Tag Archives: Gold Star

33 1/3: House of Dreams

I’ve just been made aware of an exciting new project about the legendary Gold Star studios, aptly titled ’33 1/3: House of Dreams.’

We’ve had various staged variations of the classic 60s pop sound so dear to myself and readers of this blog, among others ‘Leader of the Pack’, ‘Jersey Boys’ and ‘Motown: the Musical’, so it makes sense to focus on the fascinating story of David Gold and Stan Ross and their importance to the LA music scene by way of Gold Star.

This looks like a real labour of love and with support from those who recorded there to boot. Check out the kickstarter page of 33 1/3 to learn more about this new project which is seeking backing as of writing.

Advertisements

Kristian St. Clair Interview

Three years ago, in my ongoing feature on ‘Would-be Spectors’, I wrote about the importance of Jack ‘Specs’ Nitzsche for the Wall of Sound. Without the arranging skills of Nitzsche as well as his widespread contacts within the LA music business, who knows how big an impact Spector’s productions would have had?

You can read the blog post here: https://cuecastanets.wordpress.com/2014/12/13/would-be-spectors-3-jack-nitzsche/

In my blog post I mentioned an upcoming documentary about Nitzsche that was seemingly in the works. I never heard more about it and assumed the project had come to a stand-still. Recently though, I was contacted by the director Kristian St. Clair from Century67 Films with the good news that the documentary was nearing completion. I was all ears and eager to learn more about this project and luckily, Kristian was more than willing to answer questions for an interview for Cue Castanets.

Kristian_LincolnContinental
Kristian St. Clair

I think we can look forward to a very interesting documentary about one of the unsung heroes of the music industry, – and here I’m both thinking in terms of Nitzsche himself as well as the arranger in a broader sense. Here’s what Kristian had to say about Nitzsche and the documentary about him.

——————————————————-

First off, could you tell a bit about your background in filmmaking? I know you produced a similar music documentary on jazz artist Gary McFarland prior to focusing on Jack Nitzsche?

I majored in journalism at the University of Washington here in Seattle, WA, where I dabbled in short documentaries.  At the time I started the McFarland documentary in 2000, digital non-linear filmmaking was breaking out of the realm of professional post production houses and into the hands of average consumers.

I wanted to make a feature-length film, and a documentary seemed like the best genre that I could legitimately pull off with the least amount of resources available.

What prompted you to set your sights on Nitzsche? What about his story ‘lured you in’, so to speak?

Jack Nitzsche was an artist I organically discovered collecting records of other artists I was fascinated with.  First, was Randy Newman which led me to the Nitzsche co-produced track “Let’s Burn Down the Cornfield” on 12 Songs, and then, of course, his soundtrack to “Performance.”

Also, my love of  all things Beach Boys & Brian Wilson, led to a deeper appreciation of Phil Spector’s legacy, which then lead directly to Jack and “The Lonely Surfer.”

jn

I was constantly surprised to see just how many artists he worked with and how his name would pop up seemingly everywhere.  I always like to tell people he’s the only producer to work with both Doris Day and The Germs!

How did you first learn about Nitzsche’s work? Any particular arrangements / productions / recordings that sparked your interest in him? 

“Let’s Burn Down the Cornfield” from Randy Newman’s 12 songs, casts such a dark and cinematic spell.

Lenny Waronker describes in my film how Randy originally played it in a much faster arrangement with a more rollicking piano part, and it was Jack (who also brought along Ry Cooder) who suggested that he slow it down.

He tried something similar to a lesser effect on The Everly Brothers’ rendition of Neil Young’s “Mr. Soul” (also featuring Ry Cooder).

So, you decide to take on the task of documenting his background and career. What was your first steps? How did you go about making this initial idea come into fruition?

Martin Roberts who maintains the wonderful Jack Nitzsche website on Spectropop put me in touch with Jack Nitzsche, Jr.  He watched my Gary McFarland doc and agreed to meet.

We first met at Musso & Frank’s in Hollywood along with another of Jack Nitzsche’s old pals, the artist Hudson Marquez, and I apparently made a good enough impression that he gave my film project his blessing.

Could you roughly describe the timeline covered in the documentary? Does it cover Nitzsche’s whole life / career or are there parts you skip? Who have you interviewed along the way?

For the most part it covers beginning to end, with the main middle portion of the film focusing on the period of Phil Spector through to his collaborations with Neil Young.  An incredible run of music in it’s own right, and he still had a 3rd act as an Oscar-winning film composer!

jacknitzsche
Jack to the left at a 60s session.

