Thursday, 30 November 2017

Interview: Mike Scott Of The Waterboys


 The Waterboys story, with narration from 
 previously unpublished interview material with Mike Scott


Do you believe in Rock ‘n’ Roll? Can music save your mortal soul? Mike Scott, angel-headed hipster of the upwardly-mobile Waterboys denies it. But everything he does on stage and record denies his denial. With his heroes he’s DISCriminating. All his inputs and references predate Hip-Hop/Electro. At the Sheffield ‘Leadmill’, drenched in aquarium-green spots this Scot called Mike with sweat-damp watch-springs of hair comes on very much like THE Rock Star for the early nineties. He fields a trick or three, a tune or four, and the art of looting the Rock style-hypermarket to maximum effect.

He wears his shirt smock-wise over leather pants, with a spotted tie loose-drawn, and just s hint of Jagger-lips to set it all off. ‘You remember Patti Smith? She knew how to write a good song,’ and he proves it by delivering “Dancing Barefoot”, illustrating the lyrics with neat hand-gestures, riding a ‘Big Music’, a sound density of hideous strength. But Scott’s own lyrics also burn on both page and stage. They get ignited by the kind of effortless aggression of full-tilt stadium boogie electrified by hard edges and brittle guitar runs.

He’s got all angles covered…

On the dressing-room door there’s some felt-tip self-graffiti’d promo from Age Of Chance, with a voluptuously smudged lipstick-printed “Kiss”. But Scott’s winding down with a vodka and coke. Looks to me like a street-boy from a French magazine ad, like he should be smoking Gitanes. And the interview… should I aim for a direct ‘Confessions Of A Pop Performer’ piece? Something confrontational? But instead it comes out ‘…hey! I like those boots!’ They’re pointed-toe, lots of buckles, they’re very…

‘…very Rock ‘n’ Roll?’ Scott offers helpfully.

Yes, I guess that’s the word.

‘They are a bit, yeah.’ He extends a foot, inviting appraisal, turns it left, then right. ‘They go with the trousers. They’re new boots. They won’t look as good as this in a month’s time!’

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First time I heard his name, Mike Scott was submitting poems to my arts fanzine – ‘Ludds Mill’. I published one called “Kick It Over” – ‘in the megastores, where the grey people buy/ through the muzak haze, a girl wonders why/ education is slashed and benefits slump/ while prices rocket and violence jumps/ KICK IT OVER!!!’ At the time he was a member of Another Pretty Face, an Edinburgh four-piece formed in 1979. They took their name from a line in the Tony Parsons-Julie Burchill Rock-obituary text ‘The Boy Looked At Johnny’ (Faber, 1978), and they issued a single on New Pleasures in May. “All The Boys Love Carrie” has strong lyrics after the style of Liverpool poet Dave Ward, with guest sax overlay by William Mysterious.

‘With my old group – Another Pretty Face, when I used to go on stage in those early days we were so proud to be there we were just all so switched on, it was like really, GREAT. We were all so confident, really proud and everything. We’d strut around the stage like headless chickens.’

Cut at Barclay Towers in Edinburgh, the single was pressed up in two batches of 1,000 and 5,000, and led inevitably to bigger things. ‘I had a brief flirtation with Virgin Records’ he tells me. This took the form of a hard attacking single “Whatever Happened To The West”, the slower B-side “Goodbye 1970s” sounding even more impressive to these ears with an intricate sax/piano conversation. But album sessions with producer Alan Mair – of the Only Ones, were rejected by Virgin as ‘not commercially acceptable’.

‘They rejected them’ he admits ruefully, ‘not all that unwisely. They were a bit… pretentious. Not as good as they should have been.’ There were eighteen recorded tracks on the tape, featuring a very good “Heart Of Darkness” and “Witness”. Another song – “Graduation Day”, runs ‘and you’re all so blithe and classless and free/ boys who mainline at night have got their best suits on/ Mick has had his teeth fixed, Keith has had a wash/ John talks loud but he can’t make sense…’ The sixties Rock Tsar inputs are obvious. He confesses the influence of ‘the Beatles and the Stones’.

