Sunday, January 17, 2021

Phil Spector RIP: flawed genius

There will be many obituaries of Phil Spector, who has died aged 81 apparently from COVID, over the next few days and most of them will be negative, at least in terms of his private life. True, he had severe personality problems, as Ronnie Spector. who had the misfortune to marry him, will attest. And his imprisonment for the murder of Lana Clarkson marked the beginning of the final chapter in his troubled life. But it is hard to argue with his role as one of the most influential record producers of all time. He began as a member of the Teddy Bears who had a huge hit with 'To Know Him Is To Love Him' in 1959, but soon moved into production. Early successes were among my favourites at the time, including Ray Peterson's 'Corrine Corrina'. Curtis Lee's 'Pretty Little Angel Eyes', Gene Pitney's 'Every Breathe I Take' and 'I Love How You Love Me' by the Paris Sisters. Joining up with Lester Sill, who was a mentor to Leiber and Stoller, he formed the Philles label and the 'Wall of Sound' was born. Some of the most exciting records of the early sixties, or indeed any period, emerged from Phil's ability to combine massed amounts of intrumentation into an all encompassing sound. The Crystals, the Ronettes, Bob B Soxx and the Blue Jeans and Darlene Love (disguised as the Crystals on 'He's A Rebel') made landmark recordings produced by Phil. Sill departed but Phil continued his run of success with the Righteous Brothers, Ike and Tina Turner and Sonny Charles and the Checkmates. I remember hearing the Crystals' 'There's No Other Like My Baby' and being knocked out. All of the Crystals and Ronettes records at that time went straight to number one in my personal top ten, including 'He's A Rebel', 'He's Sure The Boy I Love', 'Da Doo Ron Ron', 'Then He Kissed Me', 'I Wonder', 'Be My Baby'and 'Baby I Love You'. Then came the Righteous Brothers 'You've Lost That Loving Feeling' and Ike and Tina's 'River Deep- Mountain High', which amazingly didn't become a hit in the US. Phil went on to work with the Beatles on 'Let It Be' and with John Lennon and George Harrison, both of whom regarded him highly, on various projects and also with Dion on 'Born To Be With You', but by this time Phil was decidedly flaky. Adter working with the Ramones in 1980 he faded from the scene before dramatically coming back into the public eye with the death of actress Lana Clarkson in 2003. His first trial was inconclusive but a second trial in 2009 resulted in a sentence of 19 years to life and he never regained his freedom. Despite his flaws, Phil Spector was undoubtedly one of the all time greats of popular music. His Christmas album, featuring all of his Philles acts, remains the ultimate album of the festive period year after year. Phil was a genius - a flawed one, but undoubtedly a genius. May he rest in peace.

2 Comments:

At 12:16 pm , Anonymous John Howard said...

Superb obituary, have read none better. Sidebar: his given first name was, I believe, Harvey, a name taken by the lead character in the TV series Suits, who at one point visits his father's grave, where the inscription reflects To Know Him is to Love Him, which was on Phil's own father's grave.
Incidentally, is Geoff Goddard, Meek songwriter, not worthy of an obit? An old Southendian schoolboy, he wrote all his hits not a mile away from where I am.
John H.

 
At 12:17 pm , Anonymous John H. said...

Anonymous John Howard said...
Superb obituary, have read none better. Sidebar: his given first name was, I believe, Harvey, a name taken by the lead character in the TV series Suits, who at one point visits his father's grave, where the inscription reflects To Know Him is to Love Him, which was on Phil's own father's grave.
Incidentally, is Geoff Goddard, Meek songwriter, not worthy of an obit? An old Southendian schoolboy, he wrote all his hits not a mile away from where I am.
John H.

12:16 pm

 

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