From talking with other musicians, I know that their formative and most impressionistic years are the years of adolescence. I guess that should be no surprise. I think I was 13 or so when I realized that there was no time of day or night when I wasn’t hearing music in my mind. Perhaps this had been going for some time, and I just hadn’t been self-conscious about it.

I don’t know whether this experience is common only among musicians, but I do know that I don’t know any musician for whom this is not their daily experience.

One of my earliest memories of really appreciating this phenomenon was waking up in the middle of the night when I was in eighth grade, and while turning over and trying to go back to sleep, I realized I was hearing in my mind, just as loudly as if I had headphones on, “Make It Easy On Yourself”, the Walker Brothers first big hit song. At the time—and still today—I thought that Scott Walker’s voice was really beautiful, that he could make lyrics come alive with meaning.

Neither Scott Engel, Gary Leeds, or John Maus were born with the last name of Walker. When the California trio got together in 1964, it seemed right to them to go to England to try their fortunes there. Going against the prevailing trend of British groups making it big in America, they were an American group going to England–where they achieved great success, for a brief time outstripping the Beatles in popularity. They also underwent their name change: “Walker” meant nothing in particular to them, they just liked the sound of it. So, they became the Walker Brothers.

Although their success was overwhelming in Britain, it did not last long or translate into world touring. They group disbanded in 1968, with each person going his separate way. But these two hits were huge–and they have become forever implanted in my mind.

“Make It Easy On Yourself” was a Burt Bacharach/Hal David song that had first been recorded by Jerry Butler. It was given the full symphonic treatment by the Walker Brothers, replete with the Phil Spector wall-of-sound wordless-chorus backup.

“The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” was similarly first recorded by Frankie Valli, but the Walker Brothers version was far, far more successful. The wide appeal of the song, written by Bob Crewe, is evident in its “afterlife.” It has been covered by everyone from straight-laced Jay and the Americans to the punk gothic Kommunity FK. It was the recurring musical theme of the Alan Rickman movie Truly, Madly, Deeply.

My guess is that the Walker Brothers will be a good musical memory for a number of readers. But if the Walker Brothers are new for you, I think you will enjoy giving them a listen.

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