This short series of articles has been prepared by our friend and collaborator Peter Goldmark, a long-time fan and connoisseur of Walker's work.
This installment focuses on "Scott Sings Songs From His T.V. Series" and it's my pleasure to leave the floor to Peter.
If we approach the aesthetics of Scott Walker looking for a cohesive element, in its fifty-five years of constantly evolving musical production, maybe we can find it in his struggle to define some unsolved zones in human mind, with a melancholy and disenchanted feel.
Talking about his albums released between 1969 and 1974, in July 2000 Walker himself declared to Mojo journalist David Peschek that «[...] They're useless records, you know? And in a sense, I was thinking about this: maybe it's better to have had that awful gap (eight years from "'Til the Band Comes In" to the four songs he contributed to the reunited Walker Brothers' swansong "Nite Flights", and another six years before a full album, "Climate of Hunter") than to have made a lot of half-assed art records like a lot of people did. [...] To just not quite get up to the standard in the time, and to have that behind you, I would rather have gone off totally and experimented with standards and had that experience than not.»
However, these record have a lush orchestration, impeccable vocal performances and the choice of the songs mirrored Walker's attitude, at that time, to the textual and vocal representation of drifting lives and unsettled personae, even if in a more accessible way compared to his previous self-penned albums.
The absence of originals has been explained by Walker in a press-release interview in 1973; at the question whether this aspect meant he lost interest in writing, he answered the interviewer that «When you are younger you let it all out, writing about personal experiences, but when you get older you become careful, and now I'm very careful about the statements I make. I want my work to be to the point and as musical as possible, but it's very hard to get that combination.»
Scott Walker as he appears on the inner gatefold of "Scott Sings Songs From His T.V. Series"
Born Noel Scott Engel on 9 January 1943 in Hamilton, Ohio, and gifted with a really interesting voice, that later will evolve into the contradistinctive baritone timbre, the young Scott started with television appearances in 1957 and became a worldwide acclaimed star after moving to London and releasing for Philips with The Walker Brothers (...no one in the trio was really named Walker...), hits like "Love Her", "Make It Easy On Yourself" and "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore" in 1965 and 1966.
For some months The Walker Brothers even overshadowed The Beatles in popularity becoming icons always followed by a crowd of adoring fans. However, this status never fitted with Scott's introspective personality and quickly drove him to some kind of paranoia that caused dependence from Valium, alcohol and drugs.
However, these initial months in London had a positive impact on Scott's artistic evolution: he started working with Philips arrangers refining an orchestral attitude that will remain a constant element of his solo works, even the more challenging recent ones.
The outer and inner gatefolds of "Scott Sings Songs From His T.V. Series" in all their glory
From 1967 the Walkers disbanded and Scott started to produce his first solo albums, the critical acclaimed "Scott", "Scott 2", "Scott 3" and "Scott 4". In a period of feverish activity straddling the end of the '60s Walker also released "Scott Sings Songs from His T.V. Series", the subject of this post, and "'Til The Band Comes In" at the turn of the decade.
In those years Scott worked in strict collaboration with the expert arranger John Franz, Philips A&R man, the young engineer Peter Olliff, and classical-trained directors like Wally Stott, Reg Guest and Peter Knight.
At the time the Philips studios, located at Stanhope Place, near Marble Arch, were the only British alternative to EMI's Abbey Road sound, with a recognizable intimate symphonic approach, influenced by impressionist composers like Debussy, Delius, Satie and Bartók, and blended with some jazzy influence.
This trademark sound gave its best results in some of Walker's seminal songs like "Montague Terrace (In Blue)", "It's Raining Today", "Big Louise" and "Boy Child" and it was the ideal ambient for Scott's dark and introspective lyrics, inspired by the Belgian singer Jacques Brel and French existentialist novelists and philosophers Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre.
Another picture taken during the same session that produced the album cover.
"Scott Sings Songs From His T.V. Series" contains the following tracks:
01. Will You Still Be Mine (2:26)
02. I Have Dreamed (2:35)
03. When the World Was Young (4:00)
04. Who (Will Take My Place) (3:17)
05. If She Walked Into My Life (3:54)
06. The Impossible Dream (2:58)
07. The Song Is You (1:45)
08. The Look of Love (2:30)
09. Country Girl (3:05)
10. Someone To Light Up My Life (2:11)
11. Only the Young (3:12)
12. Lost In the Stars (4:21)
All tracks were remastered from the original vinyl and from various CD compilations in November / December 2015, and are available in FLAC lossless format, along with complete artwork reconstruction and printable PDF files.
