Fisherman’s Blues 30th Anniversary, Fresh as Ever

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I remember the first time I heard the song “Fisherman’s Blueson my local college radio station in California. I had been listening to the Waterboys first 3 Albums for years, and it had been fun trying to get import copies of them in the early 80s in San Francisco. I had really enjoyed what had been called,  “The Big Music”, a single from their A Pagan Place album, a music sense that spirituality and the land and people came together, and a music sound that was big and grabbed you. When I heard the change in the Waterboys music with the new single, it took a few times of playing the tape over, but I was hooked. Blending traditional and new sound, they were creating a bigger, deeper music. The Waterboys were definitely going in new directions. I think I played the album on cassette until I stretched that tape too much. Got it on vinyl. Had to sell it during dire straights, got a copy back a few years later, used as I wanted the original issue.  I have had it in various forms ever since. There may have been times in my life that I didn’t listen to it, it lay dormant as some of our favorite albums do due to family issues, me issues. However, I always found a way back to it when it was needed.

This October marks the 30th anniversary of the album. It was a record that may have only been released with 10-13 tracks depending on your country, however much, much more was recorded over the two year recording period and released on subsequent compilations. I have a fantasy that the final boxed set that came out in 2013 will be released as vinyl, if it was, I may find it. Yes, 100 plus songs. Heavy load, but always uplifting or sad. When You Go Away, always one that makes a tear come.download-7

Fisherman’s Blues was released on October 17, 1988. It would take two years to record, and two countries. Steven Wickham had joined the band after the Waterboys This is the Sea album had been released. Other musicians were called in to join in the many lengthly recording sessions. The Waterboys recorded the beginnings of the album at Windmill Lane Studio in Dublin during January to March, 1986. The band then had a madcap adventure in California and a recording session at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, where much of the recordings would make it onto subsequent albums. During March to August of 1987, the band returned to Windmill Lane in Dublin.  The main members of the band were present, Mike Scott, Steve Wickham, Anto Thistlethwaite on sax, Trevor Hutchinson bass, and Roddy Lorimer on trumpet. A large crew of guest musicians played on many of the tracks. Pat McCarthy was the recording engineer.

The remaining bulk of the over 100 songs and recordings were created at Spiddal House near Galway, Ireland. Where more madcap adventures came forth. And something about burying a electronic metronome timing device? And a shotgun?download-5

Out of this wealth of recordings, 13 tracks made it to the original release on October 17, 1988 (again, depending on country). Of these, “Fisherman’s Blues, about a man wanting to explore his life and the world around him with the burning need to explore, released as a single in October 1988, and “And a Bang on The Ear, a song about Scott listing many romantic entanglements and what the hero learned in the end, was released in June 1989. The rest of the songs recorded over the two years would be released on Too Close to Heaven UK or Fisherman’s Blues Part 2  in the US. In 2006 the Collector’s Edition was released with additional tracks, followed by the Fisherman’s Boxed Set in 2013 including all original songs totaling 121 tracks. 85 of the songs had not be previously available.images-5

Fisherman’s Blues entered Billboard’s US Modern Rock charts at 3rd place, and the single reached No. 32 on the UK singles charts. It has appeared in several film scores, including Waking Ned Devine and Dream With the Fishes. The album is considered one of their best albums in a 30 plus year career span.

images-10For more on the madcap adventures, I strongly suggest you read Mike Scott’s Adventures of a Waterboy.

Sadly, Fantasy Studios in Berkeley closed its doors this last September. Their site is still up if you want to see the long list of artists who have worked there over the years.

Song interpretations are always my own, just like you have your own meaning for songs that you hear. To find the meaning behind the lyrics, go to the Waterboys Lyrics page and decide for yourself.

Waterboys Discography 

http://fantasystudios.com/

https://www.windmilllanerecording.com/

All Music Writeup

The Big Music and it’s Revival?

Spiddal Reunion Concerts

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The Punk, Post-Punk, Gothy Girl is Resurrected.

Gaol Breaker

I’ve bunked off from the gaol. It’s been some 6 weeks or so since I have blogged. I have spent the last 5 weeks crawling out of a weird, wet, dank abyss called Recovery From Major Medical. I have survived a surgery that some don’t, I was lucky I was very fit going in. I am forced off work and we don’t have temp disability here. Why, I feel like I did back in the early 1980s, no hope, no future. I’m alive. Appropriately listening to The Specials ‘Ghost Town’, because the Tibetan Tube Throat singing with accordion/box music at the cafe was really grating on my nerves. Now we’re on to The Fall, ‘Totally Wired. I’m waking up. I pay my taxes, and no real help for me in medical. Oh, yeah, I live in America, the corporate health empire of the world. If you are lucky and live in Canada, UK, Ireland,or the continental EU and have social medicine. Fight to keep it. Here you spend your whole recovery period fending off calls from hospitals while the insurance companies duke it out. So now I am listening to Talking Heads ‘Once in A Lifetime’, wondering where this life is going. And now we segway into ‘Mirror In The Bathroom’ by The Beat. Yeah, girls, makeup after a medical just doesn’t want to work. Actually not wanting to work for a while now. Argh. So not going there with the Albatros Eyebrows so fashionable lately. Again, unless you can pull off a good Siouxsie brow, just keep it simple.

