lovers, thieves, fools and pretenders

I’m on a major Waterboys kick at the moment. The albums A Pagan Place, This Is The Sea, and Fisherman’s Blues in particular. The expanded CD reissues of those are all wonderful – so much extra stuff, and almost all of it priceless! I only saw the Waterboys once, in Oxford in 1989, with a pack of Italian teenagers who were (unfortunately for them) under my tutelage at the time. The Italians were, by the end of the show, flabbergasted: “Why are they not huge, like U2?” I had no answer to that.

Mike Scott’s liner notes on these reissues are fun. Here’s an extract from his comments on This Is The Sea:


The album was made from a bedrock of 35-40 songs. If you enjoy the previously unheard songs included in this edition you may wonder why some weren’t included on the original album. The answer is that This Is The Sea had a will of its own – which I deciphered through my musical intuition – and it was clear that the nine songs on the finished record were the ones that were intended to be there. Those were my instructions and I obeyed them.

The outside musical influences that impacted on the making of This Is The Sea were the holy triumvirate of The Velvet Underground, Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks, and the ‘systems’ music of the American composer Steve Reich.

From The Velvet Underground I learned:

* inspired content wins over technical proficiency
* the elemental power of the two-chord song
* the glory of sustaining a single dynamic intensity for an entire track
* that untrained but self-aware playing has power and grace

From Astral Weeks I learned:

* atmosphere
* the totemic song “Sweet Thing” and its tarra-ta-tarrat-ta-ta rhythm
* the delights of an expressively played double bass
* that string arrangements can be luminous and gossamer-light

From Steve Reich I learned:

* a new musical language not based on blues or celtic/american folk music
* intolerably beautiful ‘brass hangings’ – long sustaining chordals
* sudden short chord-bursts I call ‘oysters’
* short melodic motifs repeated at strategic points, played seemingly without emotion, but with emotional value due to their placing and context
* teeming, organic strings playing disciplined phrases
* multiple tambourines playing disciplined rhythms


We have never had a proposal for a book about the Waterboys. I’m not sure that it would sell, but I’d love to read one.

8 thoughts on “lovers, thieves, fools and pretenders”

  1. Just back from Brussels where I saw the Waterboys on March the 13th. I am from Ayrshire, near to where Mike Scott grew up, and have seen the band many times before, but they still managed to amaze me and the rest of the almost capacity audience. Well over 2 hours on stage including 3 encores and the band would not have been allowed to leave had the lights not been turned on. The new stuff from BoL was excellent, and there were no weaknesses in the band at all. If you can manage to catch their UK tour I recommend you do.

  2. Hey, David — you’re so right about The Waterboys. Fisherman’s Blues is just best of best. But check out the new song from “Book of Lightning” on Mike’s mySpace page. What’s there is lovely. And you’d also like Steve’s band NoCrows, who’ve got a live cd now of their trad/wild gypsy jazz/Ennio Morricone/you name it. Ah. The Waterboys. Have loved them since 1989, and can’t wait to hear them in England this May.Best Annie

  3. No, we haven’t done that yet. I don’t know how many artists would want to write about one of their own records, but it’s certainly a concept we’d be open to.

  4. Have you ever had the creator of an album write a book about the album they created? What I’m saying is, I wonder if Mike Scott would be interested in writing a book about the Waterboys for the series.I’m a huge Waterboys fan. I’d buy one copy, and probably a couple extree for friends.

  5. true…i’ve also bought a few books on albums i haven’t heard, ie “Sign O The Times” (i guess i’ve heard the singles, but still) and I enjoyed it immensely. I would totally buy a waterboys book. Never heard one song.

  6. David –I know that you’re the editor of the 33 1/3 series, but does that somehow prevent you from writing a book of your own for the series? If you don’t, won’t you regret it? And The Waterboys, why not? I’d buy it, and I’ve never heard them.

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