I’ve been meaning to start up a new feature on the blog called ’Odds & Ends’ where I briefly highlight some of the more obscure or overlooked releases in Spector’s body of work.
I came up with the idea thinking about how I came across his Wall of Sound myself back in about 2000 or 2001. First, I bought a Righteous Brothers compilation and it didn’t take long for me to single out the Spector productions as highlights. As a major Beach Boys fan I had heard about him before of course, but I hadn’t really investigated further. That Righteous Brothers compilation though set me off on a hunt, and naturally, back then, my first stop was the Back to Mono box.
I guess you could say that that box, with its beautiful book and four CDs, became my rite of passage to full blown Spector nut.
Even though it was a great experience discovering all the goodies inside, I quickly learned that there were more productions out there. The missing pieces of the puzzle was something I slowly gathered during the following years, learning about obscure 60s cuts and a wealth of later 70s material that had been left off the box.
Had there been a blog like this back then, it would surely have been a god-send for the 20-year-old me! It would have meant that I had gotten a much quicker overview of what to track down. And even though recent tragic events has somewhat tarnished the beauty inherent in Spector’s art, I’m hoping that, at some point, somewhere out there, young music fans will want to google ‘Spector’ and ‘Wall of Sound’ out of curiosity to see what all the fuss was about. When that happens, I hope they’ll find that this blog and that this and later installments of ‘Odds & Ends’ will make them realize the extent and brilliance of Spector’s music.
The first song I’ve selected to fly the flag for overlooked Spector cuts is ‘I Wonder’ by the Crystals.
I still remember when I heard ‘I Wonder’ for the first time. I’d seen it described numerous times as one of the most crazy, gargantuan Spector productions – the one where he really went over the edge, Cecil B. DeMille-style, and perhaps even more so than with ‘River Deep, Mountain High’. It sounded fascinating and extreme and I was thrilled when, at a local record fair, I spotted the Marginal Records grey-area release of all the Crystals songs, ‘I Wonder’ included.
I hurried home and put the CD on with much anticipation and a pulse galloping like a pair of Castanets at a Spector session. Then the voice of a teenaged LaLa Brooks came on, enveloped in exotic Spanish guitar lines and then – BOOM! Thunderbolt drumming capable of blowing out speakers! Fat, honking saxophones cutting through clutter like machetes through a jungle! Percussion so explosive it sounded as if a thousand guys were playing shakers and tambourines!
For something that came out in 1964, the year of Beatlemania and the ‘back to basics’ sound of the British Invasion, this deafening, monophonic monster production was almost bordering on the insane, … as if Spector was somehow daring his listeners to follow him into a land with no limits to the amount of sounds you could squeeze into a tiny slab of vinyl. The result, even today, is like being hit with a sonic sledgehammer!
Even Spector seems to have realized that it was all too much. That he’d crossed a line, pushing any hint of restraint into the stratosphere. The Crystals take of ‘I Wonder’, one of Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry’s best songs in opinion, was never released in the US, Spector’s home turf. In the UK it only hit # 36 in the charts.
For me, the definitive take of ‘I Wonder’ is the album-only take by the Ronettes with the Crystals single a close second. It’s a shame it was left off Back to Mono. There’s even a third version by girl group the Butterflys issued by Red Bird Records the same year as the two others, 1964.
Ironically, this great take of the song was produced by Jeff Barry, together with Steve Venet, and with none other than two ex-Crystals as group members! Let’s finish off with their slowed-down version.
Well, whaddya know? It’s interview time once again.
I really appreciate your positive feedback on the three interviews I’ve featured so far. I have more planned for the near future, so stay tuned!
Today, I’m pleased to publish an interview with none other than the New York-based ‘Queen Bee’ of girl group fandom, Sheila Burgel. Or Sheila B as she’s more commonly known among girl group collectors, Spector nuts or just general fans of 60s music.
