The following is a chronological look at Phil Spector's
ten weirdest moments -- snapshots of a inordinately strange life, and ones that don't involve pulling a gun on his female companions. Got an anecdote about Spector that you think should be here, but isn't? Feel free to e-mail me!
1. The guns, explained.
While on tour with his first act, The Teddy Bears ("To Know Him Is To Love Him"), the 18-year-old Spector is accosted in a men's urinal. Short and unprepared to defend himself, Phil is urinated on by four street toughs. The incident so mortifies and frightens Spector that he keeps a bodyguard around him (and a gun on him) from that day on. (1958)
2. The violence towards women, possibly also explained.
Brill Building songwriters Gerry Goffin and Carole King bring Phil a new song, written about their babysitter Eva Boyd (who, as Little Eva, would also become lead singer on another Goffin-King song she inspired, "The Locomotion"). Abused by her boyfriend, Eva tells Carole that the violence only proves how much he loves her. The resultant 45, "He Hit Me (It Felt Like A Kiss)," would get a deadpan version of Phil's "Wall of Sound" treatment. The group who record it, The Crystals, hate it, and so does America, with public outrage causing the single to be pulled almost immediately. (1962)
3. Let's dance the WHAT?!
Embroiled in legal battles with label co-owner Lester Sill, Spector delivers the new song he's still contractually obligated to produce: a six-minute "dance" 45 by the Crystals called "(Let's Dance) The Screw." The chorus consists mostly of Spector intoning the words "dance the screw" slowly over a spare, monotonous beat, with the same thing on the other side's "Part Two." Legend has it that Spector wanted to "screw" Sill out of his obligational hit record. A copy of the record is hand-delivered to Sill. (1963)
4. Two lost weekends.
During sessions for John Lennon's (also contractually obligated) oldies covers album, Rock And Roll
, Spector and Lennon out-drink each other, spar verbally, and scream at each other over the din of Phil's wacked-out production. Samples from this infamous session can be heard on Lennon's Anthology
box set and on bootlegs. During these sessions, Spector is also seen to wave a handgun around, threatening longtime Beatles roadie and associate Mal Evans with it and eventually shooting it into the air. A frazzled Spector soon disappears with the session tapes, which took Lennon months to retrieve. (1973)
5. How not to keep a wife, Part 1.
Having married Ronnie Bennett, former lead vocalist of The Ronettes
, Spector has a glass coffin, like the one in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
, installed in the basement of his mini-castle estate in Los Angeles. He leads Ronnie's mother Beatrice to it, telling her it's where Ronnie will lie if she ever tries to leave him. (1971)
6. How not to keep a wife, Part 2.
Insane with jealousy, Spector locks Ronnie inside his mansion and refuses to let her leave the premises for months. The technical kidnapping ends when a barefoot Ronnie, assisted by her mother, somehow slips past the barred windows, barbed-wire fences, attack dogs and bodyguards. (1972)
7. Producer Phil... Ramone?
While working with punk rock legends The Ramones, Spector forces the band to play the same opening guitar chord over and over again for eight solid hours, mixing it into the song "Rock And Roll High School" until he gets it just the way he wants it. At one point, the frustrated band attempts to leave, but Phil pulls a gun on the group and forces them to play his 1963 hit by the Ronettes, "Baby I Love You." (1979)
8. A lifetime achievement.
Spector is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and stuns the awards ceremony when he enters with three bodyguards, all with their hands on their guns. He proceeds to make a long, rambling, nearly incomprehensible acceptance speech, then falls off the stage. (1989)
9. Maybe it was the castle...
reports that Phil walks around his new estate in Alhambra, CA every day, in complete darkness, wearing nothing but a Batman costume. (1999)
10. Tabloid hell.
Spector's sons Gary and Donte relate Ronnie-like tales of forced isolation in the late Seventies to London's Daily Mail
, and go on to accuse the famous producer of blindfolding Gary and then molesting them both. (2003)