around.I was offered the front cover of some magazine but i was too shy 2 accept.Some bad things were going on linked to the realmusic industry+i do remember Incantation being literally lined up in st to meet some dudes.I remember being invited with both Daniel Ash and Peter Murphy of Bauhaus into their gothvamp Hearst and i definately got into this w them.I remember having seen a nasty girl named Courtney Cobain to be+this bitch followed me all her life hanging around hoping to wreck the life of my children and i+by 1985 when i met and legally married Sebastian Bachof Madame X+Skid Row she intruded upon me.Ive yet 2 see a less talentless fake star as Courtney.Beggars Banquet still are in debt to me for several million i will bet they never knew they owned. Lavina Morticia Kymille.
Man!! I love her voice!! Forgot how much I loved This Mortal Coil. Thanks for the reminder. Here’s hoping she records more music.
I did not know that! I remember the Cocteau Twins and I used to love Siouxsie. I still have several tracks on my spotify by Siouxsie and the Banshees. Sadly missed. I did catch a group in Atlanta (where I lived for several years), call Starbenders, they did a track called ‘Blood’ which I though was VERY Siouxsie and the Banshee-esque. Worth a listen. Maybe its just me! lol