Interview participants (so far) include Keith Richards, Ry Cooder, LaLa Brooks, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Jackie DeShannon, Rod McKuen, Jeff Barry, Don Randi, Hal Blaine, Carol Kaye, Lenny Waronker, Russ Titelman, HB Barnum, William Friedkin, Marianne Faithfull, Toni Basil, Robert Downey, Sr., Milos Forman, Andrew Loog Oldham, and many other close friends and collaborators.

I think I recall that UK-based Ace Records had access to Nitzsche’s session diaries when they compiled their three Nitzsche compilations. Did you gain the same access?

Yes, I’ve had full access to Nitzsche’s diaries, journals, photos, recordings, etc.

JNace

Are there any anecdotes from the process of researching, interviewing and producing the documentary that you’d like to share with us?

Jack was fascinated with voodoo and the occult, so one of his favorite possessions was a small lock from the tomb of Marie Laveau. There’s not a lot of archival footage of Jack around, but I was reviewing some 8mm home movies, and sure enough, there’s a clip of Jack in the 1970’s trying to pry the thing lose from her tomb!

How much does the documentary deal with what some would see as Nitzsche’s golden era, the early-to-late 60s?

Easily 1/3 if not a bit more of the film will focus on this, though I’d extend that golden period to include his early seventies collaborations with Neil Young and early film scores like “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

Seeing that Cue Castanets is focused on the Wall of Sound, I’d love to hear your opinion on the extent of Nitzsche’s role in developing the sound? Based on what you’ve learned through your research and interviews,…. Spector and him certainly seemed to have a rocky working relationship that soured along the way…

David Kessel described Jack Nitzsche as the architect of the Wall of Sound.  I think Jack was able to take Phil’s grandiose ideas and concepts and put them on paper and make them come to life in a way that matched what Phil heard in his head.  Phil knew what he wanted but didn’t necessarily have the arranging skills to achieve that.

Spector%20Specs
60s session; Darlene Love, Phil Spector & Jack Nitzsche.

It’s interesting hearing outtakes of Phil in the studio, there’s one point where he’s trying to explain something to one of the musicians and is having trouble getting his point across and finally out of frustration he says “Jack, tell him what I mean!”  I think that pretty much sums up their working relationship.

I don’t get the sense there was a falling out per se, they just naturally drifted apart after the failure of River Deep, Mountain High, which also coincided with Jack’s rise as an independent producer and arranger for hire.

iketina

Hudson Marquez recalled that at Jack’s funeral service, Phil Spector spoke and said “Without Jack Nitzsche, there would have been no Wall of Sound,” and he’s right!

What surprised you the most about Nitszche after researching his story and interviewing those in the know?

Although he had this reputation as being incredibly difficult (which is probably putting it mildly), he was, of course, a very gentle soul who constructed this facade as a defense mechanism.  He also had an incredible sense of humor, some of which I hope will come through in this film.

What has been your biggest challenge working on this project?

Any film about someone from this era is a race against time.  My biggest disappointment was, although Willy DeVille agreed to an interview, his health took such a rapid decline (cancer), that we weren’t able to get it done. He’s still a big presence in the film due to footage of Jack & Willy hanging out in a NYC hotel room, but I still would have loved to have his first-hand commentary.

What are your plans for the finalized documentary? Where can Cue Castanets readers see it?

We completed a rough cut this past August and hope to have  a final cut ready to submit to film festivals by Spring 2018.

Any similar projects in the works? Or, at least, ideas for something along the lines of your two documentaries?

A few ideas, but nothing concrete yet.  Just trying to push this one over the finish line!

Well, no matter what topic you take on next, I wish you good luck and look forward to enjoying the Nitzsche documentary.

Finally, I always conclude my interviews by asking people to list their top 5 Spector productions. If you’d like to chime in, please do so – at the very least, I hope you’d share with us your personal top 5 of Nitzsche-involved tracks.

