Tag Archives: Influence

Spector’s Favorite Sounds

Whenever Phil Spector’s iconic string of hit records is discussed the emphasis is always on how he pioneered a groundbreaking approach to production – the Wall of Sound – and carved out his own path as a true original within the recording industry. And indeed he was!

However, what is often overlooked is the fact that even though his otherworldly productions were unlike anything that had ever graced the airwaves, the ‘feel’ and texture of some of his well-known songs were often inspired by releases by other acts and producers.

An obvious influence which has even been acknowledged by Spector himself in interviews is Frank Guida whose party-in-the-studio style was a key component for the hits of Gary US Bonds. Take a listen to ‘Quarter to Three’ and tell me the future Tycoon of Teen didn’t take notice when he first heard this one!

This following examples in this post aren’t showcased in order to take anything away from Spector and his significance, … far from it!

No musician or producer has ever entered the studio without bringing some influences to the table and Spector was definitely among those who were able to brilliantly expand of this situation by virtue of new, original ideas that more often than not blew the influences right out of the water. So the examples below are merely meant as a fun dissection of the kind of songs Spector would have had on his mind each time he entered Gold Star to record yet another brilliant single.

Credit where credit is due – the following examples have all been compiled by a good friend who has previously supplied guest posts on Cue Castanets under the moniker ‘Spectorlector.’ Some are very obvious, some are more open to debate. If you have any further suggestions or opinions on the matter, by all means leave a comment.

Ok, first off, here’s a 1958 recording by the Aquatones that surely must have served as a blueprint for the feel of ‘To Know Him is to Love Him.’

Similarly, Spector probably had his eyes set on creating a feel similar to this Shirelles hit when he recorded ‘There’s No Other (Like my Baby)’ with the Crystals.

And speaking of which, the ‘I Met Him on a Monday’ opening line as well as the gibberish da doo rons rons of the Crystals on one of their biggest hits must surely owe something to the Shirelles.

‘Under the Moon of Love’ by Curtis Lee was probably the closest Spector came to those Gary US Bonds records he loved – but he also made what’s almost a carbon-copy of this recording by the Pastel Six.

Basically, quite a few of Spector’s productions reflected his love of early doo wop and rock’n’roll, – the feel of which crept into his own releases. A song like ‘Why Do Lover’s Break each Other’s Hearts’, for example, isn’t that far removed from this frantic song by G Clefs and similar fast-paced songs by other doo wop groups.

Remember Darlene Love’s unreleased, slow take of ‘Chapel of Love.’ There are some similarities with this song by Faye Adams, even though the latter song is a bit slower.

The underlying Doo Wop-like progression that is basically the hook on ‘Why Don’t they Let us Fall in Love?’ can easily be identified here in this song by the Scarlets.

The Crystals recorded two versions of ‘All Grown Up’, one of which was the closest Spector came to the surf-pop sound of the Beach Boys; a sound that they themselves developed on the basis of Brian Wilson’s love for Chuck Berry. Which makes all the more sense then when you listen to this Chuck Berry song with a theme very similar to the Crystals tune.

The album-only track ‘Baby, I Love You’ by Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans bears a striking resemblance to this hit by Rosie & the Originals. A song that Spector later recorded brilliantly with John Lennon for the Rock’n’Roll album.

One final example before I round off this blog post;

Spector followed Berry Gordy’s Motown hit machine closely and was allegedly inspired by ‘Baby, I Need your Loving’ by the Four Tops when he wrote ‘You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling’ with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill. If you’ve heard some of the earliest takes of the ‘River Deep Mountain High’ backing track off the Spector sessions bootleg, you’ll easily recognize a similarity between the intro on the early takes and the intro on this song by the Supremes.

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Would-be Spectors # 1 – Nino Tempo

What I find truly fascinating about the Wall of Sound is that once you delve into the Phil Spector story, you realize how far-reaching his artistic vision was.

Spector’s inner circle and team of studio cats, subsequently dubbed the Wrecking Crew by legendary drummer Hal Blaine, included a lot of would-be Spectors. I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense. I’m just acknowledging the fact that over the years many of them spent time in studios across LA, trying to work out the basics of the formula that made Spector the arch-alchemyst of widescreen pop.

More often than not, they too created gold in Gold Star Studios and beyond. Their efforts proved that the Wall of Sound could be achieved if one had carefully, or even secretly, taken notes during the long hours serving in Spector’s legion of session men.

A particular favorite of mine is Nino Tempo [born Antonino LoTempio] – a sax player and singer who befriended Spector during the early 60s and soon found himself at top of the list whenever a session was called. He is probably the one who came closest to Spector on a personal level acting as much as a friend as his right-hand man and soundboard in the studio.

Engineer Larry Levine, Phil Spector and Nino Tempo in the booth during a Gold Star session.
Engineer Larry Levine, Phil Spector and Nino Tempo in the booth during a Gold Star session.

I think it’s fair to say, Nino had a better look into Spector’s thoughts on the Wall of Sound than most. I like him a lot due to his very smooth, crooning vocals that beautifully compliment the few Spectoresque songs he recorded with sister April Stevens or alone. He wasn’t as prolific as other would-be Spectors. But when he hit a homerun, the ball sure broke through the stadium wall! Case in point – check out this lip-synch performance of ‘All Strung Out’ with sister April on the Lloyd Thaxton Show in 1966.

‘All Strung Out’ is one of a handful of great Wall of Sound tracks Nino recorded with or without April. Most of them can be found on the duo’s ‘All Strung Out’ album which has been re-released on CD. ‘The Habit of Loving You Baby’ on that album is like a carbon-copy ‘All Strung Out’ – I can’t figure out which one I prefer.

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Songs to seek out:

Noreen Corcoran – ‘Love Kitten’ (1963) – a fun and fast tune typical of the lighter girl group fare.

Nino Tempo & April Stevens – ‘All Strung Out’ (1966) & ‘The Habit of Loving You Baby’ (1967) – both of these were clearly written with a Righteous Brothers blue-eyed soul feel in mind.

Nino Tempo – ‘Boys Town (Where my Broken Hearted Buddies Go)’ (1967) – a bit of Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys thrown in for good measure.

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Let’s leave for now with Nino himself talking about his time with Phil in an excerpt from the 1980 ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’ documentary. Take it away, Nino!