56. Scott Walker 30 Century Man
As far as modern singer songwriters go the term “genius” gets thrown about far too much. Any album that has a hint of nostalgia gets praised to the high heavens and then subsequently disappears into obscurity. Scott Walker is a man who’s genius allows him to dip in and out of the wilderness, creating foreboding modern masterpieces of the pop song.
From his time in The Walker Brothers it was obvious that Scott’s creativity couldn’t be compressed into the 60’s, 2 minute long song, pop explosion. By the time Images was released The Walker Brothers time was over, picked up and dropped at the click of fingers. Scott took subsequent studio time and ran with it, using John Franz from the “Brothers” days he created his first solo album Scott. In the two years that followed he released both Scott 2 and Scott 3. Albums drenched in English kitchen sink dramas and reworked and polished versions of Jacques Brel’s songs about gonorrhoea and death. A TV show was made but quickly cancelled and all tapes erased (A decision the BBC must regret)
By the time Scott 4 was created the man was again forgotten about and the album, Scott’s masterpiece vanished which was criminal. Albums were made, that Scott to this day refuses to have remastered. It’s almost as if he is ashamed of what happened to him, after the album We Had It All, he disappeared.
Nite Flights had seen Scott’s song writing take a turn no one expected, taking the pop song and evolving it in such a way that it would pave the way for the rest of his career. Listen to the song The Electrician.
Julian Cope released a compilation in 1981, a collection of his favourite songs of which he felt the world needed to hear again. Such was Scott’s impact, Julian bought up as many LP’s as possible and distributed them to anyone who would listen. One think irks me about this and that’s how Julian seems to take full credit for Scott’s pending return, almost as if he is saying “I saw him first”
His following solo albums Climate of The Hunter and Tilt were made 11 years apart both pushing Scott’s song writing to the outer limits, listening to the albums makes you think he was never going to come back. He also produced Pulp’s album We Love Life, an album that even had a track mocking Scott’s ropey cover versions post Scott 4.
In 2006 Scott Walker gave us The Drift which to this day is one of the most terrifying yet miraculous albums I have ever heard. For true terror this is a must listen, for get drone, doom, black metal etc this is true foreboding song writing. Songs about torture, Elvis Presely, horror, 9/11 and Mussolini’s mistress. One song even uses meat, yes meat as an instrument.
You only have to listen to how highly artists such as Bowie, Eno, Cocker, Yorke think of him. He is a true genius, a master of his craft, a man who became disillusioned with the scene and the money and locked himself in a studio striving for perfection. In his mind Scott has reached it, and he has. He never listens to his albums more than once as that is all he needs. It may be another 10 years till we see another album. I could wait 20 if that is how long it takes him.
* See Julian Cope’s collection The Godlike Genius of Scott Walker as a starting point. I guarantee it will be the beginning of a love affair.