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Not Fade Away 1994: Bluebeard, by the Cocteau Twins

This is a love story. It's just not my love story.

If you really want to know about my love life, of my life with the girl from 1981 then the best I can suggest is you listen to The Wannadies' You and Me Song. It came out in 1994. In Sweden at any rate. A love song that doesn't make any great claims for the romance in question.

Pop music deals with love, for the most part, like Hollywood. It's all intensity and turbulence and amour fou. Broken hearts. Or heart-bursting glory. Now and again it's reduced to sex.

The You and Me Song is a bit different. It paints a picture of familiar domesticity. "Then we watch TV/Until we fall asleep/Not very exciting ... "

That's love too, of course. And maybe that's a love I recognise more. It's no less heartfelt. "But it's you and me/And we'll always be together".

When I listen to it I always think of that last scene in Desperately Seeking Susan, when Madonna and Robert Joy are sitting in the stalls in the movie. When I first saw it that thrilled me just as much as all the chasing around through the rest of the movie. The idea that love could be popcorn and a good movie. Sometimes that's enough.

Sometimes. But here's the thing. When it comes to music or the movies most of the time we don't want popcorn. We don't want the sweet everyday simplicity of love. We're drawn like tourists to the dark side. We want to experience - even if only vicariously - the sturm and drang of love. Love songs sell us the idea that romance is an all-consuming swoon or a fierce misery. And admit it, there's a pull to that. Because it reminds us of those moments when our hearts have soared or plumbed the depths. The moments of uncertainty.

"Are you toxic for me/ Are you safe/Are you my friend".

In 1994 I was listening to Suede. A lot. I became slightly obsessed with their difficult second album Dog Man Star. They fulfilled my desire for the perfect band at that moment. A thing of glitter and poison. And the album was heavy, dense with noise and feeling, maybe in retrospect too much. Sturm and drang to the max. "There's a lifeline slipping as the record plays."

Maybe it wasn't doing anything new. There was other stuff that was. Portishead's debut album, Tricky's debut single. Even Madonna on Bedtime Story was tapping into a newer pop sound, courtesy of Bjork and Nellee Hooper. There have been Madonna singles I've liked since, yet this is the last time she seemed central to the conversation.

But, as with last week's choice, the songs you like don't necessarily have to hold the flavour of the time. And so I was all for choosing Suede's The Wild Ones.

And then I heard Bluebeard again.

You'll say I'm far too late to come to the Cocteau Twins in 1994. Maybe you're right. Maybe no one was talking about "cathedrals of sound" that year. Part of me thinks I shouldn't have waited until they appeared on a major label. But the fact is I like Bluebeard more than any other Cocteau Twins song. I love the swoop and rush of it, the joy in it. For all the title implies and the fears in the lyrics (and yes, you can hear the lyrics), the music soars and swells. The music is enraptured. We are in all-consuming swoon territory.

"The strange thing was that it was the upbeat songs like 'Bluebeard' that were written when I was bombed," Robin Guthrie told Raygun Magazine in 1993, the year the album came out, while revealing that he'd been dealing with a heavy-duty drug problem.

The music is good, but I guess people love the Cocteau Twins for the voice. Me, I love Bluebeard in particular because there is nothing insular, nothing timid in Elizabeth Fraser's vocals. You could hear what she was singing. Feel the weight of the words as well as the beauty of the sound.

"That was the point this time, to make them mean something," Fraser said of the lyrics at the time. "I think I'm being a lot more honest by writing things down and then singing it."

The result is lighter than much that the band did. But maybe I needed that then. Because thinking back now life in 1994 wasn't just popcorn and a good movie. It was in fact a time of huge upheaval. That year - and a year or two either side - the girl and I had been living restless lives, moving around, separated by jobs and studies. We were apart more than we were together. There wasn't much time for popcorn and a good movie.

Perhaps there was more sturm and drang than I remember then. Maybe I needed the comfort of the swoon. "Are you safe/ are you my friend."

Turns out she still was.

Other Contenders

The Wild Ones, Suede

Bedtime Story, Madonna

Roads, Portishead

Aftermath, Tricky

Mysterons, Portishead

Confide in Me, Kylie

7 Seconds, Youssou N'Dour featuring Neneh Cherry

Live Forever, Oasis

Waterfalls, TLC

Sabotage, The Beastie Boys

No Good (Start the Dance), The Prodigy

Caught by the Fuzz, Supergrass

Protection, Massive Attack

Stay Together, Suede

You Don't Love Me (No, No, No), Dawn Penn

Mysterons, Portishead

Take a Bow, Madonna

Missing, Everything but the Girl

This is a Low, Blur

Do You Remember the First Time, Pulp

For the Dead, Gene

Two Can Play that Game, Bobby Brown

You and Me Song, The Wannadies

The NME Single of the Year: Girls and Boys, Blur

John Peel's Festive 50 Winner: I Want You, Inspiral Carpets & Mark E Smith

And the best-selling single of the year: Love Is All Around, Wet Wet Wet

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