Scott Walker photographed in October 2012 by Jake Walters
◼ A REVEALING APPRECIATION of Scott Walker appears in today’s Observer obituaries of the decade … Co-director of Artangel Michael Morris recalls the great experimental musician as a witty and charming man who freed himself from the trappings of fame:
“ He’s a completely singular figure in late 20th-century, early 21st-century art and ideas. Scott’s work doesn’t fit into a cultural compartment: he was interested in all forms of human expression. . . Scott was held in such high regard by so many other artists. David Bowie often acknowledged his influence, as does Brian Eno. I think they also revered his ability to cast off the mantle of celebrity and focus simply on the work.
“ He was not in any way caught up in the myth of Scott Walker. You just felt that you were working with a very precise, open mind, someone who was completely uninterested in the trappings of image or fame. Bike or the bus were his preferred modes of travel. I think he’d found a way to live and work outside of the public gaze that was much more liberating and creative. . . ” / Continued online
Scott Walker in 1970: still transitioning from pop idol to icon
◼ ONE OF THE MOST RESPECTED singers of our age died on Friday in London aged 76: the US-born Noel Scott Engel, who became a British citizen in 1970.
I interviewed him as Scott Walker in 1967 for Britain’s “first teenage newspaper”, titled Cue and published by IPC. At that very moment he was transitioning from teen idol into a more serious solo icon with his first album Scott, released in September and featuring the brilliant rendering of Brel’s angsty songs My Death and Amsterdam. For him the last straw had been to appear that April in the Walker Brothers trio on the Sunday-night TV variety show hosted by Bob Monkhouse at the London Palladium, and on viewing it Scott decided to split. Among his solo moves that December he released as his first single the risqué Jackie, from the new album Scott 2 (another Brel co-composition with louche themes that caused the BBC to ban it from airplay). As it headed up the UK pop chart, we met during rehearsals for Scott’s appearance on a TV Christmas special at ABC’s Teddington studios.
He lived in Marylebone at the time, had split from the Brothers (who were not actually blood brothers), gone into a monastery to study Gregorian chants and then set about starting an idiosyncratic solo career. He hated both the idea of being a pinup and his all too evident “pop-star” good looks. His most startling admission to me was that he was drinking “a bottle of wine and a bottle of Scotch a day” – in order to coarsen his baritone voice, he said! Scott recorded four seminal albums, Scott 1 to 4 and then disappeared.
In 1984 came Climate Of Hunter, the first of an experimental and challenging series of albums over many years, with titles such as Tilt 1995, The Drift 2006 and Bish Bosch 2012. All of them broke the rules of regular music and back in the day I listened to each album twice and remain gobsmacked today. (There’s a great video clip, shown above in the 30th Century Man trailer, of a percussionist punching a side of raw pork to achieve the exact kind of thwack Scott sought for the song Clara on The Drift.)
In recent years Scott could often be seen in my local supermarket in west London doing the shopping with his partner Beverly. Older and gaunter, he pulled his baseball cap down over his face but it was quite obvious to perhaps six other shoppers marking him that we knew who he was and as respectful fans we kept our distance. Scott is survived by his daughter, Lee, his granddaughter, Emmi-Lee, and Beverly.
➢ 30 Century Man (2007), directed by Stephen Kijack: Comprehensive survey of Scott’s life from his early days as a jobbing bass player on the Sunset Strip in which he describes his “lost years” in terms of creativity. Premiered at the 2006 London Film Festival followed by the 2007 Berlin International Film Festival. Available from Amazon on Blue-Ray and DVD.
Among the last official photos of Scott by Jamie Hawkesworth. (Source 4AD)
◼ SET ASIDE 10 MINUTES AND HOLD YOUR BREATH. David Bowie’s first video for his January album is titled in plain English Blackstar, though the album itself is titled ★ following the Princely principle of symbols. The video is ghoulish, disturbing, eerie, messianic, ritualistic, jazzy, baffling – and a little mousey. His tale of a starman’s legacy out there in a faraway galaxy is musically immaculately orchestrated and makes compelling viewing and listening. It will have the geeks mining for references in its overwrought and folksy narrative. A momentarily real-world Bowie actually thumbs his nose at us singing “You’re the flash in the pan/ I’m the great I am!” yet the overall gist seems relentlessly morbid and we’re not helped by not being able to catch crucial lyrics, which for a music video is a drawback.
