Alex Harvey performs the song with malevolent relish to a rock cabaret with strings backing. His voice goes from wheedling to rasp, from ruefulness to rage, in the Glaswegian accent which hangs onto words like “arses”. Brilliant.
Scott Walker half declaims and half sings with precise diction. Scott Walker did an album of Brel songs but that heavy orchestration doesn’t suit them and both he and the arrangement are far too polished for such rawness. I could only find half a video for his interpretation on YouTube but found the song here. Scott Walker has got a fine voice, but this angry, bitter song does not need a fine voice.
Here’s the man himself, Brel in concert. I don’t know how Brel’s accent would sound to a Parisian –like Glaswegian to a Londoner? – but I love his harsh nasal “suivaaaaahnt”. He brays it like a donkey. Minimal accompaniment, and so it should be for a song like this.