“Glastonbury song” is the very first song I ever heard by The Waterboys. In fact, I heard it and fell for it well before I ever heard of the band and their driving force and ringleader Mike Scott.
I’ve already told the story of my real introduction to the band when their fourth album, the now iconic “Fisherman’s blues”, appeared at number three on my Best albums of 1988 list. After finally giving in to the haranguing of my work colleague Chris, I downloaded the title track off of Napster, back sometime in 2000, using dial-up internet speeds*. When that marathon finally finished up, I listened to the MP3 a few times before going to see a film called “Waking Ned Devine” at the local repertory theatre and coincidentally, its opening credits featured the very same song. If I wasn’t already in love with “Fisherman’s blues”, that little bit of serendipity really did me in.
I purchased the album on compact disc shortly thereafter and had to admit to Chris that he was absolutely right. The Waterboys were right up my alley. It didn’t take too much convincing from there for me to check out their other work, which in itself was an interesting exercise. Much like how the band’s membership changed with pretty much every album, so too did their sound. And imagine my surprise when, in amongst all of these tracks that I was sampling, I hear this song that I used to note when heard on the radio seven years earlier but one for which I had never seemed to track down its name, or its purveyor.
“Yeah, I just found god
(I just found god)
Yeah, I just found god where he always was”
Mike Scott busted up the band after 1990’s “Room to roam” was recorded by pretty much the same personnel and continued the same themes and sound as “Fisherman’s blues” but wasn’t nearly as successful, critically or commercially, and really, as an album. Scott figured it was time to change things up but the rest of the band, especially fiddler Steve Wickham, weren’t on the same page so he recorded the next album, 1993’s “Dream harder”, pretty much by himself**. It was a more straightforward rock sound as a whole but still had Scott’s literate and storytelling lyrical style, name-checking Keats and Hendrix, paganism and religion.
Nowadays, the name Glastonbury seems to be synonymous with music and hedonism, the town being near the site of one of the longest running and perhaps most famous music festivals in the world. So it would be easy to look at this song as finding religion and having a spiritual experience at such an event. But I’m pretty certain that Scott had more ancient history in mind when he wrote the words, as is evidenced by the cover art for the single when it was released.
“Glastonbury song” is crashing drums and roaring guitars that are reined in and soothed by airy synths and Scott’s bohemian bard vocals. You can almost see him standing by himself in the sunshine, surround by green, hilly fields, dressed all in white, eyes closed, and soaking it all in, accepting the blessing bestowed upon him.
“There is a green hill far away
I’m going back there one fine day”
It sounds to me like a place where we would all like to go, one fine day.
*Some of you may recall the time commitment that this might’ve taken.
**There might have been session musicians involved in the recording as well…
For the rest of the Best tunes of 1993 list, click here.