Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fire Escape in the Sky

I've been a follower of Scott Walker's since the early 1980s when he was listed on all the "rock snobs" lists, and I have been on a listserv for at least a year about the film Scott Walker: 30th Century Man, a sort of anti-VH1 Behind the Music biography. Scott mentions that in his youth he drank a lot and once going home with a Playboy bunny, but that is important only in that she introduced him to Jacques Brel. Beyond that, there is none of the usual rock/pop star bio stuff of messy love life and substance issues. In fact, it's never clear if Scott has had a long-term relationship of any kind.

The film starts of leading you to believe it might have all the conventional elements of rise, fall and return. Walker went to England, had short but huge success there, went through a dry patch and then started making weirder, darker and more obscure music loved by a very specific circle. There are talking heads that include Lulu, Bowie, Eno, Marc Almond, Radiohead and Alison Goldfrapp. The most priceless moment is late in the film when Lulu, who seemed to have a crush on Scott in the 1960s and toured with him, listens to a track Tilt. Her eyes get bigger as she tries to form a smile of sorts that starts to quaver as the camera moves in, and she just sits in silence listening in apparent disbelief.

Things wrap up with him recording his 2006 release The Drift that included tunes from the perspective of Mussolini's dead lover and Elvis' twin that died shortly after birth. We see a percussionist being instructed on the proper way to beat a side of beef for a perfect sound effect and Scott's voice wailing "I'm the last person left alive" into the abyss.

People love him or hate him, and I definitely fall into the former. I was thrilled that the film ended not with him having some marvelous and joyous reunion before adoring fans, but taking off his sun glasses to explain himself and contending that he will probably just continue to get weirder and darker with the passage of time. That gave me an odd comfort.

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At 12:04 AM, Blogger Joe said...

Interesting. Never heard of him. Never.

Jacques Brel is another story...

At 7:46 AM, Blogger Ladrón de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Joe - Oh, my dear boy, what you've missed. He heavily influenced Bowie and others and is responsible for introducing Brel to English speaking audiences. I wouldn't recommend starting with "Tilt" and "The Drift", but his early solo work is a good place to start.


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