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Scott Walker Biography

Home > Music > W > Walker, Scott > Biography

Birth Name: Noel Scott Engel
Born: 1943/01/09
Birth Place: Hamilton, Ohio
Years Active: 1958–present
Genres: Art Rock, Experimental, Pop Music, Rock, Country, Baroque Pop

Scott Walker is the stage name of the American singer-songwriter Noel Scott Engel (born January 9, 1943 in Hamilton, Ohio), former lead singer with The Walker Brothers. Despite being American, Walker's success has largely come in the United Kingdom, where his first four solo albums reached the Top 10. Walker has lived in the U.K. since 1965 and became a British citizen in 1970.

Originally coming to fame in the mid-1960s singing orchestral pop ballads as the frontman of The Walker Brothers, Walker went on to a solo career balancing a light entertainment/middle of the road (MOR) ballad approach with increasing artistic innovations in arrangement and writing perspective.

For his solo career, Walker shed The Walker Brothers' mantle and worked in a style that combined his earlier teen appeal with a darker, more idiosyncratic approach. Initially, this led to a continuation of his previous band's success. Walker's first three albums, titled 1967’s “Scott,” 1968’s “Scott 2” and 1969’s “Scott 3,” all sold in large numbers, with “Scott 2” topping the British charts.

While his vocal style remained consistent with Walker Brothers, he now drove a fine line between classic ballads, Broadway hits and his own compositions, and also included risqué recordings of Jacques Brel songs. Walker was also continuing to develop as a producer.

In 1968, he produced a single with the Japanese rock group The Carnabeats, featuring John Walker on vocals. Upon his return to the U.K, he produced a solo album for the Walker Brothers’ musical director and guitarist Terry Smith. In 1968, Walker also produced Ray Warleigh's first album by Jazz saxophonist Ray Warleigh. Also in 1968, Walker produced John Maus's solo single “Woman.”

Walker has suggested that by the time of his third solo LP, a self-indulgent complacency had crept into his choice of material. His fourth solo album, 1969’s “Scott: Scott Walker Sings Songs from his TV Series,” exemplified the problems he was having in failing to balance his own creative work with the demands of the entertainment industry and of his manager Maurice King, who seemed determined to mold his protegé into a new Andy Williams or Frank Sinatra.

Having parted company with King, Walker released his fifth solo LP “Scott 4,” in 1969. Compensating for his recent dip into passivity, this was his first record to be made up entirely of self-penned material. The album failed to chart and it has been speculated that Walker's decision to release the album under his birth name of Noel Scott Engel contributed to its chart failure. All subsequent re-issues of the album have been released under his stage name.

Despite a series of acclaimed albums, this disastrous drop in sales forced him back into straight MOR recordings with little of his own artistic input. Walker then entered a period of self-confessed artistic decline, during which he spent five years making records and consoling himself with drink.

His next album, 1970’s “'Til the Band Comes In,” showed a pronounced split between its two sides. Side A featured original material while side B consisted entirely of cover songs. Subsequent releases saw Walker revert to cover versions of popular film tunes and a serious flirtation with the country and western scene. 1972’s “The Moviegoer,” 1973’s “Any Day Now,” and “Stretch” and 1974’s “We Had It All,” featured no original material whatsoever. This eventually led to a Walker Brothers reunion in the mid-1970s (although the latter eventually moved, by mutual consent, into more experimental areas).

In 1984, Scott Walker released his first solo album in ten years, “Climate of Hunter.” The album furthered the complex and unnerving approach Walker had established on the Walker Brothers’ 1978 album, “Nite Flights.” While based loosely within the field of 1980s rock music (and featuring guest appearances by contemporary stars Billy Ocean and Mark Knopfler), it had a fragmented and trance-like approach. Many of its eight songs lacked either titles or easily identifiable melody, with only Walker’s sonorous voice as the link to previous work. Like “Nite Flights” before it, “Climate of Hunter” was met with critical praise but low sales. Soon after, Walker was dropped by the label.

Walker spent the late 1980s away from music. He did not return to public attention until the early 1990s when his solo work and Walker Brothers was critically reappraised again. During this period Walker's first four studio albums were issued on CD for the first time and the compilation album “No Regrets – The Best of Scott Walker and The Walker Brothers 1965–1976” hit #4 on the U.K. Albums chart. Walker’s own return to current active work was gradual and cautious.

His solo album, “Tilt,” was released in 1995, developing and expanding the working methods explored on “Climate of Hunter.” Although Walker was backed by a full orchestra again, this time he was also accompanied by alarming percussion and industrial effects.

The British independent label 4AD Records signed Walker in early 2004. In 2006 Walker released “The Drift,” his first new album in 11 years. Critical acclaim for the album was widespread making it one of the most successfully reviewed albums of 2006. In 2012 Walker’s fourteenth solo album, “Bish Bosch,” was issued by 4AD.