I’ll give you 2 Top 5’s my top 5 Spector/Nitzsche tracks, and top 5 Nitzsche tracks:

Top 5 Spector/Nitzsche collaborations:

  1. Then He Kissed Me – The Crystals
  2. River Deep, Mountain High – Ike & Tina Turner
  3. Baby, I Love You – The Ronettes
  4. Do I Love You? – The Ronettes
  5. This Could Be the Night – The Modern Folk Quartet

Top 5 Nitzsche Productions:

  1. The Lonely Surfer – Jack Nitzsche
  2. Expecting to Fly – Buffalo Springfield/Neil Young
  3. When You Walk in the Room – Jackie DeShannon
  4. If I Only Had a Dime – The Furys
  5. Dirty Dirty – Crazy Horse

Phil and Jack speak out

I came across Rolling Stone magazine’s lenghthy interview with Spector from 1969 today. The full piece can be accessed online here:

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/the-rolling-stone-interview-phil-spector-19691101

I’ve known about it for years, and have seen it quoted extensively in the various Spector books that have come out,…. but for some reason, I’ve never read the full piece. Maybe the same goes for you? If so, go ahead and get a sense of the rambling, jive-talking and score-settling Phil Spector of 1969… There are quite a few topics covered that hasn’t been quoted in the Spector books.

PhilSpector-IkeAndTinaTurner

I do wish he had talked more about his own productions. Though it’s interesting to see him reflect on the changing times of the late 60s music business and his own tentative approach towards it after the self-imposed exile after the failure of the ‘River Deep, Mountain High’ single. Interestingly, Spector himself explains its failure with the view that the industry wanted to see his downfall. So maybe this interview is where that often repeated explanation originates from?

And speaking of legendary interviews I would be a fool to not also post the link to Crawdaddy magazine’s equally legendary interview with none other than Jack ‘Specs’ Nitzsche, master arranger and producer extraordinaire and of course Spector’s right hand man in Gold Star studios during much of the recording of the Philles catalog.

http://www.spectropop.com/JackNitzsche/crawdaddy.htm

specs2

Crawdaddy’s interview came out in 1974 and makes for very interesting reading. What a career with all sorts of interesting twists and turns! Someone out there really ought to write a book about Nitzsche, preferably working together with his family who I believe have an interesting collection of photos, diaries and logbooks with recording dates.

A few years ago it looked as if someone was looking into making a documentary on Nitzsche but it seems as if nothing has come of it,… yet. Fingers crossed – in the mean time we can all dust off our copies of the three fabulous Nitzsche compilations put out by the UK’s Ace Records.

JNace

Nitzsche’s talent is basically the gift that keeps on giving,… to prove my point I’ll conclude with a conducting & arranging credit of his that I discovered online last night. Dig this stomping Fab Four soundalike courtesy of the Palace Guard:

Review – Bobby Hatfield, The Other Brother

****½ (4½ stars out of 6)

Confession: when I first fell head over heels in love with the wall of sound in the early 00s, it was by way of the Righteous Brothers. Being a die-hard soul fan, it took me a little longer to warm to the other parts of the Philles catalog. However, those glorious, soulful vocals by Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield?… Pure bliss! I was hooked rightaway. To this day, ‘Just Once in my Life’ is probably my favourite Spector production.

When singing together these guys were incredible but they could also pack a punch on their own as plenty of tracks on the various Righteous Brothers albums prove.

Allegedly, Bobby Hatfield was frustrated by the immediate attention bestowed to Bill Medley by Spector on follow-ups to ‘You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling’, but luckily Hatfield was given quite a few opportunities to shine amid shimmering, echo-soaked backing tracks. ‘I Love You (for Sentimental Reasons)’ and ‘Ebb Tide’ have always been especially dear to me, even more so than the iconic ‘Unchained Melody.’ (and let’s skip the discussion of who really produced that gem!)

hatfield2
“Dammit Bobby. This is your final chance, or I’ll have Bill sing it!”
It’s about time Bobby Hatfield got his proper due and what better company to do his musical legacy justice than the fine folks at UK label Ace Records? They have just released a superb compilation with the apt title ‘The Other Brother’ that is a must-buy for any Cue Castanets reader.

The compilation displays the high standard we’ve come to expect from Ace projects; well-chosen tracks – including never before released recordings, beautiful cover artwork and very informative liner notes as well as top-notch sound quality. Believe me, ordering this release is a no-brainer. Your ears will thank you!

othbroth

There can be no doubt that Bobby was an extraordinary singer who made the most of the songs he was given, even though the material at hand on occasion was of lesser quality. There are a few instances of this on the disc but it doesn’t mar the overall listening experience. Bobby could obviously inject life and drama into even the most mediocre songs.

Having said that, there is an overload of great recordings on ‘The Other Brother’, none the least a smattering of previously unreleased songs of high quality which makes one wonder why they never saw the light of day. I’m especially fond of Bobby’s velvet-soft take on ‘Crying in the Chapel.’