The sixties…? ‘Because it’s sixties doesn’t mean it’s BAD. The sixties were pretty GOOD!’

But – for Another Pretty Face, the watershed from seventies into eighties was not so good. With sidekick John Caldwell – later of the Collector, Mike retreated to Edinburgh playing a mass of gigs, including some with Belfast’s Stiff Little Fingers. But the failed Virgin link-up had taken the group’s heart, and its days were numbered. Mile told ‘Jamming’ magazine ‘in APF there was far too much energy expended in trying to do idealistically sound things all the time, like playing gigs that under-eighteens could get into, playing gigs that didn’t cost much to get into, playing gigs with no Bar and selling Fanzines at the door.’

Scott grew up in Ayr, and his Scots accent remains pronounced as he explains to me ‘I had a year and a half – two years, off the road between that group and this one. And in that two years I must have got a lot smarter or something, ‘cos now I’m not nearly as confident. I’m much more aware of the pitfalls.’ With APF ‘we did fifteen gigs in London, and then split.’ In toto there’d been four singles and a cassette from Another Pretty Face, plus a single as DNV – a temporary group also known as the Bootlegs, and one recorded as Funhouse. They’d also worked with producer Hugh Jones.

But next? ‘Me and Kevin (Wilkinson – drums) and Anthony (Thistlethwaite – sax), had a group called The Red And Black. We did two gigs. That group was a bit ‘loose’. But that was the last time I played on stage… before the Waterboys.’


May 1979 – “All The Boys Love Carrie” c/w “That Not Enough” (New Pleasures Z1) Mike Scott (lead vocals and rhythm guitar), John Caldwell (lead guitar), Jim Geddes (bass), ‘Crigg’ Ian Walter Greig (drums)

1979 – “Death In Venice” c/w “Mafia” + “Goodbye 1970s” as by DNV (New Pleasures Z2), all Mike Scott compositions

February 1980 – “Whatever Happened To The West” c/w “Goodbye 1970s” (Virgin VS 320)

December 1980 – “Only Heroes Live Forever” c/w “Heaven Gets Closer Every Day” (Chicken Jazz JAZZ 1) Producer, Alan Mair. With Mike Scott (vocals), John Caldwell (guitar), Willie Kirkwood (bass), Chic McLaughlin (drums)

April 1981 – “Soul To Soul” c/w “A Woman’s Place” + “God On The Screen” (Chicken Jazz JAZZ 3) with Adrian Johnston (drums on B-side tracks), Ally Donaldson (sax on A-side), Mike Scott (vocals, violin, keyboards), Kirkwood, Caldwell, McLaughlin

1981 – ‘I’m Sorry That I Beat You, I’m Sorry That I Screamed, But For A Moment There I Really Lost Control’ (cassette album, Chicken Jazz ) with “This Could Be Hell”, “My Darkest Hour”, Lightning That Strikes Twice”, “Graduation Day”, “Another Kind Of Circus”, “Out Of Control”, “Only Heroes Live Forever”, “All The Boys Love Carrie”

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The Patti Smith connection/preoccupation is an obvious follow-on. ‘I saw her do a poetry reading in Edinburgh in 1978,’ he sounds wistful. ‘She was fantastic, everything that she did. When she was in Edinburgh she had a piano – no microphone or anything, just this upright piano. And she did “The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game” – the Smokey Robinson song, and a few of her own songs that never came out on record – ever. All those lovely obscure songs.’ Then, more brightly, ‘I’ve got ‘em all on tape.’

My confession that I also have Patti Smith live poetry tapes (1978, ‘Köln Reading’) grabs his interest, and before the evening’s done we’ve worked out some furtive trading arrangements. But first, pursuing the Patti Smith theme – didn’t the Waterboys spend time in New York with Patti’s bassist Lenny Kaye? Didn’t he produce some aborted session for the first album (‘The Waterboys’, July 1983)?

