More than a year ago I devoted some blog posts to the history of Spector fandom, specifically focusing on the UK based Phil Spector Appreciation Society (PSAS) that was active during the second half of the 70s. I was even able to follow-up with an interview with Paul Dunford who formed the PSAS in 1975.
If you’d like to read the lengthy blog post about the PSAS, go here:
In terms of the 70s, it’s fascinating to look back on this phase of Spector’s career and the lust for news, ANY news, felt by the admirers of his sound in Europe and the US. The previous decade had been Spector’s golden era with a steady flow of fantastic productions coming out of Gold Star studios. But come the 70s, the output dwindled – and even though Spector was still very much in demand, working with John Lennon and George Harrison as his most high-profile ventures, news about future plans and projects became infrequent.
With less coverage in the music papers and newsletters, Spector fans were more in the dark about upcoming projects than they’d ever been. There definitely was a void to be filled for those who still worshipped at the altar of echo and bombast despite the ever changing trends of popular music.
As a music fan in my mid-30s, one who’s practically grown up with the advent of the Internet and online music resources, it’s interesting to consider how difficult it must have been for Spector fans in the 60s and the 70s to stay updated. With no internet to consult, discovering new releases or gathering more info on your favorite Spector recordings depended on chance encounters in record stores or at record fairs, the odd news article or review in music papers or, if you even knew about this option, a membership of PSAS.
Luckily, quite a few Spector fans, mainly based in Europa and the US, got to know about PSAS and were thus served with a steady flow of news and background information via the DIY newsletters PSAS mailed out to its members. In the blog post I linked to above, you can read the whole story about the mid-to late 70s PSAS and how its newsletters eventually evolved into a fully-fledged and lovingly compiled fanzine with the clever title ‘Philately.’
However, what’s interesting is the fact that PSAS in fact got its name from an even earlier association started in 1969 by two young British Spector fans and friends, Phil Chapman and Steve Percival. When Paul Dunford started up his fan club in 1975, hot on the heels of the publicity garnered from the first Rare Masters compilation of previously unreleased 60s Spector productions, he simply reused the name.
Lately, I’ve corresponded with Phil Chapman of the first PSAS and I hope to be able to feature an interview with him about this fan club and other Spector-related topics shortly. But besides this, Phil has also been kind enough to send me a package with all six newsletters that the first PSAS eventually issued as well as some related material.
I’m very grateful that Phil would share all this with me as it means that I now seemingly have a complete set of the Spector fan club newsletters / fanzines issued through time – ranging from the very first newsletter by the first PSAS in ’69, all the newsletters by the ‘second’ PSAS throughout the 70s and finally all copies of the more professional fanzine ‘Philately’ that picked up the mantle in the 80s. This later fanzine was helmed by Spector expert Mick Patrick whose compilation work for UK reissue label Ace Records is essential listening for anyone following this blog.
So to get to the bottom of things, this lengthy blog post is basically just to present to you the stuff Phil has kindly shared with me – I’m sure you’ll find it as interesting as I have, so no need not to share the info with likeminded fans.
So, how did it all come about, then? Well, during the 60s Phil had discovered Spector’s music and wrote back and forth with other fans he had befriended through pen pal-type ads in the local music papers. Having done so for a while – and finding that they basically just exchanged the same tid bits of info about all things Spector – he realized it might be easier to just set up an actual fan club. Contact was made with Spector’s office and lo and behold – official recognition enabled Phil to place the following ad in British music papers.
Soon, enough fans had expressed interest for Phil and his partner-in-crime Steve Percival to launch a fan club newsletter for the first PSAS, aided by promotional photos and similar material provided by Spector’s US office. During this time Phil and Steve were still in school which makes their pursuit of setting up a fanclub and establishing contact with Spector’s office even more impressive. Naturally though, their young age and lack of experience of course meant that the newsletters has a certain naivity and amatuerness to them but you can certainly sense the earnest love for Spector’s music throughout.
The first newsletter was sent out in May 1969 just as Spector was emerging again as a music force to be reckoned with by way of ‘You Came, You Saw, You Concquered’ by the Ronettes and ‘Love is All I Have to Give’ by the Checkmates Ltd, – both on A&M.
By # 6 in May/June 1970 the PSAS, in its first incarnation, had run its course due to other obligations in Phil and Steve’s lives. Taken as a whole, the newsletters that were issued are very similar to the newsletters the second PSAS put out in the mid-70s. We’re talking Xeroxed pages with occasional newspaper clippings or photos thrown in.
In general, Phil and Steve reviewed the latest singles or albums such as the Checkmates debut LP for other fans. They also discussed soundalike records and listed discographies that could aid Spector / Wall of Sound collectors. Reading through the newsletters, I was glad to learn about the driving ‘Boys Cry’ by UK singer Eden Kane. Great track! And one that had somehow escaped me.
Later on, Phil Chapman would become a music producer himself who often used his expert knowledge to achieve a convincing Wall of Sound on his own productions. You can almost sense his future endeavors by reading some of his reviews for the PSAS newsletters. Often, he points out very specific details about the production values that reveal how intently he listened for things buried deep in the muddy mono mixes.
