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June 2011

Lyric For The Day 5.6.11 from Questions by Mike Scott

Still Burning 

“Questions upon question upon questions
crowding round the side of my bed
Here are just a few of the best ones
adrift in my head
Who's driving this airplane ?
Did I live hard enough ?
Is it gonna rain
and how well have I loved ?
How well have I loved ?”

 From Questions by Mike Scott

Here’s a lyric from Waterboy Mike Scott when he was recording under his own name. From his Still Burning record this is a song of spiritual search and question here is perhaps the two ultimate questions: - Did I live hard enough and how well have I loved? Indeed!

The Gospel According To... The Waterboys - an Introduction

Waterboys Gospel 
(tomorrow night in Fitzroy we are doing The Gospel According To... The Waterboys. This is the script of my introduction to the evening)

So... as we always ask, "Why are we doing The Waterboys in Church? The Waterboys exploded onto the early eighties music scene alongside bands like Simple Minds, Big Country, The Alarm and U2. It was called Big Music after one of their songs and U2 were very big fans of The Waterboys. From the outset there would be something spiritual about all things Waterboys without a doubt influenced by their main man Mike Scott’s mother, an English teacher, reading him CS Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles when he was a child. Tonight the Electric Radiator Big Music Band will start a song with “Hello Shadowlands, the term is over,” a nod to Lewis. Their biggest hit The Whole Of The Moon has been at times also dedicated to Dundela’s most literary son “I saw the crescent/you saw the whole of the moon.”

It was really only after a few rock ‘n roll detours that Scott became explicitly spiritual. First in the mid eighties, at the peak of his muse and popularity, just as it might be that he would challenge U2 for the band of the decade he flitted off to Spiddal in Galway to make Irish traditional music with fiddler Steve Wickham and box player Sharon Shannon. On the music journey there he fused Irish trad. and rock in way few others ever have and played without doubt the best gig I have ever seen at the Ulster Hall in April 1986. After Galway Scott, who likes to shock his own soul in geographical flits, spent some time in New York where he recorded Dream Harder a spiritual work that included Glastonbury Song’s declaration that “he just found God where he’s always was...” 

At the Greenbelt Arts Festival in 1994 we got a preview of what had happened to Scott when he moved back from the USA to the Findhorn Community in north east Scotland. He had gone solo for a period, the big music stripped to acoustic guitar and harmonica. This ninety minutes of mainly new songs was like a tent meeting... well actually we were in a tent... but the testifying was strong. There were songs of conversion, of seeking God’s will and of thanksgiving. For me the fascinating thing was the Christian images and references always being aware of the fact that he was more new age than Christian. It was certainly the Christian side of the new age.

Suddenly from wherever he was coming from Scott was regularly connecting with where my journey of following Jesus was coming from. No doubt we differed theologically but in practical spiritual transformation his songs became very useful. Songs like What Do You Want Me To Do Lord was a real seeking prayer; Bring ‘Em All In highlighted evangelisation; Building a City of Light about kingdom bringing. Soon he would add to the canon with the hymn-like Everlasting Arms, the grace driven Love Anyway and spiritual surrender and commitment Everything Is Yours.

Tonight we will enjoy some of those songs from the transcendent This Is The Sea to the negro spiritual On My Way To Heaven. We will also use his songs as reflections and I will share some of the thoughts I drew out of Scott about his faith and Christianity when I had a chance to interview him a few years ago. Open your spirit to the poetry and music of Mike Scott and his Waterboys. Adventure on a strange boat from the river towards the sea and find caress and collide for your soul as we head on our way to heaven in a Church not made by hands!

Mike Scott - The Adventurings and Learnings Interview - The Full Transcript

(with Fitzroy doing The Gospel According to... The Waterboys on Sunday night here's an old interview Stocki did with Mike Scott revamped!)

 Mike Scott

STOCKI: Environment has a huge influence on your work - Spiddal on Room To Roam, Findhorn on Bring Em All In, London on A Rock In A Weary Land. Are you strategic about where you go to write and record?

