Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Phil Spector

Harvey Philip Spector was born in 1939 in the Bronx, New York. Harvey, his sister and mother moved to LA in 1953 where he enjoyed playing music as a child. At high school his friend shared a common interest in music and Phil hung out with Lou Adler, Bruce Johnston and Sandy Nelson. He formed his first group The Sleepwalkers with Marshall Lieb, Harvey Goldstein (who only stayed a short time), and singer Annette Kleinbard, later they called themselves the Teddy Bears. He was interested in record production and spent all his spare time at a local recording studio called Gold Star Studios. There he worked under the watchful eye of Stan Ross who co-owned the business. By 1958 when the group had raised enough money to hire the studio, Phil produced the Teddy Bears first demo record "Don't You Worry My Little Pet," which helped them secure a recording deal with Dore Records (a subsidiary of Era). The b side was ‘To know him is to love him,” which caught the ear of the public and went to #1 on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart.

Unfortunately the Teddy Bears were unable to repeat this success and the group separated in 1959. Before Phil moved to New York to pursue a career as song writer and record producer he worked with Lee Hazlewood and soon mastered doubling down (or bouncing), a sound Hazlewood had perfected and can be heard in recording such as Duane Eddy’s Rebel Rouser.

In NY the 19 year old was apprentice to Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Jerry Leiber and Phil wrote "Spanish Harlem", and Phil played guitar on the The Drifters's song, "On Broadway".

In 1961, the Tycoon of Teen continued to produce hits including Pretty Little Angle Eyes by Curtis Lee “Corrina Corrina” by Ray Peterson, and the Paris Sisters "I Love How You Love Me."

By now he had his own record company, Philles (Phil Les) Records (co–owend by Lester Sill) and they signed the Crystals. The line-up was Dee Dee Kennibrew, La La Brooks, Pat Wright, Mary Thomas and Barbara Alston. Phil produced "There's No Other (Like My Baby)” in 1961 with Darlene Love a teenager with a brilliant voice. Shad was singing with The Blossoms at the time but because Phil owned the name The Crystals, he released the single and it went to number one in the US as the Crystals.

La la Brooks returned to the lead vocal on two later hits, "Da Doo Ron Ron" and "Then He Kissed Me", both major hits in 1963.

The Crystals were soon overtaken when Phil became more involved with the Ronettes, and the Crystals career faltered. Phil Spector was driven to create a sound that would replicate well on AM Radio and the jukebox. His approach in the pre-stereo sound era was to use a symphonic approach and record large groups of musicians playing orchestrated parts. He used double and triple tracking to record many instruments playing in unison then proceeded to mix numerous layers of vocals and instruments onto one mono track. The unique production was dubbed the “Wall of Sound’ or "Tomorrow’s Sound Today” and ‘He’s a rebel’ epitomized the new sound.

Phil created Bob B Soxx and the Blue Jeans which featured Bobby Sheen and Darlene Love on lead vocals and they had several high selling singles including “Zipa dee doo da.”

He started working with the Ronettes and produced “Be my baby” which gave the group a major international hit in 1963.

The Ronettes undertook a national tour and appeared on the same bill as The Righteous Brothers. Phil was so taken with the duo he bought their contract and signed them to Philles. In 1965 he co-wrote and produced The Righteous Brothers, ‘You’ve lost that loving feeling’ which would became the label's second #1 single.

Despite their continuing success The Righteous Bros were less malleable than the girl groups and Phil Spector sold their contract. The final signing to Philles was a husband-and-wife team by the name of Ike and Tina Turner in 1966. Spector produced his finest works with "River Deep - Mountain High. At first the song made little commercial impact and proved more popular in the UK than the US.

Phil Spector lost enthusiasm for the recording and withdrew from the industry. Between 1960 and 1965 Spector had produced over twenty top forty hits in the US. Phil Spector prefered to work with the same core musicians called The Wrecking Crew. They backed dozens of popular singers, and were one of the most successful "groups" of studio musicians in musical history. The Wrecking Crew included: Glen Campbell (guitar), Carol Kaye (Bass), Hal Blaine (drums), Leon Russell (keyboards) and Tommy Tedesco (guitar). The conductor/arranger was Jack Nitzsche, Sonny Bono would oversee performances and The Ron Hicklin Singers often performed backup vocals.

Later Brian Wilson, (Beach Boys) engaged the Crew's talents on many of his mid-Sixties productions including the songs "Good Vibrations" and "California Girls" and the acclaimed album Pet Sounds.

Later despite his eccentricities he continued to produce great music for a variety of artists including The Beatles, and the Ramones. He produced the Let it be album for the Beatles then went on to co-produce George Harrison's multi-platinum album All Things Must Pass (#1, 1970), and John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band (#6) album and the 1973 sessions for the album, Rock 'n' Roll (#6).

His last top 40 song was by John Lennon with Imagine.

As the decades passed Phil became more eccentric as he battled substance abuse. In 2009 the most gifted producer of modern pop songs was convicted of second-degree murder of actress Lana Clarkson in his Alhambra, California home. He is currently serving a prison sentence of 19 years to life.

Worth a listen

The Teddy Bears
To Know Him Is to Love Him (1958)

Ray Peterson
Corrina, Corrina (1961)

The Paris Sisters
I Love How You Love Me (1961)

Curtis Lee
Pretty Little Angel Eyes (1961)

Gene Pitney
He's A Rebel

The Crystals
He's A Rebel (1962)
Da Doo Ron Ron (1963)
Then He Kissed Me (1963)

Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans
Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah (1963)

The Ronettes
Be My Baby (1963)

The Righteous Brothers
You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' (1965)

Ike and Tina Turner
River Deep - Mountain High" (1966)

The Beatles
The Long and Winding Road
Across the Universe

John Lennon
Stand by me
Imagine (1971)

George Harrison
My Sweet Lord" (1970)

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