What’s interesting is the fact that tiny bits of info scattered throughout the newsletters, and undoubtedly coming from Spector’s camp to the PSAS, would indicate that ‘You Came, You Saw, You Conquered’ and ‘I Can Hear Music’ were intended for a follow-up Ronettes album. This of course never came to fruition but one wonders how much may have been recorded? Unless, of course, Spector planned to just dust off old tracks like ‘Here I Sit’ and ‘Paradise’ and issue those with the A&M single?
Among the stuff Phil has sent me is also a Phil Spector Productions / A&M Records promotional folder from this time, complete with sets of press releases detailing Spector’s resumé and short bios of the Ronettes and Checkmates Ltd. A&M clearly hyped their deal with Spector and had high hopes for the project. It’s a shame there wasn’t a bigger output.
So there you have it – the final piece in my puzzle to research the history of Spector fandom. And let me thank Phil Chapman for kindly supplying me with his insights and the spare newsletters and other material he’s kept since 1969. I hope to feature an interview with Phil in the near future. Stay tuned!
Slowly, but steadily, Cue Castanets is on its way to celebrate its one year anniversary.
I started the blog last November when I had some free time on my hands and decided to act on something I had thought about for many years, – doing my bid for Spector & Wall of Sound fandom.
After the Lana Clarkson case, sad, depressing and disturbing as it is, I found that the ‘Spector; guntoting lunatic’ image had come to greatly overshadow the iconic music once associated with Spector’s name, at least in the public eye. And so I thought it would be fitting to balance this view somewhat.
Make no mistake though; this blog has never been intented as a tribute to Phil Spector, the man. Read the ‘disclaimer’ part of the blog for more on this. But despite recent, tragic events I still believe it would be both foolish, wrong and a great injustice to all the artists, musicians, songwriters and engineers Spector worked with, should the Clarkson case signal the end of openly celebrating and dissecting the Wall of Sound as an iconic production approach – that angle is also why I don’t limit myself to Spector alone on here but also write about his contemporaries as well as those who have followed in his footsteps through the decades.
I’m very glad to have received some great feedback from many of you who have dropped by here from time to time and read my posts. This post is in order to underline the fact that if you have something to say, something to share, a great idea for an interview – whatever – please get in touch. So far, the way to reach me has been through the comment option on the individual posts. But as of today I’ve also set up an e-mail adress you can reach me through – cuecastanets(((@))))gmail.com
In all intents and purposes, my vision for Cue Castanets is that it should be a sort of online fanzine; steadily growing a back log of posts and insights with the interviews being something I especially take pride in. If the blog can be seen as a latter-day continuation of the Phil Spector Appreciation Society newsletters and Philately fanzines of the past, I’ll be one happy Spector fan! I hope other fans will find their way here and find much to peruse and enjoy.
So having said that; again, if you’d like to contribute to this, please get in touch. I’d be more than happy to step off my soapbox for a while and let you have your say on here via a guest post on Cue Castanets. I’ve had a few already, I’d welcome more. Maybe you’re able to reach someone that would be interesting to interview about Spector or the Wall of Sound? Maybe you’d like to submit a review or an essay about a particular Spector & Wall of Sound-themed subject you especially feel for? Or maybe, just maybe, you have some unheard rarity you’d like to share and have me write about for other fans? (wink wink!) Who knows? But don’t hesitate – get in touch!
You can reach me via cuecastanets(((@))))gmail.com
The new e-mail adress can now also be found via the ‘about’ and ‘disclaimer’ sections.
I’m pleased to be able to share with you yet another interview, – this time with my old Spector buddy, US-based collector David A. Young.
David and I go back at least 12-13 years and have discussed the music in depth ever since establishing contact through the old Spectropop forum. Along the way, David has introduced me to some great tunes, like the two albums issued by Pete Anders and Vini Poncia under their Tradewinds and the Innocence guises.
David’s a hardcore fan and without a doubt one of the top Spector experts and collectors in his country – when a guy has ‘spectorcollector’ as a part of his e-mail address you know he’s serious about his Wall of Sound collection!
Suffice to say, David’s collection of all things Spector and related is extremely impressive and includes acetates, demos and assorted rarities. Although he has downsized it somewhat in recent years, there’s still a wealth of interesting collectibles to make the hearts of Spector fans worldwide race with the ‘Be my Baby’ beat.
Let’s hear what David has to say about his infatuation with the Wall of Sound.
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David, let’s start at the beginning. Do you remember when you became aware of Phil Spector’s music? Was there a specific song that won you over and turned you into a full-blown fan of the Wall of Sound?
My first reaction to that question is that I know for sure it was because of Phil Spector that I became a record collector as opposed to merely a record buyer.
When I was young, department stores sold records, and after 45s that hadn’t sold were returned to the distributor and turned into cutouts, they were bundled in plastic in packages of like ten singles for 39 cents or so and then sent back to the stores for sale as mystery value packs; you could only see the two labels that faced the outside of the package, so you were gambling on whether or not you’d like what was inside.