Record collector, DJ, music blogger and compiler of girl pop reissues, – Sheila does it all! You can keep up to date with her adventures on her fab blog Cha Cha Charming. It’s an online continuation of the print fanzine she used to run.
Not content to just unearth super-rare girl pop records in dusty record stores or spin her treasured finds for packed dancefloors, Sheila has also been instrumental in bringing her favorite music wider recognition in the form of interesting compilations and reissues.
The most impressive project she’s worked on remains the monumental 4-disc ‘Girl Group Sounds – One Kiss can Lead to Another’ box set issued in 2005 by Rhino Records. Sheila served as associate producer and wrote the track-by-track liner notes. Lovingly compiled, the 120 track strong treasure trove collects a plethora of great 60s girl group records ranging from fairly well-known to incredibly obscure. The packaging itself is a replica of a vintage hat box!
The following interview remains within the Cue Castanets realm – Phil Spector recordings and other songs with a production akin to his Wall of Sound. But if you like what you read, I’ll strongly advise you to head over to the Dust & Grooves blog and read their longer and more comprehensive interview with Sheila.
She’s showing off some of her favorite records and discusses, among other things, general girl group history, the prevalent ‘boys club’ mentality of record collecting, feminism and ‘girl power’ expressed through music etc. It’s a great read!
First off, how and when did you first come across Phil Spector’s productions and what was your initial reaction?
Growing up in the ’80s, ’60s hits were ubiquitous, so songs like “Be My Baby” and “Then He Kissed Me” were as familiar to me as the present-day pop hits. But I wasn’t aware that “Be My Baby” was a Spector production.
In fact, I really had no idea who Phil Spector was until I moved to London at age 17 and began to take a closer look at these songs and the songwriting and production credits. I remember my friend Mick Patrick giving me copies of his fanzine, Philately, one of which came with a green pin with “Back To Mono” written on it. That’s when I really—to borrow part of Timothy Leary’s famous phrase—“turned on and tuned in.”
While researching for this interview, I came across a website where you listed ‘Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes featuring Veronica’ as your favorite album. Can you elaborate on your love for this LP? Any specific songs you’d like to single out?
Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes featuring Veronica is one of the few ’60s girl-pop LPs that is back-to-back brilliant—from start to finish. Most ’60s girl-pop LPs have just a couple of first-class tracks and a lot of obvious covers and dull B-sides, but there isn’t a dud on this album.
I’m really surprised that it isn’t included on more “Greatest Albums of All-Time” lists. I think most people think of the Ronettes as a singles act without realizing that so many mind-blowing singles on one LP makes for a pretty damn spectacular album!
It’s a shame that a second Ronettes album wasn’t issued. It would certainly have featured some killer material; ‘Is This What I Get’, ‘Paradise’, ‘Here I Sit’, ‘I Wish I Never Saw the Sunshine’, ‘Keep On Dancing’ etc. What are some of your favorite Ronettes tracks not found on their sole album?
“Paradise” hands down. I get the hairs standing up on the back of my neck effect when I hear this one. And although “I Can Hear Music” was issued on 45, it would’ve been the ideal opener for the second album.
I know this is completely off topic, but I’d also like to give kudos to their early song “Recipe For Love.”
It’s a pre-Spector cut, but what a cheeky lil’ ditty! I never paid it much attention until I saw Ronnie perform it live at one of her Christmas performances at BB Kings. Wowzer!
You are probably one of the world’s most leading experts on 60s girl pop with an enormous collection of rarities. Any anecdotes you’d like to share about treasured records turning up in strange places or at the stroke of luck?
Oh how I wish I could turn back the clock to London 1996, when I first started buying girl-pop records because everything was cheap! cheap! cheap!
I’d pop into a high street charity shop, flip through a crappy box of 45s and find a stack of Billie Davis singles on Pye.
Then there was Lesley Duncan’s “I Go To Sleep,” which I got for £1 at a junk shop on Hanway Street, and Lorraine Silver’s “The Happy Faces” for maybe £20.
