Books: A Look at the Jean-Paul Sartre of Pop

The Birmingham Post (England), January 16, 1999 | Go to article overview

Books: A Look at the Jean-Paul Sartre of Pop


The picture above of Scott Walker with the Beverly Sisters, frantically mugging as he and they kick their legs high in the air during a 60s' television variety show, was discovered lurking in our archive.

No doubt Walker would squirm with embarrassment should he ever come across the photograph. It certainly doesn't fit with the more familiar image of the tortured existentialist, the solitary outsider of Scott 4 and Climate of Hunter or apocalyptic prophet of Tilt, the album destined to be his masterpiece.

But there was a time when Scott Walker was the epitome of the teen idol pop star. Good-looking, obviously intelligent and with a voice that seemed to erupt from deep in the subconscious he, in partnership with his less talented "brothers" crafted a serie s of sublime singles, his baritone soaring above a powerful wall of sound on songs like Make It Easy On Yourself, The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Any More and the song that gives this book its name.

But it is his solo work, in particular the remarkable series of four self-titled albums released in the late 60s, as well as the later Climate of Hunter (1984) and Tilt (1995), that have established Walker's cult reputation as the Jean-Paul Sartre of pop . In songs such as Montague Terrace In Blue, Big Louise and Mathilde, he chronicled the characters who populated the bedsitland that was later the subject of a song by his admirer Marc Almond.

Jeremy Green has written a life of Almond and he comes to Walker as an unapologetic fan (the book is subtitled "an appreciation of Scott Walker"). He's not afraid however to go against received opinion in dismissing Scott 4, the self-composed solo LP tha t signalled Walker's descent into temporary commercial oblivion which has nevertheless come to be regarded as a minor masterpiece. …

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