I blame The Three O’ Clock. On their mid 80s Ever After album they covered a song called Step Out Of Line by British duo Twice As Much. Within days I’d tracked down their second album, That’s All, and had plonked the white vinyl on to my player.
And while I loved the original of Step Out Of Line it is the album’s finale, The Coldest Night Of The Year, that has stayed with me ever since.
In those days Twice As Much, through their Immediate Records connections, were arguably better known than Vashti. The Scottish folky chanteuse was still decades away from TV adverts, comeback albums and Barbican gigs. Yet as soon as I heard here whispery vocals on the brilliant Mann/Weill penned track I knew I had to have more of her music.
Over the years I discovered I’d Like To Walk Around In Your Mind and Winter Is Blue through various obscure compilations. Then came the reissues and now pretty much everything she has ever recorded is just a click away.
But back to Coldest Night. Why is it so special? At the time Immediate boss Andrew Loog Oldham was obsessed at perfecting a more polite, heavily orchestrated British version of Phil Spector and The Beach Boys wall of sound. He had experimented with the idea on the Twice As Much albums and would take the concept in a slightly more psychedelic direction with the inimitable Billy Nicholls.
As for Coldest Night Of The Year, it was originally recorded by Nino and April who had already notched up numerous shits including the brilliant All Strung Out. As good as their version is Loog Oldham’s take transforms the song. On top of Vashti’s perfect soft as silk vocals, there’s a gentle acoustic guitar, sleigh bells, nibbly Macca-eque bass and of course its gorgeous, oh go on then climax.
It is utter pop perfection and even though Loog Oldham was involved in creating a great deal of wonderful music, this remains my favourite song of his. There are few tracks that use both words and music to paint such an atmospheric picture.
As far as I can tell both members of Twice As Much are still with us and both of the band’s albums – Own Up and That’s All – are full of baroque pop gems, including some stunning versions of tracks donated by their pals Jagger and Richards.
Here is the Vashti/TOM version, plus a few other takes.