Phil Spector, studio producer, song writer, record label owner and convicted murderer has left an indelible mark on the entire music industry. He has been recorded saying himself that he thought he might actually be insane and some of the history of this mega influence on pop make you wonder if he was right.
His first massive hit was for his own group The Teddy Bears, To Know Him Is To Love Him in 1958. Footage shows him singing and playing guitar. According to Spector, this song was written as a tribute to his father who committed suicide when Phil Spector was nine. After this initial success, he started his own record label: Philles where he could control every aspect of the tracks released. According to session musicians at the time he had respect for the music men, less so for the usually very young girls singers in groups such as The Crystals, The Ronettes and The Paris Sisters whom he would talk to in a bullying manner.
A interesting ‘tribute track’ to the work of Phil Spector is: The Wall Of Sound, a Soul hit on the Northern Scene in the UK. It’s like a mixture of Spector’s ‘Wall Of Sound’ meets a mixture of the Righteous and Walker Brothers.
Artists who worked with Phil Spector
The list of those he worked with and influenced is huge. They included:
Darlene Love, who should have been a star in her own right, was used as a fake voice-over singer hidden within other groups, and treated shabbily by Spector. As an example, she was the singer in the Crystal’s hit the iconic He’s A Rebel, written by Gene Pitney. This meant, of course, that when the group performed the song live, it was with their own lead singer, LaLa Brooks, who in turn had replaced other group members. There were several different voices taking the lead on The Crystal’s many hits.
His most famous album is his Christmas LP. ! timeless masterpiece now digitally remastered, but not by Spector as they wouldn’t allow him out of the penitentiary (and famously removed his wig, of course).
He was indeed a strange recluse, but did he do that murder or was it an accident? This film investigates the case and leaves doubt in the maker’s mind at least.
Phil Spector, the song writer and producer who invented The Wall Of Sound Indicted for murder – 2003
How could it end like this? September 2004 L.A. court accuses Spector of murder for the Feb. 3, 2003 shooting of actress and House of Blues VIP hostess Lana Clarkson at his hilltop Alhambra mansion, along with the allegation that he personally used a handgun. He left The House of Blues in L.A. and went back to his mansion, ‘Pyrenees Castle’ in the township of Alhambra.
Phil Spector’s defence was that she committed suicide. The trial was abandoned when the jury failed to agree a verdict. He was found guilty at his retrial on 13th April 2009. The prosecution painted a picture of Spector as having a history of playing with guns and women and alcohol at the same time – probably not the most sensible of combinations. He did plan an appeal. In the meantime he was on Twitter relating his experiences of life in jail, including the fact that his wig was taken away.
There has been some speculation surrounding Phil Spector and his ‘Hit Factory’ – did he use subliminal messages to ensure certain of his records were hits? Well his sound engineer says so. He has been allegedly, involved at the very start of his career with putting subliminal messages onto radio station giveaway copies of his records, thus issuing a ‘like’ and ‘buy’ influence (mentioned in the strange book: The Music Of Time by Presto B Nicholls).
However, what can’t be denied is that these songs were stunning and would have been massive hits in their own right. The voice of Veronica Bennett (later Ronnie Spector) in particular was perfect for the type of songs being written and at that time in the sixties. When Phil Spector heard her for the first time he told her that her’s was the voice he had been looking for, through all his work.
The BBC apologized for calling Spector ‘talented but flawed’. and said its news article didn’t meet its editorial standards after receiving complaints. Presumably his undoubted talent disappeared on his conviction.
Born: December 26th 1939
Died: January 16th 2021 – Covid 19 related death