At that time, the interest in these records was teeensy, and there was no eBay to unite the demands of record collectors worldwide. I’d say I had a whole lotta digger’s luck for almost the entire time I lived in the UK.
I must also credit a Texan girl-group obsessive named JD Doyle, who once had one of the biggest collections of girl-pop records in the US. He had pretty much sold the entirety of his collection by the time we first met (via e-mail), but I still managed to nab a few gems that he had left. The Bittersweet’s “The Hurtin’ Kind” on Tema was on of them.
As someone who’s heard literally thousands of girl group recordings, how would you describe what Phil Spector and his Philles girl groups brought to the world of 60s female pop and their overall influence on the genre?
Take a peak at Ace Records’ compilation series, Phil’s Spectre: Wall of Soundalikes, to witness the enormity of Phil Spector’s influence on ’60s female pop and beyond.
Nearly every major and minor pop artist tried in some way to mimic his sound, usually with very impressive results. On the downside, this producer-as-rock-star mentality espoused by Spector had an unfortunate effect on the artists, who were often viewed as disposable or easily replaceable. The Crystals and Darlene Love both suffered immensely from Spector’s carelessness with “He’s A Rebel,” and the bitterness remains to this day.
Also, Spector’s enormous ego took away from writers like Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, who we sometimes forget composed “Be My Baby” and so many of the other big Spector hits. And now look! Here I am calling them Spector hits as opposed to Crystals hits or Greenwich/ Barry hits.
We credit Spector with everything, whereas without the top quality songs, vocal talent, and personalities, I don’t believe Spector’s production techniques alone would’ve earned him such earth-shattering success.
The writers, artists, and Spector together created those songs and that magic.
What, if push comes to shove, are your top 5 girl group records with a Wall of Sound or similar bombast, over-the top backing track?
Adrienne Posta – Shang A Doo Lang
The Castanets – I Love Him
Cherilyn – Dream Baby
Marie Antoinette – He’s My Dream Boy
Debra Swisher – You’re So Good To Me (this record is so loud!)
You also work as a DJ spinning cool 60s girl pop for packed dancefloors. Let’s say you were to get things going at a party exclusively spinnin’ some Wall of Sound gems, not limited to Phil Spector productions. Which singles would hit your decks?
Beryl Marsden – Gonna Make Him My Baby
The Orchids – Love Hit Me
Maureen Gray – Goodbye Baby
The Girlfriends – My One and Only Jimmy Boy
The Bonnets – Ya Gotta Take A Chance
Cue Castanets deals not only with Phil Spector’s music but also with the work of similar minded producers and arrangers of the time.
Do you have a particular favorite producer or arranger that you’d say tends to get overlooked in favor of more well-known legends like Phil Spector, Jack Nitzsche, Brian Wilson etc?
I am verrrrrry fond of all the producers you mention—Phil Spector, Jack Nitzsche, Brian Wilson as well as David Gates, Bob Crewe and Shel Talmy. But I don’t pay as much attention to production and arrangement credits as I do to the songwriting credits. Because if the song (essentially the foundation) isn’t strong, not even the most skilled producer or arranger can save it.
I could list a gazillion over-looked songwriters, but those at the top of my list are Russ Titelman, Bert Berns, Howard Greenfield and Helen Miller (the team responsible for Bernadette Castro’s “A Girl In Love Forgives,” one of my all-time faves), Chip Taylor, Toni Wine, Pam Sawyer and Lori Burton.
I’d like to ask you the same question about girl group pop – any favorite, yet obscure group that stands in the shadows of well-known girl groups like the Ronettes, the Crystals, the Shangri-Las or the Supremes?
When I flip through my pile of Chiffons 45s on Laurie, I am constantly astounded by just how many excellent singles they put out. “You’re So Fine” and “One Fine Day” are just the tip of the iceberg. “Up On The Bridge,” “Nobody Knows What’s Going On (In My Mind But Me),” “Stop, Look, and Listen,” and “I Have A Boyfriend”….. the list of top-notch singles goes on and on and on.