‘Yes, he did. I love his guitar playing, and wanted to co-produce myself with him, sort of match my songs with his ‘Patti Smith Group’ feel. But my record company, Ensign, came between us, and turned it into HIM producing ME. He played bass on the sessions and supplied the drummer from his own ‘Lenny Kaye Connection’ group. We spent three days rehearsing and four days in the studio. Because he was producing he was telling me ‘you’re playing too much guitar, Mike,’ or ‘you’re playing too much piano. Cool it down. Let’s make this one sound like the Rolling Stones.’ But I think, you must beware of that. We did a song called “Bury My Heart” and he tried to make it sound like the Stones, and it just… didn’t work. He was a great guy. It was great being with him for the pleasure – but for the WORK, it was no good at all. I would have been much better doing it myself. Maybe if I’d been producing, using Lenny on guitar – for INSPIRATION in other words, it would’ve been better.’

Did any recorded work come out of the Lenny Kaye sessions? ‘There’s four tracks, “Bury My Heart”, ‘Savage Earth Heart” – do you know that song?, “Girl In The Swing” and “It Should Have Been You”. But we didn’t release those versions. The versions that are on the records are my demo’s that they let us do ourselves. The stuff we did with Lenny remains on a cassette tape in my room, ‘cos it was really sluttish. Didn’t work at all. The sounds were appalling.’

Did you get any interesting stories about Patti Smith?

‘From him? I don’t think so. We talked a lot, but about Patti Smith…? I’m trying to think. The thing that always intrigued me most was what songs they played. That’s what I was interested in. And I was asking Lenny when did they first play “Redondo Beach”, when did they first play “My Mafia” – the reggae song, things like that. I thought Lenny could teach me some of the songs. It’s fascinating all that…’

…all that junkyard angels stuff, liner notes, matrix numbers?

‘Yeah. Reading the run-out grooves.’

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The Waterboys started live work in February 1984, and that was after eighteen-months without setting foot on stage. Also, the Waterboys’ line-up had shed Another Pretty Face’s strong regional base. ‘Everybody came from all over the place. Edinburgh is only one-fifth of our locations!’ But press-word on Waterboys came slightly before that live debut. ‘Melody Maker’ made the group’s first release – “A Girl Called Johnny”, it’s ‘Single Of The Week’, praising it thus, ‘there’s an invigorating instability in their approach to Rock ‘n’ Roll, (an) insistent verve, an intimidating sax penetrates the action with unfaltering belligerence, and Mr Scott delivers his unlikely reminiscences with a riveting manic edge’ (19 April 1983). The record was produced by Rupert Hine and issued through Scott’s own Chicken Jazz label. Mike claimed Patti Smith as inspiration behind the lyric – ‘I remember a girl called Johnny, black as hell, white as a ghost/ Don’t talk of life or death, she’d say, I’ve had enough of both.’

He’d actually met Patti Smith in April 1978 at the London Portobello Hotel, ‘I was staying there as a fan, and I met Patti there. She was always really good to all the kids who used to follow her around. I was just one of them’ (to ‘Hot Press’). Elsewhere, in his first major press interview, he explained further, ‘there’s a line about a girl called Johnny in one of her songs, called “Redondo Beach”’ he told Colin Irwin (‘Melody Maker’ 14 May 1983). ‘And I heard a tape she’d done and noticed that Johnny is a hero or heroine on lots of her early songs. So I thought I’d make HER Johnny!’

Yet, as that majestic first single emerged, the band didn’t properly exist, ‘Anthony (Thistlethwaite) was on it, playing sax. There was just the two of us. Kevin (Wilkinson) came later.’

I mention noticing a musicians’ ad placed in ‘New Musical Express’ at the time, recruiting for Waterboys. Scott laughs, ‘he (Kevin?) answered that advert. We got a LOT of guitar players coming around!’

The follow-up single – “December”, came through a Chicken Jazz hook-up with the more major-league Ensign. ‘Big acoustic anatomy of melancholy’ said ‘New Musical Express’, ‘too long and involved for a single, but nice all the same.’

