Fisherman's Blues (song)

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"Fisherman's Blues"
The Waterboys Fisherman's Blues 1988 Single Cover.jpg
Single by The Waterboys
from the album Fisherman's Blues
B-side"Lost Highway"
ReleasedDecember 1988
January 1989 (UK)[1]
Format7" single, 12" single, cassette single, CD single
LabelEnsign, Chrysalis
Songwriter(s)Mike Scott, Steve Wickham
Producer(s)Mike Scott
The Waterboys singles chronology
"Don't Bang the Drum"
"Fisherman's Blues"
"And a Bang on the Ear"

"Fisherman's Blues" is a song from Scottish-Irish folk rock band The Waterboys, released as the lead single from their fourth studio album of the same name. It was written by Mike Scott and Steve Wickham, and produced by Scott; the song reached No. 3 on the US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart,[2] No. 13 in Ireland and No. 32 in the UK.[3][4] A re-issue of the single in 1991 saw the song return to the Top 20 in Ireland, reaching No. 17.[3]


Scott began writing the song on a plane flight from New York to London, at the end of the Waterboys' North American tour in November 1985. During his time in New York, Scott had a meeting with the band's manager, Gary Kurfirst, however their relationship had become strained by this time. In his autobiography, Scott revealed: "I knew that the relationship [with Kurfirst] was in terminal decline. I wanted out. Squeezed into seat 31F, I wrote down my feelings in verse on the back of my boarding pass, the beginnings of a new song called "Fisherman's Blues"."[5] Some of the lyrics were also inspired by the W. H. Auden poem "The Night Mail".[6]

The song was recorded at Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin, Ireland, on 23 January 1986 as part of the first session for the album of the same name.[7][8] Speaking of the song's recording to Songfacts in 2013, Scott recalled: "I wrote the third verse in the studio; the music got written that day in the studio as well. I had the chords, but the tone of the song came from Steve Wickham's fiddle accompaniment."[6]

Critical reception[edit]

Upon release, Music & Media considered the song to be a "spirited recording of Dylanesque folk", with "effective use of mandolin and fiddle" and "straightforward production".[9] In a review of Fisherman's Blues, Spin commented on the song: "Scott strums his acoustic guitar as if every chord's a mile, while bandmates Steve Wickham and Anthony Thistlethwaite hasten his speed."[10] Ian Abrahams of Record Collector described the song as "thrillingly evocative", adding: "Nailed in just two run-throughs, it's perfect, definitive and timeless."[11] In his review of the album, Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic picked the song as an AMG Pick Track.[12]


7", 12" and CD single
1."Fisherman's Blues"4:23
2."Lost Highway"4:18
Cassette single
1."Fisherman's Blues"4:23
2."Medicine Bow"5:18
3."Lost Highway"4:18


Chart (1989) Peak
Irish Singles Chart[3] 13
New Zealand Singles Chart[13] 20
UK Singles Chart[4] 32
US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks[2] 3
Chart (1991) Peak
Irish Singles Chart[3] 17
UK Singles Chart[4] 75


The Waterboys

Additional personnel

  • Liam O'Maonlai - piano on "Lost Highway"
  • Noel Bridgeman - drums on "Lost Highway"


  • Mike Scott - producer
  • Pat McCarthy, Pearse Dunne - recording of "Fisherman's Blues"
  • Will Read Dick - recording of "Fisherman's Blues"
  • Phil Tennant - mixing on "Fisherman's Blues"


  1. ^ "The Waterboys". Retrieved 2019-01-30.
  2. ^ a b Billboard. "The Waterboys Fisherman's Blues Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 2019-01-30.
  3. ^ a b c d Jaclyn Ward - Fireball Media Group - "The Irish Charts - All there is to know". Retrieved 2019-01-30.
  4. ^ a b c "WATERBOYS | full Official Chart History | Official Charts Company". Retrieved 2019-01-30.
  5. ^ Scott, Mike (2017). Adventures of a Waterboy. Jawbone. p. 74. ISBN 978-1911036357.
  6. ^ a b Songfacts (2013-01-03). "Mike Scott of The Waterboys - "Fisherman's Blues" : They're Playing My Song". Retrieved 2019-01-30.
  7. ^ "The Waterboys". Retrieved 2019-01-30.
  8. ^ "Images for The Waterboys - Fisherman's Blues". Retrieved 2019-01-30.
  9. ^ "Previews: Singles". Music & Media magazine. 1 January 1989.
  10. ^ "SPIN - Google Books". Retrieved 2019-01-30.
  11. ^ "Fisherman's Box - Record Collector Magazine". Retrieved 2019-01-30.
  12. ^ AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine. "Fisherman's Blues - The Waterboys | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2019-01-30.
  13. ^