On September 19th, 1988, Cocteau Twins released their 5th studio album Blue Bell Knoll, which featured the single “Carolyn’s Fingers”. The album was the first by the band to have major distribution in North America through a license from 4AD by Capitol Records.
The album’s single “Carolyn’s Fingers” has a music video which highlights the song’s backing track as a full fledged band member along with bassist Simon Raymonde, and Guitarist Robin Guthrie, while singer Elizabeth Fraser displays one of the most impressive soprano’ in the history of modern music, resembling some sort of exotic songbird from a higher dimension, or as music critic Steve Sutherland put it: “the voice of god”.
In an interview with The Skinny in 2014, Simon Raymond had this to say on recording Blue Bell Knoll:
“That whole period was incredibly fertile, Even just before Blue Bell Knoll, with This Mortal Coil projects that I was deeply involved with, the Victorialand album [which Fraser and Guthrie recorded as a duo] and the Harold Budd collaboration, we were all super busy and – seemingly – fairly happy. Things seemed to be pretty good. We were at our most creative during that period, 1985 through 1990. And all the drug stuff hadn’t really come to the fore yet. The catalyst for it all was the studio we built in North Acton in an industrial estate with all these other small businesses, Dif Juz helped us build the studio inside this little unit. It was there that everything came together, and Blue Bell Knoll was probably the first record we made start to finish in our own place. We’d do bits and pieces elsewhere – we did some work at William Orbit’s house, the Tiny Dynamine and Echoes in a Shallow Bay EPs were done there and mixed somewhere else – but Blue Bell Knoll was the first time we had a studio with our own key and a front door we could shut and just get on with it. And that made a massive difference as the three of us were getting on and understanding what we were trying to do; it all gelled pretty well in that period.”
In a conversation with John Grant in 2017 as documented by The Quietus, Elizabeth Fraser had this to say about writing the songs on Blue Bell Knoll:
“I listened to Blue Bell Knoll for the first time in years and I cried, I just thought it was so lovely. It was quite a difficult time, and I think we just decided to throw ourselves into the creativity. Getting immersed in that process and not worrying about how it would be perceived or the outcome, just going with the flow without expectations, no endgame, just enjoy it, and if it’s not working try something else.
I gained so much from inventing language. I didn’t expect it to be such a fulfilling experience, at first it was an avoidance tactic, more than that, but I must have given myself permission along the way that I was really gonna go for it and not worry about people’s opinions.
‘Athol-brose’ is named after the Scottish drink, whiskey and honey… I’d had quite a lot of that…
‘A Kissed Out Red Floatboat’ I remember I felt love, a really intense love, I was romanticising about it, a romantic image of being open and having your heart open.
‘Ella Megalast Burls Forever’ was written in tribute to the mother of Robin. She was quite a big woman, in terms of personality as well as physique, and she was very jolly and nimble; even though she was a big lady there was something very delicate about her. I just had this image of her revolving, and this going on and on forever and ever, eternally. And so she should!”
Additionally, below is a promotional video for “Cico Buff”.
- Blue Bell Knoll
- Carolyn’s Fingers
- For Phoebe Still a Baby
- The Itchy Glowbo Blow
- Cico Buff
- Suckling the Mender
- Spooning Good Singing Gum
- A Kissed Out Red Floatboat
- Ella Megalast Burls Forever