The Old Man’s Back Again


One of my favourites singers turns 70 today. Scott Walker was born in the United States, but moved to England in 1965 and became a British citizen five years later. He’s lived there ever since and has continued to release a series of increasingly more experimental-sounding albums that bear little relation to his earlier, more commercial work. He was born Scott Engel in Ohio and changed his last name to Walker when he became one of the co-founders of The Walker Brothers. They were brothers in pseudonym only and their decision to base themselves in England led to a number of successes in the UK. Make It Easy On Yourself and The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore both reached the top of the charts in the UK and were the band’s only single to make it into the Top 20 in the US

While these two songs are very much associated with The Walker Brothers, neither was originally recorded by the group. Bacharach and David’s Make It Easy On Yourself originally made it to No. 20 on the Billboard charts in 1962. The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore failed to make the Top 100 in 1965 before The Walker Brothers got there the following year. They never troubled the US charts after that, though they continued to have a few more hits in the UK before disbanding towards the end of the decade. The group reformed again for a few years in the middle of the seventies and had a top ten hit with Tom Rush’s No Regrets in 1975. The song was used as the title track of the group’s comeback album that year and that version below is slightly different to the single

When the band first broke up in 1967, Scott embarked on a solo career with four top ten albums in the UK between 1967 and 1969. These albums featured both his own compositions along with his interpretations of other writers’ songs, particularly those of Jacques Brel. If You Go Away is the English translation of Brel’s Ne Me Quitte Pas and is the closing track on 1969’s Scott 3. It’s Raining Today also appears on Scott 3 and Walker’s melancholy version certainly makes it sound like the sun ain’t gonna shine anymore. However, it’s positively cheerful in comparison to Susanna & the Magical Orchestra‘s minimalist take that appears on the Norwegian group’s Melody Mountain album from 2006

Scott 4 was Walker’s final release of the sixties and includes Duchess amongst its ten tracks. It was recorded by Greg Dulli and Mark Lanegan under the name of The Gutter Twins for their Adorata EP in 2008. 1970’s ‘Til the Band Come In would be Scott’s last solo album of original material until 1984 and one its songs, Long About Now, featured Israeli singer Esther Ofarim on vocals. Cork’s Cathal Coughlan is the singer on the version from 1991’s Bertie’s Brochures, a mini-album from Coughlan’s band, The Fatima Mansions. Nite Flights from 1978 was the third and final album from The Walker Brothers’ brief return and the only one of the three to include original material. David Bowie, who celebrated his birthday yesterday, recorded a version of the title track on Black Tie White Noise from 1993. Also in 1993, Walker wrote the lyrics and Sarajevo-born composer Goran Bregović composed the music for Man From Reno. The song appeared in Bregović’s soundtrack for the French film, Toxic Affair. Seattle’s The Walkabouts included their interpreation on their 2000 album of covers by European songwriters, Train Leaves at Eight. The more experimental nature of Walker’s most recent albums means that that’s where my coverage ends. Happy birthday, Scott

No Regrets (Tom Rush cover) – The Walker Brothers

If You Go Away (Jacques Brel cover) – Scott Walker

It’s Raining Today (Scott Walker cover) – Susanna & the Magical Orchestra

Duchess (Scott Walker cover) – The Gutter Twins

Long About Now (Scott Walker cover) – The Fatima Mansions

Nite Flights (Walker Bothers cover) – David Bowie

Man From Reno (Scott Walker cover) – The Walkabouts

Image is an edited version of the cover of Walker’s debut solo album


2 thoughts on “The Old Man’s Back Again

  1. Great post. Found this after watching “Scott Walker: 30 Century Man” on the Sundance Channel. Excellent documentary that traces Walker’s career from pop star to avant garde artist.

Comments are closed.