Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The Thrill Is Gone

Back in the early 80's ("regular" readers will be getting used to me saying that) when my fanzine What A Nice Way To Turn Seventeen was in it's first flush of youth, I met, for the first time, Mike Scott. The Waterboys were new, their first album just released, and his music fitted nicely into my world at the time. As an aside, and to his credit, it seems to have stood the test of time far better than that of others I was into at the time, in that it gets played still to this day while those other records and CDs stay in their racks.

I'd been aware of his first band, Another Pretty Face who'd released a couple of singles including "All The Boys Love Carrie",


and had recorded songs for a Virgin Records album that was never to see the light of day and I had featured Funhouse, his previous incarnation, in an earlier fanzine, on the release of their only single "Out Of Control"

but I was interested in meeting up and talking to him about the nascent Waterboys project. So I did, meeting him at his basement flat in Notting Hill - I remember the street, Aldridge Road Villas, though I forget the number.

I'll spare you the full interview (I remember it was a bugger to transcribe as it had only recorded (quietly) on one channel) but it took place on a morning where he was taking calls from a Musicians Wanted ad he'd placed in the NME "The Waterboys require lead/rhythm guitar player, 18-24. Ability, own style and appreciation of Patti Smith essential. No pop fans or Jacks of all Trades" the advert ran, and we were interrupted on a couple of occasions for Mike to listen to the case for the latest gunslinger**. The first guy who called knew the Patti Smith "Horses" LP


but Mike worried that the word "essential" wasn't strong enough as he was after someone who shared the values he held which discovery of Patti Smith had confirmed when he was younger (he was 24 at the time of our meeting) not just someone who liked her. This was the first time I'd spoken at length to someone with such an all encompassing connection with a single artist.

"I don't actually listen to Patti Smith all that much. I mean you must have records that hit you so much you don't listen to them very often? The most important ones? Like "Easter" by Patti Smith, which is just about my favourite record. I listen to that about once every two years when I really feel it's right to listen to it." To which I replied that I, of course, listened to my favourite records constantly - but I was a mere youth of 21 and it needed the wiser older head to advise me that by the time I hit the magical age of 24, I'd come to understand what he meant. Quite how old I actually was when it finally hit home I don't recall, but suffice to say that he did not lie.

Inevitably, through his association with Nikki Sudden whose first solo album "The Bible Belt" Mike played on and part co-produced (this was when he'd first come into contact with Anthony Thistlethwaite who played sax on Nikki's album, and with whom Mike formed the briefly surviving The Red And The Black before adding him to the Waterboys roster)

Anto and Mike (from http://www.mikescottwaterboys.com/)

I kept up a loose kind of contact with Mike that continues to this day. I reminded him a few months back that he'd played piano and produced a song called "Sparrows" by the Rag Dolls that appeared on the very first record I put out with the What A Nice Way.... fanzine. Understandably perhaps, he'd long since forgotten this.

He's pretty active on Twitter these days - @MickPuck - and next year sees the Waterboys bring their much lauded "An Appointment With Mr Yeats" show to the Glasgow, Liverpool, Coventry and London in January and February.

**From what I recall, I believe Mike eventually settled for taking on guitar duties single handedly (no other Patti Smth visionaries to be found?) and it was another NME advert that saw the arrival of keyboardist Karl Wallinger. That is another story entirely of course.