Cocteau Twins' Elizabeth Fraser - Voice of an Angel

Elizabeth Fraser-Voice Of An Angel

Elizabeth Fraser was the vocalist in the Scottish 80’s band, Cocteau Twins. She was once described by a music journalist as having ‘the voice of God’, a compliment she is said to have laughed off as ridiculous.

She was born in Grangemouth, Scotland on 29th August 1963. She now lives in Bristol with her partner Damon Reece and her daughters, Lucy Belle and Lily.

If you have not heard her sing, you should go over to You Tube and type in her name. I discovered her voice in the early 1980s and I still listen to her voice every day.

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Cocteau Twins

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Elizabeth Fraser - Publicity Shy

Although the Cocteau Twins had a large cult following, they were notorious as a band who never courted publicity and indeed, Elizabeth Fraser was the quietist of the 3 members of the band.

During their later interviews, she became more outspoken about the destructive role that drugs had played in the life of her band member and former partner, Robin Guthrie.

He and the third Cocteau Twin, Simon Raymonde went into rehab together. Fraser didn’t need rehab but Guthrie’s descent into cocaine addiction led her towards a nervous breakdown.

She has spoken about this in a number of interviews as a dark period in her life and has alluded to the effects of her and Guthrie’s problems on their daughter, Lucy-Belle who was a small child at this time.

Elizabeth Fraser never really spoke at length about this clearly troubling time in their lives though Guthrie has spoken about it freely on a number of occasions.

Over and over again, Elizabeth Fraser showed herself to be a very private person, especially in areas of her personal life. She seems genuinely surprised that people were interested in her. Most of all, she tried to protect Lucy-Belle.

Guthrie has since argued that his music wouldn't have been as good had he not been under the influence but Fraser does not agree with this.

It was a creative period for the band but a dark time for her. The tour to support 'Milk and Kisses' was successful but Elizabeth Fraser and Robin Guthrie found it very difficult to work together when their relationship ended.

The band went into the studio to start to record an album after Milk And Kisses but after only a few weeks, Elizabeth Fraser left Cocteau Twins stating irreconcilable differences between her and Guthrie as the reason for the spilt.

Although the band were listed as potential headliners for the Coachella Festival in 2005 (with a rumoured six figure payout for doing it) Elizabeth decided after only one day of rehearsals that she could not do it and any dreams fans might have of a reunion went up in smoke.

English Lyrics - No Hidden Messages?

Four Calendar Cafe

Four-Calendar Cafe
Four-Calendar Cafe

"Bluebeard" is on this album; lots of the songs have decipherable lyrics - unusual for Elizabeth Fraser but she clearly wanted to be understood!

 
Treasure
Treasure

Treasure, the last Cocteau Twins album that was more 'pared down' than their later albums, where better recording equipment and their own recording studio led to richer soundscapes.

 

Elizabeth Fraser's Lyrics - English or A Made Up Language?

Elizabeth Fraser wrote all of the Cocteau Twin’s lyrics and there has been a great deal of discussion (and argument) over the years about whether she actually sang in English at all on their earlier albums.

Cocteau Twins' bassist, Simon Raymonde has maintained that she always sang in English but Fraser has admitted that she regularly flicked through the dictionary in search of unusual words which she would include in a ‘portmanteau’ for later use in songs.

Robin Guthrie once joked in an interview that with her thick Scottish dialect she was rarely understood anyway, even when speaking. Fraser just frowned at this. He did have a habit of taking the micky out of her in interviews.

Blue Bell Knoll
Blue Bell Knoll

'Carolyn's Fingers' is on this album. The album saw them take a completely new direction and is regarded as one of their best.

 
Milk And Kisses
Milk And Kisses

Milk And Kisses is the band's last album.

 
Jeff Buckley - his bright light and talent shone for too short a time.
Jeff Buckley - his bright light and talent shone for too short a time. | Source

Elizabeth Fraser-Jeff Buckley, Love and Understanding

During the Cocteau Twins' last U.S. tour to promote their final album, ‘Milk and Kisses’, Elizabeth Fraser met and formed a close relationship with Jeff Buckley.

Their relationship was short-lived because they were both touring and often apart but she had admitted that he had a profound effect oh her psyche and made her re-evaluate the way she thought about herself and her place on the Earth.

The song ‘Rilkean Heart’ is thought to be about Buckley (and is also a reference to the German poet, Rilke). Fraser remained friends with him until his tragic death in 1997.

their time together, they recorded a song called "All Flowers In Time (Turn Towards the Sun)", this was never officially released but appeared on You Tube a few years ago much to Fraser's dismay. It is clearly an unfinished piece and I do not include it here.

