|This Is the Sea|
|Studio album by|
|Released||16 September 1985|
|Recorded||February – August 1985|
|The Waterboys chronology|
This Is the Sea is the third The Waterboys album, and the last of their "Big Music" albums. Considered by critics to be the finest album of their early rock-oriented sound,described as "epic" and "a defining moment", it was the first Waterboys album to enter the United Kingdom charts, peaking at number 37. Steve Wickham makes his Waterboys recording debut playing violin on 'The Pan Within' and subsequently joined the band, appearing on the video of "The Whole of the Moon". This Is the Sea is the last album with contributions from Karl Wallinger, who left the group to form his own band, World Party.
Mike Scott, the album's principal songwriter and leader of The Waterboys, describes This Is the Sea as "the record on which I achieved all my youthful musical ambitions","the final, fully realised expression of the early Waterboys sound", influenced by The Velvet Underground, Van Morrison's Astral Weeks , and Steve Reich. Regarding the end of the groups sound being tied to "The Big Music" after completing the album, Scott stated, "I finished with that kind of music to achieve whatever it was I was trying to achieve with that album. That overdubbed big sounding music, I didn't need to do it anymore."
The album was recorded between March and July 1985, and released that October (see 1985 in music). A remastered and expanded version was released in 2004. This Is the Sea contains the best-selling Waterboys single, the song "The Whole of the Moon". The album cover is a photograph taken by Lynn Goldsmith.
Scott began writing songs for This Is the Sea in the spring of 1984, beginning with the song "Trumpets". Scott recalls that in December 1984 "during The Waterboys' first American tour, [he] bought two huge hard-bound books... in which to assemble [his] new songs"For the following two months Scott worked on the songs in his apartment, writing the lyrics, and working on guitar and piano arrangements. Scott wrote between thirty-five and forty songs, but felt that the nine songs that made it onto the album "were the ones that were intended to be there". The first song from the album to be played live was "Trumpets", on 10 April 1984.
The first recording session for This Is the Sea began in March 1985 at Park Gates Studio in Hastings, England with engineer and producer John Brand. Band members Scott, Anthony Thistlethwaite, Karl Wallinger, Chris Whitten, and Roddy Lorimer performed the new material. Wallinger's home studio heard demo recordings for a number of the album's songs. Some of the recordings, like the ones of the last two albums, are relatively untouched by studio engineering. On other recordings, however, Scott added a drum machine and layered the sound,using a studio technique similar to that of the famous record producer Phil Spector, with help from Wallinger. "Having Karl [Wallinger] in the studio", writes Scott, "was like having a one-man orchestra around. There might have been a This Is the Sea without him, but it wouldn't have been the same – or as good". (Nonetheless, it was Wallinger's second and last appearance on a Waterboys' album.)
The recording sessions continued through June. By July, Wickham, after an invitation from Scott, entered the studio with the band to add his fiddle to "The Pan Within". Produced from the original sessions at Park Gates Studio, along with recordings from Livingston Studios in London, Amazon in Liverpool, Seaview, and The Townhouse Studio, among others, the album was released in October. Peter Anderson, writing in Record Collector, describes Scott as "completely at home in the studio" and writes that Scott "spared nothing on" This Is the Sea.
A remastered version was released in 2004, with a second CD of material from the album's singles, and unreleased tracks from the This Is the Sea recording sessions.
This Is the Sea was promoted heavily and reached number 37 on the Top 40 album chart in the UK. Neither of the two preceding albums had charted in the Top 40.
The album was followed by tours in the United Kingdom, and in North America as the headliners. Sinéad O'Connor made her United Kingdom live debut as a backup singer on "The Big Music" at a concert at the London Town and Country Club. In December, The Waterboys joined the band Simple Minds for a European tour. During the three major tours, the band's lineup began to change, and the album received more exposure than its two predecessors.Mike Scott, however, in a decision that expressed the values he had written about when authoring punk rock fanzines, refused to promote the album and the single for "The Whole of the Moon" on Top of the Pops because he would not lip sync, a requirement on the show.
