The recent passing of Scott Walker has me listening to The Walker Brothers’ 1978 single “The Electrician,” which, honestly? Is like being lowered into hell on a rickety, rust-coated mineshaft elevator.
The AV Club had a great article on this all the way back in 2013, but their point stands: How the hell did something like this get made in 1978? As a SINGLE, no less? Who digested these creeping symphonic intros, or the strange baritones that manifest like pitch-shifted devil incantations, or even the starry-eyed, guitar-plucked orchestrations plopped down on its middle act, and decided: Oh yes, definitely single material!
Not that I’m complaining: As with the group’s 1965 cover of Frankie Valli’s “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore),” the more somber but no less baroque “The Electrician” is pure pop mastery. That mastery, however, feels like a label that took a few decades to affix; I have similar feelings about Frank Herbert’s Dune.
The past is often discarded as being narrow, draconian, or primitively obtuse—which we know is in itself a narrow, draconian, primitive view—but one thing can’t be debated: the hurdles for a song to become a single, especially in decades dominated by radio airplay, cannot be overstated. We should be so thankful that odd ducks like “The Electrician” slink by in all their ominous beauty.