Everyone (well the critics and music tragics anyway) wax lyrical about Scott Walker (and rightly so) of The Walker Brothers but what about his "brother" John?
John was one third of 1960s pop sensations The Walker Brothers.
The Walker Brothers are interesting on a number of levels.
They weren't brothers and secondly they were Americans who went to live in England at the height of the British invasion and had hits there.
Wikipedia: John Maus was born in New York City (in 1943) , the son of John Joseph Maus Sr., who was of German extraction, and his wife Regina. With his parents and his older sister, Judith, he moved to California in 1947, at first settling in Redondo Beach and later in Hermosa Beach. He began learning saxophone, clarinet and guitar as a child, and by the age of 11 also began acting and appearing in TV talent shows. He had a role in a regular sitcom, Hello Mom, and small uncredited parts in the movies The Eddy Duchin Story (1956) and The Missouri Traveler (1958). He became a friend of Ritchie Valens, and was an honorary pallbearer at Valens' funeral. In 1959 the family moved again, to Inglewood, where he made the acquaintance of David Marks and Dennis and Carl Wilson, helping to teach them guitar. He began using the name John Walker at the age of 17, because he was unhappy at how people pronounced his real name…From 1957 onwards, he worked as singer and guitarist with his sister, as the duo John and Judy. They recorded several singles for the Aladdin, Dore, Arvee and Eldo labels between 1958 and 1962. In 1961, they formed a backing band and performed as John, Judy and the Newports, until the band split up after an engagement in Hawaii. They then met Scott Engel, who had been playing bass in The Routers, and, with drummer "Spider" Webb, formed a new band, Judy and the Gents. Maus obtained an ID card in the name of John Walker, in order to perform in clubs around Los Angeles while under the legal age to do so. In 1963, Walker and Engel, with two other musicians, toured the Midwest as "The Surfaris", although the group included none of the musicians who played on the Surfaris' records. Walker also released his first solo record, "What a Thrill", on the Almo label, with The Blossoms as backing singers… He formed The Walker Brothers (originally The Walker Brothers Trio) in 1964, with himself as lead vocalist and guitarist, Engel on bass and harmony vocals, and Al "Tiny" Schneider on drums. Walker and Engel were signed as a duo by Mercury Records, and recorded their first single, "Pretty Girls Everywhere" in Los Angeles. There they became a leading attraction at Gazzari's nightclub, and appeared on the Shindig! TV show developed by Jack Good, and then on a weekly TV show, Ninth Street A Go Go. Late in 1964, they met drummer Gary Leeds, previously of The Standells, who had recently toured the UK with singer P.J. Proby, and who persuaded them that they would have greater success in England. Before leaving, they recorded their second single, "Love Her", overseen by Nick Venet and arranger Jack Nitzsche, with Scott Engel taking the lead vocal part for the first time. With financial backing from Leeds' stepfather, Walker, Engel and Leeds travelled to the UK in February 1965 for an exploratory visit …"
The result of that visit …. Singles: 2 #1s, another 7 Top 40. Albums: 4 Top 10 albums. And that is in the space of three years!
The Walker Brothers had less chart success in the US (2 Top 20s) though I suspect that was partially because the US already had "their" Walker Brothers … and what the "Walker Brothers" were based themselves on (in part), The Righteous Brothers.
The Brothers broke up in 1968. Each went on to put out solo work with Scott achieving the most success, critically and commercially.
They reformed in the 70s for three more albums before splitting again. John Walker went into electronics and solo work before passing away in 2011.
John was 24 at the time of this album. He had sung lead back in the US but Scott had become the lead voice soon after the group formed and was the only lead voice the English had heard. So whilst he sand up front, Gary played drums and John sang harmonies. Those harmonies where integral to The Walker Brothers sound and John was right up front of stage with Scott. But there was more. John Walker wrote, somewhat immodestly, but with a lot of truth, in his autobiographical The Walker Brothers: "No Regrets – Our Story":
"I was always the leader of the band. I was the one who said, 'Let's do this, let's do that.' I spent a great deal of time making sure that the group would make incredible music. Most people don't realise that it was I who chose the songs that would become The Walker Brothers' biggest-selling singles….. I was aware that things had changed a lot: Scott had become the lead singer of the group… Now that he was singing lead, I enjoyed the opportunity to create some unusual harmonies, something I had never done before. We knew that we each had an important role, and felt responsible to each other, with one goal in mind, which was to make good records that were unique for the time."
