Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The Electrician: has music progressed beyond this in the past 30 years?

Joe writes...

John Walker from The Walker Brothers has died.

The Electrician by The Walker Brothers used to be my favourite track of all time. Like many of my favourites, I taped it from Mark Radcliffe's brilliant Out On Blue Six show on Radio 1 in the early '90s. At the time, I don't think it was available on CD except as a bootleg. When I did eventually get it on CD and so heard it without tape hiss and FM compression, it lost a little of its mystery, but it's still an incredible, unique and hugely ambitious piece of music. You can hear the link to Scott's recent material but it is much more accessible.

Sean O'Hagan writes about it in this interview with Scott Walker (as it happens, Mark Radcliffe also used to play Sean's band The High Llamas). Brian Eno might have a point. Most of the classic albums of all time were released in the ten years prior to 1978 (the year The Electrician was released on the Nite Flights album). I was a big fan and early adopter of Eno's two recent collaborators Coldplay and Dido, but I'm not sure either is really doing anything that wasn't done in the '70s. How many great albums have been released in the past 30 years that genuinely couldn't have been made in an earlier era? (dubnobasswithmyheadman by Underworld springs to mind, and the whole of hip hop, but not too much else.) What's more, it's hard to imagine any of today's artists having the ambition or resources to make a track like The Electrician.

Not that everything was better in the past. In the early '90s, I had no idea what The Electrician was about, and had no way of finding out. Now, in the internet era which has transformed music discovery for the better, Sean's article plus a quick Google search suggest three themes - drug taking, S&M sex, and torture techniques employed by the CIA. Chris Martin eat your heart out.

I've also posted a Brian Eno track that I discovered via Out On Blue Six. One day I'll do a more comprehensive Out On Blue Six post.

(update of post originally from 11/11/08)

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