To most of our friends, he just wasn’t cool enough. Actually, they weren’t cool enough. After all, we were in the midst or remnants of the British Beat Boom. But my best friend Steve and I were busy discovering and, I guess, trying to find ourselves in the process while creating our own individual soundtracks to our lives. Steve’s was short-circuited.
In the midst of the trips that became more and more frequent, for myself, to Camelot and always coming up with the number 12 and how Jesus, King Arthur and Julius Caesar were and are the same person- 12 followers, each betrayed by their most loyal, different shaped tables, always a strong woman behind them- came this voice singing “Make It Easy On Your Self.”
Steve and I had crammed a lotta living into our early teen years. We weren’t trying to be different. But we were.
So, while listening to this weird sounding guy named Neil Young singing “Mr Soul” and trying to understand where the hell the Godfather of Soul was coming from, came this booming baritone voice. The voice of Scott Walker of the Walker Brothers from America who was really Scott Engel.
“Make It Easy On Yourself” was a Burt Bacharach and Hal David song originally recorded by Jerry Butler. Playing on the Walker Brothers session were Alan Parsons and Big Jim Sullivan.
At that time, hair was important and Scott “Walker” had great hair. Gary (Leeds) and John (Maus)!No idea. They probably wore wigs. But it was Scott “Walker”, his voice and this incredibly sad song of a breakup that hit home. It meant something then, it means more now.
That opening line: “Breaking up, is so very hard to do”. It is. Then came “My Ship Is Coming In” before hearing echoes of Phil Spector on the Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio written and track originally recorded as the first solo single by Frankie Valli of the Four Seasons, “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore”.
Steve and I rehearsed playing the song for weeks. Missing? That lead vocal. No one sounded like that amongst all the psychedelic Rock and jangling guitars.
Sure, we liked Free, Hendrix, Cream etc, but we two young teens loved melodies. And so when the Walker Brothers separated and Scott Engel became his own man, in the midst of pyschedelia came this kinda deeper and more mature trip- a cross between hanging out at Le Moulin Rouge and Cabaret with Henri de Toulouse Laurec and Jacques Brel.
It was a chance meeting with Scott Engel in London that drew me to the music of Brel and Charles Aznavour. It’s lived with me until now. It will never leave me.
Scott Engel just left us, but his body of work is quite incredible.
Thom Yorke, Marc Almond and, I would guess, Brian Wilson and especially Bowie were all inspired and influenced by this man.
He flipped pop music on its head. He broadened the horizons of popular music. How music has no barriers. Why “soul” music is about interpretation and up to us to make that personal connection.
It’s what music should be all about. Something that enters one’s life but never lets go because you don’t want it to leave. Because we need it in order to be honest to ourselves.
The sun ain’t gonna shine as brightly anymore because we’ve lost someone who couldn’t and refused to be categorised. And in a world of music with way too many labels these days, we still have the experimental individualism of Scott Engel.
Was he “experimenting”? Doubt it. Just going wherever the music took him.
It took him and many of us very far. The journey continues.
#RIPScottEngel #ScottWalker #TheWalkerBrothers #HansEbert #music #Bowie