Tag Archives: Scott Walker

1967 ➤ Secret of how Scott Walker achieved a new adult voice as he went solo

Obituaries, tributes, interview, Scott Walker, pop music,

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 at the 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.

BOWIE 1997: “MY IDOL SINCE I WAS A KID”

➢ Rock enigma Scott Walker dies aged 76 – BBC obituary

➢ Scott Walker, experimental pop hero – Guardian obituary by Ben Beaumont-Thomas

Obituaries, tributes, interview, Scott Walker, pop music, Jarvis Cocker

Scott Walker with Jarvis Cocker in 2017: a rich conversation about Scott’s life and times ensued (BBC)

➢ The Songs of Scott Walker – watch for this programme to become available at BBC iPlayer: Jarvis Cocker welcomes Scott Walker back to the Sunday Service ahead of the late-night BBC Prom celebrating his music, which took place at the Royal Albert Hall on Tuesday 25 July 2017. Includes the moment Walker made David Bowie cry on air.

➢ 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.

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s: The on-off brotherly rivalry that drove John and Scott Walker apart

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2015 ➤ Weird and wonderful new Bowie – his Blackstar man is set to blow our minds

David Bowie, pop music, video, Blackstar, starman, album, Johan Renck

Blackstar: Bowie being messianic and ghoulish

◼ 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.

➢ Blackstar is also pre-bookable on vinyl

David Bowie, pop music, video, Blackstar, starman, album, Johan Renck

➢ Nov 23: “We were listening to a lot of Kendrick Lamar,” says producer Tony Visconti. “The goal was to avoid rock & roll” – Rolling Stone reveals all about ★ the album

➢ “As a taster for the forthcoming album, it works perfectly” – Alex Petridis reviews the single Blackstar in The Guardian:

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. . .

David Bowie, pop music, video, Blackstar, starman, album, Johan Renck

YOU MIGHT ALSO HAVE LIKED THIS

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➤ Forsooth, Master Bowie, what art thou banging on about?

David Bowie, single, ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore, vorticism, music

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.

vorticism, Blast, magazine, 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!

David Bowie

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.”

➢ The official monty on ’Tis A Pity She Was A Whore.

➢ A production of John Ford’s play is currently running in London at Shakespeare’s Globe theatre.

Epstein, sculpture, Rock Drill

Epstein’s Rock Drill 1913–15

➢ 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

➢ “Bowie has topped his new compilation with a seven-minute jazz experiment – as much a statement as a song” – Alexis Petridis reviews Sue in the Guardian

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: Enigmatic Scott Walker lets loose a revealing rush of answers

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➤ Jarvis Cocker joins Faber: national treasure as literary arbiter

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❚ 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…

➢ Excerpt from today’s Guardian report:

❏ 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 Cocker, Pulp, pop music, Faber,editor,publishing“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.”

➢ Jarvis sees his book of lyrics published by Faber next week — view another riveting interview when he signed up to Eliot’s publisher in June

➢ And talking of national treasures, here’s Jarvis talking about another one, his own hero Scott Walker:

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➤ Enigmatic Scott Walker lets loose a revealing rush of answers

Scott Walker ,Dazed & Confused,interview,30 Century Man,Culture Show,Rod Stanley

Scott Walker 2011: “Maybe one day I’ll surprise myself and actually walk out on a stage again.” Photograph © Jamie Hawksworth

Scott Walker, the former pop baritone with 60s heart-throbs The Walker Brothers who subsequently evolved into the low-key genius of underground music, proves unusually talkative in a brisk but exceptionally informative interview with Rod Stanley in October’s 20th anniversary issue of Dazed & Confused. Now aged 68, Scott finally acknowledges he is a Composer of the Absurd, and says what it would take to drag him onto a stage again. Here’s a taster…

❏ FOR THE PAST COUPLE OF DECADES, Scott Walker’s unsettling, experimental and occasionally downright disturbing music has drawn on such diverse narrative sources as Elvis Presley’s stillborn twin brother, the films of Ingmar Bergman, and the public execution of Mussolini’s lover. As viewers of the documentary 30th Century Man will recall, during the recording of his 2006 masterpiece, The Drift, his long-suffering percussionist was even made to pummel the side of a piece of pork to get just the disquieting, meaty thud that the composer could hear in his head.

D&C: Detractors of your more recent work point to the unrelenting horror and misery, but 
I argue they miss its humour. Would you agree your work always retains a fundamental sense of its own absurdity, in the best possible sense? How ‘real’ is the extreme emotional content of your work, and how much is performance?


Scott Walker: You’ve understood the work perfectly. It’s about balance. It is indeed difficult to separate the emotional from the performance, or the ‘character’ as I’d like to call it. I usually try not to rehearse or learn the vocal before attempting to sing it. I just leave it rolling round in my head. I simply want to try and catch immediacy and discover afresh what might be going on in that way.

➢ Read more at Dazed & Confused

➢ The on-off brotherly rivalry that drove John and Scott Walker apart — Shapersofthe80s on the death of John

➢ Brian eno and other fans heap respect upon Scott — Culture Show interview from 2006 (below):

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