The Waterboys - The Whole of the Moon

The Waterboys - The Whole of the Moon

‘The Whole of the Moon’ is a song by Scottish band the Waterboys, released as a single from their album This Is the Sea in October 1985. It is a classic of the band's repertoire and has been consistently played at live shows ever since its release. Written and produced by Mike Scott, the subject of the song has inspired some speculation. It was first released on 14 October 1985 as a 7-inch and 12-inch single, which reached No. 26 on the UK Singles Chart. The single was not a big success when initially released in 1985, only making the lower ends of the chart, although it reached No. 12 on the Australian chart. The song was re-released as a single (7-inch, 12-inch, cassette and CD) on 25 March 1991, and it was included on the band's compilation album The Best of the Waterboys 81–90, issued on 29 April 1991. The re-release was a big hit, peaking at No. 3 on the UK Singles Chart and receiving an Ivor Novello Award as "Best Song Musically and Lyrically" in 1991. Subsequently, it became one of the Waterboys' best-known songs and their most commercially successful.

The "whole of the moon" is the big picture, which takes a particular vision to see. In an interview with Waterboys frontman Mike Scott, he said: "I wrote the song when I was 26 years old, and I was discovering that there was so much more than I had ever known. There was so much more to learn than I'd even been hinted at in the culture I'd grown up in. I had a strong sense of wonderment about that, and I realized there were people who had vastly more information in their imaginations and experiences than I had. And so that's what inspired that song."

Who is it that Mike Scott is singing about in this song? Here's what he said: "It's not a specific person. It's more a type. The point of the song was to illustrate how much more there could be to learn than we had ever guessed. And so, I used that format of songwriting, as if addressing a more knowledgeable or wise being. Or it could actually have been someone who came into this life and burned out very quickly. Too far, too soon. Like Syd Barrett or Jimi Hendrix, who comes in and seems to be possessed by this otherworldly knowledge or inspiration, but burns out quickly then leaves us. That kind of character. It certainly wasn't written about C.S. Lewis, although he was a big spiritual inspiration to me as a child, and through the rest of my life, indeed. And it certainly wasn't about Prince, although there were moments when Prince seemed to embody that sort of person. And it certainly wasn't about my old friend Nikki Sudden, who was a very interesting character, but certainly not the kind of character I was describing in the song."

The female singer who comes in around the 2:40 mark is Max Edie. Scott told her to sing while imagining she was "a carefree eight-year-old." Another outside musician to perform on the song was Roddy Lorimer on trumpet, which Scott describes as a "sunlight bursting through clouds" effect akin to the flugelhorns on The Beatles' "Penny Lane." The group's bass player, Anthony Thistlethwaite, did the explosive sax solo, which was bolstered by a firework sound effect that was run through an echo machine.

On its release in 1985, Roger Morton of Record Mirror noted how the four tracks on the 12-inch single "draw out the drama in Scott's barnstorming pop poetry to raging effect" and "should bring water to both your eyes and your mouth". He considered Scott to sound "like a cross between" Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens. Jerry Smith of Music Week praised ‘The Whole of the Moon’ as a "memorable number" which "should give them their first big hit". In a review of the 1991 re-issue, Paul Lester, writing for Melody Maker, praised it as "the greatest single of October 1985".

Label – Ensign
Songwriter – Mike Scott
Producer – Mike Scott


[Verse 1]
I pictured a rainbow
You held it in your hands
I had flashes
But you saw the plan
I wandered out in the world for years
While you just stayed in your room
I saw the crescent
You saw the whole of the moon
The whole of the moon
[Chorus 1]
You were there in the turnstiles
With the wind at your heels
You stretched for the stars
And you know how it feels
To reach too high
Too far too soon
You saw the whole of the moon
[Verse 2]
I was grounded
While you filled the skies
I was dumbfounded by truth
You cut through lies
I saw the rain dirty valley
You saw Brigadoon
I saw the crescent
You saw the whole of the moon
[Verse 3]
I spoke about wings
You just flew
I wondered, I guessed, and I tried
You just knew, I sighed
But you swooned
I saw the crescent
You saw the whole of the moon
The whole of the moon
(The whole of the moon)
[Chorus 2]
With a torch in your pocket
And the wind at your heels
You climbed on the ladder
And you know how it feels
To get too high
Too far too soon
You saw the whole of the moon
The whole of the moon
Hey, yeah
Unicorns and cannonballs (You were there in the turnstiles)
Palaces and piers (With the wind at your heels)
Trumpets towers and tenements (You stretched for the stars)
Wide oceans full of tears (And you know how it feels)
Flags, rags, ferryboats (To get too high)
Scimitars and scarves (To far)
Every precious dream and vision (Too soon)
Underneath the stars
[Chorus 3]
You climbed on the ladder
With the wind in your sails
You came like a comet
Blazing your trail
Too high too far too soon
You saw the whole of the moon
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