Through some combination of buying records on purpose and buying them blindly in this way, I noticed that many of my favorites were on the same label — Philles, of course — and had Phil Spector’s name on them.
As a result, I started buying any record I found that said ‘Phil Spector’ on it somewhere. I’m afraid I can’t honestly recall any particular song that put me over the top as you describe, though, whether before or after that realization.
I know that you’ve been active in the fan community through the decades. I remember you telling me about hosting a Spector-themed party at one point. And you of course also were a member of the Phil Spector Appreciation Society – in some of the old PSAS newsletters I’ve noticed that you offered custom t-shirts for sale?
Could you tell a bit about all of this? I’d love to hear about that party and similar fan activity. In our day and age where fans worldwide are just clicks away from the latest news, forums and contact with each other, I find this early sense of a tight-knit fan community very interesting.
I had ‘Phil Spector’s birthday’ parties two years in a row, 1975 and ’76 (cohosted by my roommate[s] at the time). I invited him both times, and once — the first time — his personal assistant, Devra Robitaille, whom you’ve also interviewed for your blog, sent me a note with his regrets.
I also called him every December 26 from about that time to just a few years ago, when the number was disconnected, to wish him a happy birthday. The parties were fun, well-attended events; to bypass having to entertain requests (and to better focus on my partying), I pre-recorded four hours of music, 100% Spector-produced or co-produced, on reel-to-reel tape each time. That way I only had to play DJ once during the festivities, when it was time to turn the tape over two hours in. The trick worked so well that I did it for all my parties for many years, putting together a different program each and every time.
Funny that you mention the t-shirts. If only I still fit into mine; I’ve grown from a size small to a large since then! I gave it to a Spector-obsessed friend years ago when he visited me. It has the famous picture of Phil holding his sunglasses in front of his mouth.
I don’t think I ever actually sold one of them, but something much better happened: people wrote from all over asking if I wanted to trade tapes of rare and unreleased Spector and girl-group recordings instead, and of course the answer was a mutually rewarding yes in each case. I wish I still had all the handwritten letters, track notes, and the reel-to-reel tapes (and, later, cassettes) from those days, but at least I still have the memories.
The Internet sure has streamlined networking, musical and otherwise! Back then, besides people I met in real life – working at record stores helped -, it was those shirts, and the Phil Spector Appreciation Society, that led to my most significant connections.
You’re known as a hardcore collector and even though you’ve sold of parts of your collection by now, I’ll bet it must still be incredibly impressive. Do you have any anecdotes about record hunting? Turning up rare records in unlikely places or at ridiculously cheap prices?
Limiting my answer to Spector records, my two favorite anecdotes are these:
Almost all my original Philles albums, including the fake-stereo ‘Twist Uptown’ by The Crystals and the real-stereo ‘Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica’ were purchased in mint-minus condition from Village Oldies in New York for $100 apiece, reserved through a lucky phone call.
I sent them a payment once or twice a month until everything was paid for, and then the whole package arrived at once. What a day! The Ronettes album has subsequently been autographed by Ronnie Spector and Hal Blaine.
Also, I got unplayed copies of both the Jay and the Americans and the Supremes versions of ‘Things Are Changing’ in their mint title sleeves at a record show from the same guy, who worked at a record wholesale company, for $4 each!
Obviously, he had no idea what he had there, and I wasn’t about to tell him! By then, I already had the Blossoms version, which I got from Jack Fitzpatrick, who later co-wrote the ‘Collecting Phil Spector’ book and whom I’d met through the t-shirt ad.
What are some of your most prized Spector-related items in your personal collection?
I’ve sold lots of the most valuable things over the years, so that’s another conversation, but a number of pieces come to mind that I can’t imagine ever letting go of because of my personal attachment to them.
Along with the aforementioned Ronettes album, there’s the white-label DJ copy of ‘A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records’ with a promotional letter, the copy of ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’ on the rare X-125 pressing that Darlene Love autographed to me, and especially the 1987 reissue on Rhino of the Christmas album that Phil signed for me.
By that time I’d placed my ‘happy birthday’ calls so many years in a row that Devra Robitaille called to ask for my address, saying that Phil wanted to thank me for my steadfast devotion. A few days later, the LP arrived in the mail.
Where has your Spector collecting led you beyond acquiring all the different records he produced?
Of course it started with looking at the Spector discographies that existed at the time and, one by one, checking off each release as I obtained it — and over time, the discographies became more and more complete.
Before long, let’s say the first available copy of a record was a DJ copy instead of a stock copy, so I’d have that and then think, “Cool, I’ll get the promo and issue copies of every Spector record.” Then it turns out there are all kinds of label variations: You can have a white, blue, orange, or yellow-and-red label, and the typesetting can be different from one to the next, the logo changes and now may have a thick line or a thin line under it. And that’s just the variations on Philles!