Of particular interest for Spector connoisseurs is a hitherto unreleased version of ‘Paradise’; here reimagined as a mid-tempo soul song with a James Jamerson-type bass line, punchy horns and strings that bring forth a bit of the grandeur we know from the Spector-produced version with the Ronettes. Even though Bobby and the uncredited mystery producer involved do not achieve the same level of sophistication as the Tycoon of Teen, theirs is still a very good version – and one that’s very refreshing to hear after having played the Ronettes track to death.

phibo

Besides this song and a few other nice, unreleased recordings, Bobby also turns in a fine version of ‘See that Girl’, which of course graced side 2 of the ‘Just Once in my Life’ Philles album by the Righteous Brothers.

Outside of recording as a Righteous Brother Bobby Hatfield wasn’t really that prolific. Eventually only issuing one album, the soulful ‘Messin’ in Muscle Shoals’ from 1971, his career was dogged by lukewarm reception to singles that were meant to test the waters for album projects.

sho

A planned solo album for 1969 fell on the wayside after slow ’45 sales which is a shame; two of the songs for planned inclusion on this scrapped album is on ‘The Other Brother’, but it’s a shame that Ace hasn’t included strong cuts like ‘My Prayer’ and ‘Answer Me’ since they showcase Bobby at his best.

On the other hand, the whole ‘Messin’ in Muscle Shoals’ album is included – if you like southern soul, this album is right up your alley. You could argue that some of these later songs could have been left off to make room for more 60s Hatfield-leads like the Righteous Brothers take on ‘I Believe’ or the sublime ‘Answer Me’, but that’s all a matter of taste.

Personally, I was glad to have ‘Hang-Ups’ as the collection’s lead off track since it’s probably my favorite solo Hatfield recording and thus makes for the perfect opener. When released as a single it was paired with the groovy ‘Soul Café’ which is also a welcome inclusion on the disc.

bobby1

All in all, this is a great and long overdue set highlighting different parts of Bobby’s career. Tip of the hat to compiler Tony Rounce and the rest of the team at Ace for continuously documenting the best pop of the 60s with care and affection.

You can order your own copy and listen to sound samples here:

https://acerecords.co.uk/the-other-brother-a-solo-anthology-1965-1970

Jerri Bo Keno Interview

While Phil Spector’s 60s productions are always praised as groundbreaking and intricate, many wall of sound connaisseurs also tend to focus on his overlooked 70s output.

Limited as this output was, Spector’s projects from the era still underlined his role as the true auteur and sonic mastermind of each record. Yet, the former Tycoon of Teen was clearly at a creative crossroads, seemingly looking for a new direction for the wall of sound.

His approach had already seemed a bit passé by the end of the 60s. As he entered the new decade, Spector faced the fact that the record-buying teenagers of the early-to-mid 60s who had brought stardom to him and Philles had now grown up. Should his new music reflect this change or should he stay true to the old tried and tested formula? In the end, he chose, perhaps somewhat reluctantly, to do both – the productions became more delicate and often at a slower pace which lessened the expected impact from a new Spector production. On the other hand, the tracks were still cut at Gold Star studios with the regular team of brilliant session musicians, the iconic Wrecking Crew. Technology had changed – the mono that had propelled Spector’s bombast through speakers throughout the 60s had been surpassed by stereo, dreaded by Spector because it lessened the full impact of his productions.

A time of change, then. But luckily one that still brought us some great new Spector productions with the likes of John Lennon, George Harrison, Cher, Dion, Darlene Love and Leonard Cohen. And then there’s the puzzling one-off single by Jerri Bo Keno that came and went in 1975 on Spector’s short-lived label Phil Spector International. Who was this unknown singer giving it her all on a catchy song written by Jeff Barry and Phil Spector?

Jerri+Bo+Keno

I decided to find out more and succesfully contacted Jerri who luckily was more than willing to sharing her memories of her short stint as Spector’s latest discovery. It’s a shame the project only lasted one single because the release was very promising and had the collaboration continued with similar singles, there might have been a chance of tapping into the surge in nostalgia that hit in the mid-to-late 70s; a topic I have blogged in depth about here: https://cuecastanets.wordpress.com/2015/08/02/that-70s-wall-of-sound/

Jerri is still in the music business and currently has a single out that Cue Castanets readers definately should check out. ‘Every Time You’re Near’ has a great melody and is beautifully sung by Jerri, – it is a lovely song that would have fit right in the Bacharach/David songbook.

single

You can sample and buy the single here: http://apple.co/2jixOaP and http://bit.ly/JBKcdbaby

If you wan’t to learn more about Jerri’s current recording career, go here:

https://www.facebook.com/Jerri-Bo-Keno-340934519279717/

https://jerribokeno.com/

Let’s turn to Jerri and learn what she remembers about her time recording for Spector…

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

jerri1
Jerri Bocchino / Jerri Bo Keno today.
Jerri; please tell us a little about how you got your start in the music industry? Which projects had you worked on before recording with Phil Spector?