Other favorites are the Cookies (and all of their spin-off groups), Orlons, Exciters, Honeys, and Reparata & the Delrons.
Recently, you’ve compiled the two brilliant Nippon Girls compilations of superb Japanese girl pop and you have a lot of knowledge about that country’s 60s music scene and how it was influenced by Western popular music.
The Wall of Sound seems to have left quite a mark there, so much so that there’s even been a locally released compilation of Japanese Wall of Sound pastiches from the 70s and beyond. And new stuff crops up occasionally, like Megumi Hara’s ‘Everlasting Love’.
Would you say that the wide-eyed romanticism of 60s Wall of Sound resonates in a particular way with Japanese mentality?
Isn’t it curious that the Spector sound had no influence whatsoever on ’60s Japanese pop music, and then suddenly, 10-15 years later it’s all over late ’70s, early ’80s idol pop?
I think the warm, lovey-dovey Spector sound was a bit too sweet for ’60s Japan. It was the era of the Group Sounds—Japanese rock n’ roll that leaned heavily on the Beatles and the British Invasion. And once the GS craze cooled, folk took its place.
So there really wasn’t any genre appropriate for the Spector sound until idol pop—when female voices got lighter n’ sweeter and everything sounded so unabashedly pop. The combo of idol pop and Spector’s production values worked beautifully, especially on Seiko Matsuda’s “Issen Ichibyou Monogatari,” Celia Paul’s “Yume De Aetara,” and Eiichi Ohtaki “Kimi Wa Tennenshoku.” Oh, and Megumi Hara’s “Namida No Memory.”
A pet project of mine is to find modern Spector soundalikes, many of whom I’ve featured on the blog. How do you feel about musicians with all the modern, digital recording possibilities of today trying to recreate the Wall of Sound from a bygone era?
On one of your blog posts about Simon Reynolds’ interesting ‘Retromania’ book I noticed you asked the question, “why listen to modern interpretations of the past as opposed to the real thing?”
I have no problem with anyone attempting to recreate the Spector sound if they do it with some originality, taste, or talent. Just because it has the Spector sound doesn’t mean it’s a good record.
I think it’s important to remember that a big part of Spector’s success was due to quality control; he was renowned for his pursuit of perfection. If today’s music industry had just a third of Spector’s appetite for high quality records, I think we’d have a much healthier industry.
I think a lot of the Japanese Spector soundalikes are particularly appealing because you have 1) the Japanese language, which takes the track to a whole other place, 2) the ’70s and ’80s production, which automatically differentiates it from the Spector sound, and most important of all—3) the songs are well written.
That’s also why I love and adore Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black. She wears her ’60s girl groups and jazz influences loud and proud, yet the heart and soul of the album is pure Amy Winehouse.
That combination of talent, heart, and knowledge of music history doesn’t come around often enough these days. Modern interpretations of the past without talent or heart will never beat the real thing, hence what I said on my blog.
Are there any artists today you would like to recommend for Cue Castanets readers as someone carrying the torch for the sensibility, songwriting and production values of 60s pop?
I’m racking my brain to come up with one artist in the past ten years who I think has done anything remotely close to the quality/ style of ‘60s pop, but I’m drawing a blank. In the ‘90s there were acts like Japan’s Pizzicato Five and the UK’s Saint Etienne, who took ’60s elements and so seamlessly weaved them into their own sound.
There are artists today who cite girl groups and Phil Spector as influences, but I haven’t really heard anything worth recommending. Oh, wait, Janelle Monae! If you’re fond of ’60s and ’70s soul n’ funk with a futuristic twist, Janelle Monae will appeal big time! Also, she puts on an unforgettable live show—tremendous energy!
Well, I hope some of the modern Spector soundalikes I highlight on the blog might appeal to you then.
Sheila, thank you for taking your time to participate in this interview. I look forward to your future compilation projects and blog posts on Cha Cha Charming!