MIKE: I generally make 'em wherever I find myself but on occasion I have made a decision in advance to, for example, write and record in the West of Ireland (late 80's), or to record the new Universal Hall album in Findhorn, in the spiritually charged atmosphere of the Findhorn Community. I am always inspired by the places I live and by what I feel and see around me, and this inevitably flows into the music and the albums.

STOCKI: So what took you back to Findhorn?

MIKE: My wife and I visited in 2001 after several years living in London and both got a 'yes' feeling to moving back.

STOCKI: Maybe that is a chance to sketch us your spiritual journey. What triggered it?

MIKE: If you mean what triggered my whole spiritual journey, it was being born on planet earth of course ! I've always been wondering who I am, what are we here for, what is God etc. I got an early sense of the nature of the divine from CS Lewis's Narnia stories as a child. Then as a young man I discovered the world of metaphysical and esoteric teaching and wisdom - this was around 1983. That began a long period of deepened learning - some high, some painful. Finally, after many adventures I found my school - and that was the Findhorn Foundation.

STOCKI: How did it lead you to Findhorn?

MIKE: My mother had been there on a healing workshop and told me about the place. I remembered hearing about it years before, so I checked out a video featuring its founders, especially Eileen Caddy. She was talking about the power of gratitude and unconditional love and it was exactly what I was ready to hear. I went there as quickly as I could and did an 'Experience Week' there during which God came down from my head into my heart. A very beautiful and transformative experience.

STOCKI: Eileen Caddy seems to be a bit of a guru. Tell us about her? What drew you to her stuff?

MIKE: 'Guru',with all its distortions, would be the last word Eileen Caddy would use to describe herself. She is a teacher, certainly, primarily by the example of her own life. She's an ordinary woman who has lived in an extraordinary way - following the inner guidance of the 'still small voice within'- the voice of God within - wherever it leads, however strange its instructions might appear to human values. Her whole teaching is to turn others inward to find that inner divine source within themselves (the mark of the true spiritual teacher), and that is what I've learned from her. I love her a whole lot and am very grateful for the privilege of knowing her.

STOCKI: In a world of definitions would you label your creed "new age"?

MIKE: And what creed might that be ? I have none. I personally believe we are truly One in our deepest truth; that there is One Life in creation, and all our adventurings and learnings are leading us to that realization. This is the perennial wisdom and it has been around as long as God.

STOCKI: You have been reasonably clear if quiet and gentle about rejecting Christianity and yet Iona, CS Lewis and Christ are all very much a part of your belief?

MIKE: I don't reject Christianity. It is the religion of my race and like everyone else here I grew up with the stories of the example and teaching of Jesus - and how could I be untouched by that ? But I am not a practising Christian. I'm not even sure Jesus would be if he incarnated today ! As for CS Lewis, yes, he was a committed Christian, but I find if a writer or teacher is infused by the true divine spirit, as Lewis undoubtedly was, this is magnified and transmitted through their work regardless of the name of their faith. Iona is well known as a Christian centre because of the work of St. Columba who brought Christrianity there in the 6th century, but it was a Druid centre of power before then, and the island has a spiritual quality or soul that is divinely and powerfully Itself - and accessible to all who have eyes to see, regardless of their spiritual background or religion. Lastly the Christ to me is the divine energy that Jesus manifested on the physical earth - hence his bearing the name 'Jesus Christ', but I believe the Christ energy existed before Jesus, and is a universal energy infusing every part of creation, and every human being, whether they call themselves 'Christian' or not.

STOCKI: Why Iona?

MIKE: My grandmother grew up on the neighbouring island of Mull and from an early age I was familiar with the idea that Iona is Scotland's sacred island - a special place set apart. When I eventually visited it I found the spiritual peace and presence there and loved it.

STOCKI: What is CS Lewis's greatest contribution to your own journey?

MIKE: Infusing me with a sense of the divine when I was a child. Later, with his books 'Perelandra' and 'That Hideous Strength' he taught me a lot about the topography and inner life of what we call evil. That was useful too.

STOCKI: Who do you see Jesus of Nazareth as being?

MIKE: One of a succession of divinely directed world teachers who incarnated at successive periods of human history when as a race we were ready to go through initiations. And I see Jesus as being a real and available spiritual presence right now.

