Tuesday 26 March 2019

Scott Walker (1943–2019)

Yesterday brought the sad news of the death of singer Scott Walker.  Walker was a virtually peerless artist whose discography ran the gamut from sixties chart-toppers to avant-garde experimenta.  Blessed with the perfect pop voice, the man born Noel Scott Engel proved hugely influential; indeed, he was one of very few musical artists whose output would motivate and invigorate David Bowie.  To my ears, Walker's masterpiece was always The Electrician, which appeared on The Walker Brothers' final album Nite Flights, and this track really got under Bowie's skin.  Bowie's stab at capturing the mood created by The Electrician took the form of his fine 1995 track The Motel, and you can read an excellent in-depth article about Bowie's relationship with The Electrician here.

But what does any of this have to do with film/and or the Netherlands?  Well, Walker composed the music for several films, most recently Vox Lux, which I saw (and wrote a capsule review of) at last year's London Film Festival.  Walker's few film scores were outstanding, and you got the sense that it was work which suited him down to the ground; such backseat endeavours meant there was no need for that most reluctant of stars to employ the golden voice which had endeared him to more than one generation.  Outside of Walker's bespoke work for cinema, The Electrician was used, most memorably, in Nicolas Winding Refn's Bronson.

Besides the above photograph, taken in the 1960s when Walker appeared on popular Dutch TV show Fenklup, is there a Netherlands connection of any kind?  Well, Nite Flights did feature a track named Den Haague, and Walker, like (but before) Bowie, did record a great cover version of Jacques Brel's Amsterdam.  That track is included in the terrific compilation album Scott Walker Sings Jacques Brel - a collection of Walker's late 60s recordings of songs penned by the legendary Belgian singer-songwriter.  Now might be a good time to (re)acquaint yourself with it?

Darren Arnold

Image: Unknown photographer [CC BY-SA 3.0 NL]