Then there’s having the same release from as many different countries as possible, maybe with a variety of picture sleeves, different B-sides, the EPs, the spelling errors (like the pressing of Phil Spector 2 by Veronica listing ‘Why Can’t They Let Us Fall in Love’ instead of ‘Why Don’t They…’), the reversed labels (as on my stock copy of Philles 123, where the side labeled ‘Stumble and Fall’ plays ‘[He’s a] Quiet Guy’ and vice versa), and on and on.
From there, it spun out of control. My thirst for the Wall of Sound proved unquenchable, so I started seeking out and buying what we now call soundalikes, and as you know, there are both credible and laughable examples of attempts to replicate the Spector sound dating from the ’60s on up through the present.
Before I knew it, I had to have anybody’s cover version of any Spector-related song, whether he had composer credit on it or not (as is the case with, say, ‘He’s a Rebel’ or ‘I Love How You Love Me’). It was bad enough when I’d learn about such covers one way or another and then seek them out, but then eBay came along and I could search by title, discovering literally hundreds of them that I doubt I’d ever have known about otherwise.
Lastly, I started seeking out other releases by artists, especially the more obscure ones,that Phil had produced. You wouldn’t believe how many 45s Kell Osborne or Obrey Wilson, to name just two examples, put out!
Beyond that, like most Spector fans, I’m also wild for the girl group sound in general and have an extensive collection in that genre as well.
Do you only collect records or do you also have old Spector-related fanclub newsletters, posters and similar collectibles? I’ve often wondered how much of this stuff was out there when Philles was active?
I have three boxes full of paper stuff such as you describe. I’ll send along scans of some of the things we’re talking about here in case you want to use them for illustrations.
There’s a bit of everything, though: newsletters, magazines, fanzines, full-page ads from Billboard and Cashbox, sheet music, publicity photos, random articles and pictures … even a typewritten letter from Phil’s sister Shirley to The Teddy Bears and bearing her signature, from when she was managing the group. I have quite a collection of pinback buttons, too, or badges, as our British friends call them.
As far as when Philles was active, there’s not much I can think of besides the promotional materials and ads that came along with new releases, other than that ‘Thanks for Giving Me the Right Time’ clock, which I don’t have, nor do I particularly care about having, given how much it sells for when it does show up.
The two ‘Rare Masters’ compilations that came out in the mid-70s contained a wealth of fully-realised, but up-until-then unreleased Spector productions. Do you think there are more recordings like these left in the Spector tape vault? Have you heard some that other fans have undoubtedly yet to hear?
Well, we’ve yet to see release of ‘Someday (Baby)’ or ‘Padre’ by The Ronettes, and I read a post on Cue Castanets! speculating that they may have recorded ‘I’ll Never Need More than This’ as well.
I haven’t heard ‘Padre’ but its existence has been confirmed by a very reliable source. It’s the same song made famous by Toni Arden and, later, Valerie Carr, and it’s fun to imagine it as a Philles-era Ronettes track.
Then there’s the very odd case of a Gold Star acetate dated 1967, supposedly after both Philles and The Ronettes had disbanded: a commercial for Rheingold Beer with vocals on one side credited to The Ronettes and on the other by Phil Spector.
From the late-Philles era, we also haven’t seen release of Phil’s ‘Pretty Girl’, ‘Lucy in London’ or ‘Down at TJ’s.’
I was thrilled when The Crystals’ version of ‘Woman in Love (with You)’ was finally released a few years back, but we still haven’t heard — officially, anyway — their ‘Chico’s Girl’ or ‘Mary Ann’ or Darlene Love’s ‘It’s My Party’ or ‘You Can’t Sit Still’ (the backing track for which became ‘Dr. Kaplan’s Office.’)
That’s probably not a complete list, but it’s what comes to mind as we chat. Then there’s all Phil’s unreleased Apple-era stuff, and at least one finished production from the 70s PSI period: Tina Turner doing the Irving Berlin song ‘Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor.’
Add to that all the miscellaneous stuff through the years, the fabled Molly Ringwald and Celine Dion sessions, and the many, many demos, and there’s plenty left to be unearthed.
Mono or stereo? Or both? How do you feel about stereo mixes of Spector’s recordings?
Both, please! In some ways, it’s like listening to two different records, though this is more or less true depending on the particular cut. The background vocals are even different between the mono and stereo versions of The Ronettes’ ‘How Does It Feel’ for goodness’ sake!
I guess what I like is ‘dissecting’ mono recordings by listening to them in stereo to better make out all the individual components of the massed sound I hear in mono. To hear something more clearly may or may not mean to hear it ‘better’, but it helps put the puzzle together.
That said, I love the Christmas album in stereo. That blew my mind when it first came out in 1975, and it still does; I wish it would be released that way again. There’s an unbelievable amount of detail to discover there; the clattering percussion in ‘March of the Wooden Soldiers’, for example, just doesn’t work as well in mono as far as I’m concerned.
I would imagine a fan and collector like you have been to LA several times, almost on a sort of pilgrimage. Did you ever get to visit Gold Star Studios?
