A PAGAN PLACE
Half of "A Pagan Place" comes from the series of recordings I made in November 1982 at Redshop Studios in North London. Other tracks from these recordings have also appeared on "The Waterboys" and belatedly on "The Secret Life Of The Waterboys" and put all together could constitute an album by themselves. The songs included "All The Things She Gave Me", "Red Army Blues", "Some Of My Best Friends Are Trains", "The Thrill Is Gone", "I Will Not Follow" and many others. The musicians were sax/mandolin player Anthony Thistlethwaite, drummer Kevin Wilkinson, violinist Tim Blanthorn and a backing singer, Ingrid Schroeder, whose voice I'd fallen in love with when I heard her on a demo in the Ensign Records office. I played all guitars and keyboards myself and shared the bass playing with Nick Linden of the band Terraplane. There was no Waterboys band at this time, and in the eyes of Ensign, I was still Mike Scott, solo artist.
When these recordings were made Ensign already had a first album in the can which was finally released as "The Waterboys" in July 1983. By then I had decided on the vision of an ever-changing band and had begun to set about finding other Waterboys - whoever and wherever they were. In those days I was living on Aldridge Road Villas in Notting Hill. I would write there or on visits back to Ayr in Scotland. My "dreaming", by which I mean the musical and lyrical landscape in my head, was still magically tangled up with the physical and atmospheric landscape of Ayr, its parks, sights, streets and long seashore. In Summer '83 I spent several weeks at the house there, hired a grand piano from Reddick's music shop, and wrote and arranged new songs including "Love That Kills" and "A Pagan Place".
The second half of this album comes mostly from subsequent sessions in September '83. These Rockfield recordings - made at the studio of the same name in the Welsh/English borders - took the music to a whole new level. I had a strong musical understanding by now with Anthony Thistlethwaite and Kevin Wilkinson, and they were important to the development of the "Big Music" Waterboys sound. Kevin's kingly drumming was the backdrop on which I could paint the musical soundscapes with my guitars and pianos. And Anthony's role expanded to encompass sax solos, brass section work, bass and mandolin.
By this time I'd also met two other musicians who would play a part in the evolution of The Waterboys. Karl Wallinger was a keyboard player who answered my NME ad for a guitarist, and Roddy Lorimer was a friend of Anthony's who played trumpet - both as a section player and as a soloist. Karl turned up in time to play piano on the first public Waterboys appearance - 2 songs on the TV show The Old Grey Whistle Test. Then he came to Rockfield and overdubbed the keyboard parts I couldn't cover myself and added some beautiful touches of his own. Roddy Lorimer came too, blew in the brass section with Anthony and played the first of his great Waterboys trumpet solos (on "A Pagan Place" itself).
When The Waterboys began touring in February 1984, Anthony, Kevin, Karl and Roddy were all in the live band. I'd found Waterboys. In between shows, the last few songs for "A Pagan Place" were recorded, and for the album's release in July 1984, eight songs were selected from a possible fifteen - the result of deliberations between myself and Ensign. For this re-issue I'm delighted to include several tracks that weren't selected then, and to restore the unedited versions of "All The Things She Gave Me" and "The Thrill Is Gone". These two songs were cut at Ensign's insistence in order to keep the lengths of the album sides down to 21 or 22 minutes (for sound quality reasons). But the full length versions have always been the "real" ones to me, and now, at last, they can be released.
And what of the players ? Anthony Thistlethwaite played with The Waterboys till 1991. He and I were still playing together in the late 90's and he appears on two tracks of 2000's "A Rock In The Weary Land". He lives in the West of Ireland. Kevin Wilkinson contributed to the first four Waterboys albums and "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 both musically and personally. Karl Wallinger left The Waterboys in 1985 after "This Is The Sea" to form his own band World Party. Roddy Lorimer contributed to almost every Waterboys album and is as busy as ever, working with his brass section, The Kick Horns. Ingrid Schroeder reappeared with an album called "Bee Charmer" in the mid 1990's. Tim Blanthorn has vanished from my radar, but when I listen to his playing on "The Thrill Is Gone" and "Down Through The Dark Streets" I hear a beauty comparable in its intensity to the later Waterboys sound of the great Steve Wickham.
Mike Scott, London, January 2002