“The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” by The Walker Brothers
For my Round 5 pick, I’m staying in 1966, arguably one of the greatest years in the history of recorded music. One of the many standout songs that year was The Walker Brothers’ gorgeous “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore”. Even though I was only 11 years old when the song came out, I loved it, and it still has the power to cover me with chills 55 years later. The magnificent cinematic arrangement and orchestration, combined with Scott Walker’s achingly beautiful baritone vocals, make it one of the most dramatically compelling songs of its time.
The song was originally written by Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio for fellow Four Seasons band member Frankie Valli, who’s solo 1965 recording of it failed to chart. The Walker Brothers recorded their version the following January, and that spring the song went all the way to #1 in the UK and #2 in Canada, but only peaked at #13 on the Billboard Hot 100. Although American by birth, The Walker Brothers relocated to England in 1965, where they became much more successful and popular than they were in the U.S.
Interestingly, The Walker Brothers were not brothers, nor were any of them born with the name Walker. John Walker was born John Joseph Maus, but began using the surname Walker in his teens, while Scott Walker was born Noel Scott Engel, and Gary Walker was born Gary Leeds. John and Scott originally formed The Walker Brothers Trio in Los Angeles in 1964, along with Al “Tiny” Schneider, with John on guitars and lead vocals, Scott on bass and backing harmonies, and Al on drums.
Later that year, they met Gary Leeds, who’d played drums with The Standells from 1962-64, and eventually replaced Al Schneider on drums. They changed their name to simply The Walker Brothers, and eventually both Scott and Gary took the surname Walker as well. Leeds, along with the help of Rolling Stones band member Brian Jones, persuaded his bandmates to consider relocating to England, where their early rock and roll and blues style would go down well in “swinging London”. (Wikipedia)
Once in London, they signed a recording contract with Philips Records, whereupon Philips producer and A&R man Johnny Franz began refashioning their sound from upbeat R&B to more dramatic pop ballads similar to those of The Righteous Brothers (another brother act who weren’t really brothers). With this new direction, Scott Walker become the group’s de facto frontman and lead vocalist, as his distinct baritone was better suited to their new sound. Under Franz’ direction, and with full ‘wall of sound’ orchestral arrangements by Ivor Raymonde and performed by session musicians, The Walker Brothers scored their first #1 hit in the UK in 1965 with their cover of “Make It Easy on Yourself,” a Burt Bacharach and Hal David ballad originally recorded by Jerry Butler. “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” would be their second and final song to top the UK charts, as well as chart on the Billboard Top 40.
They continued to have more chart hits in the UK through 1967, but with diminishing commercial success, as pop continued to evolve, making their music sound dated. They also had to leave the UK for six months in 1967 because of work permit problems. By the end of 1967, the pressures of stardom, internal tensions and ‘artistic differences’ had taken their toll, and The Walker Brothers officially disbanded in 1968. All three members continued to release solo records, with Scott having the most success. However, in late 1974 all three agreed to reform The Walker Brothers, and in 1975, they released the album No Regrets, followed by two more albums Lines and Nite Flights, which were less commercially successful. They drifted apart for good by the end of 1978.
“The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” has come to be considered The Walker Brothers’ signature song. NME ranked it at No. 357 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, Pitchfork ranked it at No. 187 on its list of The 200 Best Songs of the 1960s, and it is listed in the 2010 book 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die.
While it’s a bit on the heavy side of production, I’ve always loved the singing on that tune – great choice!
Thanks Christian. I’ve long been a sucker for heavy, grandiose production!
I always loved this record.
Great record. I just listened to this the other day- for some reason- probably because Scott Walker was much bigger in the UK than the US- I for some reason thought they were a British act..
I long thought they were British too Hans.
I was disappointed I couldn’t place them in my British Invasion songs—but you picked up the ball and covered it- well done.
Fine song! I always liked it, though if you’d stopped me on the street and asked who did it, I wouldn’t have remembered the Walker Bros. name. A good pick – familiar yet often-forgotten.
It’s a lush tune and I can see why you mentioned the Righteous Brothers in your information, as it’s of the same vein as their tunes. Thank you for sharing the origin story on the band.
You’re welcome Lisa.
That deep baritone comes right down from Scott’s boots. I never knew it was written for ‘Falsetto’ Frankie Valli- talk about one musical extreme to the other!
I like how you said “you’re a sucker for this kind of music”. What this exercise is all about. The tune sounds familiar and like you also said Righteous Brothers all over it.
Lovely song pick. I didn’t know how they disbanded, or when. So it was interesting to learn that they weren’t together all that long. To me Scott’s voice is to 1960s popular music what Jim Reeves’ voice was to country back then: Both voices are so deep and personal that it’s almost uncomfortable. Both voices are legendary. This may be the Walkers’ signature song, but my personal favorite of theirs is No Regrets.
Great pick Jeff! I’ve always wanted to know more about them. Thank you for the post!
Thank you Max.
I like this, but if I’m taking a Walker Brothers song I’m going straight for Scott’s weirdo stuff on Nite Flights like The Electrician.
Of course you are Graham lol.
He’s drilling through the Spiritus Sanctus tonight
Through the dark hip falls
Screaming, “Oh, you mambos
Kill me and kill me and kill me”
If I jerk the handle
You’ll die in your dreams
If I jerk the handle, jerk the handle
You’ll thrill me and thrill me and thrill me
I haven’t heard this in years. Great song with great voices.
Love the vocals – you could get lost in the chorus and that’s a good thing. Great pick!
Always loved that song!