Taking its title from the opening line of “Don’t Bang The Drum,” the first song on the Waterboys’ classic 1985 album “This Is The Sea,” a new 15-song collection, “In A Special Place,” explores Mike Scott’s never-before-heard demos for the album, available now for the first time. To be released May 17 by Capitol/EMI, the CD and digital collection also includes a liner notes essay by Mike Scott and scans of lyrics from his songwriting book.
Drawing on disparate and inspired influences, including The Velvet Underground, Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks, Steve Reich, Mark Helprin’s novel Winter’s Tale, James Joyce, C.S. Lewis and WB Yeats, “This Is The Sea” was the Waterboys’ third album and the crystallization of Scott’s singular vision, a culmination of the music he’d written and crafted since his teenage years in Scotland.
The album demos were recorded at Park Gates Studios, near Hastings, in March 1985. Present were only Scott and co-producer John Brand. The approach was simple: Scott sat at the piano, with his huge black book of songs, working through them one by one while the tape ran. Stripped of the layers of rich instrumentation which help to make This Is The Sea such a glorious masterpiece, these demos show the genesis – and genius – of Scott’s songwriting prowess and song development process, and afford the listener, for the first time, an insight into what became known as the “Big Music.”
Of the tracks included on In A Special Place, some were subsequently recorded for the album – early versions are included of “Be My Enemy,” “Don’t Bang The Drum” and “The Pan Within,” all with later-discarded lyrics, as well as the first run-through of “The Whole Of The Moon,” some months before its familiar “too high, too far, too soon” chorus was written. There are also several songs and song fragments that didn’t make the final cut of This Is The Sea: “All The Bright Horses,” “The Woman In Me,” “The Day I Ran Out Of People,” “Paris In The Rain” and “Winter In The Blood.” One song, “Custer’s Blues,” was revived during the Fisherman’s Blues sessions two years later. “Looking For Dickon” is the original version of what had become “Church Not Made With Hands” on 1984’s A Pagan Place.
Two extra tracks, both piano-based but with more developed instrumentation, are included as extras. “Old England” is a demo recorded at Karl Wallinger’s home studio on the day it was written. “Trumpets” is a 2011 remix of the album track by Scott’s friend Don Jackson. They have been included for contrast, reminders of what is possible when the music is expanded from its pure beginnings.
This Is The Sea entered the UK charts at #37 in September 1985, and proved a slow-burner, eventually going Gold in 1987. Since then, it has sold more than one million copies and has been an influence on artists such as U2, Radiohead and The Decemberists. Its famous single, “The Whole Of The Moon,” has twice been a UK chart hit, originally reaching #26 in 1985, then rampaging to #3 on its reissue in 1991. Its status as a classic in the canon of popular music is assured, and it has been covered by more than 20 artists.
The Waterboys: In A Special Place [CD, digital]
1. Don’t Bang The Drum (3.13)
2. Be My Enemy (3.56)
3. All The Bright Horses (0.39)
4. Custer’s Blues (3.28)
5. Beverly Penn (5.22)
6. The Day I Ran Out Of People (2.03)
7. The Pan Within (4.32)
8. Winter In The Blood (4.10)
9. The Woman In Me (2.40)
10. Looking For Dickon (2.18)
11. Paris In The Rain (4.29)
12. Talk About Wings (1.03)
13. The Whole Of The Moon (5.39)
14. Old England (3.58)
15. Trumpets (Headstrong remix 2011) (3.24)