211. The Walker Brothers – The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore (1966)

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Four months before the FIFA World Cup was scheduled to kick off in England, the Jules Rimet Trophy was stolen. On 20 March a thief broke into the Methodist Central Hall in Westminster, ignored rare stamps nearby that were worth far more, and took the trophy from its public display. A package with the removable lining was left at Stamford Bridge with a ransom demand. When police arrested Edward Betchley, who mailed the package, he claimed the real culprit was known as ‘The Pole’. He/she have never been found, but the trophy was, by a dog called Pickles, a week after the robbery. His owner, David Corbett, bought a new house with the reward money, and Pickles won a medal and was invited to a celebration banquet when England won the tournament. He went on to a TV career before dying in 1967 after getting caught up in his choke chain while eating cheese. Poor Pickles, what a way for a hero to go.

Four days after Pickles’ discovery, Harold Wilson’s gamble paid off, and the Labour party won the snap general election, increasing their wafer-thin majority significantly. It’s unlikely him and the rest of the Cabinet were dancing to the number 1 at the time though. The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore isn’t exactly Things Can Only Get Better, is it?

Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons songwriters Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio (also one of the Four Seasons) originally wrote the track as a solo single for Valli. However, his backing group also performed on The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore), as it was originally known upon its release in 1965. The Walker Brothers had stayed popular since achieving their first number 1 that year with Bacharach and David’s Make It Easy on Yourself. It was an admirable attempt to replicate Phil Spector’s ‘wall of sound’, but fell short despite making it to the top. They then went to number three with My Ship Is Coming In before having a crack at Valli’s tale of heartbreak. This time they really nailed it.

Listening to Valli’s version, it’s clear that this was already a strong track, but the Walker Brothers and producers Johnny Franz and Ivor Raymonde take it to another level and really ramp up the melodrama. Their version starts with a rather Mexican/Spanish feel in the intro, before Scott’s baritone lead begins. As the song continues, his voice is almost lost in the lush intrumentation, but that’s entirely appropriate, as the singer is drowning against an overwhelming tide of heartbreak. Something about the way he sings the lines ‘The tears are always clouding your eyes/When you’re without love’ gets me every time. I’m a big admirer of Scott Walker as an artist, but nothing he’s written tops this in my opinion.

Following a month at number 1, Scott Walker began to take over with song choices and would also join in on production duties, but as his role grew, so did the dissension, and their success began to decline. In early 1968, after touring with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cat Stevens and Engelbert Humperdinck, followed by a tour of Japan. The trio disbanded.

All three ‘Walkers’ continued to record as solo artists, with Scott gaining a cult following that only grew over the years, even if mainstream success eluded him. His late-1960s albums are now considered classics. The best in my opinion, was Scott 3 (1969), featuring the trippy masterpiece Plastic Palace People.

In 1974 the Walker Brothers reformed and released three albums between 1975 and 1978. Apart from the title track to No Regrets however, they’re very MOR-country and not worth hearing. Since their final split, Scott Walker went even more leftfield and now releases albums sporadically to great acclaim. He also produced Pulp’s final album, We Love Life in 2001. Scott is a big hero of frontman Jarvis Cocker, and was also famously a big influence on David Bowie, which became ever more apparent during Bowie’s last few albums. A birthday message from Walker to Bowie on his 50th in 1997 even reduced him to tears.

The other two Walkers, John and Gary, released biography The Walker Brothers: No Regrets – Our Story in 2009, in which John seemed philosophical about losing his importance in the group to Scott. In 2000 he set up his own record label and began touring, but he died of liver cancer in 2011. Gary has seemingly disappeared back into obscurity.

Also in the news during the reign of The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore… 7 April saw the UK ask the UN Security Council for authority to use force to stop oil tankers that violate the oil embargo against Rhodesia. The UN did exactly that three days later. And the day after that, the Marquess of Bath, in conjunction with Jimmy Chipperfield, opened Longleat Safari Park at his Longleat House, which was the first drive-through safari park outside of Africa.

UPDATE (25/3/19): It was announced today that Scott Walker has died aged 76. He leaves behind a fascinating life story and a truly innovative body of work.

Written by: Bob Crewe & Bob Gaudio

Producers: Johnny Franz & Ivor Raymonde

Weeks at number 1: 4 (17 March-13 April)

Births:

Politician Andrew Rosindell – 17 March
Footballer Nigel Clough – 19 March
Politician Mark Williams – 24 March 
Athelete Roger Black – 31 March 
Disc jockey Chris Evans – 1 April
Footballer Teddy Sheringham – 2 April 
Footballer Steve Claridge – 10 April 
Singer Lisa Stansfield – 11 April 

Deaths:

Author CS Forester – 2 April
Footballer Barry Burtler – 9 April 
Author Evelyn Waugh – 10 April