His is a striking voice- a deep baritone croon which creeps from the speakers, quite at odds with the spring weather and warm sunshine on my face as I laze about on the back porch. My friend and I have just come back from Waterloo Records after poring over the vinyl for an hour or so. I’m on a budget money-wise and luggage-wise and I managed to resist the temptation to buy anything. But my friend brought Four by Scott Walker, which is now spinning on the record player. Never having heard him before, I’m trying to reconcile the voice, the grandiose music, and those dark lyrics.
It’s nearly two years later now and I have spent November listening obsessively to Scott Walker’s first four solo albums, which fit much more easily with the changeable moods of early summer in Wellington. I now own Four on vinyl too, thanks to Slowboat Records, and it’s playing as I try to pick one favorite song from each album to post here.
Two things are well known about Walker- one, that he isn’t well known, and two, that despite this, he is highly influential. Let me clarify- not that he isn’t a familiar name, but rather he’s a mystery and a famous recluse, and when I say influential, I think Jarvis Cocker, David Bowie, Radiohead, Bat For Lashes, a few among many. One of the first people renowned for playing bass guitar, Walker got his break in the UK as one of The Walker Brothers- a 1960’s pop group that were brothers only to pander to the fashion for sibling groups at the time. Fame, subsequent group break up, intense fan attention, subsequent suicide attempt, foiled by fan, introduced to the music of Jacques Brel by a Playboy bunny (‘His voice was like a hurricane through the room’), solo career- One, Two (then the increasingly avant-garde) Three, Four. Retreat into MOR in the 1970’s, reunion with The Walker Brothers, and since then, sporadic but amazing solo albums- most recently The Drift, in 2006. There is also a documentary on him out there called 30th Century Man, which I have yet to watch.
Scott Walker – Jackie
Although music snob opinion generally dictates that Three and Four are the only albums from his early solo career worth hearing- I think that all four of them are completely amazing, though I do consider Four a favorite. One and Two are mainly covers of Brel songs, and some Tim Hardin ones, while Three and Four consist mainly of his own work. It is difficult to describe what his music means to me- it is nostalgic, beautiful, but also full of grotesque imagery and horror (his cover of Amsterdam springs to mind), and a slight sense of dread lingers in the music (the strings on It’s Raining Today for one). The more I write about it, the more I know it simply needs to be heard.
So here- listen.
Scott Walker – Montague Terrace (In Blue) from One
Scott Walker – Next from Two
Scott Walker – It’s Raining Today from Three
Scott Walker – Get Behind Me from Four