I came from a musical family growing up in a house full of music and dance. My Dad, Tony Bocchino, was a Jazz Musician and singer, and my sister, Chrissy Bocchino, was well known for her dancing and choreography on Broadway and TV.

Before I was signed to Phil, I was a singer/songwriter trying to establish myself in the LA scene. I spent a lot of time at the Whiskey A Go Go on Sunset Blvd to get my name out there. I did a lot of session work and toured with a group called The Tootsie Rock Revue.

How did your path eventually cross with Spector’s? Did you sign with him right away or had you been acquainted with one another for some time?

I brought my singer/songwriter tape to Jeff Barry at A&M Records. He said he had a friend that might be interested in me but did not tell me who. One year later Jeff asked me if I would be interested in meeting Phil Spector, and I said of course! We arranged a meeting at Phil’s house. When I arrived, Phil took me over to the piano and asked me to sing “Be My Baby”. He signed me on the spot! I reminded him of Ronnie (Spector).

jeff
Jeff Barry during the 70s.
Once you got in Phil’s house, it was very difficult to leave. I would spend hours and hours there singing and talking! I began hanging out at his house regularly. There was always a good show going on and the cast of characters was fascinating, but I especially cherished my time alone with him because I saw a Phil Spector the rest of the world rarely witnessed. I also loved to sit with Phil and his mother, because they loved to disagree on all kinds of subjects!

Do you remember how you first heard ‘Here It Comes (and Here I Go)’? Was it in the form of a demo recording, and if so, sung by whom, or did Spector basically sit at the piano and play you the song?

Phil, Jeff and I were at Phil’s house, where I always rehearsed, and Phil played it on the piano and taught me the melody. I never had a demo to rehearse with. Phil didn’t do things in a traditional way which I got used to! I had no idea how this was going to sound until I got into the studio with the band. I would sit on the piano bench and sing with him for hours.

jerr2
Photo used for the ‘Here It Comes’ single picture sleeve.
What do you remember from the ‘Here It Comes’ session? Were you present while the backing track was recorded or did you only come in afterward to record your lead vocal?

There were basic tracks, but Phil would go back and redo things regularly. You know what a perfectionist he was in the studio!

We recorded everything at A&M Studios, and at first, Phil had me in a booth, but he wasn’t happy with the sound. Then I sat on a stool in the middle of the studio, singing live with the musicians. What an amazing experience! I also sang on the backgrounds of my record and all the other records he was working on at that time.

philgate

Among collectors and Spector connoisseurs, ‘Here It Comes’ is widely regarded as the closest Spector ever came to jumping aboard the impending boom in disco music.

Did the two of you ever discuss the feel of the track? Its rhythmic, danceable beat seems tailor-made for the dance floor.

Phil never discussed how he came up with this beat but was adamant about his Wall of Sound. I think he was creating all the time and would attempt new things as they came to him.

However, I do remember in the 80’s when Phil came to NYC and called me to hang out for the evening. Paul Schaffer and I took him to a popular dance club where he threw a fit. He hated the dance beat and wanted to know where the lyrics were! Obviously wasn’t a fan of Disco!

The sparsely orchestrated ‘I Don’t Know Why’ ended up on the B-side. How do you feel about this song and its recording?

I get so many people that love that song! I actually think it was just a throwaway song for Phil. I enjoyed singing it, though! Would love to record this song again!

As we know, only one single was issued. But did you record other songs while with Spector? If so, I’d be very interested in whatever info you can share. Were they full-blown Wall of Sound productions or rough demos? Do you remember any song titles?

While my record was out, Phil got in the near fatal car accident which prevented him from recording for a very long time. We did not have anything else recorded, unfortunately.

What a shame. Following up on the previous question; did you participate on any other Spector sessions as a backup-singer?

Yes, I had the pleasure of working with LA’s best singers, like Maxine Willard and The Waters for all the Wall of Sound sessions. Most memorable were Dion’s and Cher’s songs.

Dion-Born-to-Be-With-You

How did your association with Phil Spector come to an end?

