Monday, September 17, 2007

Praise for Strange Boat

I received an e-mail through Myspace the other day that I was particularly chuffed with, concerning Strange Boat and sent by someone who had only recently discovered the Waterboys through hearing Fisherman’s Blues on a car radio. That inspired him to buy the album and subsequently the latest Waterboys album, Book of Lightning, through Amazon, which in turn resulted in a purchase of Strange Boat.

“I do love the crazy tales of New York Dolls type excesses,” wrote my correspondent. “But in the absence of this type of behaviour in the Waterboys, you have produced a no less intriguing view of the bands/Mike Scott's development and motivating psychology in an extremely intelligent and balanced way.” Which was a nicely glowing endorsement, but not really the point of mentioning this very kind message.

“I finished the book in a day,” he added. “Being a Waterboys novice I was not able to fully appreciate your commentary of some of the albums with which I am not familiar but found your views on those I knew (Fisherman's Blues and Book of Lightning) spot on. I now intend to collect all their albums and when so done will read your book again.” And this is what really made me warm and fuzzy, to be honest. It’s the thought that the book has helped along a new fan’s enthusiasm for Mike Scott’s music and has played a small part in encouraging someone to seek out the music I was writing about. That’s something that tells me I’ve achieved something with this book.

I had a similar experience recently on the Yahoo Waterpeople discussion group. A new poster to that list (not aware that I was a member and would see the comments first hand) commented that, having been a fan in the 80s, “Strange Boat has rekindled my interest in The Waterboys.”

“The book is decent in a genre that often disappoints, I can't say it is earth shattering but it has made me want to plug the gaps in my Waterboys/Mike Scott collection.” I think that’s good enough for me right now! I don’t expect to be considered in the upper echelons of rock music journalism (yet!), I haven’t written a book as definitive as Revolution in the Head or England’s Dreaming. But if I’ve pulled together a text that has reminded its readers what a singular talent Mike Scott is, or what a wonderfully diverse band the Waterboys are, then I’m satisfied that my work on this one was reasonably well done. I know people like the stories of rock excesses, the sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll thing but I think there’s also room in the genre of rock biography for the careful and thoughtful appraisal of a body of work. And in the end, we might like the lurid and the over-the-top, but we also want a book that says, “Hey, this person whose work you’ve invested so much of your own time and emotions into, y’know, is a creature of flesh and bone and human failings. But still your faith and your commitment wasn’t misplaced. The work, and the person, was really worth it.

I don’t know what Mike Scott made of Strange Boat. My impression is that of a perfectionist and of someone for whom a third-party assessment of his work couldn’t ever really be correct however well intentioned. But to have achieved a little in opening some of the readers up to his wider body of work, I’m comfortable with the end result.

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