Meiert Avis directed the video for "The Whole of the Moon", using visionary lighting elements based on Helprin's "Winter's Tale" and his memories of a 1962 theatrical production of Charles Kingsley's '"The Water Babies". Avis addressed Scott's aversion to lip syncing, by shooting the visuals for "The Whole of the Moon" while capturing a unique live audio performance of the single. Avis later used this technique on several videos with Bruce Springsteen, who shares Scott's aversion.[ citation needed ]
Themes of the album include spirituality ("Spirit", "The Pan Within"), romantic love ("Trumpets"), and English politics ("Old England"), while the album's eponymous single ("This Is The Sea") utilizes the allusion of the flowing river as a life affirming recognition of constant renewal and regeneration. Michael Tucker, in an article entitled "The Body Electric: The Shamanic Spirit in Twentieth Century Music", lists This Is the Sea as an example of shamanistic themes in twentieth-century Western music.Irish musician Bono includes the album on his "top ten" list, noting "In rock, the word 'poet' gets thrown around a lot. Not here..."
"Don't Bang the Drum", the lyrics of which encourage environmentalism [ citation needed ], was released as a single in Germany, with a song titled "Ways of Men" as the B-side. The first draft of the song's music was written by Wallinger. Scott reworked the arrangement, changing its rhythm and "feel", but Wallinger's melody and chords were preserved.
"The Whole of the Moon", one of The Waterboys' best-known songs and their most commercially successful, was first released as a twelve-inch single, and reached number twenty-eight on the United Kingdom singles chart. The single also contained a live recording of "The Girl in the Swing", from The Waterboys , the band's first album, an extended mix of "Spirit", and a song titled "Medicine Jack". The latter two appear on the second disc of the album's re-release. When the single was reissued in 1990, it reached number 3, and was awarded the Ivor Novello Award in 1991.Including the 2004 remastered album, the song has been officially released four times.
The song began as a "scribble on the back of an envelope on a wintry New York street",after Scott's girlfriend asked him if it was difficult to write a song, and was unfinished at the beginning of the recording sessions, eventually being completed in May 1985. The song, like The Waterboys' first single "A Girl Called Johnny" is a tribute to an inspirational figure. In each line, the singer describes his own perspective and immediately contrasts it with that of the song's subject, summarizing the difference with the line "I saw the crescent / You saw the whole of the moon". "You saw Brigadoon", one of these contrasts, refers to a fictional village that exists only one day every century (from the musical of the same name).
The subject of the song has inspired some speculation. Musician Nikki Sudden, with whom Scott had collaborated before forming The Waterboys, said that Scott told Max Edie, the backup singer for "The Whole of the Moon", that the song was written about Sudden.Allmusic instead suggests that its subject is actually a number of people who inspired Scott, including Christian writer C. S. Lewis and the musician Prince. Scott himself says that he "couldn't have written" the song without having read Mark Helprin's novel Winter's Tale , but goes on to state that the song is not about Helprin. The official Waterboys website's Frequently Asked Questions clarifies that Scott has said that the song's subject is "a composite of many people", including C. S. Lewis, but explicitly states that it is not about Prince.
A feature of "The Whole of the Moon" is the trumpet work on the recording, courtesy of the classically trained Lorimer. Lorimer spent three days with Scott working on the song's arrangement. According to Lorimer, he "went home with a tape of the song and thought about a more classical approach. After a while sitting at the piano I came up with the idea of antiphonal trumpets. A piccolo trumpet on the left answered a piccolo on the right and then the same again, growing by adding a Bb trumpet below each side of the stereo picture. Mike [Scott] loved it, except the slightly jazzy chords I had used on the run down at the very end, which he simplified. I used the same classical approach later in the song, mixing two classical-type trumpets behind a later verse."Lorimer also contributes falsetto background vocals to the song, while Thistlethwaite, another brass section member, performs a saxophone solo near the end.
"The Whole of the Moon" was covered by Jennifer Warnes on her 1992 album The Hunter , by Mandy Moore on her 2003 album Coverage , by the band Human Drama on the compilation album New Wave Goes to Hell and by folk singer-songwriter Peter Mulvey on his 1995 release Rapture. It has also appeared on numerous other compilations.
