I first saw the Waterboys at Milton Keynes bowl, supporting U2 in one of those festivals that is only allowed to happen if it's pouring with rain. 1985 I think it was, I remember being slightly surprised that so many people thought it was a good idea to take all their clothes off and slide down the slopes of mud, stark naked. I think drink may have been involved. Or something stronger.
They were a pretty good live band, and I was impressed enough to go and buy their album - "This is the Sea". A blend of expansive loud rock, with some sensitive touches and good, sound eco-politics. Greenpeace I think. But at that stage, thee was nothing to really make them stand out for me. And it had their biggest hit "The Whole of the Moon" which everyone remembers.
Then Mike Scott moved to Ireland, chucked out most of the band, recruited Steve Wickham (who had played the scratchy violin riff of "Sunday, Bloody Sunday"), and a whole host of other folk musicians. What followed was two of the best folk-rock crossover albums ever. I'd always had a penchant for folk music, I think it's that link into my rural past! Seriously, I love the way that folk can seem all nice and cute, but actually contain a sharp message, be it about love, politics or something else.
I can see a pattern developing in my choices, because I chose "When Ye go away" for the top ten, it's just so sad, but also a great example of the Waterboys music of this period. And it's not one that has been covered by a pale modern-day imitator and passed off as authentic. It's an album track, so few have heard of it, I like that too. It also contains the line, "somebody left his whisky, and the night is very young". Make of that what you will.
I was due to see them again in 1989, at the heart of that Fisherman's Blues tour, but missed it because my girlfriend of the time was too sick to travel to Cambridge, where the gig was. I'm sure my unsympathetic and grudging reaction was the start of the end of our relationship. So the song echoes that too because essentially it's about the transience of love.
Mike Scott is of course is truly bonkers, and has gone on to make some fantastic stuff. I've seen him a few times since that aborted attempt, and he has always been highly accomplished and put on a great show. Including abusing the audience at times, which I particularly like. But I don't think he topped that period, his best. And this song, is for me, the best of that best.