Soundtrack to the Apocalypse?
“The ultimate cult artist, it is hard to think of another American who had such an impact on rock music as a whole while being almost completely unknown to his countrymen as Scott Walker.” – film Press Release
Any time I get depressed about my work not being recognized I take comfort in the fact that one of the musical geniuses active during my lifetime is almost completely unknown to the general public.
At the Silver Docs Film Festival at the AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring, MD Saturday night I was among the 81 people who were fortunate to see the DC area premier of Scott Walker: 30 Century Man, a film by Stephen Kijak. In so doing I gained a glimpse into the life of this hermetic enigmatic artist by seeing him at work in the sound studio (the first time he’s allowed anybody watch in eons), inner cut with an interview, plus interviews with a multitude of luminaries from Brian Eno and David Bowie, to Radiohead, Dot Allison, Alison Goldfrapp, and guitarist Johnny Marr.
One talking head credits Scott Walker with creating the first 21st-Century music. Perhaps that’s true.
For those who aren’t familiar with the man’s story— Noel Scott Engel (now 64) from Ohio began performing at about 15 years old. He was a pretty boy who fell in with another musician/singer John Maus and they set about playing LA as a duo--Scott on bass, John on guitar. They met Gary Leeds, a drummer who had been to England during the initial British Invasion, and so the trio invaded London together dubbed The Walker Brothers and in some weird colonial exchange became as big as the Beatles and Stones. Because John, the lead singer, couldn’t hit the notes on “Love Her” the B-side to their first single, the vocals fell to Scott’s baritone, and once the song hit, he became the featured vocalist from that point on, as well as a teen idol--a role he very much resented. In the film we learn that after one concert the teenyboppers flipped over the Walker’s van and had to be stopped by police from literally ripping the vehicle apart to get to the band.