"Spirit", a song praising the resilience of the human spirit, originally appeared on a short, one-and-a-half minute version. A full four-minute version of the song was released on the 2004 remastered disc.
The lyrics of "The Pan Within" are partly derived from meditation techniques ("Close your eyes / Breathe slow / And we'll begin"). It was the first of two Waterboys songs about the Ancient Greek god Pan, which have been played as a medley at Waterboys concerts. Scott describes the song's guitar solo as "[consisting] of a series of phrases or lines/melodies that generally build in an order (which may change), though which includes a lot of improvisation which is different each night. The lines have never been 'tabbed' or written down... The song is in the key of A-minor (the chords under the solo are F – Em – Am – Am repeated)".The second Pan song, "The Return of Pan", appears on the album Dream Harder . "The Pan Within" is the first Waterboys song to feature Wickham's fiddle playing. It was selected as one of DWXB-FM's Hits of 1986. In Southeast Asia, particularly in the Philippines, when the New Wave era started in 1985, the group's biggest hit single is "The Pan Within", aside from "The Whole Of The Moon" and "Don't Bang The Drum".
An alternative version of "Medicine Bow" was released as a single in Germany, with an instrumental version of "Don't Bang the Drum" for the 7-inch. The 12-inch contained another mix of "Medicine Bow" and "Ways of Men". Scott writes that he invented the name, and was unaware of Medicine Bow, Wyoming.The album's re-release contains a "full length" version of the song that contains an instrumental "piano storm – from first sonic droplets of rain to final crashing thunder and lightning" performed by Adrian Johnston.
"Old England" is a criticism of Thatcherism, blaming Margaret Thatcher's economic policies for what Scott perceived to be an increase in desperation amongst the young and poor in the England of that time, and a rise in drug addiction, specifically to heroin. The refrain, "Old England is dying" is a quote from James Joyce, and the lines "You're asking what makes me sigh now / What it is makes me shudder so" are from W.B. Yeats' poem, "Mad as the Mist and Snow". The Clash, one of the bands that had inspired Scott during his punk music phase, released "This Is England", a song with a similar theme, as a single the same year. Scott and The Waterboys would move to Ireland the following year.
"Trumpets", a love song, was the first song written for the album, in the spring of 1984,and the first song from the album to be performed live. It quotes from "I'm Only Sleeping", a recording by The Beatles. Regarding the lack of trumpets in the song, trumpeter Lorimer stated, 'My impressions are that Mike found them noble, bright, pure, these sort of words. So, 'My love feels like trumpets'... I understand it at that level. It's such an ancient instrument, a martial instrument. Amongst swords and spears and shields being clattered about, someone sounds the trumpet and everyone hears that. It's the clarion call, the clarity of it finds its way through."
The title track, the last song on the original release, has a slower tempo than most of the other arrangements. Scott notes that he wrote over twenty verses for the song, some of which wound up included on the "alter ego" of "This Is the Sea", "That Was the River", which was released in 1994 on The Secret Life of the Waterboys.Waterboys chronicler Ian Abrahams wrote that the album and song were about Scott painting, "...a mystical, spiritual route that can be attained simply through letting-go of the mundane and trusting to the sanctity of the inner self." Abrahams further described the song as, "...an instruction to throw away the old and embrace the new, catch the train, see the previous existence as something old and gone. It's as though there is a split personality, the war raging inside the head, the mental anguish and the internal argument. This song gets right back into the thrust of "Don't Bang the Drum" and comes full circle, rejecting the soulless existence painted in the LP's opening moments and treating it as a journey, comparable with the traveling of the river into the sea. It's really the sentiment of somebody making a huge adjustment in their life and that really elucidates the theme of the album and points to a crossroads in Mike Scott's creative thinking."
"This Is the Sea" was first performed in Worcester on 2 December 1984,and a longer version than would eventually appear on the album, was played at a benefit concert for miners in February 1985. Despite these performances the song is seldom performed live as Scott finds it difficult to replace the studio's version's ocean effects in such a setting, also stating that he find the melody "very limiting " going on to say "My abilities with melodies have improved a lot, have developed a lot since those days, and that song doesn't really make it for me." The subject of the lyrics is conflicted about their present ("You've got a war in your head / And it's tearing you up inside"), and nostalgic for a past clarity ("And you know you once held the key"). The speaker instead argues that the past is irrelevant ("But that was the river / This is the sea)".