This was a life changing event for me, but I am trying to crawl out of it. Vaughn likened it to having a Scottish Basket Hilt or Japanese Katana Sword run through me and twisting the ribs apart. Now I have to heal from it. I managed to get my Sandman tee shirt on, black skirt, black jacket, boots and thigh high socks on. I look like a Gothic wreck. Good. My red curls got unfurled from the stupid braids of sickness.  I drove for the first time, really slow, no maniacal California driving. Was very good and did not play tunes in car, needed to focus. Speed limit, don’t attract trouble. Made it to the cafe.

Ah, ‘Fade to Grey’ by Visage. Ooo, baby I feel even better already. I have been listening to a mix of digital and records when I can get to the turntable. Unfortunately the non-working thing has curtailed any record buying. But I am selling things off on eBay hoping I can maybe afford the 40th Anniversary Reissues of the Bauhaus Catalog on colored vinyl starting next month, check out Peter Murphy’s site for details. I’m working on the second cup of decaf coffee. I made it to my cafe I usually write in. I really just wanted to feel somewhat myself.

Bauhaus to Reissue 6 Records on Colored Vinyl for 40th Anniversary 

Record Store Physio

One of the tests of where I am truly at with the body has been a visit to two local record shops, Music Millennium and Everyday Music. One I actually found a vinyl copy of The Waterboys ‘An Appointment with Mr. Yeats’, which unless you are on the East Coast or L.A. aren’t likely to find. It was nice to hear some Yeats set to music and try to get back to listening to records. At EDM, it was more of an exercise to see how long I could stand up, can I flip record bin dividers, and even better spell Siouxsie right so I could look for the 12 inch? I kid you not, the really bad side effect of being a Ginge and anesthesia, is it may take weeks to get most of your spelling back. It’s scientific. Yeah, so flipping the records in the bin is a great way to tell how you are doing when recovering.

I’m in the Hawthorne. There are two record shops, Exiled and Jackpot. Okay, no money, but the singles bin can be a great find for super cheap. Hmmm. Oooo, playing ‘Generals and Majors’ by XTC now, that’s the marching orders, right. Also, there is a convo going on in the cafe I have been trying to drown out, because I don’t want to know. Time for ‘Sorry for Laughing’ by Josef K right now, turn that volume up.

Alternative/Punk/Post-Punk/ Group 

I’m dying here in Portland. Great music when you get to it, if we can get them to come. Got tickets for PiL and Echo and the Bunnymen in the next months. But really dying for some Alternative Culture. Yeah, you can still be Alternative if you are over 30, get over it.

I lived in San Francisco too long. It’s hard meeting people when they know you’re from another state. Portland may be the Weird Capital, but they can take a while to warm up to you. And finding anyone into my musical tastes near mine has been impossible. I was so desperate I looked on social networking sites. Nada. So, in my insane creativity and having to think about it, I decided I would try an experiment and create a group and see if anyone shows up. Insane, I know. Probably no one will come or be interested, but I have to get into the Phoenix frame of mind, that bird with singed wings is gonna fly. So, I have to craftily word an invitation. What insanity can I brew from this crazy idea, or will it be typical and no one will show?

Sad about this world that we have gotten so distracted we have to meet in pre-fabricated ways like this. It used to be that you met like minds at the record shop. Here if you try to talk to someone about an exciting find they think you should be sent to the looney. Funny thing, you are already there. Isn’t that what it’s about?

The Real McKenzies

If I make it through this week of killer Phisio (yeah actually they have me going to medical Physio), Vaughn has said we will attempt to see a great Canadian/Scots Punk band called The Real McKenzies I have been listening to for the past few years. If I can show that I am doing better. I need to see if I can manage to get through a show, even if it means being taped to the pillar and doing Pathetic Pogo. I may do a chair Skank if I can find one. But my minder is telling me it depends on how I do this week. So bunking off and driving and making it back in one piece will count I hope.

Oh, and for those of you in the US (West Coast), and don’t know yer ancient history, Gaol here refers to jail. It’s how it was spelt in dem olden days.

We’ll leave this on Elvis Costello’s, ‘I Can’t Stand up For Falling Down’. But really, ending on XTC’s ‘Dear God’, because our world is just as bad as it was 40 years back and what have we learned in this time? Share the music, share the lyrics, wether it’s old school or new groups, get the music out there. It’s the only way to save this race. Hope you enjoyed the convoluted playlist.

The Waterboys, a Light that Still Reaches

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This Amazing Light

I’m barreling up to San Francisco with some concert going friends. I wouldn’t say they were close friends, but a group of kids that managed to get to rock and punk shows in the SF Bay Area together. We were packed in the car, too many of us. They were talking about getting there by the time U2 gets on. It’s December 1984, and U2 is making it big. It was not assigned seating for the tickets we could get and that point it didn’t matter. I start talking about wanting to make it before the opening act starts. The others commented, “Who cares about the warm up band?” I did, it wasn’t  just any warm up band. It was a band I had been waiting for, a Scottish and Irish band called The Waterboys. The show was U2 at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium. Always a bad band venue, standing room only affair, and getting in and through the doors was usually akin to a cattle chute. I was determined to find somewhere I could dance and sing along, so we muscled in.

