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Profile: Phil Spector

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Phil Spector in the early Sixties

Phil Spector in the early Sixties

source: alhazan.com

Born:

Harvey Philip Spector, December 26, 1940, The Bronx, New York, NY

Genres:

Rock and Roll, Girl group, Pop-rock, Pop

Instruments:

Producer

Phil Spector's contributions to music:

  • Considered by many to be the greatest rock and roll producer of all time
  • In the early Sixties, created the famous "Wall of Sound" technique that inspired countless musicians and producers
  • Put girl group music on the map with hits by The Ronettes and The Crystals
  • Brought a dramatic, orchestral flair to teen pop that was unheard of at the time
  • Called on to salvage The Beatles' Let It Be album, he went on to produce John Lennon and George Harrison's most famous solo work
  • Created the persona of rock producer as auteur

Spector's early years:

Like many of their generation, Phil Spector's family moved from New York to Los Angeles in the Fifties, perhaps to leave behind the unpleasant memories of Spector's father, who committed suicide in 1949. Once on the West Coast, Phil the high school student fell in with that city's burgeoning musical scene, recruiting two friends from school to record a composition he'd written entitled "Don't You Worry My Little Pet." Although it got him a four-single contract with Era record, the song stiffed. But the b-side, a tender ditty written by Phil called "To Know Him Is To Love Him," went straight to Number One.

Success:

Spector couldn't keep his group, The Teddy Bears, together after that smash, and subsequent solo records failed. But by then Phil was already making a name for himself as the city's producer to beat, racking up hit after hit and eventually creating his famous "Wall of Sound" at L.A.'s Gold Star Studios by recording orchestras of guitars and bass, adding strings and brass, feeding it all through an echo chamber abetted by cinderblocks placed in strategic locations, and then recording that echo back onto tape. From 1961 to 1965, Phil Spector was arguably the most important producer rock had ever seen.

Spector's later years:

Although his magnum opus, Tina Turner's "River Deep - Mountain High," flopped in 1966, sending him into bitter seclusion, Spector regained his footing in the early Seventies thanks to the admiration of Beatles John Lennon and George Harrison, who used him on several hits. However, Phil's need for control, love of guns and alcohol, and combative attitudes towards women persisted long after the hits dried up, and he became a reclusive, troubled figure. In 2003, he was arrested for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson, which he claimed was a suicide; he was found guilty in 2009 and sentenced to 19 years.

Other Phil Spector facts:

  • The son of Russian Jewish immigrants, his family's original last name was Spekter
  • Took the phrase "To Know Him Is To Love Him" from his father's gravestone
  • "Teen Beat" drummer Sandy Nelson plays on "To Know Him"
  • Nearly died in a horrific car crash in March 1974
  • Famously dubbed "The First Tycoon of Teen" by author Tom Wolfe
  • Served as the inspiration for Ronnie "Z-Man" Barzell in the film "Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls" (1970)
  • Infamously barricaded wife (and Ronettes vocalist) Ronnie Spector in his L.A. "castle" in the '70s, refusing to let her out
  • Was scheduled to work with modern garage-rockers The Vines before his arrest

Awards/Honors:

  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1991)
  • GRAMMY Award (1970)
  • GRAMMY Hall of Fame (1998, 1999, 2000)

Recorded work (as producer):

#1 hits:
Pop:
  • The Teddy Bears, "To Know Him Is To Love Him" (1959)
  • The Crystals, "He's A Rebel" (1962)
  • The Righteous Brothers, "You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’" (1965)
  • The Beatles, "The Long And Winding Road" (1970)
  • George Harrison, "My Sweet Lord" (1970)
Top 10 hits:
Pop:
  • Ray Peterson, "Corinna, Corinna" (1961)
  • Curtis Lee, "Pretty Little Angel Eyes" (1961)
  • The Paris Sisters, "I Love How You Love Me" (1961)
  • Connie Francis, "Second Hand Love" (1962)
  • Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, "Zip-a-dee Doo-dah" (1963)
  • The Crystals, "Da Doo Ron Ron" (1963)
  • The Crystals, "Then He Kissed Me" (1963)
  • The Ronettes, "Be My Baby" (1963)
  • The Righteous Brothers, "Just Once In My Life" (1965)
  • The Righteous Brothers, "Unchained Melody" (1965)
  • The Righteous Brothers, "Ebb Tide" (1966)
  • John Lennon, "Instant Karma!" (1970)
  • George Harrison, "What Is Life" (1970)
  • John Lennon, "Imagine" (1971)
R&B:
  • The Crystals, "There’s No Other (Like My Baby)" (1962)
  • The Crystals, "He's A Rebel" (1962)
  • The Crystals, "Then He Kissed Me" (1963)
  • The Crystals, "Da Doo Ron Ron" (1963)
  • The Ronettes, "Be My Baby" (1963)
  • The Righteous Brothers, "Just Once In My Life" (1965)
  • The Righteous Brothers, "Unchained Melody" (1965)
Other popular recordings: "Uptown," The Crystals; "He's Sure The Boy I Love," The Crystals; "Baby, I Love You," The Ronettes; "Walking In the Rain," The Ronettes; "River Deep - Mountain High," Ike and Tina Turner; "Black Pearl," Sonny Charles and the Checkmates, Ltd.; "Mother," John Lennon; "Power to the People," John Lennon; "Bangla-Desh," George Harrison; "Woman Is the N*gger Of The World," John Lennon; "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)," John Lennon and Yoko Ono; "Rock And Roll High School," The Ramones; "Do You Remember Rock N' Roll Radio," The Ramones
Wrote or co-wrote (not produced by Spector): "Spanish Harlem," Ben E. King
Appears in the movies: "The T.A.M.I. Show" (1964), "The Big T.N.T. Show" (1966), "Easy Rider" (1969), "The Concert for Bangladesh" (1972), "Imagine" (1972), "Mayor of the Sunset Strip" (2003)
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