Scott Walker was such an utterly unique and unlikely figure in music history that to characterize him with comparisons to other musicians is utterly absurd.
Even at this early stage, Walker possessed two qualities required of the greatest pop stars: He had flawless vocal technique, as well as oceans full of emotion. When he went solo and positioned his band’s success as a means to seek free reign for his third distinguishing characteristic – a restless, uncompromising intelligence – he joined the ranks of iconoclasts able to bend pop into their own highly idiosyncratic shapes.
Like James Dean, Montgomery Clift, and Marilyn Monroe, Walker had exceptionally sensitive insides and equally spectacular outsides – a combination that traumatized him when English fans would swarm around him and the other Walkers with a voraciousness ordinarily reserved for the Beatles.
Dressed in black behind equally impenetrable sunglasses, Walker became the quintessential musical outsider: masculine, yet sensitive in a way that particularly spoke to the UK’s oncoming wave of LGBTQ ‘80s pop subversives.
That influence has transcended gender and generation: There’s plenty of Walker in Annie Lennox and Kate Bush alike, and you can trace his ability to generate warmth amidst icy instrumental textures right down to 21st-century electro-pop purveyors Robyn, Lady Gaga, and SOPHIE.
3/26/2019 by Barry Walters
The pioneering singer-songwriter died on March 22nd
“I HAVE a very nightmarish imagination,” Scott Walker said in 2006. “I’ve had very bad dreams all my life.” The musician, who died on March 22nd, fashioned brilliant compositions from this darkness; the jarring, unexpected and gloomy songs were unlike anything produced by his contemporaries. He took traditional instruments and pushed them towards abstraction, detuning guitars and rattling timpani; his influence can be felt in the music of David Bowie, Nick Cave and Pulp. In “30 Century Man” (2006), a documentary about Mr Walker’s songwriting, Brian Eno described the music as “humiliating”. “We haven’t got any further than this,” he laughed. “It’s a disgrace, really.”
“But now I think I’m starting to believe in fate, because it delivered you”
- Did you see me coming?
As the final track on George Michael’s final studio album (with the exception of the instrumental ‘Patience’ reprise), it’s tempting to approach ‘Through’ with a magnifying glass, looking for clues and hints in the lyrics, ways to make sense of his sudden passing in 2016. Ultimately, it must be acknowledged that ‘Through’ was released more than a decade prior to George’s death, and more likely holds insight into his relationship with music and fame, rather than any eerie foreshadowing of his death. Still, it has taken on a new poignancy in recent years, with George even choosing the track to open his final release, the live Symphonica album, indicating a great fondness for the song and an identification with it that lasted long after the Patience era had run its course.
George had a difficult history with the concept of fame. He was scrutinised constantly in the media, eventually being outed in one of the most humiliating ways imaginable, and was such a perfectionist in the studio that he spent long stretches of time out of the limelight, with record company disputes also impacting his output. In the 18 years between his outing and his death, George released exactly one album of original material, Patience, and ‘Through’ closes the LP with a slow-moving, precisely constructed statement: “I think I’m through”. The lyrics lament an audience that has become “cruel”, and refer to powers-that-be attempting to strip George of his achievements, seemingly indicating that he can no longer live any part of his life in public. Patience, as a whole, veers wildly between hope and despair, regularly looking back on George’s childhood and past loves, so for the record to close with ‘Through’ is an undeniable downer. It would be unlike George to close an album on a high note if that’s not what he was feeling, however - though he spent many years hiding a part of himself from the world, his music was always candid and honest.
Those left downhearted by ‘Through’, concerned that George would be giving up music entirely, need not have worried - the next time we would hear from George after Patience was on 2006’s joyful (and underrated) single ‘An Easier Affair’, in which his views on fame had apparently changed. On ‘An Easier Affair’, George breaks free from the chains he refers to in ‘Through’, no longer caring what the public or the media thinks of his life and choices. It’s a liberating statement, but it wasn’t a conclusive one, and the pain George wrote about on ‘Through’ didn’t disappear simply because he had moved on to a better state of mind - despite not being released as a single, the track was nonetheless included on the three-CD edition of his greatest hits album Twenty Five, and, as mentioned, was prominently placed on the Symphonica tour set list. George clearly felt the song and its message represented him truthfully, and ‘Through’ stands as a revealing window into his later years, his evolution as an artist and as a person.
Written by Richard Eric, 2/12/18
26.09.18 - Classic Pop arrives down under!
In May 1999, the Backstreet Boys released their hugely anticipated album Millennium, shattering first-week sales records and establishing them as the inarguable kings of teen pop - for the moment, anyway. *NSYNC had taken the year off after finally cracking the US and the UK in ‘98, and were due to return in early 2000, potentially knocking their rivals off their thrones. The BSB/*NSYNC comparison wasn’t random or unwarranted - the two groups were strikingly similar, having both begun their careers in Europe long before tasting success in their home country, and both relying on the talents of Max Martin and the associated Cheiron Studios for many of their biggest hits. Millennium had been the very definition of a blockbuster, and as 2000 finally rolled around, all eyes were on *NSYNC to see if they could top it.
Millennium’s lead single, ‘I Want It That Way’, was a saccharine but superbly written mid-tempo, playing right into the expectations of the Backstreet Boys fanbase. *NSYNC’s ‘Bye Bye Bye’, released in the first days of 2000, takes a somewhat riskier approach: it’s a bitter kiss-off, danceable and tough (by boy band standards) while still dripping with hooks. The video was a big-budget event, and the track was in the Billboard top five by March - it would have surely peaked at number one had a CD single been commercially available, but it was not.
The absence of a commercial single meant, of course, that US fans could not own ‘Bye Bye Bye’ until the album, No Strings Attached, was released (‘I Want It That Way’ had been similarly restricted). This sent demand through the roof, and the first week of sales for No Strings Attached were truly astounding - 2.4 million copies sold, with record stores opening at midnight to distribute copies to rabid fans (ten million would be sold by the end of the year). The album obliterated Millennium’s first-week record by over a million copies (although Millennium would record a bigger total when all was said and done), and *NSYNC would hold that record for fifteen years, with much of the album’s initial success driven the popularity of ‘Bye Bye Bye’. The single had become instantly iconic, emblematic of a particularly fervent time in pop history, one that we may never see the likes of again - and, after all that, it isn’t even the best song on the album.
‘Bye Bye Bye’ music video:
Chart peaks: AUS #1, UK #3, US #4
Written by Richard Eric, 24/8/18
Abba - Money, Money, Money
Music Fact of the Day: In 1964, The Four Seasons started a two week run at No.1 on the US singles chart with ‘Rag Doll’, the group’s fourth No.1 and a No.2 hit on the UK chart.
“Sussudio” by Phil Collins (1985)
Every now and then the DJ would throw in a off-genre track at the end of the night that took you back. This was one of them
Miss Nicolette Larson
O happy day