The Whole Of The Moon

Album: This Is The Sea (1985)
Charted: 3
  • songfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • The "whole of the moon" is the big picture, which takes a particular vision to see. In a Songfacts interview with Waterboys frontman Mike Scott, he said: "I wrote the song when I was 26 years old, and I was discovering that there was so much more than I had ever known. There was so much more to learn than I'd even been hinted at in the culture I'd grown up in. I had a strong sense of wonderment about that, and I realized there were people who had vastly more information in their imaginations and experiences than I had. And so that's what inspired that song."
  • Who is it that Mike Scott is singing about in this song? Here's what he told us: "It's not a specific person. It's more a type. The point of the song was to illustrate how much more there could be to learn than we had ever guessed. And so, I used that format of songwriting, as if addressing a more knowledgeable or wise being.

    Or it could actually have been someone who came into this life and burned out very quickly. Too far, too soon. Like Syd Barret or Jimi Hendrix, who comes in and seems to be possessed by this otherworldly knowledge or inspiration, but burns out quickly then leaves us. That kind of character. It certainly wasn't written about C.S. Lewis, although he was a big spiritual inspiration to me as a child, and through the rest of my life, indeed. And it certainly wasn't about Prince, although there were moments when Prince seemed to embody that sort of person. And it certainly wasn't about my old friend Nikki Sudden, who was a very interesting character, but certainly not the kind of character I was describing in the song."
  • The Waterboys were a British group formed in London in 1981 by Mike Scott (guitar/vocals) and Anthony Thistlewaite (multi-instrumentalist). They later added Karl Wallinger (guitar, keyboards) Steve Wickham (fiddle) and Kevin Wilkinson (drums). The year after "The Whole Of The Moon" was released, Wallinger left the band to form World Party, who had a #27 US hit with "Ship Of Fools."
  • The Waterboys were not fans of the synth sound that was big in 1985, but when Mike Scott heard the Prince album Purple Rain, he realized it could work if done right. The This Is The Sea album is peppered with these sounds, played by the group's keyboard player Karl Wallinger, but they're most prominent on "The Whole Of The Moon." It came full circle when Prince performed the song at shows in 2014 and 2015.
  • This was the only song that was not mostly finished when The Waterboys started recording their third album, This Is The Sea. Mike Scott wrote in the liner notes: "That song, begun with a scribble on the back of an envelope on a wintery New York street, was finally completed in May 1985 in a London studio, when the verse containing "unicorns and cannonballs, palaces and piers" was added."
  • The female singer who comes in around the 2:40 mark is Max Edie. Scott told her to sing while imagining she was "a carefree eight year old." Another outside musicians to perform on the song was Roddy Lorimer on trumpet. The group's bass player, Anthony Thistlethwaite, did the sax solo.
  • When this was first released in 1985, it reached #26 in the UK, their highest chart placing at the time. In 1991, it was re-issued to coincide with the band's greatest hits album The Best of the Waterboys 81–90, this time reaching #3.
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Comments: 13

  • Fiona from New Zealand My interpretation of this song was about someone who lives with delusions of grandeur about his life. In contrast, the vocalist is in touch with reality and down to earth.
    This song will always be one of my favourites. When I was a child I assumed it was David Bowie singing at the very end of the song.
  • Jacs from London Two human beings .. one having and seeing the world and the other having nothing.
  • Des from SuffolkI thought it was about people's attitude towards life. the glass half full or half empty...
  • Easnadh from New Plymouth, New ZealandI thought it was about God... just a thought
  • Tracey-lee from Cape Town, South AfricaI always covered this song with the definite feeling that the sentiment behind the lyrics was one of admiring the ease with which someone (the "you" in the song) cruised through life, as oppose to the obstacles scaled by the writer:
    "I pictured a rainbow, you held it in your hands..."
    "I spoke about wings, you just flew"
    and indeed the title:
    "I saw the crescent, you saw THE WHOLE OF THE MOON" clearly paints a picture of the writer looking with admiration and envy at someone to whom things come very easily.
  • Gertjan from Haaren, NetherlandsThe Waterboys commercially most succesful song The Whole of the Moon, was markedly unfinished when recording of This is the Sea began. It started with a scribble on the back of an envelope on a wintery New York street, in Jan. 1985 and was fully completed in May 1985 in a London studio, when the verse "unicorns and cannonballs, palaces and piers' was added .
    The Waterboys was founded in 1982 by Mike Scott (Dec. 14th 1958), In fact the Waterboys is Mike Scott, picking musicians for recording and live peforming.
    First recording for the Waterboys started December 1981 in London, first live performance was Febr. 19th 1984 in the Batschkapp club , Frankfurt Germany.
    First long time contributer till 1986, was Anthony Thistlewaite, mainly on saxophone. After that from 1986 till today is Irishman Steve Wickham (fiddle).
    Multi instrumentalist Karl Wallinger from Wales played with Mike Scott on two albums, Pagan Place (2nd, 1983) and This is the Sea (3rd, 1985) on which he contributed only on piano and keyboards.
    From September 1991 untill May 2000, Mike Scott worked and recorded as a solo artists. Since June 16th the Waterboys is again his vehicle to record and perform his music.
  • Andy from Glasgow, United KingdomActually Mike Scott is From Ayrshire
  • Nicole from Manila, Philippinesi know this song was also part of a tribute to Greenpeace...part of the Greenpeace Breakthrough 2 Album. I always thought the words were very greenpeacey...til I realized the tribute came after. makes sense though.
  • Melissa from Sydney, AustraliaI am so curious about "Whole Of The Moon". Does anyone have a more detailed meaning of this song please?
  • Joe from Dublingotta say... these dudes wrote an absolute cracker called 'be my enemy' - look it up - once u get past the cr@ppy intro, it's top notch.
    went to see them live in dublin a while ago tho and was bitterly disappointed, to be honest.
  • Richard from Didcot, EnglandHey Marlow in Perth. G'Day mate. The Whole of the Moon really was released in 1985. I think it got into the Vic/NSW charts in late 1986, then to you guys in WA 1988. These things take time eh but good things come to those that wait. Look forward to retaining that Urn next time out.
  • Richard from Didcot, England-Hi to yduR of Knoxville, TN. The Waterboys founder, frontman and inspiration, Mike Scott is actually from Edindburgh in Scotland but he's been drawn further towards Ireland and its music for many years now. Steve Wickham who plays fiddle is Irish and many of the bands constantly changing line up have been from Ireland. Check the website at
  • Marlow from Perth, Australiagreat song! im sure it wasnt in the aussie charts until 1988
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