Adventures of a Waterboy, By Mike Scott

The musings of a musical supernova speaks

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The Independent Culture

Mike Scott received a lesson on the perils of fame long before he found it for himself as the front man of the Celtic rockers the Waterboys. As a young punk fan in London in 1978, he came face to face with his idol Patti Smith after a concert and watched her cutting hangers-on down to size like a "haughty queen toying with her subjects".

Years later Scott would have his own ego battles, as he endeavoured "to manage the forces that flow constantly into and through the person playing the role of star". Given some of the more pompous pronouncements in his memoir, in which he recalls life as "a music business supernova about to burst into flame" and a man whose "entrance to a room would change its atmosphere", it's a struggle that is far from over.

Adventures of a Waterboy details Scott's aim to replicate the "mighty stramash" in his head for all to hear; a desire that can be traced back as far as when he was sitting on the top deck of a bus in his native Edinburgh as a nine-year-old, bashing out rhythms on the steel floor – to the ire of the bus driver underneath. It's with a keen eye and writerly flair that Scott depicts his journey through assorted incarnations – stadium rock'n'roller, trad convert, spiritually bereft muso seeking calm in the Scottish Findhorn community – and there is an engaging idealism at the heart of the narrative, that sees music as a transcendent and uniting force.

But even head-in-the-clouds Scott can't help but get bogged down in the nuts and bolts of running a band. Countless pages are taken up with the task of hiring and firing, as he works his way through approximately 60 musicians in 30 years. The creation of the band's 1988 album Fisherman's Blues takes up an exhausting four chapters, catapulting Scott from London to California to a studio in the wilds of west Ireland where one of the caterers goes mad with a shotgun.

Assorted icons make cameo appearances, from Dylan to Dave Stewart to Bono. Indeed, Bono's shadow looms worryingly large in Scott's psyche, a totem of what might have been if he had stuck with the "Big Music" rather than staying true to his ever-changing internal soundtrack.

Aside from the accordion player Sharon Shannon and a creepily domineering girlfriend who plays Yoko Ono to Scott's Lennon, the women in his life are sketchily drawn. His two wives get only the briefest of mentions, along with the mother who raised him mostly alone. More significant for Scott is the meeting, aged 40, with the father who had walked out when Scott was a child. The moment provides redemption of sorts: "Deep shit [worked] itself out inside me."

At the close we leave him proclaiming a new self-confidence and hankering for the bright lights once more, the lessons from his encounter with Patti Smith still only half-learned.

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