Over several decades Anthony has amassed a truly mindblowing collection of rare singles that display the widespread influence of Spector’s sound on the 60s music industry. Luckily for us, rather than sit on his incredible collection, Anthony has set up his channel to share his love of all things Wall of Sound and the ‘feel’ of the famed echo chambers of LA’s Gold Star Studios.
Anthony’s YouTube channel isn’t limited to the Wall of Sound but also includes fantastic 60s releases within the realm of girl group pop, Northern Soul, novelty songs, blue-eyed soul and much, much more. It’s an out-and-out treasure trove. Look inside and you’ll get a glimpse into a parallel dimension where any of the featured releases could have been hits.
As if the fact that Anthony shares this fantastic music with other fans isn’t great enough, each upload is also graced by as much background information and rare images as possible. Regularly checking out Anthony’s channel is therefore a bit like entering a virtual music class with fascination insights offered with each upload.
A dream scenario would be for some enterprising company to issue a Gold Star Studios box set with Anthony as a consultant and liner notes writer. Iconic studios like Abbey Road, Fame or Studio One have each had their own releases. So why not one documenting the distinct Gold Star sound and its key role in Los Angeles challenging New York as the 60s US pop capital?
At least we have Anthony’s channel to fill this gap and return to time and again for daily doses of echo. And truth be told – Anthony’s channel is way more comprehensive than any physical release could be unless were talking something of Bear Family-like proportions.
I’ve been interested in learning more about Anthony’s collecting and personal favorites and he has kindly agreed to answer some questions for Cue Castanets.
So Anthony, how and when did you get introduced to the Wall of Sound and music recorded at Gold Star studios?
Back in the 1960’s, I received a small record player for Christmas with some various Christmas themed LP’s. When I grew tired of those, my parents said that I could play their record albums if I was careful with them. My mom & dad were in a record club which was popular in those days, and had a regular shipment of LP’s arrive at the house every month.
Two albums of theirs that stood out and had an impact on me were ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ by The RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS on Philles and ‘All I Really Want To Do’ by CHER on Imperial. The ‘sound’ of those two albums mesmerized me even as a youngster. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I figured out that those two albums were recorded at Gold Star.
What was it that attracted you to this particular type of music?
The ECHO! It did and still does captivate me. There was something different about the Gold Star echo and it was easily identifiable to me as I immersed myself more into record collecting.
You obviously have an incredible collection that must have taken a lot of effort and time to build. How did you get the collector bug in earnest?
Not only did my parents allow me to play their LP’s on my little record player, my mother dug out a huge box of her old 45’s that she had stored in the garage. None of them were in sleeves and were not in the best of condition but the music on those 45’s in that dusty box, which was mainly between the years of 1956 to 1965, were a gift sent down from heaven to me. That’s where the interest in record collecting began.
I would guess you have your fair share of anecdotes about records turning up in strange places or getting some rarities as a stroke of luck while record hunting? Any stories to tell?
I think my favorite acquisition was finding the blue label Philles LP of ‘Presenting The Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica’ in a dumpy thrift shop in the mid 1970’s for the princely sum of fifty cents! What makes the story all the more crazy is I didn’t have the fifty cents at the time so I hid the record in the store and went back on a later date to buy it when I had the money.
You live in the greater Los Angeles area – it must be fascinating living so close to the place where your favorite music was recorded?
It is. In fact, some of my best record collection memories took place in the late 1970s in the parking lot of the Capitol Tower in Hollywood, only a few blocks north of Gold Star near Hollywood & Vine. Back in the day there was a monthly record swap meet there held late at night. A flashlight with good batteries was a necessity! Good memories…
Is there anything specific out there you’re still looking for for your collection?
I really get excited finding unreleased acetates from the early to mid 1960’s.
[Cue Castanets: Anthony features quite a few acetates on his channel. Here’s a great example…]
Why did you decide to set up a YouTube channel?
