Scott Walker - 30 Century Man

I 'discovered' Scott Walker...ooh, must have been about 1981. I'd probably heard other singers and songwriters mention him in an interview somewhere. Certainly, I blame Marc Almond! And simultaneously I heard about the legendary 'Fire Escape In The Sky' compilation issued by Julian Cope and I ordered myself a copy of 'Scott Sings Jacques Brel', which had been issued by Phillips, from a music club that I'd joined. I was well and truly dragged into the world of Walker and Brel. I feverishly started purchasing what I could although I knew next to nothing about The Walker Brothers or the solo Scott albums. His brilliant 'Climate Of Hunter' album came out in 1984 and I vividly remember a nervous interview with Scott on 'The Tube', Channel 4's legendary music show.

It wasn't until much later that I caught up with his back catalogue when they were first reissued by Fontana in the early 1990s. Until then I'd made do with a worn out tape of the Cope 'Fire Escape' compilation. Then the release of 'Tilt' in 1995 was a signal that Walker was on a trajectory that would finally put the 'crooner' out to grass and suggest that here was, in essence, a fine artist and composer prepared to follow his own creative line.

Stephen Kijak's documentary '30 Century Man' is obviously a labour of love from a genuine admirer. He traces Scott's career through a series of interviews, archive clips and photos and then manages what some would have thought impossible - he interviews the often reclusive man and reveals him to be a shy, sensitive but thoroughly determined artist with a passion for his own work.

Even though the interviews are revealing, the documentary still leaves Walker's iconic status intact. He still remains a fascinating figure and you get a sense of this from the comments in the other interviews with the likes of Gavin Friday, David Bowie and Alison Goldfrapp (whose summation of 'Tilt' I thought was spot on). There are many who don't like the later solo albums like 'Tilt' and the recently released 'The Drift'. But then anyone expecting to hear that gorgeous baritone over European influenced orchestrations in the later works is bound to be disappointed because his current work is a soundscape of the mind or composition of the psyche. I personally find 'The Drift' very hard to listen to. 

Originally, I felt exactly the same about 'Tilt' but you have to give these compositions time and space for them to reveal their true beauty. 'Tilt' for me is late night, long walks home with my Walkman through November mists because that's how I listened to, and started to fully appreciate, the album. I have no doubt that I'll find an equally evocative method to finally come to terms with 'The Drift'. And I do so want Walker to keep challenging his listeners this way because as he himself points out in the film - all we hear these days are the sounds of dollars being made.

So, if you really want just to try and understand the fascination with Scott Walker then this film is your primer. He has an important place in what I like to think of as the music of 'European melancholy' which he shares with Morrissey, Marc Almond, Gavin Friday and Neil Hannon amongst others. It's strange because he's actually from Ohio and he's seeing Europe through the eyes of an outsider, not just in geographical or cultural terms but also in the very nature of 'being' an outsider and skirting on the edges of that darkness.

'Scott Walker: 30 Century Man' Verve Pictures DVD (VER7741 Cert 15)

Comments
2 Responses to “Scott Walker - 30 Century Man”
  1. Hi

    I agree with what you say Frank. I am a long time fan of Scott Walker. I did prefere his earlier work. I loved the Walker Brothers. I still did get all his music thru the years including Tilt and Drift. Not too sure abt them. I will listen to them a lot more and perhaps get the drift(pardon the pun). I did see 30th Century man. and am getting the DVD of the Film. I also went to the cinema to see his film. I enjoyed it. It is lovely to know that Scott Walker still has great and Loyal fans out here.
    He will always be my hero. I would love to know more personal stuff abt this man...he is defo an enigma.....luv Veronica

  2. Frank says:

    Veronica,

    Many thanks for your comment. I agree that both 'Tilt' and 'The Drift' are both difficult pieces. They are avant-garde soundscapes as opposed to the work leading up to 'Climate Of Hunter'. In the end, if you don't like them I don't think it matters. You can still appreciate his bravery of exploring such a singular vision.

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