Directed by the Swedish music video maestro Johan Renck and premiered last night on Palladia TV, it’s unlike anything you’ve seen before. Natch.
“ The influence of latterday Scott Walker still appears to be making itself felt in the lyrics – they’re elliptical, filled with images of fear and death (“Take your passport and shoes and your sedatives”) and clearly just waiting to be unpicked by the more dedicated Bowiephile – but the music drifts episodically: from an ambient opening to vocals floating mournfully over a jerkily propulsive drum pattern and synthesisers squelching in vaguely acid houseish style to a sax solo to a beautiful, slow middle section with both a lovely melody and electronically-treated backing vocals. . . ”
The next Bowie: Click on image to hear audio of his single ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore
◼ BOWIE IS BACK IN BAFFLER MODE. A new single released today derives its name from an English Restoration drama on the theme of incest. In John Ford’s play ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore, the protagonist Giovanni brings about his own destruction. Though the play stands as classic of Eng Lit, ever since the 17th century it has been ignored or condemned as too racy.
The new Bowie single puts your teeth on edge with an abrasive percussion landscape echoing Michael Nyman, over which David Bowie affects an enfeebled voice to deliver mildly explicit lyrics in Restoration vein. Typically of Bowie, however, he offers his own distracting interpretation by saying: “If Vorticists wrote rock music it might have sounded like this.” Hmmm.
The experimental art movement of vorticism grew out of futurist abstraction and the machine age in 1914, being pioneered by such English painters as Wyndham Lewis, Edward Wadsworth and William Roberts. The founders signed a manifesto proposing that they “set up a violent structure of adolescent clearness” and they produced a literary magazine titled Blast, which mocked the art establishment and the Bloomsbury set. The unfortunate coincidence of the First World War and its shocking realities killed vorticism in its tracks.
In light of which we are forced to ask: Would Wyndham Lewis or David Bomberg seriously have produced music like Bowie’s? About incest?
’Tis a Pity She Was a Whore is the B-side of the more invigorating single due out 17 Nov on Parlophone and titled Sue (or In a Season of Crime) – listen ♫ online at DB’s website – which pushes Bowie’s eerie impersonation of the godlike Scott Walker into a Valhalla of jazz. Mm-mm, crunchy!
Click on pic to run video for Sue (or In a Season of Crime)
❏ Update: The video above is released 13 Nov for Bowie’s single Sue (or In a Season of Crime) from the album Nothing Has Changed. The video was shot in New York and London and directed by Tom Hingston and Jimmy King. The track was recorded with the Maria Schneider Orchestra and produced by Bowie and Tony Visconti. Extra special Bowie features for the next two weeks in the NME whose verdict on Sue was: “It’s Nick Cave meets Scott Walker meets Herbie Hancock – and it’s quite brilliant.”
➢ Tangle with 21st-century vorticists who insist Bowie rates Blast among his favourite books because, perhaps coincidentally, Blast had been returned to public consciousness in 1974 by Richard Cork who, while art critic of the Evening Standard, curated a monumental retrospective exhibition at London’s Hayward Gallery titled Vorticism and its Allies. The totemic star exhibit was the giant monolith, Epstein’s Rock Drill of 1915, destroyed by the sculptor and specially recreated for this show by Ken Cook and Ann Christopher. The plaster-cast male torso was dwarfed by mounting it on a life-sized stone-cutter’s drill, readymade by Holman Brothers of Cornwall, as originally conceived by Epstein in a powerful celebration of the machine age and of masculinity. Today the piece resides in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
+++ ❚ JUST LISTEN TO THE POPSTAR AS SEER, Pulp’s singer Jarvis calling a grey wall heroic, “It says a lot, that wall, to me”, and calling himself “a workshy fop” who has never done a proper day’s work. This South Bank Show from 2007 [above] is compulsive. Just read the comments people have posted beneath it! Now Britain’s most prestigious publisher has asked pop’s national treasure to become its editor-at-large, a broad commissioning role similar to that filled by the 20th-century poet T S Eliot…
❏ Home to 12 Nobel laureates and six Booker prize winners, venerable publisher Faber & Faber is now looking to bring a little Britpop magic to its list after hiring Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker as its new editor-at-large. The appointment will see Cocker given an open brief to acquire books for a small list at Faber from January 2012.