Before burning this album on CD-R using the provided CUE file you must convert the original FLAC audio file to WAV format using an appropriate software. Please have a look here if you need some help.
As usual, please have a look at the comments for the download link.
John Franz at the piano and Scott Walker during an episode of Scott's T.V. series
"Scott Sings Songs From His T.V. Series" was released in the U.K. by Philips with cat. number SBL 7900 sometimes in late June 1969 and reached number seven in the British charts. The album was housed in a gatefold cover with stunning pictures of Walker taken by famous Vogue photographer Peter Rand.
Interestingly enough, between 1969 and 1970 the record was released, both in the U.K. and in other countries across Europe, with different titles and, sometimes, a different tracklisting... But more about this a few lines below, now let's pass the baton back to our friend Peter and get into the grooves...
Released just in between "Scott 3" and "Scott 4", the aptly entitled "Scott Sings Songs From His T.V. Series" is a re-recorded collection of some of the songs Walker played for his personal television special show a few months earlier (the program was broadcast on 16 August, 30 December 1968 and in six consecutive Tuesday nights between 11 March and 15 April 1969). Unfortunately, all the analog tapes of the original TV shows were wiped by the BBC, a normal procedure in those years...
All the songs on the album are covers and some of them were previously recorded by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. Walker's vocals are more swinging than in his first three solo albums and the orchestral arrangements are less challenging than in the recent past. However, unlike the common idea that Walker has been forced by Philips to release an album of standards to please the public, the songs were probably chosen by Scott or, at least, in agreement with him.
Indeed, some of them were introduced in the shows by Walker with positive comments or brief introductive comments. Some of the lyrics here find a legacy with the personae object of Scott's narration in his solo works. The lyricists of these songs usually speak in first person, but love, longing and solitude push them in a sort of existential drift in a similar way of many stories narrated on the previous Walker's albums.
Side 1 opens with "Will You Still Be Mine", a swinging number written in 1940 by Tom Adair and Matt Dennis, that was originally performed by Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra with vocals by Connie Haines.
"I Have Dreamed", a lyrically linear romantic ballad, was originally conceived as a duet by Rodgers and Hammerstein in the 1951 musical "The King and I", based on the 1944 novel "Anna and the King of Siam" by Margaret Landon, which is turn derived from the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, who was the governess of King Mongkut's children in Siam during the 1860's. The musical was followed by a 1956 film for which Yul Brynner won an Academy Award.
"When The World Was Young", originally entitled "Le chevalier de Paris" and recorded by Édith Piaf in 1950, was introduced in the show by Walker with these words: «This was written by Johnny Mercer and Gerard Philippe and it's one of those songs we would have written.» This is a bipartite song, a form that always fascinated Walker; his original song "Plastic Palace People", written a couple of years before, is a clear example of it. The shift between the first part, about narcissism, and the second one, about how this feel can't wipe away sweet memories from the past, has here a magnificent rendition, with elegant piano insertions. This song has been recorded by Sinatra in 1961, on "Point of No Return", his final Capitol records album; Walker's and Sinatra's versions are slower than the Piaf's original and present many different melodic aspects.
"Who (Will Take My Place)", with English lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer, is an adaptation of Charles Aznavour's "Qui?",originally recorded in 1963. The song is a reflection on the dramatic implications of the human egocentric nature, really fitting for Walker's existentialist exploration of human feels and graced with a beautiful and quiet jazz drums parts, audible in its whole dynamics in this restored edition. A really successful arrangement by Franz, previously released one year before, in 1968, on Dusty Springfield's "Dusty... Definitely".
"If She Walked Into My Life", incidentally credited to J. Norman on the center label but written by Jerry Herman, is taken from the 1966 musical "Mame", based on the 1955 novel "Auntie Mamie" by Patrick Dennis. For one minutes and twenty seconds, after the brief string intro, we can hear Walker singing on the piano alone, played by John Franz.
"The Impossible Dream", written by Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion, was sung by Don Quixote persona in the 1965 Broadway show "Man of La Mancha". This explains the tone of the lyrics, focused on the relation between political utopia and individual strain. Musically, Walker's version is more Brel-inspired and theatrical than the one recorded by Sinatra for the "That's Life" album in 1966. The harsh crescendo contained in this song will be surpassed only by the most aggressive vocal parts of the avant-garde record "The Drift", thirty-seven years later.
Side 2 starts with "The Song Is You", which is taken from the Rodgers and Hammerstein 1932 musical "Music in the Air". This is a sort of swinging intermezzo, one minute and forty-five seconds of orchestral explosions.