Both singles got sucked onto ‘The Waterboys’ album alongside “The Three-Day Man”, “I Will Not Follow”, “It Should Have Been You”, “The Girl In The Swing” and “Savage Earth Heart”. Following the release of the album, came the promotion. He explained it as a strategy of ‘taking my troops into the territory of the brain’ (‘Hot Press’).

‘We did a European tour supporting the Pretenders’ he elaborates for me. ‘We got a little bit of experience there. We did all over Europe, and Ireland. We had a really good time in Ireland. We’ve been ‘worked-in’.’


March 1983 – “A Girl Called Johnny” c/w “Ready For The Monkey House” + “Somebody Might Wave Back” and “Out Of Control” (Chicken Jazz 12” only, JAZZ CJJ1)

July 1983 – ‘The Waterboys’ vinyl LP (Ensign 1) with “December”, “A Girl Called Johnny”, “The Three-Day Man”, “Gala”, “I Will Not Follow”, “It Should Have Been You”, “The Girl In The Swing”, “Savage Earth Heart” Re-issued Ensign CHEN2 in August 1986, then expanded edition 2002 with “Gala (Unedited)”, “Where Are You Now When I Need You?”, “Something Fantastic”, “Ready For The Monkeyhouse”, “Another Kind Of Circus”, “A Boy In Black Leather”, “December (original eight-track mix)”, and “Jack Of Diamonds”

September 1983 – “December” c/w “Where Are You Now When I Need You” (plus “The Three-Day Man” and “Red Army Blues” on the 12” edition) (Ensign ENY 506)

March 1984 – “The Big Music” c/w “The Earth Only Endures” (plus “Bury My Heart” on the 12” edition) (Ensign ENY 508)

May 1984 – ‘The Waterboys’ (US-only mini-LP, Ensign/ Island IM 1017) with “A Girl Called Johnny”, “I Will Not Follow”, “It Should Have Been You”, “December” and “Savage Earth Heart”

June 1984 – ‘A Pagan Place’ (Ensign ENCL3) with “Church Not Made With Hands”, “All The Things She Gave Me”, “The Thrill Is Gone”, “Rags”, “Somebody Might Wave Back”, “The Big Music”, “Red Army Blues”, “A Pagan Place”. Plus bonus tracks on the extended reissue “All The Things She Gave Me (Unedited)”, “The Thrill Is Gone (Unedited)”, “Some Of My Best Friends Are Trains”, “The Late Train To Heaven (Rockfield Mix)”, “Love That Kills” instrumental, “The Madness Is Here Again”, “Cathy” written by Nikki Sudden, “Down Through The Dark Streets”

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FLASHBACK TWO: The Waterboys are midway through a long-distance drag around this once-green and pleasant. They took in a gig at the CND Glastonbury Festival – an event redolent of antique Hippie mysticism, then – fresh from the Continental jaunt with the Pretenders, they go on to play scorching tours with U2 and Simple Minds.

You must enjoy touring, Mike?

‘When you play six gigs there’s bound to be two really good ones. Tonight was absolutely REAL. It’s always real – but sometimes it’s… less real. Like the gig tonight, I felt that here it was fine. But last night in Preston, that was a really BAD gig. When I went on I was – not nervous, but not confident at all. Because it was a Disco, and the audience was there to dance to Frankie Goes To Hollywood.’

Scott’s ill at ease with Disco, and he bad-mouths local muso’s the Thompson Twins from the Sheffield stage. Prefacing a number with a dedication to ‘fuck their shitty smell’, and tail-ending the song with ‘I think we just BURIED the cunts!’ It’s delivered with a teasing arrogance, and an antagonism that’s not entirely artificial. His thesis is the antithesis of Electro-Pop game-playing.

That can be a risky strategy, I suggest – to build up a kind of antagonism with the audience.

He grins broadly, disarmingly. ‘I didn’t REALLY intend it to be.’