Nope, never made it to Gold Star.
Actually, the only time I’ve ever been to Los Angeles was in 2013 to see Ronnie Spector’s ‘Beyond the Beehive’ show. I’d lusted after a Gold Star jacket for many years, so I was excited to score one as a premium for my Kickstarter support of the ‘Wrecking Crew’ documentary last year. Yes, it’s a replica, not an original, but it’ll do for now.
Spector’s last production job was Starsailor’s ‘Silence is Easy’ and ‘White Dove’ if you don’t take Hargo’s ‘Crying for John Lennon’ and Rachelle Spector’s solo album into consideration. I suspect he was involved only in name on those two projects.
But the Starsailor cuts,… how did you feel about those when they came out? Personally, I love ‘Silence is Easy’ but I understand those who had hoped for more of a trademark Wall of Sound on it?
Gee, it’s been a while since I listened to the Starsailor cuts, but I remember thinking that it didn’t seem to me that anyone had produced ‘White Dove’, as opposed to merely recording it.
Now, ‘Silence Is Easy’ … that song is produced, and damn well. I’m not sure I would have guessed it to be a Spector production had you just played it for me cold, so in that sense I suppose I was mildly disappointed, but the brooding feel starts as a simmer and builds effectively to a boil, as befits the song, so Phil did right by it.
There’s been some much-deserved hype concerning Denny Tedesco’s documentary on the Wrecking Crew. Hal Blaine’s book has seen a reprint, Don Randi has a book coming out, there’s said to be a Jack Nitszche documentary in the works and we have also recently had two new books on the Wrecking Crew.
Is there anyone out there from that whole recording scene that you hope will feel inspired to share their stories like for instance Hal and Don has done?
I’d love to hear from David and Dan Kessel; in fact, I keep hoping that you’ll interview them (or at least Dan, who seems to be the more talkative of the twins). Have you asked them?
Between their Gold Star/Spector and showbiz connections, including having had their own Martian Records label, it would seem like there would be a book’s worth of material there. Besides being interesting, it’d bridge the gap between the original Wrecking Crew and the later sessions when, admittedly, plenty of the old gang was still around, but lots of new players and singers were used as well.
That’s certainly a good idea for an interview. I’ll look into that!
Finally, to round off, please share with us your all-time top 5 Spector productions?
I’m glad you asked that, because I know you’ve asked others the same thing, so I started thinking about it when you asked to interview me and I’m as ready as I can possibly be, though numbers three through five might change if you ask me next year:
‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’ – Darlene Love
‘Is This What I Get for Loving You’ – The Ronettes
‘Little Boy’ – The Crystals
‘Save the Last Dance for Me’ – Ike and Tina Turner
‘Memories’ – Leonard Cohen
Wow, a Cohen track on your top 5? I’ve never paid that much attention to ‘Death of a Ladies Man.’ Your listing of ‘Memories’ will definitely prompt me to re-listen to the album again with open ears.
David, thank you so much for sharing your insights with us. Much appreciated!
When I got seriously into the Wall of Sound in the early 00s I quickly felt the need for a good overview of Spector’s recorded output.
How much had been left off the Back to Mono box that was my rite of passage into all things Spector? What were the stories behind all of these productions? Some, like the Modern Folk Quartet or the Alley Cats seemed to be one-offs? And what, if anything, had Spector committed to tape after his Philles heyday?
Remember, this was in the early years of the internet. There wasn’t a great deal of info online and as a fresh-faced, nascent Wall of sound fan in my early 20s I was looking for answers. They came in the form of a curious book called ‘Collecting Phil Spector – The Man, the Legend and the Music’ which I was delighted to find via a search through the national library system in my country.
To this day, I suspect there’s only one copy available through the library here – the one that I was able to bring home and study like it was Holy Scripture. I kept renewing my loan on this book for several months. This is where I first read about the over-looked productions of the 70s. It was also the book that really whetted my appetite for hunting down various Spector soundalikes. There’s a whole discography in it devoted to these soundalike records, old and new – even meticulously divided into sections like ‘Righteous Brothers soundalikes’ or ‘Spector Soundalikes 1980s’. It’s a wet dream for every fan of the Wall of Sound that finds the official Spector output too limited to satisfy his craving for bombast.
Since then I’ve read almost every book on Spector and his music with Mick Brown’s seminal tome ‘Tearing Down the Wall of Sound’ being my favorite, followed closely by Rob Finnis’ ‘the Phil Spector Story’ and Mark Ribowsky’s more trashy but very entertaining ‘He’s a Rebel.’ And would you believe there are more than these solely focused on Spector along with auto-biographies by Ronnie Spector, Darlene Love, Sonny Bono, Hal Blaine, Cher etc?
The Spector-related book shelf is actually pretty crowded with lots of entertaining, highly informative reads. But ‘Collecting Phil Spector’ somewhat holds a special place for me with its earnest fan-boy focus on the music. There is a bit of info about Spector’s personal life but it’s very basic and the authors point out in the foreword that their book isn’t meant as a biography but a walk-through of the music.