When Phil had his near-fatal accident, it put him out of commission. I actually got a phone call that he had died, and I panicked but soon after that initial shock, his assistant called asking me to come to the house to see him. He had suffered serious head and scalp injuries and was so concerned about the loss of his curly full head of hair which he was always so proud of.

Sadly because of this accident and his poor health, he didn’t record for a long time and we never worked together again.

What have you been up to since the mid-70s and ‘Here It Comes’?

I have done a lot of session work for all kinds of artists for all kinds music including singing with John Lennon when he and Phil were recording the Rock ‘n’ Roll album, certainly a highlight of my career.

I was in the group El Coco singing the hit “Let’s Get It Together” and was a featured singer on David Benoit’s Heavier Than Yesterday album singing “I Wish Right Now Would Never End”.

I was also a member of a group called The Downtown Girls in the 80’s and we had a European hit. I recently did backgrounds for Anita Ward’s new record “Another Bad Mistake” and The Village People’s Randy Jones’ current record, “Hard Times”.

I worked live with Toni Basil and The Lockers getting a chance to be a part of her astonishing choreography. She is one of the most creative performers I have worked with and best friends with my sister! I recently have done live shows with Joey Molland from Badfinger, Mark Farner from Grand Funk Railroad, Anita Ward and The Searchers. I always love performing live.

I had a single released a couple of years back called “My Love Is Yours” on Young Pals Music working with the very talented Ayhan Sahin and have a new single that just came out called “Everytime You’re Near”, written and produced by Peitor Angel for Buon-Art Music. Peitor and I will be recording a couple of new songs for an EP this year!

Jerri; thank you for shaing your thoughts with us. I’d like to end with a question I ask everyone I interview for Cue Castanets; could you please share with us your personal top 5 Spector-produced tracks?

I would have to start with my record –

“Here It Comes (And Here I Go)”. I love the track!

My all-time favorite – “Be My Baby” – The Ronettes

“Imagine” – John Lennon

“My Sweet Lord” – George Harrison

“Da Doo Ron Ron” – the Crystals

 

 

Review: I Am Brian Wilson

**** (4 stars out of 6)

In case you’re wondering what to put on your Christmas wish list, you could consider adding the two Beach Boys-related autobiographies that have come out; ’I am Brian Wilson’ by, you guessed it, Brian Wilson and ’Good Vibrations – my Life as a Beach Boy’ by Mike Love.

books
‘Battle of the books!’ – Cousin Mike and Brother Brian compete at telling the story of the Beach Boys.
I’ve had both books for about a month but have so far only completed Brian’s book. I reckon I’ve read one third of Mike’s book as of writing this blog post.

I’m sure that both books would be of interest to most Spector fans seeing that there are many ties between the Beach Boys and Spector. Both competed for chart placings during the 60s, were based in LA and as such utilized the same Wrecking Crew musicians and recorded at Gold Star. (Though Western was Brian’s preferred studio.)

Famously, Brian Wilson only really found his feet as a producer in the modern sense of the word after hearing Spector’s initial Philles releases and picking up the inspiration. ‘Be my Baby’ remains Brian’s favorite song ever and listening to his early to mid-60s output, notably the productions he made on the side for Glen Campbell and Sharon Marie, it’s clear how much he enamored the wall of sound.

PetProjectsTheBrianW
A few collections have come out gathering the few outside productions Brian Wilson worked on during the 60s.
The releationship between Brian Wilson and Phil Spector was complex. Did they respect each other? Were they friends even? Or did they look at each other as foes, both wanting to outdo the other in the studio and get the next no. 1 on the charts? All of these probably applied in equal measure, really, and to this day Brian seems to have conflicting feelings about Spector. Here’s a revealing excerpt from his book where he talks about the voices he still hears in his head from time to time:

“I hear Phil Spector, who did all those great records in the ‘50s and early ‘60s. Phil’s voice is scary, always challenging me, always reminding me that he came first. “Wilson,” I hear him saying in my head, “you’re never going to top ‘You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling’ or ‘Be my Baby’, so don’t even try.” But maybe he wants me to try. Nothing is ever simple with him, not when he’s in my head. Simple isn’t what he’s about. People say that we named Pet Sounds partly as a tribute to him: check the initials. “

Phil Spector In The Studio
Brian Wilson at a Spector session in 1965 – others present are Mike Love from the Beach Boys, Righteous Brother Bobby Hatfield and in the background with Shades, Jack ‘Specs’ Nitzsche.
Pet Sounds, 1966. Always near the top or indeed topping the lists for best ever album. As far as I’m concerned, by 1966 Brian Wilson had eclipsed Spector as the world’s most original producer.

