Categories
Tunes

Best tunes of 1993: #26 The Waterboys “Glastonbury song”

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“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.

Categories
Live music galleries

Ten great Ottawa Bluesfest sets: #8 The Waterboys – Friday, July 12th, 2013

(This year’s edition of Ottawa Bluesfest has been cancelled, for obvious reasons. In previous years, especially on my old blog, I would share photos and thoughts on some of the live music I was enjoying at the festival throughout the duration. So for the next week and a half, I thought I’d share ten great sets, out of the many I’ve witnessed over the years, one for each day on which music would have be performed. Enjoy.)

The Waterboys live at Bluesfest 2013

Artist: The Waterboys
When: Friday, July 12th, 2013
Where: Claridge Homes stage at 8:00pm
Context: This Waterboys set on a Friday night seven years ago allowed me to cross a band off my list of bands that I needed to see, of which I never thought I would see, and they did not disappoint. Mike Scott came out on stage in a town in which he had never before performed, took off his sunglasses, and said, “Okay, Ottawa, let’s take a look at you.” Then, he led his band right into “Strange boat” from the classic album, “Fisherman’s blues”.

Indeed, having been at this for a long time, Mike Scott had a lot of material to pull from and played a set of tunes from all different parts of his career under The Waterboys moniker. Their sound has changed quite a bit over the years but what has never changed is Scott’s incredible talent for lyrics and storytelling. The band membership also has been quite fluid over the years. The band touring North America with Scott that year was one that he had put together himself just for this purpose and considering that most of the material was likely new to them, played it like it was second nature. The standout member, of course, was fiddler Steve Wickham, who was an honest-to-goodness member of the band in the late 80s, when “Fisherman’s blues” was written and recorded. You can just feel the chemistry and history between Wickham and Scott as you watch them perform together. Yes, Wickham is just as much the performer as Scott himself.

The Waterboys played for just over an hour, squeezing in most of their more popular tracks, certainly all of my favourites, save one (“Glastonbury song” from 1993’s “Dream harder”), but I was only half expecting that one. They even played a couple of new tracks, both of which had a bit of blues rock feel, and as Scott said, “It is a blues festival, right?”

My wife Victoria at one point turned to me and said, “They’ve waited too long to come to Ottawa.” And I’m pretty sure the crowd, which was for the most part of the older persuasion, would have agreed and most seemed pleased with the set. When it ended, one would almost say abruptly, the crowd managed to drag the band out for an encore, for which Scott and company covered an old traditional gospel tune, “Will the circle be unbroken”. And this was a perfect ending for me.

Mike Scott and Malcolm Gold
Steve WIckham of The Waterboys
Mike Scott
Malcolm Gold and Jay Barclay of The Waterboys
Steve Wickham duelling with Jay Barclay and Malcolm Gold
Steve Wickham duelling with Mike Scott
Mike Scott getting theatrical in a two-faced mask

Setlist:
Strange boat
Fisherman’s blues
A girl called Johnny
I’m still a freak
The girl in the swing
We will not be lovers
Raggle taggle gypsy
Mad as the mist and snow
The whole of the moon
I can see Elvis
Medicine bow
Don’t bang the drum
Encore:
Will the circle be unbroken

Categories
Vinyl

Vinyl love: The Waterboys “Fisherman’s blues”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: The Waterboys
Album Title: Fisherman’s blues
Year released: 1988
Year repressed: 2015
Details: 180 gram, black vinyl, 2006 remaster

The skinny: You might remember that this particular album hit the number three spot on the Best albums of 1988 series I did back in the summer. In that particular post, I spoke about how I came across the album and its incredible title track but I was remiss in not mentioning how obsessed I became with it and through repeat listens managed to get my wife into it as well. So of course, when I saw a 180 gram reissue of it on a record store shelf one day, I had to add it to my collection. It’s some great stuff for a Sunday morning spin.

Standout track: “Fisherman’s blues”