The three Americans (not brothers or named Walker) got together in LA, where Scott had been performing as a session bass player since the age of 15. They started out with rock and roll: in his clip, John is the taller one on guitar, and Scott is playing bass (oh my god, those dancers!)
The went to London to make their fortune, and quite soon hit a sweet spot with Dusty Springfield's producer. Their fame would come from a wall-of-sound pop style that featured Scott's baritone and John's tenor harmonies. The production included use of reverb and and echo chamber that pumped up the melodrama. Hits included songs by the major songwriting teams of the day: Bacharach/David, Goffin/King, Leiber/Stoller, and a wide range of others. Scott seems to have chosen a lot of the material. Good-looking, with those awkward haircuts, they attracted the feverish screaming crowds of fans who couldn't see their pop idols on YouTube. This video is lip-synched, but you get the picture.
Sudden Walkermania suited the other two members, but it was a poor fit for Scott, psychologically. The band broke up. He was only 26 when he was given a show on the BBC in 1969. (Can you believe that the BBC erased the tapes?) He released his original material from that show on the solo album Scott 4, but it failed to chart at all, and his label was furious. From '69 to the mid-'70s, he would put out a series of solo albums, returning to covering the work of other songwriters, especially Jacques Brel (in English). His musical choices were not in tune with the times, although he could have worked the pop ballad vein like Tom Jones, and he withdrew, labeled a recluse. Today he looks back on those years as a period of "bad faith" and lost creativity. Some fans today are still angry that he turned his back on the style they loved. This song shows a desire to experiment with arrangements:
The Walker Brothers briefly reunited for money, and put out a last record together, Nite Lights, in 1975. They had the unexpected freedom to do what they wanted, so they put out a record with three separate sets of songs, one by each member of the band. Scott's group of songs presaged what would his musical direction. become his musical direction. He also had begun to suffer from terrifying stage fright .
He would become a cult favorite of musicians, film-makers, but turned down many opportunities to record. The record Climate of Hunter (1984) is still recognizably a group of songs, but his later records could better be considered the work of an avant-garde composer.
From the album Tilt (1995), this song refers obliquely to the murder of Pasolini.
This interview (part of bonus material from a documentary made about him) fills in some of the story of the later years, when a kind of mythology about Scott the Recluse circulated.
Recluse, or just private? He didn't stop making music or participating in projects with others, but his own albums have come at longer intervals, one a decade, more or less, and are relentlessly avant-garde, challenging: Tilt (1995), Drift (2006), and Bish Bosch just last December 2012. Cerebral and visceral. They'd love him at the Walker Art Center's performance series, but he hasn't toured for over 30 years. He's 70 years old, and living his life.
The documentary 30 Century Man is in my Netflix queue. Here is the trailer: