The Waterboys can visit any village, town or city in the world - at least in the English speaking part of it - and be assured of filling a small to medium-sized venue. But a stadium? U2 can do that hundreds of times over on any given tour. Not The Waterboys though.
Mike Scott stared fame in the face after the release of This is the Sea. He didn't exactly run away, but he refused to compromise anything. The Waterboys could very easily have been much bigger than they were, but Mike wouldn't lip-sync on Top of the Pops, nor anything else of that ilk. He couldn't fake the Big Music, not even to play the fame game.
Nor would he merely attempt to rewrite different versions of This is the Sea, until the record buying public got wise and bored, then drifted away. What might have been manna for the profit margins was poison for the muse.
Instead, Mike Scott (and most of The Waterboys) relocated to Dublin. They had much fun in the taverns of Temple Bar and fell in love with Irish folk music. Mike ended up moving to a quiet country village in the vicinity of Galway. It wasn't exactly conducive to wining and dining the movers and shakers, that might otherwise have ensured their mega-selling musical domination on a global stage.
While fans and critics alike expected more in the vein of This is the Sea, for The Waterboys' follow up album, instead we got Fisherman's Blues. Gone were the rock riffs, now it was all traditional Irish (and Scottish) music of the kind Mike Scott was jamming with in the bars of Galway.
Practically as one, confused music critics turned away in disappointed revulsion, bemoaning the waste of a talent that had brought us 'The Whole of the Moon'. Where was the Big Music? They asked, assuming that had something to do with intricately built up layers of violins, pianos, rhythm guitars interwoven in their streams, drums, dreams, trumpets, towers and tenements of expansive studio sound. Or whatever other hippy PR nonsense Mike Scott came out with, when he really meant that he had a multi-track recorder and knew how to use it. Was he ever going to go back to that Big Music thing?
But fans of the Waterboys, and those who had truly entered into the Shamanic journey of This is the Sea, smiled with misting eyes. We were hearing it.
The Big Music never required a whole orchestra playing it in order to be epic. By its very nature, it fills the skies, hearts and oceans, ringing the Earth, bouncing from stars, moon and sun. The God Pan carries only a tiny set of pan-pipes. Most of us play it silently, without any instruments at all.
Mike Scott had put his money where his mouth was and followed his muse.
The Waterboys switched from punk to rock, to Irish folk, to a raggle-taggle 'gypsy' sound, through many, many more incarnations along the way. Shedding fans at every turn, but gaining others, some of whom continued on the quest, loving the wild twists and turns, embracing the chaos. But most of all, delighting in the fact that whatever the genre, Mike Scott remained a consummate poet, and an adventurous, experimental, inherently talented musician.
During an interview to mark 25 years of This is the Sea, Mike was asked if he still heard the Big Music. He seemed so surprised to be asked that. It's ALL he's been doing for the last thirty years, what other options were there, once he'd beheld the sea?