Working at Record Mirror was a most enjoyable time for me and Norman Joplin’s new book ‘Shake It Up Baby’ brought it all back. I remember a band called the Bee Gees had just arrived in London and I was asked to interview them. The RM office in Shaftesbury Avenue was so small I interviewed them in the narrow hallway, with them sitting on boxes. I was writing so many features for the publication ranging from artists such as Bobby Darin to Paul Simon, that I began using pseudonyms such as Brenda Tarry and David Berglas. I was surprised to learn that Berglas, a name I made up, was actually the name of a noted practicing Magician!
Norman still retains bound issues of Record Mirror and promised to send me some of my articles when he tracks them down. The first one he’s sent is an interview I did with Scott Walker at his Chelsea flat. Part of his chat surrounded his forthcoming album ‘Scott 2,’ issued in March 1968.
Here is the interview:
Scott Walker has an immense admiration for the songs of Jacques Brel and records a great number of his compositions – numbers such as ‘My Death’ and ‘Jackie’.
“I like to record anything that is interesting and has something to say. In a song I look for what I consider to be the truth. It’s a form of self-indulgence. I record for me, not the public – and I even distort my voice to sing whatever songs I want. The people who are following me don’t want the sugar coated nostalgic rubbish, they want the truth. ‘My Death’ is a very important song, a strangely, aching song and people walk away itchy after hearing it. I like these type of songs. I find them fascinating. I take a lot of time, more time now than ever before, telling the truth and my next album will not be trite and contrived as the last thing was. 30% of the songs on the new album will be Brel songs, the rest mine. I don’t write any special type of song. I write whatever I believe to be an original idea or in an original way. My musical structure is a lot harder than Brel’s, an expanding swing type, symphonic. My melodies are so complex I take more time on a song these days. I often leave them for weeks and go back to them.”
I asked Scott whether he believed in God and he said, “I’m really too busy working with human beings than to be involved in situations, so is anyone who is really working. The scientists and writers in Russia and the Continent are working with NOW and what’s happening here. We’ve got to think of the future. The life that surrounds us must be told to the people, they’ve been living in dreamland too long. They have made their own prisons in this society – and marriage is one of the biggest prisons. People should be aware of how ridiculous things are, they take things too seriously. We have terribly desperate people today. I haven’t met one who isn’t. If only people would stop for a minute to speak.
“I’m trying to make them listen a little bit. They should enjoy themselves too. Records should be of a higher standard. They should educate the public but they’re not doing this. I think it is much fairer for people to go to the artist.”
Scott is seeking to open people’s eyes to the truth via the medium of his songs, but he says: “I’ll fail, but in the process I’ll get self-satisfaction…and I won’t fail completely. At least a minority, a strong minority, will listen and that’s the important thing.
“The people in Russia have a completely different outlook; they’re starting all over again and are willing to learn. They don’t have materialism to tempt and frustrate them. They are drummed night and day with culture over the radio, things that are nice to hear. The workers go to the theatre, ballet and jazz concerts. “They have a great attitude. They think what’s happening here is pretty funny. They have sympathy for the Americans in Viet Nam, they feel for them although they know they did the wrong thing. “There is terrible frustration with the Western world. They are very wary of clever things. Westerners have the wrong idea about Russian people, they should realise how ridiculous the propaganda is. Russians have an unbelievable strength, nothing shakes them. The workers here should have the same opportunities; they should be educated on radio and television. They need a good dose of propaganda and more than anything else they need a form of dictatorship again and be told what we’re to do by the right people and then we’d be all right again.”
Scott regularly travels to Russia. ”Leningrad has become my favourite city. I’m going back there soon. It’s more beautiful than Rome, a fantastic place with neo-Classical buildings. I’m concerned with a lot of things. I saw there a man who gives you a series of injections (he’s not a crank) which takes you back to your origins. They erase all the conditioning a person has received from other people in his life. I’ve seen it happen – it works and it only benefits a person. I was a 65-year-old man who, after the injections, has taken up painting and writing…when in other circumstances his life would have been virtually over. The injections increase your concentration and enable you to project five or six other men. I’m going to have them when I go over.”