Phil Spector, the man that revolutionized pop music with his "Wall Of Sound" technique in the 1960's, that forever changed the landscape of music, has died. He was 81.
For all of the success that Phil Spector created along the way with his self created "Wagnerian approach to rock and roll", Spector turned music on it's ears by layering multiple musical tracks to widen the sound of every production he touched. That appeal, during it's time, forever changed the landscape of music and made it BIG AND LOUD. Such artists who enjoyed the new success of this technique at the time included "The Ronette's, "The Crystals", Darlene Love and "The Righteous Brothers just to name a few.
Spector had a unique talent and ability to take songs written by Brill Building songwriters and turn them into some of the greatest songs of all time. But it couldn't have happened without the the incredible contributions of "The Wrecking Crew" who were the center piece for many of these hits.
Brian Wilson said of Spector in 1966. “He makes a milestone whenever he goes into the studio and this has helped the Beach Boys evolve.” A decade later, Bruce Springsteen would seek to recapture the grandeur of Spector’s productions on Born to Run. “Phil’s records felt like near chaos, violence covered in sugar and candy … little three–minute orgasms, followed by oblivion,” Springsteen said in his 2012 South by Southwest keynote speech. “And Phil’s greatest lesson was sound. Sound is its own language.”
“A genius irredeemably conflicted, he was the ultimate example of the Art always being better than the Artist, having made some of the greatest records in history based on the salvation of love while remaining incapable of giving or receiving love his whole life,” Stevie Van Zandt wrote on Twitter.
Since 2009, Spector had been serving a sentence of 19 years to life for the 2003 conviction in the murder of Lana Clarkson. Spector met Clarkson while she was working as a hostess at The House Of Blues in Los Angeles. In the early hours of February 3rd, 2003, Clarkson accompanied Spector to his mansion in Alhambra. Spector's chauffeur, who was waiting outside heard what he thought was a gunshot. The Chauffeur later testified that Spector emerged from the mansion and said "I think I killed somebody".
Harvey Philip Spector was born in the Bronx on December 26th, 1939. He lost his father by suicide when Spector was just nine years old. He moved to LA with this mother in 1953 and played with very jazz groups.
in 1958, Spector formed "The Teddy Bears" with high school friends Marshall Lieb and Annette Kleinbard. "To Know Him Is To Love Him" would be the first song that Spector would help write with a song title that he would take from the inscription from his father's gravestone. When Spector was 18, veteran L.A. producer Lester Sill sent Spector to New York to work with Sill's former proteges and songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Spector helped write Ben E. King's hit "Spanish Harlem" as well as played guitar on the Drifters "On Broadway". One of Phil Spector's biggest contributions in music came on Ray Peterson's hit version of "Corina, Corina", Gene Pitney's "Every Breath I Take" and Curtis Lee's "Pretty Little Angel Eyes".
Later as Spector's career ballooned, he began recording in L.A's Gold Star Studio's where his footprint in music would forever be embossed in the "Wall Of Sound". This happened with the help of the "Wrecking Crew". Made up of incredible musicians like Glen Campbell, Barney Kessel, pianist Leon Russell and drummer Hal Blaine, the total sound contributions of arranging and overseeing the recordings wouldn't have happened without the help from Jack Nitzsche and Sonny Bono. With such hits and "The Crystals" "Da Doo Ron Ron", "Then He Kissed Me", Bob B Soxx and the Blue Jeans "Zipa Dee Doo Dah and the Ronettes "Be My Baby" Spector was on his way.
In 1964, as the British Invasion of music was underway, Spector held his own by producing even more hits for the Ronettes. The following year he turned his attention to the male duo of The Righteous Brothers. "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" sold over 2 million copies and became Spectors record label Philles, third Number One Hit.
Ike and Tina Turner's "River Deep -Mountain High" was considered to be Spector's self professed masterpiece. But after it topped out at number 88 on the charts but would hit number 3 in the UK, a disappointed Spector secluded himself in his Hollywood mansion for two year, only briefly emerging to shoot a scene as a drug dealer in the 1968 film "Easy Rider" In 1968, Spector married Ronnie Bennett, the lead singer for The Ronettes. In 1990, Ronnie released her memoir entitled "Be My Baby: How I survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness, or My Life as a Fabulous Ronette. She depicted Spector as an abusive husband prone to eccentric if not outright insane behavior.
Rolling Stone reported in 2016 that Ronnie Spector said that “[Phil] took singing away from me and it was devastating because I had no idea that I would never record, I had no idea I would never perform again, which was my life. I was in shock with that because here’s a person who wrote your records and produced them. … And then, you’re never gonna sing again. … I never knew ‘What goes around, comes around,’ until he went to prison. Then I knew what it meant. Because I was in prison in the mansion and I couldn’t even get out. For seven years, I didn’t go anywhere.”
In 1969, Spector returned to music and hooked up with the Beatles and produced John Lennon's hit "Instant Karma!" and was given the task of creating an album out of the groups abandoned "Get Back" sessions. The result was the Beatles final studio album "Let It Be"
Rolling Stone reported that some of Spector’s critics, including Paul McCartney, were unimpressed with his string-heavy treatment of tracks such as “The Long and Winding Road.” But McCartney’s bandmates were happier with Spector’s work. George Harrison not only asked Spector to produce his triple-album, All Things Must Pass, but Lennon brought him on toco-produce The Plastic Ono Band and Imagine, albums that had an uncharacteristically spare sound for Spector. Fittingly, Lennon also had Spector, the creator of the greatest rock Christmas album of all time, produce his single “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).”
To learn more about the life of Phil Spector click here.