Fave Five: Mike Scott of the Waterboys on Keith Richards

Photo: Paul MacManus

The Waterboys ambitious new double-album culls a lot of inspirations, but Mike Scott is happy to expound upon one of the key ones: Keith Richards and his most badass moments.

The Waterboys

Out of All This Blue

Label: BMG
US Release Date: 2017-09-08
UK Release Date: 2017-09-08

In many ways, the Waterboys remain one of the greatest cult bands of our time, with Scotsman Mike Scott developing a sound that helped bridge Celtic folk idioms into a modern rock context, his songs never anything if not wholly accessible. With over three decades of seminal songs under his belt, Scott has managed to evolve and develop his sound to keep up with the times, but never without that unmistakable Waterboys edge.

So for Out of All This Blue, his first album in two years, Scott made it a double-disc effort, covering a panoply of genres while still rooting each song in a distinct, memorable hook. It's an overambitious effort, but one that leads to his highest UK chart ranking since 1993's Dream Harder, proving that while people will always have the Waterboys in their nostalgic hearts, the music he's working on now remains as potent as ever.

To celebrate the occasion, Scott tackled his Fave Five for PopMatters, but instead of gunning for his top five favorite albums of all time, he went with something a little bit more specific. "I wrote 'Mister Charisma' on the new Waterboys album, Out Of All This Blue, about my favorite musician Keith Richards," he tells us. "I greatly admire who Keith has become over the years as a man and a spirit. But my song says 'Please, mate, can you make the news these days with a killer riff or a beautiful song rather than by slagging Sgt. Pepper or coming up with newsworthy trivia?' And here, from the days of his high greatness are my favorite five Keith Richards moments."

* * *

1. Busts Greatest Move Ever in Video for "Jumping Jack Flash"

May 1968. The Stones film a promo for their new single "Jumping Jack Flash". Mick wears war paint, Brian's face is pancake green, Charlie's bored and Bill's mysterious. Meanwhile, Keef has discovered the all-time greatest rock'n'roll facial expression, a puckered-lip pout that transmits defiance, hedonism and the way his guitar riff sounds all at once. The camera catches it four, maybe five times and you can imagine the director shouting "Yeah, that face, get that!"

For the first minute and a half, the film is all close shots, claustrophobic, thrilling. Then the focus widens and we see Mick is dancing in front of the band. Behind him, while he sings "And I frowned" in the third line of the third verse, Keef busts the greatest rock move ever. It has four components: he yanks his arm back while striking a guitar chord; he ducks; he turns to his left, and he throws that puckered-lip pout again. In a single second, he defines rock'n'roll for all time as a sound, a dance, and an attitude.

2. Nails the Apocalypse at 2:18-2:40 of "Gimme Shelter"

Keef's guitar-led intro to this famous Stones song builds a tension that is sustained and built on through the first two verses and choruses, conjuring the sense of a coming storm, an end of days. At 2:01 the song hits an instrumental. Mick's harmonica howls while the tension, the moment before the storm breaks, holds over a single rolling chord. Then at 2:18 the clouds open, the chords descend and Keef delivers 22 seconds of understated-yet-apocalyptic lead guitar in which the silences he leaves say as much as the killer riffs he plays.

3. Stands Up to the British Establishment in the Court Dock

In court on hugely-publicised drug possession charges in 1967, Keith was questioned in high patronizing fashion by the prosecuting counsel whether he considered it "normal" for a "young woman" to be dressed in "nothing but a rug." Marianne Faithfull had been found in those circumstances in Keith's house. His devastating and courageous reply: "We are not old men. We are not worried about petty morals."

4. The Last Moments of The Guitar Solo on "Wild Horses"

Keith's lead guitar accompaniment to Mick Jagger's vocal on Wild Horses is a masterpiece of empathy. If guitar playing can be compassionate, this is it. He backs his singer every step of the way, then takes a short solo from 3:04 to 3:17 that simply holds the line for Jagger till his vocal returns. But at 4:41 he finally expresses himself fully in a 28-second break of unsurpassed beauty.

The passage climaxes in a last exquisite rise from 5:06-5:09 that perfectly and selflessly sets up the return of the chorus. Keef sings his ass off in the final chorus, as he has done throughout the song, but when the final chords come, he leaves the melodic expression to Jim Dickenson's piano. He knows, master that he is, that he said it all in the solo and need play no more.

5. The Intro of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"

I rest my case.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.

20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta

Keep reading... Show less

Hitchcock, 'Psycho', and '78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene'

Alfred Hitchock and Janet Leigh on the set of Psycho (courtesy of Dogwoof)

"... [Psycho] broke every taboo you could possibly think of, it reinvented the language of film and revolutionised what you could do with a story on a very precise level. It also fundamentally and profoundly changed the ritual of movie going," says 78/52 director, Alexandre O. Philippe.

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) denotes the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts across a full week of shooting for Psycho's (1960) famous shower scene. Known for The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012) and Doc of the Dead (2014), Philippe's exploration of a singular moment is a conversational one, featuring interviews with Walter Murch, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Osgood Perkins, Danny Elfman, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Richard Stanley and Marli Renfro, body double for Janet Leigh.

Keep reading... Show less

The Force, which details the Oakland Police Department's recent reform efforts, is best viewed as a complimentary work to prior Black Lives Matter documentaries, such 2017's Whose Streets? and The Blood Is at the Doorstep.

Peter Nicks' documentary The Force examines the Oakland Police Department's recent reform efforts to curb its history of excessive police force and systemic civil rights violations, which have warranted federal government oversight of the Department since 2003. Although it has its imperfections, The Force stands out for its uniquely equitable treatment of law enforcement as a complex organism necessitating difficult incremental changes.

Keep reading... Show less

Mary Poppins, Mrs. Gamp, Egyptian deities, a Japanese umbrella spirit, and a supporting cast of hundreds of brollies fill Marion Rankine's lively history.

"What can go up a chimney down but can't go down a chimney up?" Marion Rankine begins her wide-ranging survey of the umbrella and its significance with this riddle. It nicely establishes her theme: just as umbrellas undergo, in the everyday use of them, a transformation, so too looking at this familiar, even forgettable object from multiple perspectives transforms our view of it.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.