Monday, May 9, 2011

JOHN "WALKER" MAUS rest in peace and a discourse on 30 CENTURY MAN film

One of the more delightful and impressive clients I've had the good fortune to photograph, John Maus a.k.a. John Walker of The Walker Brothers ("The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Any More," "Make It Easy On Yourself") has passed away at the age of 67. John, besides playing guitar, originally was primary singer of the internationally chart-topping pop/rock band, a position which gave way to the mystique and sonorous baritone of Scott Walker with successive recordings.

A decade and a half before The Ramones became faux siblings with their nom du entertainment biz, John Maus, Scott Engel and Gary Leeds had became The Walker Brothers. As tall, hospital-skinny, long-haired musicians with bangs past their eyebrows working the Sunset Strip of the early 1960s, they looked generic and germane to same; a move to England guaranteed their sublime individualism with this provincial but appealing image.

After peaking on worldwide music charts, solo releases and a few reunions, the Walkers faded from all but the Classic Rock&Pop airwaves. The following piece, written two years ago in conjunction with the debut of director Stephen Kijak's (who since went on to direct the Rolling Stones' Exile On Main Street dvd accompanying its re-release) "30 Century Man" documentary on Scott Walker explains the breadth of the massive popularity of The Walker Brothers in their place in time.

It's not released in the U.S. yet, (Ed.- since rectified) but eventually should be. The subject is American, but his pre-eminence is strictly European. Fans of "Absolutely Fabulous" should remember Patsy's older sister claiming she was the subject of a Scott Walker song, fans of director Minghella's first (and best) film "Truly Madly Deeply" (comedy-tragedy-ghost story: deserves own eventual blog) should remember the woman and her ghostly dead lover singing a raucous cover of "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore," while fans of oldskool retro-60's classics on classics radio should recall "Make It Easy On Yourself" plus many anthemic others done with the same sonorous baritone over an orchestral sweeping vista.

The film is "30 Century Man" and the subject is Scott Walker. Once upon a time in the 1960's, three typical tall, skinny Sunset Strip denizens with long hair and bangs past their eyebrows plus failed C.V.s as musicians moved to England, wherein the intrinsic lack of tall, skinny Sunset Strip denizens with bangs past their eyebrows would allow them to actually stand out. And they did, to eventual mega-stardom. Precursors of the Ramones' hat trick, these unrelated chums named themselves the Walker Brothers, surrendered to mainstream pop, and had enormous hit after enormous hit there, with their flagship sound of Scott Walker's baritone crooning. However mushy the MOR slop tended to be, at least it was interesting having "one of our own" youth culturers singing this way, and all three looking so shaggable. Believe me, David Bowie was listening INTENTLY to this particular sound, and you can hear it every concert he sings to this day.

Huge hits written by the era's best other songwriters, genuine Beatles-esque fan mobbing, compromises, breakdowns, substance abuse, what photographer/director Larry Clark called "the usual betrayals in the music biz," then it gets weird. Prettiest boy and main voice Scott derails, joins a monastery, emerges as a Jacques Brel interpreter, then a techno-artist songwriter before there actually is techno, then avant-garde orchestrator cum performance artist for music that has no categorizing description, all of which he warbles the highest brow intellectual themes over. He releases his work maybe once a decade. This is the story of Scott Walker, a man rightly called the most enigmatic figure ever in the history of popular music, depicted from infancy to 2006 in "30 Century Man."

The director gives us "listening heads" instead of the talking variety, what with David Bowie coming aboard, Radiohead, Brian Eno and others chatting about Walker's influence upon their own work. Even 60's compatriot Lulu inquires to the only director that's managed to snag an interview with Walker if he's still gorgeous (A: yes, in a tall, skinny, bit of receding hairline, wildly creative, intellectual mien way. Plus he's been sober now for decades. The guy laughs a lot for a supposed morbidly reclusive type, too.) Many depicted fans of old don't "get" his newest work, voicing Luddite disdain for something so far ahead of what's going on now (whenever "now" is: that's the beauty of the avant garde) that they fail to embrace pure innovation for its own sake.

You'll see recent footage of him orchestrating in the studio (replete with a percussionist pounding a huge side of pork, or recording sounds under a wooden box,) and explaining his difficult themes with assured ease and aplomb. Thank gawd Scott Walker is still around, for this is one former pop star turned composer who is actually working at the peak of creative powers right here, right now, a massive achievement for anyone, but especially former popstars. Trent Reznor should be so lucky when he's Walker's age. Check out "30 Century Man" when it's released to watch a fascinating musical journey.

Below, a VERY early Walker Brothers video, showing twin appeal of John and Scott as co-singers

and the trailer for "30 Century Man: Scott Walker" documentary by Stephen Kijak

NOTE: link directly back to if all elements such as photo layouts or videos aren't here.


Anonymous said...

from John Oliver-
Mr. Maus is also famous among guitar geeks everywhere as the guy who sold Jeff Beck his 1954 Fender Esquire in '65, when the Walker Bros were touring with the Yardbirds. Beck used this guitar on all of the Yardbirds' hits, and eventually (...and foolishly) traded it to Seymour Duncan for a recent Telecaster with humbucking pickups in it (early Duncans, I believe). The Esquire was beat-up-to-Hell and back by that time. It now resides in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, and Fender has a tribute model available, equally beat up, for about $10 grand. . . . . Beck paid £75 for it on '65!

Anonymous said...

He also gave Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys his first guitar lesson

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