I’ve tried unsuccessfully to locate the authors Jack Fitzpatrick and Jim Fogerty via Facebook but to no avail. It’s a shame because I’d love to hear more about their book’s origin. It’s clearly a labor of love written by two über-fans – and they are readily described as such on the dust cover. But why did they undertake such a project in 1991? At a time when Spector had been lying low for more than a decade?
Well, the Back to Mono box came out the very same year as the book so maybe the book was somehow tied into this project? It seems though that the book came out first since the box isn’t listed in the book’s Spector discography. Rhino Records allegedly worked on a project along the lines of the Back to Mono box with Spector before he changed horses in the middle of the stream and gave the project to ABCKO to finish. So there may be a connection there?
No matter what, ‘Collecting Phil Spector’ is an interesting read even today. More of a catalog with short essays rather than a book maybe but you can definitely feel the enthusiasm and love for the music throughout. I don’t know how limited the print run was but I suspect it was kept rather low for a vanity project like this.
About 8 years ago I was lucky enough to find a reasonably prized copy on Ebay – usually they go for much higher prizes the few times they pop up online. If you happen to see one at a fair prize, grab it! It’s a well-worth investment for any serious Spector / Wall of Sound fan, – even just as a sort of historical source like those old Phil Spector Appreciation Society newsletters and Philately fanzines I’ve previously written about here:
Jack & Jim! If you’re still out there,… if you happen to see this I’d love to know more about your work on the book. And a sincere thank you for giving me a great crash-course in the Wall of Sound all those years ago!
Since starting this blog, Paul Dunford, the former president of the ‘Phil Spector Appreciation Society’ (PSAS), has become one of the readers following my writings and research. In order to learn more about the PSAS, Paul has been kind enough to answer some questions about the fanclub he started in the 70s.
Paul, thank you for taking the time out to answer some questions about the PSAS. Let’s start off by learning more about your own interest in Phil Spector and the Wall of Sound. When and how did you discover his music? Was there a definitive moment for you or a specific song that won you over?
I was just 14 years old and in my garden when I heard ‘Be my Baby’ by the Ronettes in 1963. I couldn’t believe the sound that was coming from my little transistor radio! I had to stop whatever I was doing and turn the sound up. That voice and the Spector sound was uplifting to me. And then I began to listen to all Spector’s artists. But I was always most interested in the Ronettes.
According to my research you must have started the PSAS in 1975; the year before the release of the first volume of the Rare Masters rarities collection. Did the PSAS evolve because of the new flurry of Spector activity in lieu of the newly formed Phil Spector International label & his deal with Polydor? Please do tell what you remember about the formation of the PSAS.
Yes. It was in 1975. I was working as a store manager for Venus Records, a UK chain comprising six record shops, and had contact with Barry Barnes from Polydor who did all the displays for me at my shop – and in time, also at the PSAS convention that was held.
Barry was working as a promotions man for Polydor and a good friend of mine. He covered my shop with covers of ‘Echoes of the 60s’ – the greatest hits collection that came out in 1977. I actually got a silver disc for that release as a gift which I am very proud of. It was issued to recognize the sale in the UK of more than “£ 150.000 worth of the Phil Spector album Echoes of the 60s”
I was also in contact with Tony Bramwell a lot. We often met at Polydor Records. Tony was the main reason for me getting all the news – he had previously been the road manager of the Beatles. [Cue Castanets: Tony Bramwell was instrumental in negotiations behind the short-lived Warner-Spector and Phil Spector International labels.] A lot happened during those years. The Dion album came out and the Rare Masters collections. My address is actually on Rare Masters volume 2. ‘Oak Cottage, Isington, Alton, Hampshire.’
You continued the name from an older fan club run by Phil Chapman in the late 60s – were you a member of that one? Was Phil a member of the new PSAS? And how did you go about spreading the word on your fanclub?
No, I was never in Phil Chapman’s fanclub and he was never in mine. I did use the ‘Phil Spector Appreciation Society’ name to get members. When I started the fanclub up I used to put adverts in the New Musical Express and Record Mirror and it was very successful.
From the newsletters I gather that Spector-crazy DJs like Roger Scott, Peter Young and Mike Reid were honorary members – as were Ronnie Spector, Dusty Springfield and Gene Pitney! Any other honorary member amongst your ranks back then?
The honorary members were the ones you listed, only missing is BBC host Bob Harris who I’ve gotten very friendly with. He is a DJ on BBC 2. He loves his music and he’s 68 years old now.
The PSAS was an international fanclub with members both in Europe and the US. One newsletter informs that you’ve reached nearly 200 members due to 75 new members coming onboard because of a mention of the PSAS on the back of the Rare Masters vol. 2 album. Do you remember if the PSAS attained even more members?
I think we had about 300 members. We even had fanclub merchandise like t-shirts and car stickers. We promoted Phil Spector’s company and tried to make Jeri Bo Keno’s ‘Here It Comes (and Here I Go)’ a turntable hit. But it should have been sung by Ronnie. Her voice was better than Jeri Bo Keno.
