Adventures Of A Waterboy
Adventures of a Waterboy is the perfectly-titled autobiography of Mike Scott. Perfect because for a change you can completely judge the book by its cover – this is Scott’s weird and wonderful life as a Waterboy. Here he has graciously named himself as just one of a myriad of band members (and there were some females, or ‘Watergirls’, such as Sharon Shannon) who came and went during the eighties and nineties – I’m sure even Scott has lost count of some of them.
The book’s title can also serve as a warning to those in search of juicy gossip. In many of the passages Scott doesn’t hold back on his feelings towards people who were around him before, during and after those heady days of fame – whether they were famous (Bono, Bob Dylan and others weave in and out of his life), unknowns, or infamous (like his disturbed sounding ex-girlfriend, Kate Lovecraft).
I’m sure that there were countless opportunities to spill the beans on other celebs but, aside from a possible need on Scott’s part to play it relatively safe (he is, after all, only in his early fifties and still in the music business), I would guess that Scott has no interest in causing hurt to any person for the sake of sensationalism.
As a general reader I was thrilled with the even spread of stories about the Scot as music star and the people he encountered along the way. Tales about Ireland, Scotland, London and New York in the eighties and nineties, and, a theme that permeates most of his pages, of his own spiritual search. The latter came as a pleasant surprise to me because I would have become bored had it been all about the writing, releasing and performing of his songs.
With eleven years between Mike Scott’s age and mine, he was at his peak when I became interested most in music – The Fisherman’s Blues being released in 1988 when I was eighteen. So when I sat down to read his autobiography I expected to be transported back to my young adult self. But I have eight older siblings, which meant that I was listening to the likes of Thin Lizzy, Blondie and The Doors. And my sisters and I danced our hearts out to the pop songs of the day: Madonna, Michael Jackson and George Michael. I spent my eighteenth year working around Australia, had lived in America for two summers, and I would soon end up in Japan.
Instead, while I read about Mike Scott’s dramatic life, memories of my (somewhat brief) marriage filled my head and heart. After a few years of trying to settle in Kilkenny in my late twenties, I finally gave in to my cravings to get back to exploring the world, and I moved to New Zealand in January of 1999. Within months I had met an English man, Dave, who had a Lebanese takeaway. We moved in together that summer and by August, we were married.
Dave was also a singer song-writer who played in his own band (Loose New Romans), and it was through him that I received another phase in musical education. We listened to groups that were strong on lyrics and melody like The Waterboys, Johnny Cash (who I had originally snubbed as country and western, but grew to adore) and World Party (who Dave played to death!)
After two roller-coaster years with a ‘muso’ and the inevitable raggle-taggle entourage of friends and hangers-on, many of whom were in their different stages of alcohol and drug-addiction, I grew tired of the unpredictability of home. When he said he’d like me to start having our children (I was told matter-of-factly that he wasn’t interested in them until they turned two years of age), I realised that I couldn’t bring a child into the mix. Through this awareness I began to face up to the fact that it was no life for me either.
It broke my heart to leave Dave and the amazing life we had of co-writing songs, partying with free-spirited friends, and most especially, to walk away from our dream of selling up and moving to the coast to raise kids. But there was too much harsh reality bubbling beneath us. We had pumped all of our life-savings and substantial borrowings into building a new restaurant together and we were soon caught up into a devastatingly long and expensive court battle with our landlord – she was against us acquiring a liquor license and she was ‘allergic’ to Dave. Our dream life began to crash.
My insomnia, too, was heightened by the frequent impromptu all-night sessions that took part in the lounge above our bedroom – we lived in a quirky custom-built, open-plan house with the bedrooms downstairs, and chip-board doors that had gaps hewn out instead of having door-handles. We were as incompatible as we were in love and because Dave found it difficult to compromise, my patience eventually ran out, and I followed it.
When I began to read Mike Scott’s book his speaking voice was there but something was missing – the sound of his music. It struck me then that I had none of his CDs at home.
Because I moved house dozens of times in my life I was left with only a tiny collection of books and music until I went to university four years ago and began to build up libraries. So the day after buying Adventures of a Waterboy I made a trip to my local record shop and bought their albums, Fisherman’s Blues and This Is The Sea. I normally read in absolute silence but it didn’t make sense to do so with such a musical story. I played the CDs while I read and now the experience was complete.
I’ve never seen Mike Scott perform before and I think his evening in conversation with Peter Murphy will be the perfect start (I heard a rumour that Scott will sing a few songs and that Steve Wickham will be in town...) See you all at the Kilkenny Ormonde Hotel on August 15th for a long overdue event.