“Jarvis felt like a natural fit with the Faber sensibility, both as author and editor, and I’m sure the small list of books he will develop will represent his eccentric and yet popular touch,” said publishing director Lee Brackstone. “We now have an excellent portfolio of authors from the pop world and our intention is to develop these relationships and continue to build a reputation as the home for exciting and original writing on music.”
➢ Choose “View full site” – then in the blue bar atop your mobile page, click the three horizontal lines linking to many blue themed pages with background articles.
MORE INTERESTING THAN MOST PEOPLE’S FANTASIES — THE SWINGING EIGHTIES 1978-1984
They didn’t call themselves New Romantics, or the Blitz Kids – but other people did.
“I’d find people at the Blitz who were possible only in my imagination. But they were real” — Stephen Jones, hatmaker, 1983. (Illustration courtesy Iain R Webb, 1983)
“The truth about those Blitz club people was more interesting than most people’s fantasies” — Steve Dagger, pop group manager, 1983
“See David Johnson’s fabulously detailed website Shapers of the 80s to which I am hugely indebted” – Political historian Dominic Sandbrook, in his book Who Dares Wins, 2019
“The (velvet) goldmine that is Shapers of the 80s” – Verdict of Chris O’Leary, respected author and blogger who analyses Bowie song by song at Pushing Ahead of the Dame
“The rather brilliant Shapers of the 80s website” – Dylan Jones in his Sweet Dreams paperback, 2021
A UNIQUE HISTORY
➢ WELCOME to the Swinging 80s ➢ THE BLOG POSTS on this front page report topical updates ➢ ROLL OVER THE MENU at page top to go deeper into the past ➢ FOR NEWS & MONTH BY MONTH SEARCH scroll down this sidebar
❏ Header artwork by Kat Starchild shows Blitz Kids Darla Jane Gilroy, Elise Brazier, Judi Frankland and Steve Strange, with David Bowie at centre in his 1980 video for Ashes to Ashes
VINCENT ON AIR 2022
✱ Deejay legend Robbie Vincent returned to JazzFM on Sundays 1-3pm in 2021… Catch Robbie’s JazzFM August Bank Holiday 2020 session thanks to AhhhhhSoul with four hours of “nothing but essential rhythms of soul, jazz and funk”.
SEARCH our 800 posts or ZOOM DOWN TO THE ARCHIVE INDEX
UNTOLD BLITZ STORIES
✱ If you thought there was no more to know about the birth of Blitz culture in 1980 then get your hands on a sensational book by an obsessive music fan called David Barrat. It is gripping, original and epic – a spooky tale of coincidence and parallel lives as mind-tingling as a Sherlock Holmes yarn. Titled both New Romantics Who Never Were and The Untold Story of Spandau Ballet! Sample this initial taster here at Shapers of the 80s
CHEWING THE FAT
✱ Jawing at Soho Radio on the 80s clubland revolution (from 32 mins) and on art (@55 mins) is probably the most influential shaper of the 80s, former Wag-club director Chris Sullivan (pictured) with editor of this website David Johnson
LANDMARK FAREWELLS. . . HIT THE INDEX TAB UP TOP FOR EVERYTHING ELSE
We respect copyright, and are happy to give credit to a photographer’s work and try to seek permission first. If you own images published here and wish them to be removed, simply ask.
Reblogging is theft, so whenever you recycle any picture for your own use, please credit the photographer or artist (living or dead), and seek permission to reproduce it. Their livelihoods (and those of their families) often depend on fair dealing