I didn’t realise that I had quite so many Waterboys albums. There’s a new one about to be released and I already own fourteen of their albums plus the six album box set of “Fisherman’s Blues”. I can’t remember why I decided to read Mike Scott’s autobiography “Adventures Of A Waterboy” but it’s really brilliant. I think it’s the best rock autobiography that I’ve read. It’s expansive, over the top and immensely entertaining – just like the music. I loved this description of the time they played The Pictish Festival in Forfar in 1987. “We closed with ‘A Pagan Place’ and during its extended outro, with Roddy Lorimer’s trumpet soaring and Vinnie’s pipes wailing, several members of other bands on stage with us, and a freight-train mother groove roaring around our heads, a critical mass of musical wildness was achieved. With a sudden “Pop!” I felt us come into alignment with a down-flow of power, some bright shard of the Celtic soul, wild and ecstatic, that flowed through us and into the audience like a rite”. I’m not entirely clear what he’s on about but the impression is of magic being created on stage and I’m excited just to read it.
In the first Chapter he writes that when he was very young, he assumed that everybody saw the same images as he did, when listening to music. It was a shock to find out that they didn’t. At the end of the book, he asks about twenty different people what images they see when they hear the instrumental bit at the end of “Strawberry Fields Forever”. The answers are fascinating (and, of course, different).
Rob loves The Waterboys too. I’m pretty sure he’s sung a version of “The Whole Of The Moon” but with my computer stubbornly refusing to switch on, I’m unable to confirm that. I know he sent me a link to the final track on “Where The Action Is”, their 2019 album, called “Piper At The Gates Of Dawn” saying how much it meant to him. I hadn’t really listened to the song before he pointed it out to me and it is incredible.
In October last year, Rob and I met at The Royal Academy of Arts to look round the Anthony Gormley exhibition. We had a routine going where two or three times a year we would meet in London, have an hour in a museum/gallery and then go on a pub crawl round London, taking in as many Beatles landmarks as we could and finishing with a curry. Sigh.
The Anthony Gormley exhibition was really good. One whole room was taken up with huge coils of wire formed in random circular shapes. I can’t explain it – here’s a photo.
When I saw this, I thought “Hey! That’s what the inside of my brain looks like”. Which immediately made me think of “Angel-Land” by Jim White because when I first heard it, I thought “Hey! That’s what the inside of my brain sounds like.” When I write my autobiography, I’m going to ask everyone I know what images they see when they hear this song.
On 15th May 2001, Martin and I went to see Jim White at The Concorde in Brighton. It was great that Martin drove 100 miles to come with me to the concert. A few months earlier, on 29th January 2001, he also drove down to see The Waterboys at the same venue where the final encore was “The Whole Of The Moon”.
On 16th June 2001, Roo and I went to the Fleadh in Finsbury Park. I went to The Mojo Stage to watch Billy Bragg and as his set finished I watched him from a distance whilst at the same time I could turn my head to see Neil Young’s opening number on The Fleadh Stage. I saw Billy Bragg and Neil Young at the same time! That’s multi-tasking! Earlier in the day I had watched a fantastic set on The Fleadh Stage by The Waterboys after also watching Starsailor. Roo chose not to watch Starsailor, preferring to watch Victoria Williams and Mar Olson on The Mojo Stage. Victoria Williams sings vocals on “Angel Land” by Jim White.
Everything connects in the end.
Victoria Williams has a unique voice. It is high pitched and I couldn’t describe it as always staying on the note. I guess some people might consider it an annoying voice but I think it’s great. In 2001, she was married to Mark Olson who had left The Jayhawks in 1995, a band he had formed with Gary Louris in 1985. She was previously married to Peter Case. In 1992 Victoria Williams was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and a series of musicians, including The Waterboys, collaborated to make a benefit album for her called “Sweet Relief”, named after one of her songs.
Jim White was born in 1957 and his real name is Michael Pratt which is interesting to me because I taught a boy called Michael Pratt at Netteswell. He was a great lad, highly intelligent, with a great sense of humour. He played cricket with us at Tye Green and when he came on to bowl, the opposition scorer would ask for the name of the bowler to which he would simply shout, at top volume, “PRATT!”
Jim White has made seven solo albums and a larger number of collaborations including one album with The Packway Handle Band which I’ve got but can’t ever remember playing. He is an oddball and makes interesting albums. Jason Ankeny on Allmusic describes this album as a “cinematic collection of Appalachia-inspired country-folk rendered with a gothic sensibility and junkyard atmospherics” and I certainly couldn’t put it any better myself. According to Wikipedia, in his life, Jim White has been a comedian, a fashion model, a boxer, a preacher, a professional surfer, and a New York cab driver. He was born in Pensacola, Florida which is where Pete and I stayed for one night on our drive from Miami to San Francisco a few years ago. It appeared deserted until we found one bar where the music was loud, the beer was flowing and the locals loved to meet us.
The album was the inspiration for a film that Jim White made which was shown on the BBC in 2004. The film is described here. “First transmitted in 2004, this is a stunningly-photographed, thought-provoking road trip into the heart of the poor white American South. Singer Jim White takes his 1970 Chevy Impala through a gritty terrain of churches, prisons, truckstops, biker bars and coalmines. Along the way are roadside encounters with present-day musical mavericks the Handsome Family, David Johansen, David Eugene Edwards of 16 Horsepower and old-time banjo player Lee Sexton, and grisly stories from the cult Southern novelist Harry Crews.” Here’s a link to the film.
I don’t think I’ve ever watched this and so this has sorted out my evening’s entertainment for me. I haven’t yet described what Angel-Land sounds like. It sounds like that photo of Anthony Gormley’s work.
One thought on “Wrong Eyed Jesus! by Jim White”
Weirdly, Angel-Land reminds me of The Incredible String Band, especially bits of The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter. It’s that off-kilter gospel sound I think. I agree, it sounds like that Anthony Gormley sculpture as well! You’re right, I love The Waterboys. I’ve never played The Whole of the Moon in public, but Paul showed me the chords and they’re brilliant to play, even if they don’t quite sound like “bright shard of the Celtic soul”, the way they do when Mike Scott plays them!
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