From an angst-ridden clarion call for disaffected youth, to this. We have strings! A full-blown orchestral section. The top of the charts lurch from one extreme to another, like a slightly edgier version of the Royal Variety Performance.
Make It Easy on Yourself, by The Walker Brothers (their 1st of two #1s)
1 week, from 23rd – 30th September 1965
We’re in a classy cabaret. All velvet drapes and green-shaded lamps on the tables. Where a melancholy, Spector-ish intro moves into a very melancholy opening line. Oh, breaking up, Is so, Very hard to do… A hook that we’ll keep returning to throughout the song.
If you really love him, And there’s nothing, I can do… Don’t try to spare my feelings, Just tell me that we’re through… It’s a novel twist on the break-up song – another sign that pop music is growing up – in that the singer spends the whole song encouraging his girlfriend to split up with him. And if the way I hold you, Can’t compare to his embrace… Get it over with, he says. Don’t hang around. Make it easy on yourself. He’ll feel terrible, but then breaking up is, after all, so very hard to do…
The voice is velvety, and very, very croony. Check out the O-o-o-h baby… before the final chorus. So croony that at times it sounds a little insincere. A little like he’s playing up to the cameras, like he might not really be that bothered if she goes. I like it; and I don’t like it. I’m on the fence with it. It perhaps doesn’t help that I can’t help hearing Jarvis Cocker, who has unashamedly copied Scott Walker’s singing style to great effect since the 1980s, in every line.
The Walker Brother, like the Righteous Brothers before them, weren’t really brothers. It’s a stage name, one that adds to the slightly camp, cabaret-ish feel that this record has, a feeling that this record can’t quite escape. Maybe I’m hearing it all wrong, but it’s a song that sounds as if it’s being delivered with an arched eyebrow and a knowing wink. Or maybe that’s the point. The beauty of art is in the interpretation, after all.
It’s another Bacharach & David number, originally written in 1962. I’ve not been keeping count, but this must put them at, or very near to, the top of the #1 record writing league. And, like so many of their compositions, it’s a song that just drips with that B & D class. It’s drenched in strings and portentous drums, and is another glowing example of Baroque pop, which is fast becoming the sound of 1965. It’s a record with a great pedigree, one of the first chart appearances by a man who has left a huge mark on popular music, from Bowie to Pulp to The Arctic Monkeys, and I just wish I could like it more…
The Walkers – Scott, Gary and John – were American but, in a sort of reverse British Invasion, enjoyed quicker and longer lasting success in the UK. They will appear one more time at the top of the charts here, with a song that – if I remember correctly – is even classier and glossier than this one, and that might just help me to ‘get’ them.
My first ever exposure to ‘Make It Easy on Yourself’, though, came long before I’d ever heard of Scott Walker, or Baroque Pop, or knew what a Wall of Sound was. In 2001, the opening strings from this #1 were sampled by Ash, on their #20 hit ‘Candy’. Ash are a great pop-rock band, who have never come anywhere near topping the charts, so I’d like to take this – my one and only chance to give them a shout-out. If you’ve never heard them, check them out.
Catch up with the previous 202 number-ones here: