Top positive review
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A wonderful rock memoir and compelling read
on 16 August 2012
This book was a gift from an Irish friend who sent me the hardcover version with the orange-y photo. Trusting that there is no material difference between this Jawbone paperback version and the one I read (other than the cover), I have written my review for anyone who is considering buying this book.
When I read that Mike Scott was going to publish his autobiography, I was intrigued. As well as being one of my favourite musicians, his refusal to play the media game has made him a figure of mystery and unexplained contradictions. Also, rock star memoirs tend to be a very mixed bunch, but it's not often that we get the straight goods from the pen of the concerned individual and, as in this case, from someone who seems born to write.
This book is a fascinating read. The style is charming: introspective, intense, lyrical, humorous, self-deprecating but with a kind of proud integrity. The structure is intriguing: each chapter begins with a flash-back in the present tense. Imagine flipping through a photo album, looking at a snapshot (or perhaps a short video-clip) of a particular occasion and then reading about the circumstances surrounding it. This is not a continuous narrative and each episode is deliberately selected but I felt Mike did not shy away from prickly subjects, such as the logistics of taking a band on the road, the difficult decisions he had to make involving contracts, other band members, managers, booking agents, musical choices. It's amazing to see how much influence some of these support players have on the success of a musical release.
I really enjoyed the glimpse we are given into the passion which drives the music, often to the obliteration of everything else. It was fascinating to read the story behind some of the songs: the lengthy evolution of "The Whole of the Moon" from a look at the sky for inspiration and a couple of lines on the back of an envelope to a charismatic, unforgettable musical creation; or the tensions building to boiling-point and erupting in the first draft of "Fisherman's Blues"; or how personal turmoil produced the most exquisite compositions about love and its dramatic demise. The Spiddal sessions and the months in Galway read like a true otherworldly adventure then the book becomes a page-turner. An unexpected bonus: as I progressed through the book, I listened again to the songs mentioned and found that the knowledge gleaned from the stories added so much to my enjoyment of the music and helped me appreciate its deeper layers.
During the promotional drive, Scott gave numerous readings and interviews, and emphasised that this book was all about the musical journey that started with him at a very early age and continues to shape his destiny to this day. I was, therefore, surprised by the personal nature of the narrative and the honesty with which Mike bares his soul in recounting salient points in his life, even when this candour doesn't flatter his image. I think he actually relished the chance to shed some light on his personal spiritual journey and to dispel the misconceptions that inevitably arose. However, there are limits to the disclosure. Mike Scott is clearly a private person and respectful of the people in his life, so it's not surprising that there is none of the usual gossip about kiss-and-tell groupie romps. His two wives, naturally, make an appearance but are not discussed in tabloid-style detail. Tucked in the middle are a few (too few!) black-and-white photos and at the end, a quirky appendix.
For me the disappointing aspect is that the book ends around 2000, leaving a substantial portion of his story untold. While this could point to a possible sequel, Scott himself has been non-committal, saying only that these missing years are still too raw to become book material. Perhaps he wants to wait and see if there is something sensational to write about after he moves back to New York later this year. After all, he has said in interviews that the current Waterboys are hungry for recognition, so perhaps with a fire still burning in his belly and his creativity apparently in full flood, his mature self will manage that most elusive of musical miracles, the come-back with new material. Already his "Appointment with Mr Yeats" has been remarkably well received by critics and public alike. The Waterboys in their new incarnation could well be the breath of fresh air that the currently dismal music scene so badly needs.
Meanwhile it will be interesting to see what kind of havoc this fun-loving, but formidably-focussed master of his trade can wreak with the wind back in his sails. Because one thing is clear: for Scott the music always came first and his perception of what his Muse required to manifest herself has shaped his life and philosophy. If you enjoy a fascinating real-life story, exquisite prose, original turns of phrase and vivid pictorial descriptions, as well as an insight into the mind of one of the most gifted and unorthodox musicians of our times, this book will not disappoint.