Those additional tracks on the re-release that are not alternative versions of songs originally appearing on the album were recorded in the same recording sessions.
"This Is the Sea" was played in the end credits to the documentary Riding Giants .
|Encyclopedia of Popular Music|
In a contemporary review, Rolling Stone 's Parke Puterbaugh wrote, "Mike Scott is more of a poet than a songwriter, yet within his limitations he weaves trances so spellbinding that he has few peers among his musical contemporaries.". The Rough Guide to Rock later called This Is the Sea an "unpolished nugget" which showcased Scott's vocals "beginning to mature into something very tasty indeed."
All songs written by Mike Scott except where noted.
|Australia (Kent Music Report)||23|
|Dutch Albums Chart||4|
|New Zealand Albums Chart||6|
|UK Albums Chart||37|
Karl Edmond De Vere Wallinger is a Welsh musician, songwriter and record producer. He is best known for leading the band World Party and for his mid-1980s stint in The Waterboys. He also wrote and originally released the song "She's the One", which was later covered by Robbie Williams and became a hit single.
The Waterboys are a British-Irish folk rock band formed in Edinburgh in 1983 by Scottish musician Mike Scott. The band's membership, past and present, has been composed mainly of musicians from Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England. Mike Scott has remained as the only constant member throughout the band's career. They have explored a number of different styles, but their music is mainly a mix of folk music with rock and roll. They dissolved in 1993 when Scott departed to pursue a solo career. The group reformed in 2000, and continue to release albums and to tour worldwide. Scott emphasises a continuity between The Waterboys and his solo work, saying that "To me there's no difference between Mike Scott and the Waterboys; they both mean the same thing. They mean myself and whoever are my current travelling musical companions."
The Best of The Waterboys 81–90 is a compilation album by The Waterboys, released 29 April 1991.
This eponymously named debut album from The Waterboys was recorded in several studio sessions between December 1981 and November 1982. Allmusic describes the sound of the album as "part Van Morrison, part U2".
A Pagan Place was an album released in June 1984 by The Waterboys. It was the first Waterboys record with Karl Wallinger as part of the band and also includes Roddy Lorimer's first trumpet solo for the band on the track "A Pagan Place".
Fisherman's Blues is a 1988 album by The Waterboys. The album marked a change in the band's sound, with them abandoning their earlier grandiose rock sound for a mixture of traditional Irish music, traditional Scottish music, country music, and rock and roll. Critics were divided on its release with some disappointed at the change of direction and others ranking it among The Waterboys' best work. The album was the Waterboys' best selling album, reaching a number 13 placing on the U.K. charts on release, and 76 on the Billboard 200.
Michael Scott is a Scottish singer, songwriter and musician. He is the founding member, lead singer, guitarist and songwriter of rock band The Waterboys. He has also produced two solo albums, Bring 'em All In and Still Burning. Scott is a vocalist, guitarist and pianist, and has played a large range of other instruments, including the bouzouki, drums, and Hammond organ on his albums. Scott is also a published writer, having released his autobiography, Adventures of a Waterboy, in 2012.
Room to Roam is an album by The Waterboys; it continued the folk rock sound of 1988's Fisherman's Blues, but was less of a commercial success, reaching #180 on the Billboard Top 200 after its release in September 1990. Critical response continues to be mixed. Allmusic describes it both as "not quite as [musically] successful" as Fisherman's Blues, but also as a "Celtic rock classic". The front and back covers were designed by Simon Fowler based upon photography by Stefano Giovannini and Sean Jackson.
The Live Adventures of the Waterboys is a concert recording, released by The Waterboys in 1998. Mike Scott refers to this album as an "unofficial release" or bootleg recording, but praises the recording period as a "classic" period for the Waterboys. Most of the live songs on The Live Adventures... indeed already appeared on the bootlegs A Golden Day (1991) and Born To Be Together (1992). It is the only Waterboys album on which member Guy Chambers appears.
