The Waterboys

Who Were They? The Waterboys were a folk-rock group led by Scotsman Mike Scott from 1981-1993. The style and membership changed dramatically through the life of the group, revolving always around Scott. It started as a 'big music' (their own term) rock group, then moved to Ireland where they took on a more folky, lyrical sound.

Their Music The band always revolved around Mike Scott, whose intense presence and lyrics are the characteristics of the band. The initial three albums are rock music, with a big, epic sound to them. The next two were recorded in Ireland, with a number of Irish traditional musicians, and are more laid back and lyrical, with Room to Roam being even more folky than Fisherman's Blues. Scott moved to New York, back to rock and recorded Dream Harder with a completely new lineup, and style. Dream Harder was a commercial flop and disregarded by many Waterboys fans.

Two compilations are available: The best of the Waterboys covers the first four albums, with one extra track and a live version of 'Old England' and The Secret Life has a mix of retakes and previously unreleased tracks.


  1983  The Waterboys              Chrysalis 41541
  1984  A Pagan Place              Chrysalis 41542 Alliance 21542
  1985  This is the Sea            Chrysalis 41543 Alliance 21543
  1988  Fisherman's Blues          Ensign 1589     Alliance 21589
  1990  Room to Roam               Alliance 21768
  1993  Dream Harder               Ensign 1983     Geffen GED 24476
  1991  The best of the Waterboys  Chrysalis 21845 Ensign 1991  Alliance 21845
  1994  The Secret Life of the     EMD/Chrysalis 31201 
         Waterboys '81-'85
More detailed discographies are available from Bilbo, Mind on Music (Norway; includes votes on quality of each album) and David Bilson (includes bootlegs, other Mike Scott albums).

CD Universe sells most of their albums online at a pretty good price, and carries Real Audio sound samples for some.


It's estimated that over two dozen musicians have passed through the ranks as the band twisted and turned. A more complete list is available from EMI, but here are the principals:
Mike Scott              Vocals, Guitar, Piano
Karl Wallinger          Keyboards
Steve Wickham           Fiddle, Hammond Organ, Vocals
Anthony Thistlethwaite  Saxophone, Mandolin
Trevor Hutchinson       Bass, Bouzouki
Sharon Shannon          Accordion, Fiddle (Room to Roam)

A brief history

The genesis of the Waterboys happened in December 1981, when Scott, previously with Another Pretty Face (no albums released, but several bootlegs as well as lyrics are available) started recording songs for what would turn out to be The Waterboys debut album. In 1982, Scott met up with Anthony (Anto) Thistlethwaite and Karl Wallinger. This trio gigs around for a year, then adds in fiddler Steve Wickham from In Tua Nua. In late 1985, Wallinger left to form the new band World Party, and in early 1986, Mike and the band move to Dublin, later to move out to Galway, during which they record the Irish-influeced Fisherman's Blues. In Galway, they pick up young accordionist Sharon Shannon who records on Room to Roam. In 1990 Wickam left and the band more or less dissolves. Scott moves to New York in late 1991, Thistlethwaite leaves soon after and Scott assembles a completely fresh line up to record Dream Harder, starts to put together another group to tour the album, but instead ends up in the newage Findhorn community in Scotland. Since then he has recorded a number of albums under his own name.
[largely excerpted from The Waterboys Chronology by Nicole Moreau].
Sharon Shannon has gone on to have a very successful career as an accordionist, including Trevor Hutchinson in her backing band for some time - latest word is that he is now in a new band, Lunasa.

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A second coming

I've heard several reports that Mike Scott has again formed a band, again called the Waterboys, which has been touring, and recorded a live album in 1998. I haven't heard the group, but don't believe it to be strongly celtic, so won't be further covering it on this website.

Copyright (c) 1997-1998 Ceolas.

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