STOCKI: While we are there, Pan with his cloven hoofs. Who is he/she? The cloven hoofs is an image usually given to the devil.

MIKE: The 'devil' image was superimposed on Pan by the early church fathers in order to discredit the pre-Christian nature religions, that they sought to replace. Pan is not the devil, but a principle of creation, and - in my book - a divine ally of the Christ energies.

STOCKI: I was there in Belfast's Ulster Hall when Steve Wickham came on stage and the crowd went wild. It was echoes of my favourite gig ever in the same venue in April '86. How did you get back together?

MIKE: Steve and I are great friends and even when we weren't working professionally together we were always in touch. In 1999 Steve invited me to Sligo, where he lives in the west of Ireland, to do a show. So I went over and we did a two-man concert together. It was a great success and I knew we had a lot of music still to make together. Then I asked him to guest with us at our shows in Dublin and Belfast in 2000. It went so well I asked him to rejoin the band, and, to my great pleasure and delight, he is back and playing the greatest rock fiddling ever !

STOCKI: What does he add to the Mike Scott/Waterboys muse?

MIKE: Steve gives the music wings, a sense of the elemental, a sweetness, a gateway to the unseen.

STOCKI: In the writing of these songs does a fiddle on stand by effect where the songs go?

MIKE: Yes, indeed. 'Peace of Iona' was a hypnotic chant until Steve's fiddle entered the picture and turned it into a sonic evocation of the island and the elements.

STOCKI: How did Steve take the spirituality of the piece and how did he enjoy Findhorn?

MIKE: Well, I can't answer that for him, though we had a great time together in Findhorn making 'Universal Hall'. He has visited many times.

STOCKI: Some of the new songs are almost Taize chants. What inspired the economy of words?

MIKE: I'm familiar with Taize chants because they are very popular in Findhorn, and I also work with affirmations, so I'm used to the idea that a few short lines of words, carefully chosen and repeated aloud or inwardly, can have a powerful inspirational effect. When my songs started coming in this minimal form, with only 2 or 3 lines, the challenge was to allow them to be so, and not to be tempted to flesh them out into a 'normal' structure. I resisted the temptation ! >

STOCKI: When spiritual belief ignites the songs does that give an extra expectation to what you hope that they might achieve?

MIKE: My hope is the same whatever kind of song I'm writing - that I may express myself and my inspiration authentically, in a way that thrills me and takes my writing somewhere it has never reached before, and that the listener will have every chance to 'get it' and receive the same inspiration I did when writing.

STOCKI: What would you hope the listener takes away from Universal Hall?

MIKE: A feeling of love inside.

STOCKI: When I watch you perform now I get the impression of a man at peace with where his art has taken him. You could have been a megastar but you decided to get off the beaten track and head west to Galway. You seem to be very content at the level of your success. The songs seem more important than the riches, fame or house in Malibu. Am I right?

MIKE: Whether I 'could have been a megastar' is unknown. As CS Lewis liked to say 'We are never told what might have happened'. Nor am I interested in what might have happened ! I've always followed my heart, guts and fascinations and I have learned to surrender to the places - both physical and inspirational - to which they take me. Yes, the songs and creativity are more important than any riches that could result, but I have nothing against houses in Malibu. Malibu is a very fine place indeed.

STOCKI So, where next?

MIKE: This is unknown !

Lyric For The Day 1.6.11 from Misery Is The River Of The World by Tom Waits

Waits Misery 

“If there's one thing you can say about mankind
There's nothing kind about man
You can drive out nature with a pitch fork
But it always comes roaring back again”

-          from Misery Is The River Of The World by Tom Waits

Tom Waits sings about the dark side; nothing new there. Though extreme in its diagnosis it is a good reminder that there is something fundamentally flawed about humanity. Christianity believes that humankind had a Fall which knocked their relationship with God, the land and one another out of kilter and that all humans live with an inclination to the selfish and sinful. Tom Waits is a great commentator on the impact of such a Fall and I guess this is as close as he gets to theologising his terrain. Check out an amazing version by Camille O'Sullivan!