Steve Wickham is an Irish musician. Originally from Marino, Dublin, but calling Sligo home, Wickham was a founding member of In Tua Nua and played violin on the classic U2 song "Sunday Bloody Sunday", as well as recordings by Elvis Costello, the Hothouse Flowers, Sinéad O'Connor, and World Party. He is a long-standing member of The Waterboys. Wickham plays both rock and roll and traditional Irish music, and has developed a rock music technique for violin he calls the "fuzz fiddle".
"A Girl Called Johnny" is a song from Scottish-Irish folk rock band The Waterboys, released as the lead single from their debut studio album The Waterboys. The song was written by Mike Scott and produced by Rupert Hine. It reached No. 80 in the UK Singles Chart and remained in the Top 100 for three weeks.
"Fisherman's Blues" is a song from Scottish-Irish folk rock band The Waterboys, released as the lead single from their fourth studio album of the same name. It was written by Mike Scott and Steve Wickham, and produced by Scott. The song reached No. 3 on the US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart, No. 13 in Ireland and No. 32 in the UK. A re-issue of the single in 1991 saw the song return to the Top 20 in Ireland, reaching No. 17.
"And a Bang on the Ear" is a song from Scottish-Irish folk rock band The Waterboys, released as the second single from their fourth studio album Fisherman's Blues. It was written by Mike Scott, and produced by John Dunford and Scott. The song reached No. 1 in the Republic of Ireland and No. 51 in the United Kingdom. The single's B-side, "The Raggle Taggle Gypsy", was recorded live at Barrowlands Ballroom in Glasgow.
"The Return of Pan" is a song from Scottish-Irish folk rock band The Waterboys, released as the lead single from their sixth studio album Dream Harder. It was written by Mike Scott, and produced by Scott and Bill Price. The song reached No. 24 in the UK and No. 10 on the US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. A music video, directed by Jeff Stein, was filmed to promote the single.
Book of Lightning is the ninth studio album by The Waterboys, released on 2 April 2007 through W14/Universal Records. The album contains ten tracks, produced by Mike Scott and Philip Tennant, with musical contributions from Steve Wickham (fiddle), Richard Naiff (keyboards), Brady Blade (drums), Mark Smith (bass), Leo Abrahams, Jeremy Stacey (drums) plus long-time Waterboys alumni Roddy Lorimer (trumpet), Chris Bruce and Thighpaulsandra (keyboards). Book of Lightning was recorded in London with the exceptions of one song recorded in Vancouver with members of Canadian art-pop band Great Aunt Ida, and another in Scott's home studio.
"The Whole of the Moon" is a song by the Waterboys which was released as a single from their album This Is the Sea in 1985. It is a classic of the band's repertoire and has been consistently played at live shows ever since its release. Written and produced by Mike Scott, the subject of the song has inspired some speculation.
"World Party" is a song by the Scottish-Irish folk rock band The Waterboys, released in 1988 as a track on their fourth studio album Fisherman's Blues. It was written by Mike Scott, Trevor Hutchinson and Karl Wallinger, and produced by Scott. In the United States, the song reached No. 19 on Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart and remained on the chart for six weeks. It also peaked at No. 48 on Billboard's Album Rock Tracks chart.
In a Special Place – The Piano Demos for This Is the Sea is a compilation album by British-Irish folk rock band The Waterboys. It was released in 2011 by Chrysalis and Capitol (US). The album reached No. 196 in the UK Top 200 Albums Chart.
"Don't Bang the Drum" is a song from Scottish-Irish folk rock band The Waterboys, released as the opening track on their third studio album This Is the Sea. It was written by Mike Scott and Karl Wallinger, and produced by Scott. The song was released as a single in Germany and was also issued as a 12" promotional vinyl in the United States.
"Rare, Precious and Gone" is a song by Scottish singer-songwriter Mike Scott, released as the second single from his second solo album Still Burning. It was written by Mike Scott, and produced by Scott and Niko Bolas. "Rare, Precious and Gone" reached No. 74 on the UK Singles Chart in February 1998.
This Is the Sea Waterboys.