Over the years, Noel Scott Engel, born January 9th, 1943 in Hamilton, Ohio and known to audiophiles everywhere as Scott Walker, has become what some call “pop’s great enigma.”
It’s the commanding tone of his baritone voice, the dramatic hand gestures he adorned his performances with, the dark shades that obscured his stare, the surrealist lyrics he wrote, the mystique in his stance and the very cool name which belongs to him alone and not one bit to the idiot Wisconsin politician of the same name who dominates his search results…
Well, I could write a book on why I adore Scott Walker.
But somehow, I often fail to remember just how we found each other (or I found Scott), because I simply feel like I have always loved him.
Perhaps that’s the effect of his temperament; unforgettable, but untraceable. I can only recall some key moments of getting to know his music, like the PowerPoint presentation I gave about his life my sophomore year of college, or the day I realized that “Duchess” was my favorite song ever while I was a seventeen-year-old junior in high school.
It's your bicycle bells and you Rembrandt swells
Your children alive and still breathing
And your look of loss when you're coming across
Makes me feel like a thief when you're bleeding
"Duchess" by Scott Walker
But where did it all start? With most of my obsessions, I have a vivid memory of where the musical infatuation began, and not knowing the exact inception of my admiration for Scott Walker baffles me. The man has comforted me during my most formative years, so why can’t I remember?
It must have been during the peak of my online teen Britpop fandom years (thank you, Tumblr blogs.) My Blur and Pulp obsessions naturally steered me into my later love for 60’s Baroque Pop. Scott also produced one of my favorite Pulp albums, We Love Life, and it is clear that the flamboyant Jarvis Cocker learned more than just a thing or two from him. But his influence can be heard elsewhere too, lingering in the melodies of chamber pop revivalists and the explorations of the art rockers of today.
But my favorite nudge to Scott has to be a radio clip where none other than David Bowie, who has cited him as one of his biggest influences, is audibly choked up after hearing a recording of Scott congratulating him on his birthday, which is one day before Walker’s — a fact Bowie proudly points out.
And as a fellow Capricorn (whose birthday is one week away from Walker’s), I too like to think there is some cosmic connection between the two of us. Perhaps our spirits are somewhat mirrored, or his voice has crept its way into the very fabric of my being. All I know is there is some grand way in which we are tied.
For anyone who may be interested, here is a playlist of my favorite songs by him. Most are from his ornate days, covering Jacques Brel and singing the most dramatic of love songs with the not-actually-related Walker Brothers. There are a few of his spookier, more somber experiments from his later years included as well.
And if you are more than interested, do watch this phenomenal documentary on his musical genius and reclusive persona.
So this is for you, Scott, wherever you are… Happy birthday. ❤️