I enjoyed the videos that other YouTube users were uploading of their 45’s and thought that I could do that too.
In 2010, I started playing with the Windows Movie Maker program and with over 700 videos that I’ve uploaded over the past four years. I try to include as much information I can document about the records as well as have a nice mix of brightly saturated color images of the labels. Photos of the vocalists and any other image that may pertain to the records I try to include as well. They are sort of little, musical monuments to the artists, musicians, producers, arrangers, engineers and anyone else who was a part of these vinyl and styrene pieces of musical history.
I know that this question is bordering on torture for a collector like yourself, but if you were to bring only five songs to a desert island ….which ones would it be?
Believe it or not, that is an easy question for me to answer. With the thousands of records that I’ve accumulated over the years, these five are really special to me:
‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ – RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS (Philles 124 – 1964)
‘Better Off Without You’ – BEVERLY NOBLE (Rally 502 – 1965)
‘The Thrill Is Gone’ – CLYDIE KING (Imperial 66109 – 1965)
‘If You’re Gonna Love Me’ – CHI CHI (Kapp 749 – 1966)
‘Love Her’ – WALKER BROTHERS (Smash 1976 – 1965)
The list of iconic 60s producers is long; Phil Spector, Jack Nitzsche, Brian Wilson, Burt Bacharach etc; but is there a particular, lesser-known producer from the time that you think is criminally overlooked? Explain why?
I think Perry Botkin, Jr. may be somewhat overlooked in comparison to Spector, Nitzsche, Wilson, Bacharach, Crewe, etc. While he was for the most part, an arranger, the vast list of sessions that he worked on contributing his talent is astounding.
[Here’s Anthony’s pick of a single that shows off Botkin’s stellar arranging skills.]
One thing is of course the producers featured on your channel, but which are your all-time favorite songwriters from that era?
Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil
Eddie Rambeau, Bob Crewe & Bud Rehak
Russ Titelman & Gerry Goffin
Joey Brooks & Aaaron Schroeder
Have you ever met any of the artists, songwriters or producers whose work is represented on the different playlists?
Over the years I’ve met some artists at various Record Shows here in the Los Angeles area. Thanks to YouTube, I’ve had the pleasure of receiving personal messages on some of the videos that I’ve uploaded at YouTube from musicians, songwriters, engineers, producers, arrangers as well as from the artists. They’ve all been very humble and appreciative of the interest in their musical past.
In line with the main theme of this blog, do you have a particular favorite among Spector’s productions you’d like to comment on? It doesn’t necessarily have to be one of the well-known hits.
If I had to choose, I prefer all of Spector’s productions from the Ronettes hit ‘Walking In The Rain’ and onward until the end of the Philles era with Tina Turner. The backing tracks alone by the Righteous Brothers, Ronettes and Tina Turner are masterpieces.
I have to believe that sitting on a dusty shelf somewhere are some amazing, unreleased Spector produced, ‘Wall of Sound’ tracks on reels of recording tape waiting to be discovered and shared with the world. I hope I see that day in my lifetime.
What’s your absolute favorite obscure song / production by anyone that you’d recommend readers to check out right away? What is it you love about the particular song?
I’ll have to recommend my #2 choice of my top 5 45’s.
Beverly Noble – ‘BETTER OFF WITHOUT YOU’ – at only fourteen years old, Miss Noble sings with an amazing maturity over a gorgeous backing track dripping with echo. A beautiful song that is presented with a stunning arrangement by Don Ralke.
Stereo versions of Wall of Sound tracks can result in heated debate. Some take the side of Spector himself, arguing that the stereo undermines the original mono impact of the production technique, others love the fact that you can get a better understanding of the different elements that make up the Wall.
What’s your stance on this? Any stereo versions that you prefer over the mono mix?
The Spector ‘stereo’ tracks are not true stereo. Unless you enjoy the entire rhythm section on the right channel, strings on the left channel and vocals in the center. Spector didn’t record for stereo, just utilized the three tracks available to him to record on. Sonny & Cher’s early productions were recorded with that method as well and are not my preference.