From Another Pretty Face…?

So was the reference to the Thompson Twins wise, Mike?, particularly to a Sheffield audience?

‘I DO hate the Thompson Twins’ he answers, quite reasonably. ‘Are they REALLY from Sheffield?’

They’re from Chesterfield, which is just down the road. They used to play with the Human League in pubs here, Tom Bailey used to teach in Sheffield. ‘Oh no!!! THE THOMPSON TWINS ARE FROM SHEFFIELD! That’s like slagging Lindisfarne in Newcastle!’

A voice from ‘John Clash’ squatting next to him, ‘but they’re still a bunch of fuckin’ cunts.’

Scott nods sagely. ‘They are.’

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For the ‘A Pagan Place’ (1984) album ‘the songs were written over about two years. Really they were… “The Big Music”, “A Pagan Place” itself, and “Rags” are all from the same time. All the others were written in 1982. A long time ago.’

And for the results – was he pleased with the way the album turned out? ‘I think so. I’m not pleased with some of the tracks. There’s a few I don’t like. The first track –“Rags”, is a bad mix.’

‘New Musical Express’ called the album ‘a most convincing blend of youth and mastery, of sky-rocket rush and sacred conviction’, commending its ‘promethean sweep’ (11 August 1984). ‘Melody Maker’ wrote of Roddy Lorimer’s ‘incisive trumpet breaking the surface of the music with a flourish as bright as gleaming chrome’ (2 June). While less specifically, Helen Fitzgerald claims Mike Scott’s ‘songs are gift-wrapped and stamped ‘deep and meaningful’, and sometimes, they really ARE’ (‘Melody Maker’ 24 November 1984).

‘This Is The Sea’ (September 1985) – eighteen months later, is a torrent of gift-wrapped lyrical meaning, a new sophistication and maturity that’s to become even more pronounced – ‘unicorns and cannonballs, palaces and piers/ trumpets towers and tenements, with oceans full of fears/ flags, rags, ferryboats, scimitars and scarves/ every precious dream and vision, underneath the stars…’

But first – a step backwards. We talk some more through influences.

Patti Smith? We’ve done that.

Iggy Pop? ‘An animal. But an intelligent animal!’

And what about Bob Dylan? Scott saw Dylan in Newcastle at St James’ Park, 5 July 1984, and ‘his whole persona and performance, everything about the man, was totally great. He did lots of GOOD old stuff, and seven or eight songs with just an acoustic guitar. He went off-stage and let the bass-player do a number. Then he came back and the band fucked off. He did “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” as the first solo song, and…’

I got temporarily alienated from Bob Dylan during the time he became a born-again Christian, but, according to Scott, ‘he didn’t play any of the songs from the ‘Slow Train Coming’ (1979) or ‘Shot Of Love’ (1981) albums, nothing from that religious sort-of period. He seems to have gone back on that.’

Yes, but Mike, even on Dylan’s subsequent albums – like ‘Infidels’ (1983), on the “Jokerman” track, he’s singing about ‘Leviticus and…’

Scott completes the line for me, ‘…and Deuteronomy. Yes, but it’s GREAT. A great song. Have you ever seen the video? He’s not ramming the religious angle down your throat anymore, he’s not saying YOU MUST READ THE BIBLE. He’s ditched all that stuff years ago.’

And – switching tack, what about Scott’s Scots accent? How does that go down with foreign journalists?

‘I try to speak s-l-o-w-l-y, and make it very c-l-e-a-r. They would say, about “A Pagan Place” – ‘vot is zis song about? Vot is ze Pagan Place, Mike?’ And I have to start to try to explain, in English, to this Dutchman, this well-intentioned Dutchman…’ He throws up his hands in mock-despair.

We laugh it down.

Then, deadpan, I ask ‘what does “A Pagan Place” mean, Mike?’

‘Ah-ha. Do you REALLY mean that…?’ A pause, then ‘it’s just symbolic.’

