17/9/17 – Scott Walker – My Death – 1967

Song Of The Day

Life & Death

Scott Walker was born in Hamilton, Ohio, as Noel Scott Engel in 1943. After much moving around the US as a child he found himself in California in the late fifties where an interest in acting and music saw some moderate success culminating in him playing bass as a session musician and as a member of instrumental group The Routers. After meeting John Maus, he joined Judy And The Gents, backing Maus’ sister and later with Maus, another instrumental group The Surfaris. It’s incredible to think Scott Walker started playing bass in instrumental bands when hidden behind that background role was one of the world’s greatest singers.

Maus had been using the stage name ‘Walker’ and after drummer Gary Leeds joined them, they decided to call themselves The Walker Brothers despite the fact that they weren’t related. At this point Maus was the lead singer. If you are aware of Scott’s solo work but not John’s you must look for If You Go Away (1967) and This Is John Walker (1969). You might also be interested to know that Joey Molland, future guitarist for Badfinger played with Gary Leeds’ post Walker Brothers group, Gary Walker And The Rain.

At some point in 1964, supported by Gary Leeds’ father, The Walker Brothers decided to try their luck in the UK – the rest is Pop history. From bass player to lead singer in The Walker Brothers, a role originally occupied by John Walker, Scott and The Walker Brothers had become mega Pop stars in competition with The Beatles and after their split in 1967, Scott, still famous and having commercial success with his own albums, would go on to have his own BBC TV show.

Although they had taken the UK scene by storm between 1964 and 1967 with two number one singles, Make It Easy On Yourself and The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore and one single inbetween, My Ship Is Coming In reaching No.3 in the UK charts. Three years was enough for the band as it began to fall apart. Calling it a day between 1967 and 1968, The Walker Brothers had finally split up.

Just 6 months after their split, Walker had made the first of a series of classic albums culminating with Scott 4 in 1969. My Death appeared on his first album and is one of the timeless classics of the era thanks to his discovery of Belgian singer and songwriter Jacques Brel and new translations of his work by Mort Shuman (Walker gaining access to them before anyone else). Walkers’ baritone voice, heavy with gravitas, was impossible to ignore when singing such deep and meaningful songs and although Brel’s translated songs were controversial for a Pop star in 1967, the public lapped it up, the album reached No.3 on the US charts in 1967. The audience’ acceptance of Brel’s songs such as Amsterdam, Next and Funeral Tango might have been as much for Scott’s boyish good looks and profile rather than his captivating voice and perfect delivery of the poetic lyrical content, musing on death in a song that seemed to come more from the theatre. Three of Brel’s songs appeared on each of Walker’s first three solo albums and his own songwriting was highly influenced by the genius of Brel’s often cutting observations of the human condition.

In the seventies David Bowie, inspired by both Brel and Walker’s renditions, recorded both Amsterdam and My Death – the list of artists inspired by Scott Walker is long – Jarvis Cocker, Antony Hegarty and Richard Hawley, David Sylvian, Nick Cave, Marc Almond, Julian Cope, Neil Hannon, Billy MacKenzie and Alison Goldfrapp. Steven Wilson and Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt released their Storm Corrosion in 2012, Scott Walker’s name comes up as an influence for the approach to the album. If you’ve heard Scott Walker’s avant-garde later albums you will make the connection.

After my last Nick Cave post I’ve been trying for days to write this with death as a theme. This interpretation by Scott Walker of Jacques Brel’s My Death magnificently turning tragedy into poetry.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Walker_(singer)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_(album)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Brel

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Walker_(musician)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Walker_(musician)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Walker_Brothers

A swinging door
A patient girl who knows the score
Whistle for her
And the passing time

My death waits like
A bible truth
At the funeral of my youth
Weep loud for that
And the passing time

My death waits like
A witch at night
And surely as our love is bright
Let’s laugh for us
And the passing time

But whatever is behind the door
There is nothing much to do
Angel or devil I don’t care
For in front of that door
There is you

My death waits like
A beggar blind
Who sees the world with an unlit mind
Throw him a dime
For the passing time

My death waits
To allow my friends
A few good times before it ends
Let’s drink to that
And the passing time

My death waits in
Your arms, your thighs
Your cool fingers will close my eyes
Let’s not talk about
The passing time

But whatever is behind the door
There is nothing much to do
Angel or devil I don’t care
For in front of that door
There is you

My death waits
Among the falling leaves
In magicians, mysterious sleeves
Rabbits, dogs
And the passing times

My death waits
Among the flowers
Where the blackish shadow cowers
Let’s pick lilacs
For the passing time

My death waits in
A double bed
Sails of oblivion at my head
Pull up the sheets
Against the passing time

But whatever is behind the door
There is nothing much to do
Angel or devil I don’t care
For in front of that door
There is you

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Walker_(singer)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_(album)

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2 Responses to “17/9/17 – Scott Walker – My Death – 1967”

  1. alsendk September 18, 2017 at 7:00 pm #

    Marty
    You constantly amaze me about the knowledge you have about alle these artists – and even the tiny little details that keeps it all together .
    ( That rug really tied the room together)

  2. DeniseD67 September 29, 2017 at 7:52 pm #

    I need to echo alsendk’s comment about your incredibly vast knowledge of artists, songs, stories…every time I come onto your site I feel like I learn something new. I was aware of Scott Walker but I hadn’t heard his rendition of Jacques Brel’s “My Death” – I’d only heard Bowie’s interpretation. Walker does indeed have an amazing voice and I truly enjoyed his version of Brel’s song – possibly more than Bowie’s! Thanks Marty for not only your musical talent but for the musical education we are privy to as well. – Best,

    Denise ?

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