Regarding Spector’s Philles productions, I am an admirer of the dense, ‘one microphone over everything’ sound of glorious monophonic.
And finally, – not a question but rather a wholehearted thanks for taking your time to give this interview – and above all making your incredible collection available for us all to hear online.
Thank YOU, for adding another dimension of enlightenment and praise to this style of music that I so admire and love.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – –
As a postscript to the interview, I can’t resist listing my current 5 favorite songs from Anthony’s channel that I can thank him for discovering.
I probably wouldn’t have come across these, and countless others, if it hadn’t been for Anthony. Rather than slowing down the post with too many embedded videos, I’m listing the direct links. Enjoy!
My guess is that since you’ve taken the time to read some of the posts here, you probably already know quite a bit about the Wall of Sound. I assume you’re well aware that as a 60s musical phenomenon the Wall of Sound wasn’t limited to the releases on Phil Spector’s Philles Records.
It’s basic music business instinct to jump on the bandwagon, whenever something catches on and sets the Top 40 on fire. So it’s no surprise that once Phil Spector had major hits under his belt, numerous imitators copied his distinctive style hoping to garner quick sales.
But there’s also another element. Besides the remarkable success Spector had with his Philles label, he was also greatly admired by his producer contemporaries or those who was just trying to carve out a place for themselves in the record business. Dubbed the ‘Tycoon of Teen’ early on, Phil Spector proved that you could have great success following your instincts and personal quirks rather than producing records the conventional way. He literally broke every rule in the book, – meters going in the red, singles running over the advised length for radio airplay, string arrangements more suitable for Wagner than pop etc.
That so many copied Spector during the 60s wasn’t only down to the prospect of having hits. It was also a case of testing yourself to see if you had it in you to follow in his footsteps. And who knows? Perhaps even beat him at his own game. I can imagine that when a producer heard the Wall of Sound back then, it was like having Spector slap you in the face with a glove and challenge you to a no-holds-barred, echo-chamber-crunching duel! Look at Brian Wilson for god’s sake. Literally shaking, he had to pull over his car when he first heard ‘Be my Baby’ blaring from the car radio!
Brian and many others took up the challenge and rose to the occasion with fantastic results. The British specialist re-issue label Ace Records has issued a fantastic serious of CDs during the 00s called ‘Phil’ Spectre’. Over three volumes they have compiled some of the best 60s Spector soundalikes. If you don’t own these compilations already, go buy them immediately. They are as essential as some of Phil Spector’s best work. Highly recommended! And that also goes for other Ace Records compilations focusing on the work of Spector’s favourite arranger Jack ‘Specs’ Nitzsche or the Brill Building songwriting duos whose best songs often got the Wall of Sound treatment. Spectorphiles worldwide have a lot to thank Ace Records for.
Sadly, the label has indicated that we have probably seen the last volume in the series. They are difficult to compile since the most appropriate songs for inclusion are spread over a myriad of obscure labels. You can imagine how that results in a licensing nightmare.
So what do you do if you have a craving for obscure attempts at the Wall of Sound but aren’t willing to spend years and a fortune rummaging through old boxes for dusty 45s? Enter Anthony Reichardt.
Anthony has a truly mindblowing collection of singles that show how sparks flew all over when Spector’s sonic call to arms made the US music scene reverberate. Best of all, Anthony graciously offers all fans the chance to listen in via his incredible Youtube channel. You can literally spend hours there browsing through his playlists and checking out interesting videos, – it’s the Youtube equivalent of walking into a record shop and discovering a box in the far corner labeled ‘Obscure Spector Sounds.’
The amount of great work on those playlists is mindboggling. We’re talking at least 10 potential ‘Phil’s Spectre’ volumes here. Anthony’s videos are beautifully compiled and almost all feature all the info on the artist, label, studio etc he has been able to locate.