This Mortal Coil wasn’t a proper band. It was more of a collective of 4AD artists. Back when Ivo Watts-Russell owned the label, and they had major focus on post-punk, goth-rock, and UK ethereal dream-pop. “They” put out three albums between 1984 and 1991. There was a revolving cast of 4AD artists, but none showed up more frequently than Elizabeth Fraser, Robin Guthrie, and Simon Raymonde. Collectively, they’re Cocteau Twins, but they individually worked with other musicians a lot for the This Mortal Coil project. More often than not, the songs were covers of folk-rock songs from the 1970s. There were a few songs by Big Star (plus a couple from Chris Bell’s solo record), a few Tim Buckley songs, and a few others. Additionally, there was always at least one cover of a song originally done by a 4AD artist, and there were also lots of original songs. The majority of those original songs were co-written by at least one of the Cocteaus.
Tonight’s song comes from the first album, and it was originally done by Colin Newman, who is the frontman of Wire. It originally appeared on his 1980 solo record A-Z. On the This Mortal Coil version, it’s Robbie Grey (from Modern English) on vocals, Manuela Rickers (from Xmal Deutschland) on guitar, Robin Guthrie on guitar and Simon Raymonde on bass. I don’t know who programmed the drum machine, but I assume that it was producer John Fryer.
Apart from using a lame drum machine, this is a pretty faithful cover. It’s a bit quicker and fuzzier, but it sounds “like” the original, which makes it different from most TMC songs. It’s also one of the few TMC songs that doesn’t have violin or cello. While a good number of the TMC songs (especially the originals) are instrumental, most of the non-instrumentals have a female singer. Actually, on It’ll End In Tears, that isn’t the case, but never mind that right now. I guess what I’m saying is that apart from the fact that Guthrie and Raymonde are on this one, it isn’t very much like the other TMC songs.
Anyway, this is that song
“Not Me” as covered by This Mortal Coil
This is maybe my fourth favorite song on my second favorite album by This Mortal Coil. On a different day, I probably would have written about the brilliant cover of Chris Bell’s “You And Your Sister”, as done by Tanya Donelly and Kim Deal. But not today.
Today, I got to thinking about this album because I went to see Cloud Atlas (which I thought was overrated), and there were a couple of perhaps coincidental references to TMC. There was one line of dialog where a character said “It will end in tears”, and another, later, when someone said “(blah blah blah) this mortal coil”. I know that the former is just an idiomatic expression and the latter is a reference to Shakespeare, but that idiomatic expression isn’t thrown around all that frequently, and especially not when “this mortal coil” is also thrown around. It might be a total coincidence, but I think it was intentional. And no, I haven’t read the novel. Nor do I plan to.
Anyway, I got to thinking about this album, and I ruled out my other favorites on the album. I’ve already posted the original Big Star version of “Kangaroo”, and I think that it would have been a little clichéd to use the Liz Fraser version of Tim Buckley’s “Song To The Siren” Although I was thinking about writing about a different cover of that song. Maybe on a different day.
Anyway, I landed on “Not Me”, and I have no regrets.
The album has been issued I think four times now, including a remaster last autumn as part of a fancy boxed set. It was originally released in 1984 with the catalog number CAD411. 4AD’s system of numbering seems complex, but it’s actually very easy. The prefix CAD means that it’s a full-length album, while a single has the prefix AD, and an EP has BAD. The numbers indicate the year and the sequence of the release. In this case, the first digit means that it came out in 1984, and that it was the 11th release of the year. 1985 album releases started with CAD5, and so on. In the 1990s, the numerical code started with 00 for 1990, 10 for 1991 and so on. After Ivo sold the label, they didn’t really stick with his vision, or his system of numbering. Supposedly, they’re back on some decipherable system, but I don’t think it works all of the time. And that whole system was loosely based on the way that Factory Records systematically numbered their catalog.
My point of that is that you can determine whether your copy is from the original 1984 issue, or the 1993 reissue, or the 1998 reissue. Things got tricky, though, because the 2011 issue uses the same catalog number as the original. Except the packaging is different. The new, digitally enhanced version comes in a paper sleeve, while the original CD version obviously came in a jewel case. There are subtle differences in the quality of the booklet between the 1984, 1993, and 1998 versions, but I won’t bore you any more with all of that.
While I’m intrigued by the newer crisper re-issue, and the stunning boxed set, I’m sticking with my original copies. Although it was “reasonably priced” when it came out, the set is staggeringly expensive. And I think out of print. I’m seeing it for more than $210 from US sellers and somewhere in the neighborhood of £150 from UK sellers. It’s all three albums, reissued, plus a “fourth album” of singles with only one song that was previously unreleased. Seems kinda silly if you ask me.
No matter what you do, it’s going to be a little spendy to acquire a copy of It’ll End In Tears. Jus look at the amazon listings! You should be able to find a used copy somewhere, or get a legal digital download.