WEEK SEVENTEEN – The Alexander Brothers/The Cocteau Twins

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 The Cocteau Twins <<

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Music is a theme already visited by Scotia Extremis, and will be visited again. This week’s pairing offers an intriguing contrast between sentimental easy-listening and ethereal uneasy listening. The Alexander Brothers, Lanarkshire siblings Tom & Jack, have been at the heart of the Scottish music scene since the 1960s, performing and recording songs from the mawkish end of both the Scottish canon (‘Bonnie Wee Jeannie McColl’ and ‘These Are My Mountains’) and Country & Western (‘Nobody’s Child’). Jack died in 2013, but their singalong renditions of Scottish favourites remain a staple of souvenir shops and ceilidh compilations across the nation. The Cocteau Twins were actually three in number, led by the ethereally-voiced Elizabeth Fraser. Guitarists Robin Guthrie and Will Heggie (later Simon Raymonde) created cathedrals of reverb-drenched sound backing Fraser’s strangely haunting vocals, often unintelligibly sung using an invented vocabulary with snatches of nursery rhymes. The contrast between the two acts is clear; The Alexander Brothers, an affectionate crystallisation of Scottish clichés, and The Cocteau Twins, so other-worldly in style that they could have come from anywhere in the world. Even Grangemouth, from whence they sprang.


The Alexander Brothers Perform At The Dean Bowling Club, Comely Bank, Edinburgh, June 1971
by Jim C Wilson

I watched them from my bedroom window: two
kilted men, well-amplified (and maybe
well-oiled too), belting out their hits which flew
and heuched among the tenements. To me,
as I strained to study Tennyson, they
were pure kitsch, a local club’s star turn.
Mairi’s Wedding, then The Bonnie River Tay,
and how they twa had paddled in the burn.
Tom’s accordion plays and the bowlers sway
then we reach the concert’s climax: a wee blind lad
in an orphan’s home. It could be Hogmanay!
‘I’m nobody’s child,’ Jack croons as I go mad.
I’ve exams next week and I’m losing the plot.
Sing me Mariana or The Lady of Shalott.


by Morgan Downie


full of love
full of love i come
back to sealock
a summer blink
on feathered river
a dead forest
of security lights
and fire

with the circling girl
and you, flesh of my love
womb kith, blood kin
i come to your call
echo work of your bones
villain, violence, violaine
mine the tongue stake
that makes the present

and i return
bad penny, aikea-guinea
calfskin smack of childhood bond
scarce scars, mouth music
we say it with eyes
the circling girl a panic
in the blue lit drone
of police

my hand the fist
the blood that made me
you wronged
in a place of weeping
conjure up a devil
dirt mouthed
atropos, lachesis, styx
eerht se tunim
otn ruterg niht yreve
ro illiw taeb ti tu ofom ih

i am bound to you
scarce garland
as out of the window
comes your life
clothes, drawings
collaged into cloud
i in the carrion lane
am blood and blood
and blood

a year
then a year and more
the wheel turns round
the circling girl circled
and i eperdu
it is your arm in mine
to promenade
my sanded eyes
and you gentle me
gentle me
back to life

qu’as tu fait, ô toi que voilà
qu’as tu fait de ta jeunesse




Jim C Wilson’s writing has been widely published for 35 years. He was Writer in Residence for Stirling District, and was a Royal Literary Fund Fellow from 2001 until 2007. He has run his Poetry in Practice classes at Edinburgh University since 1994. His most recent poetry collection is Come Close and Listen (Greenwich Exchange). More at: www.jimcwilson.com


morgan downie picMorgan Downie is a visual artist, short story writer and poet. His collection Stone and Sea was published vy Calder Wood Press in 2010. He is a firm believer in the niche character of Falkirk district in the firmament of Scottish music and does not listen to The Cocteau Twins on anything but vinyl.


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