On the 25th of September 1976 the PSAS had a convention. Could you tell a bit about it? Did you have other, more informal gatherings?
We only had that one convention at Alton, my hometown. It was a great night. The DJ played everything old and new, and obviously the recent Jerri Bo Keno release. The highlight of the night was a telexed message to us from the man himself.
[Cue Castanets: the message was read aloud at the convention and re-printed in the next PSAS newsletter. The message was as follows: “This message is to express my sincere and deepest gratitude to you and all the members of the Society for their overwhelming dedication and work and love. If there were more people in the world like all of you there would not only be more of my records played and sold but more importantly this world would be a better place in which to live. I hope the convention is a success and I know it will be with so many lovely people in attendance. I am truly sorry that I cannot be there to meet each and every one of you. I thank and appreciate all of you from the buttom of my heart. With much love, Phil Spector.”]
Did you have an actual PSAS office you ran the fanclub from?
Yes, we did. It was in my home in Alton. Here is a photo of the office. That’s me sitting down and Kevin Kennedy answering the phone. He was a member of PSAS and very helpful too.
Judging from the newsletters, you obviously got some inside information on upcoming releases and Phil Spector’s current sessions from Polydor. There are interesting tid-bids in the newsletters; an unmixed version of Darlene Love’s ‘Lord If You’re a Woman’ and a new signing by Spector in the form of a vocal group called the Brewers. Apparently, there was also enough material for a third volume of Rare Masters. Was all this info always courtesy of Tony Bramwell?
Yes. There was indeed an unmixed version of ‘Lord If You’re a Woman’ and I was told there was enough material for a fantastic Darlene Love album, 10 tracks including ‘I Love Him Like I Love my Very Life.’ But for reasons unknown to me and Tony Bramwell it didn’t see the light of day. Perhaps one day we might hear it! As for the Brewers, – I have never heard about them. I think it was all rumors.
Were you ever in contact with Spector himself as president of the PSAS or was contact with him through his management / distributors?
I was in contact with his personal assistant Devra Robitaille. [Cue Castanets: Devra’s official title was that of Administrative Director of Warner-Spector. Among other things, she organized the sessions at Gold Star for the Dion album in 1975.] How wonderful that Dion album was! And Cher’s ‘A Woman’s Story & Baby, I Love You’ on the B-side. The PSAS even arranged a ‘Spector Day’ on March 7th 1976. How did you come up with that idea?
It was due to the fact that it had been 10 years since ‘River Deep Mountain High’ was recorded. It was a wonderful day. DJs Roger Scott, Peter Young and Mike Reid got involved and every two hours ‘River Deep’ was played. It was played both on Capital radio and the BBC. Some shows were even dedicated to the PSAS.
You eventually stepped down as president of the PSAS in late 1977 and Mick Patrick and Carole Gardiner took over. They later re-morphed the newsletters into the Philately fanzine.
Yes, I knew Mick and Carole very well. We even went to CBS in London to meet Ronnie when ‘Say Goodbye to Hollywood’ was released in May, 1977. When I handed over the PSAS it got better and better. I was very pleased that it improved.
Speaking of Ronnie Spector, I know you were close with her? Do tell.
I toured with her in 1979. I was Ronnie’s manager and I paid the Ronettes. It was a great tour and we played the Venue in London for two nights. I even shared a room with her. We stayed in many hotels and I shall always remember that tour till the day I die. She even came to my house in Alton and stayed there for two nights. It’s great to know that Ronnie is bringing her ‘Beyond the Beehive’ one-woman show to the UK this year!
Thank you for all this info, Paul. Finally, what are your five personal favorite Spector records?
If you’ve read the ’about’ section on here you know I started my blog because of a lack of an online reference point with different angles and news on the Wall of Sound. So I decided to create such a site myself. I assume there are others like me out there and if you come across this blog, I’d love to hear from you. You can comment on the posts or contact me via my blog profile. No matter what, I hope you’ll check in from time to time and read the future posts.
Obviously, the internet has completely changed the game of how not only fans of Phil Spector’s music but music fans in general come together and stay up to date about releases, rarities, concerts etc. Online forums, specialist music websites, blogs, mailing lists and Facebook pages all provide fans with direct access to news and discussion with likeminded folks like never before.
Then imagine the ‘wilderness’ years before the internet. The dark ages where fans had to rely on chance encounters with other fans at record stores or record fairs, pen pal-type ads in music magazines or, if you were really lucky, privately pressed fanzines provided of course that your favorite music had a strong enough following to merit such a labour-of-love. Luckily for Spector fans, they’ve had several fanzines to consult through the years.
I’m too young to have been a part of the fan community back then so what I know about these fanzines I’ve learned second-hand, mainly because, the geek that I am, I’ve hunted down some of the few remaining copies or have kindly received photocopied ones from other collectors.
