From JST arts correspondent Christopher Wright-Herbert
Existential angst! – its not just a common cricketing complaint. As the BBC4 Proms have so recently reminded us, Scott Walker has been consumed by it for a lifetime. His music combines highly original orchestrations with an emotive, rich and powerful baritone and all reinforced by an all consuming love of cricket.
Following extensive research I can now exclusively reveal how cricket and particularly an absorbing passion for batting has guided and influenced his musical output throughout his unusual and unorthodox career.
Born Noel Scott Engel in the US in 1943, Scott was drawn to cricket from an early age. Afternoon tea on Montagu Terrace overlooking the pavilion, the evocative sound of leather on willow, spikes on soggy ground, images and sounds that permeated young Scott’s mind as he considered his destiny. By the age of 22, he had decamped from sun drenched California to the dark, dank, smog filled streets of 1960’s London to follow his star and don his whites.
Like many cricketers, frustrated by an untimely downpour, Scott became obsessed with the English weather, would rain interrupt yet another fine innings? This theme can be traced through his early Walker Brothers songs, such as ‘The sun aint gonna shine any more’ to his later efforts such as ‘Its raining again’ on Scott 4.
Although the weather found its way into his canon, Scott’s overriding preoccupation was his own batting technique and particularly his tendency to ‘nick off’ to the slips and wicket-keeper. Coached from an early age, almost to the point of destruction, existential angst crept into his batting but manifested itself in songs such as the classic, ‘Make it easy on yourself’, a self-help mantra that Scott was often heard chanting to himself at the crease.
Characteristic of the man, however, he always played the game in the right spirit, never arguing with umpires or disputing decisions and taking a typically philosophical approach. He eventually learnt his early lessons with respect to ‘nicking off’, his ‘hanging the absurd on his arm’ approach to batting seeing him right in the end but the nickname of ‘Walker’ stuck and he bears it to this day.
Through a combination of application, tenacity and determination Scott’s technique at the crease steadily improved although he was noted for shunning ‘singles’ and for his early ‘big hits’. He also eschewed a leg, off or middle stump guard preferring instead his own ‘avant guard’, often bamboozelling bowlers with his complex, layered and often impenetrable approach.
This individual and highly sophisticated batting technique was ultimately to pay dividends as innings after innings produced wave after wave of runs and as Stephen Kijaks 2006 documentary ‘Scott Walker – 30th Century Man‘ clearly celebrates, should you take the time to scratch the surface and delve deeper beyond the facade.