"The Look of Love", the Bacharach/David classic song, in a certain sense suffers for the tonal shift in the central part, because everyone has listened to the Dusty Springfield version used in the 1967 James Bond film "Casino Royale".
Written by Canadian arranger, director and trumpeter Robert Farnon, "Country Girl" is far closer to Walker's more melancholic and reflective solo works. The song's most famous version, performed by Tony Bennett in 1967, is vocally similar to the Walker and Franz one.
"Someone To Light Up My Life" is an English rendition of "Se Todos Fossem Iguais A Você", a song written in 1956 by Antônio Carlos Jobim - with original lyrics by Vinicius de Moraes, then adapted by Gene Lees for Sinatra in 1967 - for the play "Orfeu da Conceição". This is a short gem where Walker's baritonal voice is really at ease in the bossa nova ambient.
"Only the Young", performed with John Franz at the piano, has a jazz feel and appeared on Nancy Wilson's "Lush Life" album in 1967 and on Tony Bennett's "Yesterday I Heard the Rain" in 1968.
The album ends with Weill and Anderson's "Lost in the Stars", from their 1949 musical of the same name, based on the novel "Cry, the Beloved Country" written by Alan Paton. The most listened versions of this song were sung by Judy Garland (available here...), Sinatra (...here...) and Bennett (...here). The lyrically walkerian element is the doubt about the Lord, who, in the narrator's point of view, maybe has gone away forgetting his promises.
At the time of the recording of "Scott Sings Songs From His T.V. Series", two opposite tendencies emerged clearly in Walker's career: from one side, the need to face unusual lyrical themes from an even more difficult philosophical point of view, from the other the will to give to his public something accessible but someway representative of his deep vision of the world. We know that, after the years of obscurity from 1971 to 1977, the first option will prevail and Walker will emerge from the darkness with very challenging and gradually more enigmatic works.
One more picture taken during the same session that produced the album cover.
Here's the short credits and personnel list of "Scott Sings Songs From His T.V. Series" as they are printed on the inner gatefold:
Accompaniment directed by Peter Knight.
Produced by John Franz.
Engineer: Peter Olliff
Photography: Peter Rand
Design: Linda Glover
As hinted to earlier, the album received a different treatment depending on the country where it was released; here's some details about the known editions:
- "The Impossible Dream", released in The Netherlands, offers the same tracks of the original U.K. release but Side 2 has been switched to Side 1 and vice-versa;
- "El Sueño Imposible", released in Spain, offers the same tracks of the original U.K. release with Spanish titles added for good measure... Just like the Dutch release, songs on Side 2 has been switched to Side 1 and vice-versa;
- "The Lights of Cincinnati", is a U.K. re-release which omits the first track on Side 1, "Will You Still Be Mine", in favour of "The Lights of Cincinnati"; this song was also released in 1969 as a single in many countries.
The album also had a domestic release in New Zealand which, as far as the Discogs entry goes, was similar to the first U.K. release but didn't have a gatefold cover...
Fans in Japan were the luckiest of all, as the Japanese edition came with the usual obi strip and the giant poster that you can see right here below...
Two pictures taken by Peter Rand during the same session were used by Philips on the cover of the compilations "The Best of Scott Vol. 1" in 1969, and "This Is Scott Walker Vol. 2 - Come Next Spring" in 1973.
A last trivia: the big key dangling around Walker's neck on the cover of the album, was given to him by father Alham Dean, head music monk at Quarr Abbey Monastery, on the Isle of Wight. In December 1966, as he explained, Walker entered the monastery «with no religious significance, but only to learn Gregorian chant and a special system to square notes. That was one of the only places where they taught it.» However, the press revealed his whereabouts and after only two days his studies and the peace of the monastery were interrupted by fans that hammered on monastery doors and invaded the chapel during the Sunday mass. When Walker was forced by the situation to leave Quarr Abbey, father Dean handed him the key and said he was free to return there whenever he wished.
The Japanese edition of the album included a poster (image sourced from the Internet)
The following clips offer a preview of the remastered album; here's "Will You Still Be Mine", "The Song Is You" and "Only the Young", enjoy!
As already mentioned, during the '60s and the '70s, the BBC didn't archive all their shows, and tapes were often wiped and re-used for other programmes. Sadly, no episodes of Scott's T.V. series has survived in video form; the following two pilots, and the series as a whole, only exist in audio form... Enjoy!
More information about "Scott Sings Songs From His T.V. Series" and Scott Walker is available here:
If you have any other useful information about this post or if you spot any dead links, please get in touch with me at stereocandies [at] hotmail [dot] com or leave a comment in the box below, thank you!