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Pan The Man

Stuart Bailie | 17:45 UK time, Thursday, 19 July 2012

Are there many rock and roll references to the pagan god Pan? Well, both Pink Floyd and Van Morrison have delivered songs called 'Piper At The Gates Of Dawn', which picks up the story of the goat-footed deity from 'Wind In The Willows'. Stevie Wonder and Animal Collective have made a few Arcadian allusions and of course there was a Top Of The Pops dance troupe called Pan's People.

But the most consistent Pan's person has been Mike Scott from The Waterboys. On his 1985 album, 'This Is The Sea' he invited his listeners to take a steer towards 'The Pan Within'. Five years later and the god's image featured on the artwork to the 'Room to Roam' album, followed by a 1993 track, 'The Return of Pan'. Mike was inspired to evoke the figure by writers such as Dion Fortune and WB Yeats and when I met him in the west of Ireland in the late Eighties, Mike was convinced that he'd found the essence of Pan in the horned landscape near Dingle and about Inishmaan in the Aran Islands.

Some of this is discussed in his autobiography, 'Adventures Of A Waterboy', which was previewed earlier this year in the Belfast Book Festival. It's a proper, engaging read; a quest to find meaning and transcendence through music. The Irish expeditions are full of joy and mystical reveals, but there are also memorable sections that narrate the glories of Foyle's bookshop on the Charing Cross Road, that describe meetings with Patti Smith and the royal mess that was Johnny Thunders. Mike has not suffered a dull time of it.

By coincidence, I recently took 'Jitterbug Perfume' on holiday with me. Written by Tom Robbins (author of 'Even Cowgirls Get The Blues' and 'Still Life With Woodpecker'), it's a lusty yarn about immortality, the perfume industry and the presence of Pan. Outlawed by Christianity and unloved in Europe, some intrepid chancers contrive to take Pan on a boat to the New World, disguising his animal stench on the boat with a customised fragrance of jasmine, citron and beet pollen. I first read the book around 20 years ago and I liked it anew. Viva Pan.


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