‘I am Brian Wilson’ is an easygoing account of Brian’s incredible career told in a way that seems really true to the way Brian comes across most of the time. Quirky, childlike and aloof – and as such this book is a very welcome replacement for Brian’s notorious ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ 1991 autobiography. It has long been established that this book was written by hired writer Todd Gold without in-depth collaboration by Brian Wilson. The book also whitewashed Brian’s therapist Dr. Eugene Landy who at that point had all but brainwashed his client, keeping him under heavy and, according to some sources, damaging medication as well as isolating him from his family and former Beach Boys bandmates.

As much as I love the music of Phil Spector and associated acts, the Beach Boys remain my favorite act ever and through the years I have tracked down almost all books on the subject. I know all the stories, – I’ve read them all a gazillion times. And even though Brian’s book offers a few new and refreshing perspectives, I was a little disappointed after finishing reading it.

brian pet sounds
Brian during the sessions for Pet Sounds.
For hardcore fans like myself ‘I am Brian Wilson’ is a nice read, though without much new information. For new fans, i.e. general music lovers who’d like to know more about the main Beach Boy, the book must seem pretty tame and only touching on the surface. A lot of the times, I thought the various highs and lows in the career of the Beach Boys was told in such a way as to imply that Brian and his people assume that only knowledgeable fans who know all the facts already will read along.

In the book, Brian sidesteps really giving his take on the inner dynamics of the group and his account of his years recording with his brothers, Mike Love, Al Jardine and Bruce Johnston therefore feels somewhat one-dimensional and sparse. You certainly don’t get a deep understanding of the personalities within the group. It’s as if Brian hasn’t felt the need to go into much detail on the matter – which is ok, I guess. For me this fact definately made the reading experience less exciting than it could have been.

Mike’s book seems to also be constructed a bit along these lines but so far I feel he reaches more out to the casual fan with more detailed descriptions and personal takes on why things happened like they did along the way.

BB don't worry
Don’t Worry Baby / I Get Around – how’s that for a killer single?
Anyways, all this shouldn’t keep you from seeking out both books if you’re as much into the Beach Boys as I am. The best book on the subject though remains Peter Ames Carlin’s ‘Catch a Wave – The Rise, Fall and Redemption of the Beach Boys.’

More on the Cohen & Spector Sessions

A quick post for now in the wake of Leonard Cohen’s passing; just found this lengthy and in-depth article on the Cohen-Spector team-up and ‘Death of a Ladies Man’. 

Thought it might be of interest to anyone checking in here. 

Wall of Crazy

RIP Leonard Cohen

From Death of a Ladies’ Man:

So the great affair is over but whoever would have guessed
it would leave us all so vacant and so deeply unimpressed
It’s like our visit to the moon or to that other star
I guess you go for nothing if you really want to go that far.

It’s like our visit to the moon or to that other star
I guess you go for nothing if you really want to go that far.

It’s like our visit to the moon or to that other star
I guess you go for nothing if you really want to go that far.

leonard-cohen-and-phil-spector
Leonard Cohen & Phil Spector.

I Can Hear Music 2.0

Here’s a little something that’s guarenteed to bring your weekend off to great start; a brand-new and fantastic mix of ‘I can Hear Music’ by Wall of Sound-über fan Phil Chapman.

As some readers here may know, Phil Chapman has had a long and interesting career in the recording industry serving as both an engineer and producer.

In the near future, I hope to feature an interview with him offering his expert knowledge on the Wall of Sound, but for the time being, enjoy this mindblowing remix of the Jeff Barry-produced Ronettes version with added layers.

This mix definately gives an impression of the kind of monster record ‘I Can Hear Music’ could have been in the hands of Phil Spector. Surely, Cue Castanets readers must agree that this more elaborate version makes the original Barry production pale in comparison.

It’s also fitting that this new mix has been shared on the youtube channel of fellow Spector fan Anthony Reichardt, – this is just the latest in a long, long line of great tracks he has made available to listen to for music fans.

If you’d like to read more about Anthony’s superb youtube channel as well as an interview with him, go here:

https://cuecastanets.wordpress.com/2014/11/18/where-to-find-60s-spector-soundalikes/

https://cuecastanets.wordpress.com/tag/anthony-reichardt/

And for some more info on Phil Chapman and his way into Spector fandom, read this post:

https://cuecastanets.wordpress.com/2016/02/16/the-psas-revisited/

 

 

 

Post # 100!

Well, whad’ya know?

