The Waterboys - The Whole of the Moon (Official Music Video)
"The Whole of the Moon" is a song by the Waterboys which was released as a single from their album This Is the Sea in 1985. It is a classic of the band's repertoire and has been consistently played at live shows ever since its release. Written and produced by Mike Scott, the subject of the song has inspired some speculation.
The single was not a big success when initially released in 1985, only making the lower ends of the chart, although it reached number 12 on the Australian chart. Subsequently it became one of The Waterboys' best-known songs and their most commercially successful. It is arguably the band's signature song and was the Ivor Novello Award winner "Best Song Musically and Lyrically" in 1991.
The subject of the lyrics has inspired speculation, some of which has been rebutted by the writer. The song began as a "scribble on the back of an envelope on a wintry New York street", after Scott's girlfriend asked him if it was difficult to write a song.
Like The Waterboys' first single "A Girl Called Johnny", the song is a tribute to an inspirational figure or figures. In each line, the singer describes his own perspective and immediately contrasts it with that of the song's subject, summarizing the difference with the line "I saw the crescent / You saw the whole of the moon".
Allmusic instead suggests that its subject is a number of people who inspired Scott, including writer C. S. Lewis and the musician Prince. Scott himself says that he "couldn't have written" the song without having read Mark Helprin's novel Winter's Tale, but goes on to state that the song is not about Helprin. The official Waterboys website's Frequently Asked Questions clarifies that Scott has said that the song's subject is "a composite of many people", including C. S. Lewis, but explicitly states that it is not about Prince. Musician Nikki Sudden, with whom Scott had collaborated before forming The Waterboys, has claimed that the song was written about himself..
The band members at the time were Mike Scott, Anthony Thistlethwaite, Karl Wallinger, and Roddy Lorimer. Drummer Kevin Wilkinson had left the band by the time "The Whole of the Moon" was recorded and drums were played by session player, Chris Whitten. Demoed but not finished at the beginning of the recording sessions, the song was eventually completed in May 1985.
A feature of "The Whole of the Moon" is the trumpet work on the recording, courtesy of the classically trained Lorimer. Lorimer spent three days with Scott working on the song's arrangement and "went home with a tape of the song and thought about a more classical approach. After a while sitting at the piano I came up with the idea of antiphonal trumpets. A piccolo trumpet on the left answered a piccolo on the right and then the same again, growing by adding a Bb trumpet below each side of the stereo picture. Mike loved it, except the slightly jazzy chords I had used on the run down at the very end, which he simplified. I used the same classical approach later in the song, mixing two classical-type trumpets behind a later verse."
Lorimer also contributes falsetto background vocals to the song, while Thistlethwaite, another brass section member, performs a saxophone solo near the end. Wallinger provided synthesizer, synth bass and backing vocals.
Prince covered the song at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club during his 2014 Hit & Run tour, and again at the Paisley Park Studios during a Dance Rally for Peace in May 2015. "He's so strict about people filming gigs on their phones, no one's posted it on YouTube," rued Mike Scott. "However, I understand it was a piano-and-vocal solo version. Boy, would I love to hear that."