I began recording this music at Christmas 1981. I was living in Wembley and was still a member of a mostly Scottish band called Funhouse. Thinking of striking out on my own, I took a bunch of songs and my newly purchased Danelectro "Bellzouki" twelve string guitar to a little 8-track studio in Islington, North London called Redshop. And "red shop" is exactly what it was - a red painted storefront, an empty shop within and some stairs at the rear leading to a little funky bright-lit basement studio. I asked the engineer - a gentle wizard called Jim Preen - if he had a drum machine. No, but he did have some pre-recorded drum loops. I chose a couple of these and started recording on top of them, playing everything myself. In a few hours we'd recorded "December", "The Three Day Man" and "Bury My Heart" and - though I didn't quite realise it then - I'd set the direction of what would become The Waterboys for the next four years.
I left Funhouse shortly afterwards. Around this time I was friends with an English bohemian musician called Nikki Sudden who came to my flat one day and played me his new record. On one track was a fantastic roaring sax solo. I had to find the guy who played it and finally tracked him down. His name was Anthony Thistlethwaite and he was staying in the house of a girl known as Lizard, in the World's End part of King's Road. Anthony and I hit it off straight away and he came and did a few shows with me in a short-lived new group I started, The Red And The Black. He played great sax on a new song, "A Girl Called Johnny" and knew a terrific drummer called Kevin Wilkinson, who was soon in The Red And The Black too.
In Spring 1982 my record company Ensign packed me off to work for a week with the producer Rupert Hine in his studio in the English countryside. Rupert had a tough job because I already knew I was my own best producer. But he did some great work anyway, recording "A Girl Called Johnny" and mixing some of my Redshop tracks. His engineer - another gentle wizard called Steven W. Tayler - went on to mix much of the first album and "A Pagan Place".
Meanwhile I kept working on my own in London, recording "Savage Earth Heart", "Gala", "The Girl In The Swing" and others. By this time I was living on Aldridge Road Villas, near the Portobello Road. I had a cowboy hat and a manager who looked like Rod Stewart. Towards the end of '82 I expanded the recording sessions - still at Redshop - to include Kevin's drums and Anthony's sax and mandolin. Violin was added to the sound too, courtesy of Tim Blanthorn who'd played with a Liverpool band I'd once produced called The Last Chant. These November '82 sessions were a watershed in my writing and music-making. I learned how to work with real drums, to arrange and layer the sound with acoustic and electric guitars, pianos and lead instruments. Over a dozen songs got recorded including "I Will Not Follow", "Red Army Blues", "All The Things She Gave Me" and "The Thrill Is Gone".
When Ensign wanted to put out the first album in 1983, they still expected me to be a solo artist. I had my own ideas. I wanted a band and now I wanted it to be called The Waterboys. The only Waterboy I'd found for sure was Anthony (Kevin Wilkinson was committed to another group), but I knew I'd find the others somewhere. We put out the record in the Summer of that year. Eight songs were chosen from the dozens that had been recorded, the selection a product of deliberations between Ensign and myself. Some songs were held over for the second album ("A Pagan Place"), but many remained unreleased or only surfaced briefly as 'b' sides. Some came out in 1994 on "The Secret Life Of The Waterboys". I'm glad to finally include several more as extras with this remastered version of the album, and also the full length version of "Gala", the way it was originally intended to be.
As for my friends - Anthony would be a full time Waterboy for seven years from 1984 to 1991. We were still playing together in the late 90's and he contributed to the 2000 album "A Rock In The Weary Land". He lives in the West of Ireland. Kevin Wilkinson became the Waterboys drummer after all and contributes to the first four Waterboys albums as well as "A Rock In The Weary Land". He sadly took his own life in 1999. I'm glad I got a chance to work with him again before he died. I miss him musically and personally. Lizard, also known as Max Edie, sang on "The Whole Of The Moon" and was later a member of World Party. When last heard of she was still at World's End. Nikki Sudden is still living the life of a travelling musician.
Mike Scott, London, January 2002