BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
Mike Scott is something of an anomaly, a perennial troubadour ever in search of his musical roots. His greatest Stateside success came about some 25 years ago while at the helm of the Waterboys, a band that combined the anthemic urgency of U2 with a generous nod to highland tradition. Evocative, inspired and imbued with spiritual essence, Scott strives to connect the music of his Scottish forebears with the appeal necessary to lure a contemporary audience.
One of the most obvious elements Scott’s employed over the years has been his flair for literacy, both as a storyteller and as man whose eloquence consistently elevates his songs to grander plateaus. It’s especially evident in Adventures of a Waterboy (Jawbone Press), an autobiographical memoir that follows Scott’s musical journey from his initial pop musings as a youngster in his native Edinburgh through to the world travels find him ever in search of his muse.
“I assumed the images I ‘saw’ when I listened to any piece of music were somehow encoded in the record,” he says of his earliest musical connections. “But when I asked my friends, they imagined nothing at all or saw totally different images… This was disappointing because it meant that what I perceived wasn’t an absolute reality and humans weren’t all connected in one big communal imagination. Yet it was exciting at the same time, for not only did it mean the images I saw were unique to me, and that everyone else’s were unique to them, but one day, when I came to make records myself, my own music could spark people’s imaginations in ways I couldn’t dream of.”
That evocative descriptions and poetic narrative should be given ample ink in this expansive tome ought to come as no surprise – this is, after all, the same man who titled his latest album An Appointment With Mr. Yeats – but Scott’s ability to sweep his readers along into both his story and his psyche makes Adventures of a Waterboy an especially compelling read. The chapter titles alone hint at his literary profundity – “The Black Book and the Moon”… “The Power of the Music Gives Everybody Wings”… “A Walk in the Lake Shrine”… “Mansion of Music” et. al. And yet, it’s the anecdotal detail that stands out above all, especially when Scott lets down his guard and opts for a self-effacing stance. He repeatedly frets about each succeeding release and reaction from the populace, even as the Waterboys’ ongoing shifts in personnel and the minutia of the music biz continued to preoccupy him. Even so, he remains remarkably level-headed and even self-effacing. Recounting a jam session with Bob Dylan, when he was asked by producer Dave Stewart if he had any tunes suitable for contribution to the Bobster’s new album, he recalls that though he deemed it less than worthy he opted to play a song for him anyway. As Scott relates it, Dylan’s reaction wasn’t exactly encouraging, but in hindsight, it seems amusing regardless.
“When the song finished, he leaned over and said in a kindly tone, ‘You can keep that one.’”
A “kindly tone?” That insight alone is worth the cost of admission.
An edited version of this appears in the current issue (#13) of BLURT.