“My girlfriend asked if it was easy to write a song and I said, ‘It’s very easy, I’ll write one now’”: Mike Scott on the making of The Waterboys classic The Whole Of The Moon

Mike Scott in 1985
(Image credit: Patrick Durand)

Next week, The Waterboys release a mammoth box set titled 1985, a collection covering the period when Mike Scott’s Celtic folk-rockers blew up big. That commercial breakthrough was propelled by their widescreen epic The Whole Of The Moon but, as Scott told this writer a few years ago, if it hadn’t been for a spot of spontaneous bragging, the song might not have ever existed.

The Whole Of The Moon began in New York,” he said. “I’d gone there to meet a prospective manager, a big-time American manager. My prior girlfriend was hanging out with me and she asked me if it was easy to write a song and I was showing off and I said, ‘yes, it’s very easy to write a song, I’ll write one now.’”

And not just any old song – Scott was about to come up with a classic on the spot. “I had a scrap of paper in my pocket and a pen and I looked around for inspiration and there was a moon in the sky,” he continued. “I can’t remember if it was a crescent or a full moon but whichever it was, it sparked this idea about “I saw the crescent, you saw the whole of the moon”.  I wrote it down and showed it to her - she was impressed. I got back to the hotel and wrote some more of the song and then when I got back to London, I wrote the rest of it. It took me about three months to write the whole song.”

Despite the fact it became The Waterboys’ most famous track, Scott said he didn’t consider it being a single until the whole thing was complete. That was when he realised he’d come up with an all-timer. “I recorded it without thinking of it as a single, the whole process of putting all the instruments on, the trumpet solo, backing vocals and then we mixed it with a man called Mick Glossop, who was a very great and experienced British producer. Whilst the mix was playing, I was thinking, ‘oh, everyone is going to love this’, that’s when I got the sense that it would be a huge song. I made a classic. I’m very happy about that.”

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.