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The Waterboys score their first Top Twenty single (“The Whole Of The Moon”, no.26, 2 November 1985, then no.3 on reissue 13 April 1991, beneath Chesney Hawkes “The One And Only” and James “Sit Down”) from their first Top Twenty album (‘This Is The Sea’) – then drop out to busk around Irish Folk Clubs for two years. Hardly a smart career move, at first glance. Line-ups become confusingly fluid, the group loses Karl Wallinger who quits to form World Party in early 1986 (sticking with Ensign for hits including “Message In The Box”, no.39, June 1990, and “Is It Like Today” no.19, April 1993), and expands by taking in new personnel, including Steve Wickham from Galway, Jay Dee Daugherty, Sharon Shannon etc, and more ethnic, more Celtic influences.

And all the while, press interest – conversely, grows. The Waterboys assume a new legendary status with a mystique fuelled by the l-o-n-g absence, the myths and rumours that emanate from alleged recording sessions as far afield as Boston, Dublin’s Windmill Lane, and San Francisco, and by cassettes and bootlegs of Irish pub and village hall concerts.

And when the album finally arrives – the double set ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ (October 1988), it exceeds all expectations. Mat Smith in ‘Melody Maker’ calls it ‘quite simply the finest album of this, or perhaps any year’. Old heroes live forever, and old influences – the Beatles, jostle with new role-models – Van Morrison, with Scott reading Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird” into the run-out grooves of Morrison’s “Sweet Things”. Then there are traditional Irish songs (“When Ye Go Away”), a cod-Country reference to Hank Williams – ‘I don’t care what he did with his women, I don’t care what he did when he drank/ I wanna hear just one note from his lonesome old throat/ anybody here seen Hank?’. And even Gaelic vocalist Tomas McKeown singing Scott’s setting of WB Yeats 1889 poem “The Stolen Child”, all jostling alogside some of Scott’s own most violently well-crafted lyrics, ‘the world’s full of trouble, everybody’s scared/ landlords are frowning, cupboards are bare/ people are scrambling, like dogs for a share/ it’s cruel and it’s hard but it’s nothing compared to what we do to each other’ (“We Will Not Be Lovers”).

‘And yeah’ says Allan Jones, ‘the Waterboys are a glorious vindication of Rock’s maverick sensibilities’ (‘Melody Maker’, 7 January 1989).

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Mike Scott is literate. He recalls with obvious pleasure an interview he did with Irish music-paper ‘Hot Press’ that wound up ‘talking about books’. He tries to head our conversation in the same direction. Claims his song “Girl In The Swing” took its title from the 1980 Richard Adams novel (his fourth novel ‘The Girl In A Swing’). And how about other writers? – like, say, William Burroughs? ‘Burroughs has a great voice’ he opines. ‘I’d much rather HEAR him read his stuff than read it myself. Because the voice that I read it with in my brain is not as good as HIS voice.’

And there’s a story behind “Red Army Blues” on the ‘A Pagan Place’ album. ‘There’s a book I read called ‘The Forgotten Soldier’ by Guy Sajer (1965). He was French, from near the German border. So near that when they were short he was conscripted into the German Army! The Germans got pretty short at one point. Anyway, it’s just the story about his life on the Russian Front, and I thought it was pretty good. I’m very interested in the Russian Front for some reason, can’t quite explain why, so I wrote a song about it. But I changed it around, I wrote it from the Russian side, from their point of view – because the Germans were invading THEIR country. The Russians were in the right.’

Then there’s Kurt Vonnegut – he also got caught up confusingly in the war, as a POW blitzed by his own side in the Dresden fire-bombing! ‘I’ve read… no, I’ve SEEN his ‘Slaughterhouse Five’ (1969), and that was my initiation to him – the movie of his book.’