This was California. We weren’t the East Coast, where the record stores got the imports first. If a band wasn’t big enough yet or had not signed with a big American label, it was hell to find the vinyl. Growing up on the Left Coast of the US, you would have a rough time getting decent music choices for the fresh new music coming out of the UK. It was like fashion, it took a while to filter in and bands were up against the great American Music Machine. The new music was taking a while to hit our coast.

Music was changing again, and I was too. I was still just a kid, however I was finding I really wanted more out of music than what was being offered on AM Radio and FM commercial Alternative Rock. I knew there had to be more musicians and acts that were just not breaking the American music bubble. So I spent late nights listening to college radio stations where you could hear world music. I made cassettes of shows featuring British and Irish bands, because finding vinyl imports for the upcoming Irish and Scots bands was extremely difficult, unless you had a connection at one of the local record shops. I would make lists of song titles and album names from the DJ, and listen to someone who really liked to explore the new music and took our phone calls. Music magazines were often a great resource, but coming from the UK they were hard to find, and usually very out of date. Not that that mattered, because by the time the bands toured, it would be relevant and fresh. Strange how we lived without the Internet for so long.

One of the DJs would play Celtic Trad as well as the rock and pop coming from these countries. This was my first exposure to U2, The Alarm, The Cult, and many other bands. I heard The Waterboys one night after reviewing the tapes that I would set up and leave recording as the shows were usually on in the wee hours. The album was called A Pagan Place, and the few songs played off of the album had me hooked. Scott’s voice was a unique pitch, the lyrics really spoke, and the sound was very different. I then began the hunt for their elusive LP. It proved to be a futile endeavor and I was not to find the album until after the show. However, in the process, I did find out about U2 touring and as luck would have it, they would have The Waterboys as their opening act.

My concert friends and I made it in the venue about 15 minutes before The Waterboys came on. It was packed and insane, and I could not get a great view, despite the fact that the lead singer and songwriter, Mike Scott, was fairly tall. I finally found a place to stand where I could make a space to just listen. My friends were complaining, and I said, “Just give it a chance.” So I kept them in sight and knew where the car was parked if we parted ways. I heard that unique sound that is the Waterboys and what was called The Big Music. There was a song titled, “The Big Music”, but the thrust of the sound was what was big, that you could really feel it. Songs came like “The Earth Only Endures and started bringing out this amazing feeling, a light was going on in and around me. It didn’t matter how dark the auditorium was, there was a light that wasn’t the stage lighting. It was in Scott’s voice and lyrics, the amazing fiddle, and everything else being felt by the sound the band created. The lyrics were fantastic, real feeling stories about the mystical and the amazing landscapes of people and places. I was elated. I doubt my friends got it, they were too U2 centric. I didn’t care. It would be a few months before I could finally get the album and I wore out the tapes I had made by that time.

Life takes you along and while I have listened to the many incarnations of The Waterboys over the over 30 years they have been performing, I started really listening to them again over the last two years as part of one of the life re-evaluations I have had. When you look back on a section of years and how your life is and what you want it to be. Your youth and how you have changed. What made you what you are. That was what music did for this shy teen that is still inside me. It was the music that helped me to grow as I became an adult, if in body only. For really we are still all children on magical music journeys.  And somewhere, there has to be that light, that big connection, that Big Music feeling. 

Adventures of a Waterboy waterboys

Mike Scott has written an exceptional memoir about life as a Waterboy.  I grabbed the second edition called Adventures of a Waterboy: Remastered. After reading the first chapter, I was taken on a rollicking Rock journey. I had to limit my reading to two chapters a night, I just devoured the thing. The detail and feel of each chapter’s theme was consuming. Scott really opens up as a musician and shows us amazing snapshots of the history of the punk and post punk years in the late seventies and early eighties in the UK. He gives us great details about the music that influenced him and his peers. What the music scene was like with someone sailing through it and somehow surviving it. The recording labels, the music industry itself, and the creativity and drive of the music in his head and how to make sure the message got out, with integrity, in a fight against the controls of the music labels and Faustian commercialism that followed. Then of course there were the people who managed, or tried to control him and the band, and how the hero fought that battle. His writing makes you feel like you were right there with him in the room and had met every musician he had met and worked with. The tales are strongly written and absorbing. I recommend it for a great biography read.

Vinyl Hop

Twenty minutes after finishing this article, I walked into a local vinyl shop and found a copy of A Pagan Place. That elusive album that took so long to find the first time in 1984. Sadly it’s not the original copy of the album on if I remember right was Island or Ensign, and would have been worth quite a bit more if it was. But I have it on vinyl again, that’s what matters.

You can catch up with The Waterboys on their website and Twitter. If you are traveling to Europe this summer, they are playing several dates. You can find their tour information here:

Website The Waterboys

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Mike Scott Twitter @MickPuck