The Waterboys, led by the group’s sole constant member Mike Scott, formed in London in 1981. Scott first became involved in music as the creator of the fanzine Jungleland, later playing in a series of local punk outfits. He then started the Waterboys, which took their name from a line in the Lou Reed song ‘The Kids’, reflecting Scott’s recurring lyrical fascination with sea imagery.
Placing a newspaper advertisement that called for like-minded artists, Scott met multi-instrumentalist Anthony Thistlethwaite and drummer Kevin Wilkinson. The Waterboys then issued their self-titled debut in 1983; an esoteric set of avant-rock tracks, the LP drew comparisons with Tim Buckley’s more ambitious meanderings and introduced Scott as a promising singer/songwriter.
Keyboardist Karl Wallinger and trumpeter Roddy Lorimer joined for the 1984 follow-up,A Pagan Place, which expanded the group’s rich, dramatic sound while further exploring Scott’s interest in spirituality. With 1985’s This Is the Sea, the Waterboys reached their peak; a majestic, ambitious record, earning the group a significant hit with ‘The Whole of the Moon’.
Relocating to Ireland for an extended sabbatical at the behest of new fiddler, Steve Wickham, Scott and Thistlethwaite infused their music with traditional Irish folk influences, resulting in an earthier Waterboys’ sound. Late 1988 saw the release of the acclaimed album Fisherman’s Blues, which seemingly demonstrated Scott’s true musical calling. This transitional record established the Waterboys as a major league act and remains their biggest seller.