I suspect, though, that John wanted to do a side project and this was it. Whether that was a result of a split in the band or a looming split I do not know as I'm not that familiar with the (minutiae) details of the band.
Clearly, John had an influence on The Walker Brothers career and sound as they all did. By that I mean to suggest they were not a "put together" act. It seems clear they were all creative and (to varying degrees) forceful personalities.
This album is proof of that. It is both a Walker Brothers album and a departure from the Walker Brothers. This album could have been a Walker Brothers album. The same themes, same sound (maybe stripped down a little), and same pop sensibility are there. And yet, it departs from what the Walker Brothers did as John injects more of his own personality. There are more retro trad pop numbers, less emphasis on intensely brooding songs, and occasional displays of a wounded heart (which was Scott's forte).
Despite a single John released in 1968, "Annabella", co-written by Graham Nash, which reached #24 on the UK singles chart this album tanked as did follow up singles and a 1969 album, "This Is John Walker". There would be other bits and pieces before and after the 1970s Walker Brothers reunion but his solo career never took off.
I suspect a lot of that had to do with being in the (giant) shadow of Scott Walker, who sang not dissimilar music.
Tracks (best in italics)
- The Right To Cry – (Goffin-King) – nice, but a little thin around the voice and the voice lost in the instrumentation on occasion. First done by Lenny Welch in 1967.
- Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out To Dry – (Cahn-Styne) – this is better. Walker's voice suits gentle arrangements when he wants it to. Here he takes on a wounded heart little boy lost voice, with some huskiness around the edges. This is decidedly retro with 40s era backing vocals. I'm not sure where the market is (was) for this in 1967. Even Tony Bennett wasn't doing stuff like this at the time. Still, there is nothing wrong with it, it's good in fact. A standard done by everyone, notably Frank Sinatra in 1958. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Guess_I%27ll_Hang_My_Tears_Out_to_Dry
- Reaching For The Sun – (Duncan-Nash-James) – a beat ballad co-written by Graham Nash. This is good with some nice drama. Nash is always a good writer.
- An Exception To The Rule – (Stone) – a mid tempo soul number which is fun (slight but fun).
- Good Day – (Nash-Duncan-James) – a song of its times. Baroque, hippy and quite relaxing in a winter way.
- If You Go Away – (McKuen-Brel) – The magnificent Rod McKuen and Jacques Brel song done by everyone including Scott Walker. There are going to be inevitable comparisons and the general consensus is Scott's version is better … and it is, but John's version is pretty good also, but then again the song is great for pop singers like this. Some of the orchestral flourishes are a little too much but then the song is meant to be uber emotional …
- So Goes Love – (Goffin-King) – English pop singer Dave Berry (1965) had done this as had The Turtles (1967). Nice.
- It's All In The Game – (Sigman-Dawes) – The song had given Tommy Edwards (#1, 1958) and Cliff Richard (#2 UK 1963, #25 US, 1964) hits. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It%27s_All_in_the_Game_(song)
- Nancy (With The Laughing Face) – (Silvers-van Heusen) – nice and gentle but always associated with Frank Sinatra (1944). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nancy_(with_the_Laughing_Face)
- It's A Hang Up Baby – (Reeves) – a stompin mid tempo rocker. Decidedly old school and a touch cabaret but quite groovy. Similar to Jerry Lee Lewis' version on his " Soul My Way" album from 1967.
- Pennies From Heaven – (Burke-Johnston) – one of my favourite of all the popular standards. This , though, misses the mark. Both the tempo and orchestration is wrong, which, I think, sets the wrong mood for the song. Done by everyone but usually associated with Bing Crosby (1935) though I'm partial, also, to Guy Mitchell's version from 1958. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pennies_from_Heaven_(song)
- I Don't Wanna Know About You – (Maus) – written by Walker himself. A pleasant mid tempo rocker.
Not perfect and if it wasn't for the continual comparisons to Scott Walker this would stand a taller. Quite good and at times impressively good (and I like the Walker Brothers anyway) … I'm keeping it.
Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out To Dry
Reaching for the Sun
If You Go Away
It's A Hang Up Baby
- Accompaniment is by reg Guest who worked with The Walker Brothers and Scott Walker solo.
RIP: Elvis Presley – 38 years ago. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZ3MOyCn66w