Elizabeth Fraser - Singing in Tongues or Just Imbuing Each Word With Emotion?

Elizabeth Fraser often sung in a sort of glossolalia; this was also a style embraced by Dead Can Dance vocalist, Lisa Gerrard.

Both singers are able to create amazing soundscapes without using words as such and the effect on the listener is amazing – if you want to be taken on an emotional journey, just listen to Elizabeth Fraser.

Listening to her voice will take you somewhere else and that is a gift. Some fans (in the know about Scottish religion) have suggested that her more inventive melodies may have been inspired by the 'wee frees', the non-conformist Free Scottish Church members who in their singing of psalms tended to just let rip; it is all in gaelic and driven by pure emotion.

There is something timeless about Elizabeth Fraser and the Cocteau Twins. Their music is unlikely to ever be out of date because it is unique.

'Alice' from the movie 'The Lovely Bones'

After the Cocteau Twins

Elizabeth Fraser has worked on solo projects on and off for the last decade but is yet to release a solo album.

Her work with Massive Attack is amazing, producing one of the most memorable chill out songs of all time, ‘Teardrop’ (is this the theme to 'House'?) and her two guest vocal spots with Yann Tiersen are emotionally charged ballads accompanied by his talented orchestration.

Recently, the Cocteau Twins have contributed to the soundtrack of ‘The Lovely Bones’. I hope this brings them more fans, even if they are not together any more; everybody needs to hear Elizabeth’s voice. It may not be the voice of God, merely the voice of an angel.

Children In Need

Thrilled to report that 'Teardrop' has been chosen by Children In Need as their song for this year's campaign.  I hope this raises lots of money...but....also gets more people to listen to Elizabeth.


Elizabeth Fraser to Appear Live in 2012


Elizabeth will be appearing live at the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre on Monday 6th August and Tuesday 7th August.

She has confirmed that she will be doing some original songs of her own but will also do her own versions of Cocteau Twins songs.

Merry Christmas!

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Comments 12 comments

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

iguidenetwork, Thanks for your comment. I love 'This Love', she is very 'bare' sounding in that one and it was like an advert for other bands to hear just how good she could be without all of those layered, effects driven Robin Guthrie guitars - it worked, I think her 'Teardrop' with Massive Attack is one of her best non-Cocteaus tracks.


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Paula, many thanks for reading. I have loved them since I first heard her sing a song called 'Aikea Guinea', it took me somewhere else when I heard it and her voice still has that power over me now. She can go from low down to almost operatic and understands how to create vocal melody - I just love Cocteau Twins and if I have made you like them enough, even to just go to YouTube and hear the amazing 'Blue Bell Knoll', then I will be thrilled.


iguidenetwork profile image

iguidenetwork 4 years ago from Austin, TX

I only listen to shoegaze/dreampop once in a while. But my most favorite work from Ms. Fraser is "This Love", (by Craig Armstrong) where she's the featured vocalist. :)


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Julie...thank you so much for introducing me to Elizabeth and the Cocteau Twins....(what does Cocteau mean?) I listened and love them...She definitely has a spectacular voice....quite a range. It's a relaxing and pleasant sound. They are a Scottish group? I could easily spend some cash on their CD's....This is my kind of music. Thanks again. If not for you, I'd never hear of them................UP+++


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Daisy - she is my favourite singer and the Cocteau Twins remain my favourite band even though they broke up in 1996. I think she is one of the least-known but most gifted vocalists of her generation. Many thanks for commenting and tweeting! :o)


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

Julie,

What a terrific introduction to Elizabeth Fraser! I enjoyed getting to know her and her music. I tweeted your article and my message has already been retweeted.


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Aw, just trying to do my bit :o)


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

A well done shout out Julie! Thank you for sharing!


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

mysthicalstorm273, many thanks for reading this hub and leaving a comment - isn't HubPages great for introducing new music to people? Glad you liked Elizabeth Fraser.


mythicalstorm273 profile image

mythicalstorm273 4 years ago

I have never heard this group. I enjoyed reading the hub and learning something new! I love music and so I am always willing to expand my knowledge base. I also enjoyed the variety of videos and the layout. Nicely done hub!


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK Author

Christy, they are my absolute favourite band (consequently I am stuck in the early 90s when I listen to music) and she is my favourite vocalist - bordering always on opera but always sounding unique.


ChristyWrites profile image

ChristyWrites 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

I was not familiar with this woman's work, thanks for sharing and the videos are wonderful!

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