As if it wasn’t great enough that the one and only Darlene Love is spoiling us with a new album – see post below – we also have something else to look forward to. And boy, are we in for a treat!
Teensville Records / Rare Rockin’ Records, which have already issued a few great releases so far, recently announced an upcoming release filled to the brim with Ellie Greenwich-penned songs and rarities. Crisp stereo versions of some of her most beloved hit songs recorded by others? You got ’em! Rare early singles by Ellie? No problem! Newly unearthed demos of Ellie singing songs like ‘Maybe I Know’ or ‘Look of Love’? Well, sure!
Looks like the good folks at Teensville / Rare Rockin’ Records have put together something truly outstanding with this upcoming release which I personally can’t wait to dive into. Of all the fantastic stuff that came out of the Brill Building the songs Ellie Greenwich wrote with Jeff Barry may possibly be the very pinnacle as far as I’m concerned. And it’s great that Ellie’s immense talent is still being highlighted with a release such as this.
Head on over to the Teensville website for sound samples and the full low-down on what this upcoming colection has to offer:
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.
The following post has been submitted to the blog by a fellow Spector fan and good friend of mine who I’ve discussed Spector’s music in-depth with for the last 10 years or so, both online and in person. He’s extremely knowledgable on the subject and I’m honored that he has offered to contribute here under the appropriate blogger-name ‘Spectorlector’.
If any other readers have ideas for interesting blog posts they’d like to contribute then please do contact me. I will happily publish relevant posts on here from guests and I’m sure that fans out there have a lot to say on various subjects.
Hopefully, over time this blog can become a platform of sorts where fans can have the opportunity to publish research and essay-like posts that are longer and more in-depth than your typical forum message.
And with that, I’ll get out of the way and let Spectorlector ponder the possible existence of a certain unreleased Ronettes track…
Waiting in the vault? – ‘I’ll never need more than this’ by The Ronettes.
It is no secret that Phil Spector recorded a lot of material, of which only a fraction saw release during the Philles label era. Sometimes, Spector would even record the same song twice with different artists using the same backing track, such as ‘Girls can tell’ and ‘A Woman in Love’. Other times he would record different backing tracks for the same song as heard on versions of ‘I Wonder’ and ‘All Grown Up’.
With this in mind, there are reason to believe that a Ronettes version of the Ike and Tina Turner track ‘I’ll never need more than this’ is still in the Spector vault – the original, perhaps?
Phil Spector’s favorite writers, the married couple Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, were responsible for many a hit on Philles: ‘Be my Baby’, ‘Then He Kissed Me’ and ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’. In early 1963 Spector had recorded a co-written song of theirs called ‘Chapel of Love’ with both Darlene Love and The Ronettes (prior to ‘Be my Baby’) None of the recordings were released at the time, and when Barry and Greenwich started to work at Red Bird Records under the wings of Leiber and Stoller, they choose to release a version of the song by The Dixie Cups to launch the label. The record went to number 1 on the charts, topped The Beatles in sales and caused Spector to cut his connections with Barry and Greenwich.
Sometime during late 1965, Spector decided to swallow his pride and call Ellie & Jeff back for a writing session. He had lost The Crystals and The Righteous Brothers, and he had to get the best possible material for upcoming recording dates. Unknown to Spector, the couple was going through a divorce, but they still decided to meet and write with Spector. At this time Red Bird was closing down…. and very soon Philles would be finished too. An era of great music was almost over, unbeknownst to the people involved.
The session was not a piece of cake. The former happy-go-lucky couple was now two broken hearts trying to turn words of love and sweet music into future Spector hits. Before the session was over, 4 very heartfelt song were completed: ‘River Deep, Mountain High’, ‘I Can Hear Music’, ‘I wish I Never Saw the Sunshine’ and ‘I’ll Never Need More than This’
Just look at those poetic, sad lyrics to ‘I Wish I Never Saw the Sunshine’:
“Baby do you know what you did today, Baby, do you know what you took away,
You took the blue out of the sky, My whole life changed when you said goodbye,
And I keep crying, crying.
I wish I’d never saw the sunshine
Cause if I never saw the sunshine,
I wouldn’t mind the rain.”
The lyrics for ‘I’ll Never Need More than This’ was in the same heartbreaking mold:
“Oh I love the songs you sing me, And I love, the love you bring me,
And you’ll never know the way I feel inside, I can only say that I’m all filled up with pride
Loving you, loving you…. And I’ll never need more than this,
No I’ll never need more than this
And I wish this could go on forever, and ever, and ever
Don’t let me go, I love you so.”
If you are a hardcore Ronettes fan (as I am) and if you listen closely to the back-up vocals on ‘I’ll Never Need More than This’ something strikes you: It sounds like The Ronettes on back-up?…Especially on the “I love you baby” parts, you can easily pick out Ronnie Spector’s vocals in front of a large number of back-up singers.
Ronnie has confirmed to me in 2014 that she is in the mix, though she insists she never worked on a Tina Turner recording session. This can only lead one to believe that a Ronettes version of the song was intended and that a basic track and back-ups were recorded with them in mind. Maybe Ronnie even recorded a completed lead-vocal? The song would surely fit the style of The Ronettes, bearing in mind ‘Everything under the Sun’ (which Tina Turner would later record herself) and ‘I Wish I Never Saw the Sunshine’ from that period. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll even get to hear it?….
Unfortunately, the track Spector picked for his next magnum opus, ‘River Deep, Mountain High’ bombed, and the rest of those great Greenwich/Barry songs either got shelved or was ignored by the public. Neither Barry, Greenwich or Spector would ever achieve an equal level of succes again. ‘I´ll Never Need More than This’ by Ike and Tina Turner was pressed as a single on Philles, but sadly either withdrawn or never officially released.
Musings on Phil Spector's Wall of Sound and similar music…