396) Scott Walker — “The Old Man’s Back Again (Dedicated to the Old Stalinist Regime)”
Scott Walker wrote this song in response to the Soviet-Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in ‘68 — with the “Old Man” of course being Josef Stalin. I can’t think of a more appropriate song to feature today — it appears that Stalin’s ghost has indeed returned to haunt Russia (and the world).
“Old Man“ saw “Walker, an avowed socialist, warning of the spectre of Stalinism in the Eastern bloc, following Russia’s 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia – over a funky bassline.” (https://www.last.fm/music/Scott+Walker/_/The+Old+Man%27s+Back+Again+(Dedicated+To+The+Neo-Stalinist+Regime)/+wiki). Yes, it’s all about that bass.
Frank Moraes gives some context:
[The song] is a reference to the Prague Spring where the newly elected First Secretary of the Czechoslovak communist party, Alexander Dubček, began to reform the country. He and others in the government made a lot of progress in this effort even while maintaining what they thought were good relations with the other Warsaw Pact countries. But they were wrong and on 20 August 1968, seven and a half months after it began, the Prague Spring ended. The old policies were gradually put back in place and Dubček was forced to resign a few months later.https://franklycurious.com/wp/2020/03/29/old-mans-back-again/
The song appeared on Walker’s ‘69 album Walker 4, which was a very special album indeed. Richie Unterberger writes that:
As the leader of pop trio the Walker Brothers, [Scott] spent the mid-’60s enjoying chart success [in the UK, to where he and his bandmates moved in ’65] . . . . While remaining virtually unknown in his homeland [Ohio, USA!], Walker launched a hugely successful solo career in Britain . . . . At the height of psychedelia, Walker openly looked to crooners like Sinatra . . . for inspiration, and to Jacques Brel for much of his material. None of those balladeers, however, would have sung about the subjects — suicidal brooders, plagues, Joseph Stalin — that populated Walker’s songs. His first four albums hit the Top Ten in the U.K., and his second reached number one in 1968 — in the midst of the hippie era. . . . Scott 4 . . . was a commercial disappointment [but] probably his finest ’60s LP. . . . [M]uch of the over-the-top bombast of the orchestral arrangements has been reined in, leaving a relatively stripped-down approach that complements his songs rather than smothering them. This is the first Walker album to feature entirely original material . . . . [and s]everal of the tracks stand among his finest [including] “The Old Man’s Back Again”[, which] echoes [Ennio] Morricone, and tackles no less ambitious a lyrical palette; “dedicated to the neo-Stalinist regime,” the “old man” of this song was supposedly Josef Stalin.https://www.allmusic.com/artist/scott-walker-mn0000253142/biography; https://www.allmusic.com/album/scott-4-mw0000468113
“I seen a hand, I seen a vision. It was reaching through the clouds to risk a dream. The shadow crossed the sky and it crushed it to the ground, just like a beast. The old man’s back again. The old man’s back again. I seen a woman standing in the snow. She was silent as she watched them take her man. Teardrops burned her cheeks, for she’d thought she’d heard the shadow had left this land. The old man’s back again. The old man’s back again. The crowds just gathered, their faces turned away. And they queue all day, like dragons of disgust. Older women whispering, wondering just what these young hot-heads want of us. And Andrei V. he cries, with eyes that ring like chimes. His anti-worlds go spinning through his head. He burns them in his dreams. For half-awake, they may as well be dead. The old man’s back again. I see he’s back again. I see a soldier, he’s standing in the rain. For him there’s no old man to walk behind. Devoured by his pain. Bewildered by the faces who pass him by. He’d like another name, the one he’s got’s a curse. These people cried. Why can’t they understand? His mother called him Ivan, then she died. The old man’s back again. The old man’s back again. I can see him back again.”
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