What a beautiful song, a personal favourite. The Killers covered this song at TRNSMT Festival 2018. “One of the finest songs I’ve ever heard,” said Brandon Flowers on stage.
“The Whole of the Moon” was released as a single from The Waterboys’ 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.
The single was not a big success when initially released in October 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 won the Ivor Novello Award for “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 of the back of an envelope on a wintry New York street”, after the lead singer and founding member of The Waterboys, Mike Scott, his girlfriend asked him if it was difficult to write a song.
AllMusic 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 Whole of the Moon” has been covered by many artists including Jennifer Warnes, Mandy Moore, Human Drama, Terry Reid, Peter Mulvey, etc.
Prince covered the song several times during his 2014 Hit & Run tour. U2 used it as their walk-up song during much of The Joshua Tree Tours 2017 and 2019. Fiona Apple covered the song for The Affair series finale.
I saw the rain dirty valley
You saw Brigadoon
I saw the crescent
You saw the whole of the moon