Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Blue Bell to Bish Bosch: Engel to Walker

In 1958, a teenager from Hamilton, Ohio named Noel Scott Engel arrived in Los Angeles to pursue pop stardom. He cut 20 tracks or so for the tiny Orbit label and achieved regional success with the single "Blue Bell".

In 1965, The Walker Brothers had a # 1 hit in Britain with the moody ballad "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore", sung by bandleader Scott Walker. They briefly had more fan club members than The Beatles. None of them were brothers. None of them were named Walker.

In 2013, a seventy year old man from London, England, named Scott Walker released the song "Epizootics!" from his fourteenth studio album "Bish Bosch". "Epizootics!" is a term which refers to epidemics in the animal world. The song is over ten minutes long with a video directed by Olivier Groulx, an Icelandic director who has worked primarily with Sigur Ros.

Noel Scott Engel and Scott Walker are the same man.

Scotty Engel, 15 when he recorded "Blue Bell", washed out as a teen idol by the early '60's and found himself playing bass around Hollywood in "discos" and nightclubs. One of the outfits he joined was a band led by a tall handsome guitar player who lived across the street from Brian Wilson. His name was John Maus but for some reason he'd begun to call himself John Walker. Scott Engel must have figured, why not, and they began appearing as The Walker Brothers.

Then they did something even crazier than that. Signed to a small recording contract with a company that had a London office, they pooled their funds, packed up, and moved to London. The London office didn't know they were coming. They shared an apartment and started recording.

Since then, Scott Walker has been in the United States for less than three months.

I discovered Scott Walker through a documentary that was briefly available on Netflix called "Scott Walker: 30 Century Man". As this post shows, that documentary was a rabbit hole that I have not emerged from over a year later. His career is so strange that trying to describe it all in one sitting feels like what it must feel like for true believers to try and chip away at atheism.

In fact, the three links that I show above completely ignore the period from 1967 to 1970 when Scott Walker left The Walker Brothers to go solo. His fame skyrocketed and the five albums he released in those three years are, in my opinion, unparalleled. As in, if I had to put my money on a Mozart/Salieri outcome, Walker is Mozart and everyone else is Salieri.

He has unquestionably become my favorite musical artist of all time. And it is not even close. In the 1980's, a British musician named Julian Cope put together a compilation of Walker tracks to help restore what was by then a career that had faded into obscurity.

Cope called the compilation "The Godlike Genius of Scott Walker".

So, heathens, non-believers, look upon his works and despair. The Beatles gathered the world together in worship. The Rolling Stones led the hedons in revelry. The inscrutable voice of God emerged through one man only.

A man named Scott Walker. A man NOT named Scott Walker.

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