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:
* 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.