20 Pagan Place by the Waterboys 1984
Some bands you come to late and some you are there near the start. Named after a line in Lou Reeds Berlin lp , I remember hearing Mike Scott's second single December on the Annie Nightingale sunday request show and thinking that it sounded like nothing else (as ever with age came the realisation that it sounded like a lot of other things that had gone before but hey). I was swept up in the semi mystical lyrics , big themes , big voice and self styled big music.
Reading his autobiography it wasn't until the 2nd lp that the music finally began to sound like what he heard in his head. In a band where members come and go the Pagan Place had the best line up with future World Party Karl Wallinger on keyboards and Anthony Thistlewaite , the "human saxophone".
I'm not usually one for manifestos but sometimes it really can work . Mike Scott wrote detailed notes on what the lp should sound like , the feelings it should evoke , what instruments should feature before a note was recorded. He then got the band to play version after version until the sound matched what was going on his head . Songs were epic with dozens of verses until eventually a usable core would emerge.
What is surprising is that the lp was actually recorded over 2 different periods with some of the songs made in the same sessions that led to the debut lp. It is a testament to Scott's drive and vision that you really can't see the join. The centre piece epic history lesson Red Army Blues was one of those recorded before Wallinger answered the nme add and joined the band (although he is playing on this live version)
There is something very male about this type of stirring chest beating music (I think everyone needs at least one such lp in their collection). What made this different from the likes of the Alarm , Simple Minds etc was that it pulled on a wide set of influences to make a sound that was its own.
It starts off with two rollicking sing along in A Church not Made With Hands and All the Things She gave , with images that would reappear in future songs. Both made to be sung/shouted along to . There is respite with a great break up song before we are off again.
Rags can only be described as a end of days whirlwind that ties itself up in knots until it crashes about itself with energy spent. I love it .
Rags - The Waterboys
Apparently this was one of the songs that started with about 20 or so verses before being whittled down.
Years later Mike Scott would release another version with some of the extra verses added in and I've always wished I had the ability to weave the 2 together
Rags (2nd instalment)
The lp ends in a swoon awash with acoustic guitars and Roddy Lorimer's crystal trumpet and Mike Scott lost in the music and lost for words
Pagan Place - The Waterboys
At the end of the lp Mike Scott, in interviews, talked about being not sure what he would do next , of his song writing being stuck. .. until he dreamt of a rainbow.
Dated yes , overly mystical yes , a bit silly I places yes... but all the better for it
You can buy an extended version of a Pagan Place here