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 Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".


Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".


Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.