Not many fans of the pop music trio, The Walker Brothers who had huge hits in the mid ’60s in England and one top ten record ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore’ in this country are aware of the unique career journey of the group’s former lead singer Scott Walker.
For that matter at the time of their peek popularity it was not unusual for record buyers in America to assume that The Walker Brothers were a British act. When they first appeared on the charts on either side of the ‘pond’ in early 1965 they had two very commercial elements going for them, they sounded like The Righteous Brothers and looked like The Rolling Stones.
Formed in ’64 in Los Angeles, the Walkers like The Righteous Brothers were brothers in name only. John Maus and Noel Scott Engel were a rock and roll duo that played the clubs on Sunset and had released a single or two as well as making a few unmemorable appearances on TV until they added drummer Gary Leeds and moved their base of operations to London. The records they put out after the move incorporated a Phil Spectoresque ‘wall of sound’ which resembled that producer’s work with The Righteous Brothers. With Engel (Scott Walker) taking baritone lead vocals and Maus (John Walker) providing the high harmonies, the group took England by storm. Their popularity in 1965-66 rivaled that of The Beatles with scenes of fan hysteria at live appearances.
By 1967 the trio had disbanded with all three Walkers embarking on solo projects. Scott was by far the most successful, releasing a string of albums (Scott 1, Scott 2, etc.) that proved so popular in Britain and Europe that he was given his own variety show on the BBC. On the release of his fourth solo album (Scott 4) he briefly reverted to his original last name, crediting the record to Scott Engel, but then returned to being known professionally as Scott Walker. His solo recordings retained the lush string arrangements of the Walker Brothers hits, but the material by this time was frequently written by Walker and featured unorthodox lyrical themes and also English translations of songs by Jacques Brel.
Scott Walker’s solo career floundered in the ’70s and there was a three album Walker Brothers reunion that produced a modest hit in their cover of Tom Rush’s ‘No Regrets.’
When the reformed Walker Brothers’ recording contract was due to run out they released one last album, 1978’s Nite Flights. The musical direction that Walker first took on the tracks he wrote for this record set the tone for his highly abstract experimental work in the future with the albums, Climate of Hunter, Tilt and The Drift.
In 2007 a documentary film titled Scott Walker:30 Century Man directed by Stephen Kijak was featured at the Tribecca Film Festival as well as at major film festivals around the world. Among the many filmed interviews are clips of Sting, Brian Eno, and David Bowie expressing admiration for Walker’s music and citing him as a significant influence. The film includes a rare glimpse into the creative process as Walker is shown in the studio working on tracks for The Drift, as well as giving a series of interviews which were the first time the reclusive artist had surfaced in years.
In 2000 Scott Walker curated London’s Meltdown Festival of music, art and film. His first album on the 4AD record label was 2006’s The Drift. That year he received the ‘Mojo Icon’ award from Mojo magazine.
Since 1995’s Tilt, Walker’s work has been less in song form and more in an area of abstract sound collages with lyrics.
On September 24th, 4AD announced that Scott Walker’s new album titled Bish Bosch is scheduled for release on December 3.