The Spangle Maker - 1984

The Spangle Maker The Spangle Maker
Pearly-Dewdrops' Drops (12" version)
Pearly-Dewdrops' Drops (7" version)

This EP was the first release after bass player Simon Raymonde joined the band to complete their definitive line-up. It contained three great songs (the original EP on vinyl did not include the 7" version of Pearly Dewdrops' by the way), all rather different from each other.

Although it is a little hard to draw conclusions from just three songs it is nonetheless obvious that something had changed. Compared with Head Over Heels the atmosphere and the arrangement of the songs are much more complex, a clear foreshadow of the things that were to be so prevalent on Treasure. Liz' lyrics are now totally incomprehensible but for the song titles - and on Treasure even those were no longer to be detected. Apparently the band were happy enough with their newly found style to include all three songs on their compilation album The Pink Opaque.

The EP The Spangle Maker was later also included in both The Box Set and the Lullabies To Violaine compilation.

The Spangle Maker

Same sound, new directions. The Spangle Maker is a song that is vintage Cocteau Twins, yet clearly indicates the beginning of a new era. No special effects, no overdubs, no unusual instruments or exotic styles. Just a straightforward song.

And so there are just four very distinct ingredients to this track: percussion, guitar, bass, vocals. Each of them is equally important. The rhythmic yet gentle beats of the percussion provide the backbone of the song. Liz' dreamy vocals and Simon's bass take care of the main melody. But it's Robin's guitar that is really having the creative role here. Gently wailing, with varied levels of distortion it wanders in and out of the song. It never really gets to the foreground but keeps on a par with the bass, challenging it, teasing it, playing around with it while the bass steadily keeps dictating the pace. It's a fantastic display of guitar wizardry.

The song features quite a few variations in sound level as well, starting off fairly quietly, and after a few louder episodes eventually finishing with a grand finale where everything comes together in a jubilant crescendo. It's a style the band would use more often to equally good effect, for instance in Donimo and Pur.

But we may think of The Spangle Maker as more than just a song: it is really the Cocteau Twins introducing their new line-up. It is as though the band is trying to prove a point, establishing that with three band members they can make their music work without any technical tricks. From that point of view they hardly could have pleaded their case any better.

Pearly-Dewdrops' Drops (12" version)

Easily the most famous track the Cocteau Twins ever recorded Pearly-Dewdrops' Drops sent the band onto an unexpected journey into the British singles charts in 1984 after a large amount of airplay on the BBC by John Peel.

An incomprehensible title, magnificent vocals and a catchy chorus, those must have been the key elements of this song's success. The enigmatic character of the band and the intangibility of the shimmering musical layers all contribute to a feeling of inexplicable magic. Liz' vocals, enriched with many creative overdubs, appear to display a whole range of emotions. She in turn sounds romantic or exuberant, defiant or plaintive, and one could probably describe her moods in a handful of other ways still.

As so often there's greatness in simplicity. Pearly-Dewdrops' Drops is not a very complicated track. A subtle and fragile episode introduces the song, after which firmer stuff arrives. There's a well defined verse and chorus, and in both of them the song title can easily be recognized - one of the last Cocteau songs with this property as Liz would soon abandon including the song title into the lyrics. After an interlude the latter parts clearly work towards a final conclusion, which eventually ends the song in beauty and harmony.

It's not all that clear why Pearly-Dewdrops' Drops entered the charts when so many other Cocteau songs never came close. Obviously it's a great song, but so are at least fifty other Cocteau tracks. One explanation is that this is one of their more accessible efforts. Or it may simply have been a matter of being at the right place at the right moment.

Actually a trimmed down 7-inch version was released on single.


Pepper-Tree must surely be one of the most fantastic tracks the band has ever released - and yet it appeared as the B-side on the 7" release of Pearly Dewdrops' Drops! Rightfully it was included on the Pink Opaque compilation as well.

It is very hard to describe what makes the song so good. Perhaps the main feature is the atmosphere, so incredibly warm and intimate. Then again the rhythm, at exactly one beat per second, so soothing and relaxed, plays a major part. The drums, quietly in the background, and yet prominent at the same time, with the occasional outburst, contribute largely to the overall impression as well.

And then there are Liz' vocals. The main vocals are great, the background ones are simply brilliant. They are surely as close as one can get to resembling a choir of angels.

The end of the song is far from ordinary either. By combining the majestic sound of a large clock to a final chord the band managed to find a very ingenious way to close out such a soft and rhythmic song.

Words fall way short to describe the beauty of it all. But listening to Pepper-Tree is like taking a trip into musical paradise.

The band later endeavoured to play this song live on one of their BBC Sessions.

Pearly-Dewdrops' Drops (7" version)

The 7-inch version is a minute shorter than the full length version. Perhaps the result is more playable from a commercial point of view, but it was reached by crudely chopping off essential elements of the song at either end. Thus the subtle introduction is missing, and the beautiful conclusion is replaced by a fade-out at an arbitrary point. Few will prefer this cut to the original.