I find these fanzines very fascinating. They are great for researching the cultural history of Spector fandom as each issue somewhat represents a time capsule of the interests, mentality, hopes and dreams of the fan community at the time of publication. You can sense that much care and love has been put into them and as fanzines go, they’re pervaded by a sense of comforting, tight-knit camaraderie.
The people behind these fanzines knew that they weren’t writing for masses but providing valuable information for a few diehard fans who cared and where willing to subscribe even when, in the case of Phil Spector, news were at best very infrequent and unsubstantial. In all honesty, once Spector seemingly closed the door on his producer career with his involvement in the Ramones album ‘End of the Century’ in 1980, there wasn’t much to report.
In the lack of any real news the fanzines were often then padded out with discographies, artists bios, discussions on soundalike records etc. In other words, all the info we take for granted today with Discogs, Wikipedia or Allmusic. But back then Spector fans had to get such info piece by piece as if they were slowly and collectively solving a major puzzle as the years went on.
So, what’s the basic timeline of the fanzines? Not much info can be found online which is strange actually. You’d think that some of the passionate people behind these fanzines would have picked up from where they left off once they got online? The legendary Spectropop message board probably took its fair share of former subscribers and that forum has had a few posts about the fanzines but nothing really informative.
My research shows the following timeline:
Phil Spector Appreciation Society Newsletters – 1968-1969/1970
According to an interview with British Spector historian, collector and producer Phil Chapman in 1984 (Philately # 4) this newsletter was started by him around 1968. As a young Spector fan he had gotten into contact with numerous other fans using the pen pal sections of music magazines. Instead of continuing writing each other back and forth with the same news he decided to start a society that eventually grew to about 100 or so active members. Only six newsletters were issued during the course of a year so the final one must have come out in 1969 or 1970. [Phil Chapman’s six newsletters were for sale as reprints in 1984 as advertised in Philately along with the interview. If anyone out there has these and would be willing to send me photocopies I’d be very grateful. I’ve yet to read them.]
Phil Spector Appreciation Society Newsletters – ca. 1975-1983
The name Phil Chapman used for ‘his’ fanclub was dusted off by a new group of people throughout the 70s. Like Chapman’s club, this society was also based in the UK but it also had subscribers in the US. I have photocopies of all newsletters from November 1976 until Christmas 1981. Some I’ve bought off Ebay, others I have kindly been able to borrow for copying from a fellow fan.
I don’t know exactly when this new version of the PSAS started but according to the last newsletter I have, the one from the end of 1981, it had been active for nearly 7 years. This would suggest a start sometime in 1975. That seems very likely since this was the year Phil Spector issued a batch of new compilations of his old hits on a newly formed label, ‘Phil Spector International.’ I imagine the flurry of activity got fans together again. The founding member was Paul R. Dunford but for most issues dynamic duo Mick Patrick and Carole Gardiner was in charge. The newsletters are very informative but very simple in their layout. Basically, they are nothing more than typewritten pages in the a5 format with the occasional image. The newsletters came out roughly 4 times a year. [I lack PSAS newsletters from 1982 and onwards until Philately took over. If you have some that you’d like to copy for me, please get in touch.]
The 70s edition of the PSAS even held a convention in september 1976 at Alton, Hampshire in the UK. According to the subsequent newsletter “a disco played Spector records all night.” The surprise of the evening was a telexed message from Phil Spector who expressed his gratitude to his fans. I have color photocopies of photos taken that evening and show four here. Look at those wall displays! I guess they had quite a few Phil Spector International sleeves to spare, huh? The DJ can even be seen putting on a record. Considering the time, I’m guessing it’s Jerri Bo Keno’s ‘Here It Comes (And Here I Go)’!
Philately – seven issues, 1983-ca. 1989/1990
Mick Patrick and Carole Gardiner, as well as other contributors, expanded the simple newsletter into a very stylish-looking fanzine from 1983 onwards. Under the tongue-in-cheek title Philately, fans worldwide were kept updated with the same kind of info as had been the norm in the old PSAS newsletters. Philately though, had a much more professional style. More varied fonts, better reproduction of images and interviews with various people close to Spector such as Jerry Riopelle, Ronnie Spector, Nino Tempo and others.
The Philately fanzine was clearly the pinnacle of Spector fandom and make for great reading. I don’t know why it had run its course by the 7th issue but I have Mick Patrick’s word for it being the last issue when I asked him about it online. Mick would of course go on to work on all sorts of interesting projects for Ace Records, i.e. the fantastic three Phil’s Spectre compilations of Spector soundalikes, many of which had been raved about in the ‘Erect-a-Spector’ columns in the old PSAS newsletters or Philately. Whereas the PSAS newsletters had been a mixture of Spector stuff and more general info on 60s girl groups, Philately was mainly Spector stuff with girl group articles reserved for a sister publication by the PSAS called ‘That will never happen again.’ [The only issue of Philately I don’t have is # 5. A photocopy would be kindly welcomed.]
And thus concludes my ‘dissertation’ on the obscure and overlooked, but wonderful world of Spector fandom & fanzines.
Musings on Phil Spector's Wall of Sound and similar music…