“The Whole of the Moon” by The Waterboys

The phrase “the whole of the moon”, as used throughout this song, is actually an idiom. And the idea it is intended to symbolize is an individual’s uncanny ability to perceive the grand scheme of things and accordingly aspire towards lofty goals. This type of vision is something the singer himself lacks, yet the addressee possesses. So basically, the vocalist spends a considerable amount of time contrasting his own small mind, if you will, with that of the advanced thinking of the addressee. The person he is singing to is someone he admires, specifically in regards to their imagination and subsequent aspirations as a result.

But in the course of this veneration, it is also revealed that this individual got ‘too high and too far too soon’. That’s another way of saying that what he was able to accomplish, once again via his own personal brilliance, was ultimately too much for him to bear. But at the end of the day, suffering such a fate does not deter the singer from adoring this person.

But who is this individual?

As far as who exactly Mike Scott is referring to in the song, a number of names have come up. One such name is British theologian C. S. Lewis (1898-1963). Others include fellow musicians such as Nikki Sudden (1956-2006) – whom Scott was personally associated with. Also there is the trendsetting American singer Prince (1958-2016), who inspired Scott’s work. 

But Mike himself has stated that the addressee is rather a certain type of person, not any specific individual. Moreover the particular era of his life in which he penned this song was marked by the epiphany that there were people in the world who were a lot more informed, imaginative and experienced than he was. And such individuals clearly had him in awe.

Jimi Hendrix and Syd Barrett

In fact he rather stated that the artists whom this song is actually based on are the likes of Jimi Hendrix (1948-1970) and Syd Barrett (1946-2006). 

Hendrix is a legendary musician who died prematurely at the age of 27. And whereas Syd Barrett survived quite longer, what he is perhaps most-famous for, besides being one of the founders of Pink Floyd, was completely forsook the celebrity life at the peak of his fame. These are the types of individuals who, in the mind of the singer, got “too high, too far, too soon”.


So conclusively, we can say that this song serves as an ode to the artist whose mental capacities and artistic abilities are so outstanding that he or she has trouble using such consistently in a constructive manner. Simply put, their own in-born talents, especially on the cognitive level, are more than they can handle. And considering whom Mike Scott has cited as examples of such, part of the problem would logically be the wealth and fame they achieve as a result. Yet these selfsame cerebral abilities are what he admires the most about these individuals. That is to say he marvels at the fact that their level of thinking is/was so much higher than his own.

Lyrics of "The Whole of the Moon"

Music Video

Meiert Avis was tasked with directing the music video for this song. It used live footage of The Waterboys, as the band’s lead singer, Mike Scott, was faithfully committed to his disdain of lip syncing. In fact upon its initial release The Waterboys did not promote this song on “Top of the Pops”, which was basically a prerequisite for small groups to blow up in the UK, due to Mike’s refusal to lip sync.

Release Date of “The Whole of the Moon”

“The Whole of the Moon” was originally released by Island Records and Chrysalis Records on 16 September 1985. It was part of the playlist of the band’s third album, “This Is the Sea”.

Signature Song of The Waterboys

Although you wouldn’t know this by the way it originally fared (only really blowing up in Australia) “The Whole of the Moon” went on to become The Waterboys’ signature song. You see the band continued to get increasingly popular the years after its initial release. And in 1991 they dropped a compilation album entitled “The Best of the Waterboys 81-90” which featured this song. This time around it really caught on with the public. And in that regard it made it as high as number three in the Waterboys’ homeland (the UK Singles Chart). Furthermore, in 1991 it won the highly-respected Ivor Novello Award.

And since then it has also been featured on a number of The Waterboys’ other ‘greatest hits’ albums.

Who wrote “The Whole of the Moon”?

The Waterboys’ Mike Scott served as both writer and producer of “The Whole of the Moon”. And the song is particularly notable for its trumpeteering, which was handled by a musician by the name of Roddy Lorimer.

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