Today’s post marks post # 100 since starting Cue Castanets in the fall of 2014. Here’s to the next hundred! And I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride so far.

Some of you have written me directly to give your thumbs up, others have left positive comments on the blog. I really appreciate your feedback and I’m glad that you enjoy my ramblings on all things Spector & the Wall of Sound. Thank you.

And with that, indulge me in a bit of a ‘what if’ scenario if you will. The thing is, I’m sure that all of us know songs from around the time of Spector’s golden 60s period that we deep down wish the Tycoon of Teen had taken a liking to and decided to give the full Spector treatment in Gold Star.

Basically, what I’m thinking about are either released 60s recordings by artists not in Spector’s stable or even obscure song demos that didn’t see an actual release at all. The mind boggles thinking about what could have been when hearing songs that would have worked particular well beefed up with a grandiose Wall of Sound backing. Off the top of my head, here are five examples that could easily have been turned into ‘little symphonies for the kids’ – I’d love to hear your suggestions…

 – – – – – – – – – – –

Neil Sedaka – ‘Tonight Will Tell’

As far as I know, this awesome ‘does he love me or not’ teen angst anthem by the superb Neil Sedaka was never released by anyone. What a shame – the melody is great and the lyrics work very well.

As bare bones as this recording is, imagine the monster this song could have been had Spector enveloped it with the majestic sound of the Wrecking Crew in Gold Star. Would have been a perfect fit for the Ronettes. I can almost hear Ronnie croon that chorus with her gorgeous vibrato!

 

The Cinderellas – Baby, Baby (I Still Love You)

This classic girl group cut was actually the Cookies under a pseudonym. Written by Spector’s friends Cynthia Well and Russ Titelman, this is as good as it gets when it comes to the girl group genre, if you ask me. Yet, as good as this recording is – and Titelman’s production is very sympathetic – I have always felt it lacked a bit of punch.

Had Spector had a go at it, he’d probably had the drums be much more pounding in the ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’-vein and no doubt had a gigantic rumble drone beneath, courtesy of a legion of guitarists strumming along in unison. And don’t even get me started thinking about what a sweeping Jack Nitszche string arrangement could have brought to all this! File under ‘perfect for the Crystals’, then.

 

PF Sloan – “Cry over You”

I wrote about this fantastic, jaw-droppingly great demo when I wrote my tribute to PF Sloan last year the day after he passed. Sloan was a music chameleon capable of writing within any genre. For some reason though, he never seriously dabbled in big Wall of Sound recordings, but if he did, this song seems tailormade for the Righteous Brothers.

Oh man, Bill Medley on the first verse, Bobby Hatfield stepping up to the mike on the second. And both of them belting out together on the chorus – swathed in a gazillion strings and bombastic backing reverberating in that big, fat Gold Star echo. It’s incredible that no one seems to have recorded this superb song!

 

Four Tops – “Reach Out (I’ll Be There)”

This choice may be a bit cliché since ‘Reach Out’ has often been likened to the tour-de-force that was ‘River Deep, Mountain High’ in intensity and impact. Two monster productions that came out only two months apart. As tasty as Holland-Dozier-Holland’s production is, imagine the stratospheric heights Spector could have taken this superb song to. The tune in itself I like much more than ‘River Deep’, so I really fantasize about the mad Tycoon of Teen tackling this pop gem in the midst of a sweeping strings, booming drums and a 30-member chorus.

We know for a fact that Spector really dug the Four Tops – singling out ‘Baby, I Need Your Loving’ and ‘Reach Out’ in particular during interviews. Levi Stubbs of the four tops; gosh, one of the greatest singers ever – it’s a shame his over-the-top vocals never graced a Spector production! As for Spector’s own stable of acts, I guess only Darlene Love or Tina Turner could have supplied the type of juggernaut vocal required, had Spector covered the song.

 

The Staccatos – “Cry to Me”

Time to slow things down a bit here at the end,… ‘Cry to Me’ was a hit by Solomon Burke in the early 60s and was covered quite a lot. One version that has struck a chord with me is this one by South African band the Staccatos – not to be confused with a Canadian band by the same name.

The SA Staccatos slowed down the song considerably and had some very soulful vocals on top. But come on, this way of doing the song is just begging for someone like Spector or Jack Nitszche to go completely over the edge, building up the backing track as some sort of audio Tower of Babel. Everything but the kitchen sink would be their modus operandi, I suspect. Nothing less! Perfect for Bobby Hatfield or Bobby Sheen!

 

Any suggestions from you? Let’s hear them!