"I cannot live without books." -- Thomas Jefferson

Saturday, July 21, 2012

"No Regrets: Writings on Scott Walker" edited by Rob Young

Personally, my life would be kind of empty without the sounds of Sparks and Scott Walker.  Both are on this world, yet they seemed kind of removed from the world as well.   And both have huge cultural baggage of sorts, but cannot be put in a box or simply explained.  They have to be experienced - and "No Regrets: Writings on Scott Walker" is a super enjoyable read (i.e. experience) that goes through out the career of Scott.  

The book is put together by Rob Young via the great British music magazine 'The Wire.'   And this is the perfect publication to do an anthology all on the subject of Scott Walker's music.  Included are late interviews with the composer/songwriter/singer, but more interesting to me are the essays on certain aspects of Scott Walker's albums.

To give one who isn't exposed to the world of Scott Waler, it is best that I give him and his music a brief introduction.  Scott Walker was a member of the Walker Brothers (none were actual  brothers), from America but went to London during the British invasion.  Unlike the Beat groups of that time, The Walker Brothers specialize in Phil Spector style big production ballads - with Scott as lead vocalist.  An incredible voice who knew how to relay a lyric like it was a simple act of putting butter on a hot piece of toast.  Over a short period of time they became teen idols of sorts, and for Scott this was a sign of total despair.   A man of humor, but a sort of humor that laughs with Ingmar Bergman films than say the Carry on films.

In the mid-60's to late 60's he made a series of solo albums that are now considered to be classics.  And they were very odd albums compared to the swinging 60's of London.  Huge orchestrations, beautiful voice singing Jacques Brel songs as well as his own material - which at the time were very much influenced by Brel and the whole French style of singing about personal and earthy narratives.  While everyone in the world of pop was tuning in- or dropping out - Scott was sort of a hipper version of Jack Jones (a singer he admired at the time) or a throw back to the pop crooner.   So that alone made him stand out with respect to the Pop explosion of the 1960's.

In the 70's he lost the pilot of sorts (and reading this book now I have second thoughts on this period)  and sort of sang for his supper - till the late 1980's where he made a series of albums every 10 to 12 years that are totally unique, odd, beautiful, disturbing, and well, fantastic art.   This book covers all different aspects of Scott Walkers very long but fascinating career.

The longest piece is by Ian Penman, focusing on the albums that no no really cares about - including Scott!  But here you can see how this 'dead' period gave fuel for him to make his future masterpieces - and therefore cannot be denied!  The beauty of Walker's life in music is that they are all pieces of a puzzle - and you have to spend the time going over those pieces or putting them together to see the whole picture, which of course is a masterpiece.  And this book helps the listener put the pieces together.   Pennman with great wit, writes about the down years of Scott that to me are not wasted, but career wise must have been a downer for him.

And there is not really a downer of an essay in this book.  Young did a remarkable job in giving an intriguing picture of Scott Walker.  I am so happy that this book exists.

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