Scott Walker circa 1967.
(RB/Redferns/Getty Images)
Scott Walker circa 1967.
(RB/Redferns/Getty Images)
MUSICREDEF PICKS
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Matty Karas, curator March 26, 2019
QUOTABLES!
quote of the day
To me, singing like Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett was more of a divine path than anything the hippies got up to in the Sixties. I wanted to be a totally serious torch singer, someone who is dedicated to their craft; I didn't want to stand in front of thousands of young girls, nor did I want to pretend I came from Mars. All I wanted to do was sing my songs.
Scott Walker, 1943 – 2019
music
rant n' rave
rantnrave://

SCOTT WALKER, an American expat who lived most of his adult life in Europe, was introduced to the world in the 1960s as a brooding singer of dark and sweeping orchestral pop songs. They turned him, briefly, into a teen idol, a job that was of no interest to him. He exited this week, 50-plus years later, as an aloof and deeply private singer of weird, foreboding art songs that required an intense commitment to truly love, or even like. It was a strange and beautiful career. Except for his unmistakable baritone, there's little in the WALKER BROTHERS' "MAKE IT EASY ON YOURSELF" (1965) and Walker's "SDSS1416+13B (ZERCON, A FLAGPOLE SITTER)" (2012) to suggest the two songs were made by the same person, or even by two people who knew each other. But they're both exemplary, richly detailed recordings, and the path Walker followed to get from one to the other was clear and logical, even if it never quite seemed like he was making it easy on himself along the way. His initial run of solo records after leaving the Walker Brothers, all now cult classics, remade him as an iconoclastic cabaret singer, sometimes morbidly bleak, sometimes darkly funny. It was the sound of a precocious and smart teen idol who went to art school and discovered foreign films. By the time he made it to the gorgeous and little-heard SCOTT 4, any hope of a conventional pop career was gone, which was presumably more of an issue for his record company than for him. In the late '70s, with the reunited Walker Brothers and getting ever smarter, he was exploring soundscapes not unlike those his disciples DAVID BOWIE and BRIAN ENO were creating in Berlin; in the '80s, solo again, he was sort of flirting with new wave. It was clear by now that while he was paying attention to pop, his inner map was powered entirely by his own muse, and his muse was leading him steadily outward. "I was always more interested in following a pure path than most people," he once said. There were some pockets of productive time lost to alcohol, but in the mid '90s he re-emerged with the remarkable TILT, which is a dark orchestral pop record dragged and twisted through a field of operatic recitatives, industrial percussion and stretches of empty space. If "Scott 4" took you three listens to get, "Tilt" might have taken you 15, but if you were lucky, you got it. And he kept going, spiraling ever outward while following not only his own muse but also his own pace, which for a while meant one album per decade. But he never missed a decade, and he never let his muse down. Is there another pop-rock-ish artist who hit genuine career peaks in each of six straight decades, 1960s through 2010s, or any six decades? Is there an equivalent career anywhere in the vicinity of pop? Is it even possible? RIP... STEPHEN KIJAK's 2006 doc SCOTT WALKER: 30 CENTURY MAN, shot while Walker was recording the 2006 album DRIFT, is a great snapshot of an artist on the edge of the edge. And it includes a memorable scene of him directing a player in the most musical way to punch a slab of raw meat... Can you inflate record sales as easily as you can deflate a football? Let's call it inflate-gate: SONY MUSIC and the MICHAEL JACKSON estate are skeptical of recently adjusted sales numbers that have allowed the EAGLES' THEIR GREATEST HITS to once again surpass Jackson's THRILLER as the all-time top-selling album in the US. The reason for the skepticism: The Eagles album got nine new platinum certifications in one day, from newly discovered sales stretching back over a period of 12 years. (TOM BRADY wears number 12 and has played in nine Super Bowls. Just sayin'.) Sony believes the Eagles sold only 2.3 million copies of the album over those 12 years. WMG got the new Eagles numbers by, among other things, reviewing years of data in underground vaults. Which sounds like something the Patriots would do. Again, just sayin'... CHERIE HU separates fact from fiction and signal from noise in the deal between AI music company ENDEL and WARNER MUSIC... RIP TECH 9. (But not TECH N9NE.)

Matty Karas, curator

March 26, 2019