Remembering Scott Walker

Scott Walker - 1968
Scott Walker - 1968. Reproduced under CC license available at: Unknown photographer

To the best of my memory there are only three songs that I have heard over the years where I can remember exactly where I was and when it was that I heard them for the first time. Two of those (Boy Child, Angels of Ashes) were written and sung by Scott Walker, who died today aged 76.

I first heard his music whilst hanging out with a camera in a Liverpool music venue prior to a gig whilst the sound engineer played some atmospheric tracks for arriving punters. This was immediately and noticeably different from anything that I had heard from The Walker Brothers which was, to Scott (real name Noel Scott Engel), very much the point.

The first exposure to me was the opening and ethereal rising and falling motif of ‘Boy Child’ followed by his lilting and often intoxiacting baritone. Boy Child ended side A of Scott 4 and marked move away from pop songs and covers into the more metaphysical and stripped down universe in which Engel was often more comfortable.

At their peak The Walker Brothers were as popular as The Beatles, although the fame was always a struggle for Engel and he eventually walked away from the band to pursue solo projects after the band’s success began to wane. His first four solo albums (Scott, Scott 2, Scott 3, Scott Walker Sings Songs from his TV Series) were all commercially successful.

Scott 4 – his last album of the 1960s and featuring all-original material, didn’t even make the charts first time around. The difference in material and the fact that it was initially released under his real name were contributing factors. It was deleted soon afterwards by the record label until subsequent re-badged re-releases have given this remarkable album the wider, appreciative audience that it deserved. In the years since it has been acknowledged by many a classic, if not the most potent distillation of Scott Walker and his music.

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