Folk-rock star Mike Scott of Waterboys fame says he deeply regrets meeting his greatest musical inspiration, David Bowie.
Speaking ahead of his Saturday night performance on Acoustic Stage, Scott told Sky News that when he came face to face with his hero he said: ‘Hello Dave’, adding: ‘It was a brazen of me.”
He continued: “I remember him recommending me to listen to The Pixies, who were his favorite band at the time.
“I felt like I knew him, you know, I felt so familiar with him.
“He was cool. I would have liked to meet him after one of my concerts when he came to see us play.
“He came to see us play in New York at a theater right after 9/11. And someone said to me right before the show started, ‘David Bowie is sitting at the table right on the balcony over there.’ .. The first songs I suddenly thought of many things.”
Inspired by Bowie, as well as Bob Dylan and the Beatles, Scott said artists impressed him with their ability to transform:
He said: “[Bowie] changed from Ziggy Stardust [Bowie’s fifth studio album in 1972] who is rock and roll, to young americans [Bowie’s ninth studio album in 1975]which was soul music and changed again when it did the Berlin records [a trilogy of albums released between 1977 and 1979].
“I loved that he was going to change so drastically…and Dylan in the 60s and the Beatles, of course, because the Beatles revolution was spectacular.”
It’s an ability the Waterboys have developed as well, as they’ve performed over the years. It’s the 12th year at Worthy Farm for Scott’s Scottish-Irish rock and soul band, and the 15th performance (one year he said they performed three shows, another two).
However, Scott admitted he only met festival founder Michael Eavis “about half an hour ago”, adding: “But what a lovely man. And I respect him so much for keeping Glastonbury intact, don’t make it a corporate thing, don’t lose the soul of the event.”
Scott said the festival – which attracts around 200,000 people each year – has achieved what seemed impossible.
“They have kept the original spirit of the festival. I remember in 1984, my first visit, it was very small, alternative, anarchic and magical”, he says.
“He still has that, even though he’s huge, they found a way to let him grow while still keeping the original spirit intact. It’s an amazing thing.”
Two years in particular stand out in his mind: “I remember our concert in 1986. It was a powerful moment for us. first day, Friday, and it was truly an incendiary spectacle….
“But the best time I had at the festival was my first festival in 1984, when I stayed up all night and hung around, and did whatever the audience does.”
An added bonus this year – finding one of the festival’s legendary secret locations.
“We were walking around around 3am and found a strange farm full of people with an open bar and music…I looked for it and never found it.
“It was like Brigadoon, the magical village that only appears once every hundred years. I never found it. I can’t even find it on the map.”
In 2007 Scott experienced a rainy Glastonbury, describing the ‘ocean of gloop’ they faced.
He continued: “It was a mud bath. Everyone had to buy Wellington boots on the way. We were in London just before, and I remember there were no Wellington boots to be had in London because everyone involved (wanted them) for Glastonbury. Isn’t it funny? One way or another, we have them.
He said it was the year Shirley Bassey, who played the Legend slot machine, wore diamond-encrusted Wellington boots to avoid falling.
Despite being such a fan of Glastonbury’s back-to-basics ethos, Scott doesn’t camp on his visits, preferring instead to stay in a hotel in Bristol.
“Camping is not me. No,” he admitted, before conceding: “I could have glamped, because they have these nice tents with real beds. And I could do that. .
“I like sparkling water, fruit honey. And I always ask for a pint of whole milk. There’s a reason for that: it’s so I can put some in my muesli tomorrow morning at my hotel. “
As the home of Glastonbury, Worthy Farm, Pilton Somerset is a dairy farm, which should be a simple request to fulfill.
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Co-written by bandleader Scott and multi-instrumentalist brother Paul, the track is a love letter to Glastonbury, documenting the band’s very first performance in 1984 and every visit since in a series of funny and revealing verses that name Radiohead, Billy Bragg, Courtney Barnett and Glastonbury Tor.
Scott said his young daughter, who aspires to perform, is “proud” of him and hopes to bring her to the festival next year.
But far from Glastonbury, how did the Waterboys evolve, and above all survive, in the capricious world of commercial music?
Scott chose The Waterboys as his band name from a line in Lou Reed’s song The Kids on the album Berlin.
He explained: “I loved the word Waterboys. I didn’t know what it meant. I know now, of course, it’s the guy who brings the water to the chain gang or the sportsmen. It’s an everyday word in America, but not here in the UK.”
As for their hit song The Whole Of The Moon, he said rumors about author CS Lewis or the late artist Prince aren’t entirely accurate.
He said: “It was really neither. It’s kind of a character that suddenly appears like a shooting star, like a Jimi Hendrix character, and burns up so fast. Or maybe a Syd Barrett, the singer of Pink Floyd, who we have seen and burned too much.”
The song reached number 26 in the charts in 1985 and number 3 in 1991 – a second chance after DJs played it in the Balearic Islands.
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He said the song’s second hit made him happy, as well as royalties when his newfound success led to increased radio airplay.
Another of the group’s hits – 1988’s Fisherman’s Blues – marked a new direction in the Waterboys’ sound as it saw them move from their grandiose “big music” material to a more scaled-down Celtic folk sound.
He said it was his interest in early country music, gospel music and acoustic music that caused him to turn away from the so-called “great music” which he says is the product of “many of overdubs in the studio” and “very difficult to reproduce in concert”.
It was then that he decided to “get naked”, developing a more “rock and roll” sound for the band. He said they have since developed a “more funky” sound.
The Waterboys will be appearing at various festivals across the UK over the summer, and their new album All Souls Hill is out now.