See what I mean? The guy’s literate. His lyrics read like the lyrics of a literate musician. He assembles his songs with care – even lines that, on the surface, seem deceptively simple (‘all these games/ fuck my brain’ on “The Ways Of Men”) are lethally timed to metre and rhyme. They work exactly. Running through the Waterboys back-catalogue track-by-track he casually undersells the devastating “Somebody Might Wave Back” as ‘an optimistic little song’, and still refuses to be drawn too deep into the complexities of “A Pagan Place”. ‘The story itself is all in very basic language’ he protests. ‘It’s just about me, arriving at a place. A mental place. After various adventures. A mental state.’

We play word-games. Is there a religious/anti-religious slant to the use of the word ‘Pagan’? ‘No, no, it’s not specific in that way.’

So ‘Pagan’ is just used for its emotive-evocative value? A ruminative pause. ‘I use the word seriously – as I was telling the audience, I use it seriously and, I think, with respect.’ He fences expertly around definitions, religious allusions can provide ‘a powerful store of imagery’. He mentions Bob Dylan again as an example of same…

Then, ‘Crass have used it too. They had an album title – ‘Stations Of The Crass’ (1979), y’know? It took me a few years before I got the joke there!’

For non-Catholics, the joke is a pun on ‘Stations Of The Cross’. Get it?


October 1985 – “The Whole Of The Moon” c/w “Medicine Jack” (the 12” has “The Whole Of The Moon (full version)”, “The Girl In The Swing (Live)”, plus “Medicine Jack” (Ensign 12ENY 520) no.26 on the chart. Reissue as Ensign ENY 642, when it reaches no.3

September 1985 – ‘This Is The Sea’ (Ensign ENCL5 – reissued as CHEN3 in August 1886) with “Don’t Bang The Drum”, “The Whole Of The Moon”, “Spirit”, “The Pan Within”, “Medicine Bow”, “Old England”, “Be My Enemy”, “Trumpets”, “This Is The Sea”, no.37 on UK album chart

October 1986 – “Medicine Bow (full version)” c/w “Don’t Bang The Drum” + “The Ways Of Men” (West Germany and Holland only, Ensign/Ariola 608-081)

December 1988 – ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ (Ensign Double-LP CHEN 5) with “Fisherman’s Blues”, “We Will Not Be Lovers”, “Strange Boat”, “World Party”, “Sweet Thing” (Van Morrison song), “Jimmy Hickey’s Waltz”, “And A Bang On The Ear”, “Has Anyone Here Seen Hank”, “When Will We Be Married” (Traditional song, adapted), “When Ye Go Away”, “Dunford’s Fancy” (Steve Wickham song), “The Stolen Child” (words by WB Yeats), “This Land Is Your Land” (Woody Guthrie), no.13 on UK album chart

January 1989 – “Fisherman’s Blues” c/w “Lost Highway” (Ensign ENY 621) no.32, reissue as Ensign ENY 645

June 1989 – “And A Bang On The Ear” c/w “The Raggle-Taggle Gipsy (Live at Glasgow ‘Barrowlands’ 1989)” (Ensign/ Chrysalis ENY 624) no.51

May 1993 – “The Return Of Pan” c/w “Karma” + “Mister Powers” and “The Return Of Pan (Demo)” (Geffen GFSTD 42) no.24

July 1993 – “Glastonbury Song” c/w “Chalice Hill” + “Burlington Bertie And Accrington Stanley” and “Corn Circle Symphony” (Geffen GFSTD 49) no.29 Do you believe in Rock ‘n’ Roll? Can the ‘Big Music’ (if not the attendant persona) save your mortal soul? While rejecting the hype-casting of Rock, Mike Scott rejuvenates it, and still works very much in its vital tradition. ‘That’s all I want to do. Play something RAW.’

Patti Smith was totally taken up by the mythologies of Rock. ‘Oh, yes.’

Is that something that’s true of you? ‘No. I think I’m quite free of that. Despite the leather trousers! I’m quite free of that.’

When push gets to shove – even without promiscuous promotion, and despite his denials, Mike Scott is the ideal candidate for hype-casting. He played the Rock role naturally, unconsciously, like a second skin. The Waterboys were, and could have remained a nice little earner.

But Scott aimed higher, and chances are he’s gonna take it a lot further yet.

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