Tag Archives: Jeff Barry

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…

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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

 

 

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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/

 

 

 

Ellie – The Kind of Girl You Can’t Forget

Calling all Spector nuts, – better start saving!

As if it wasn’t great enough that the one and only Darlene Love is spoiling us with a new album – see post below – we also have something else to look forward to. And boy, are we in for a treat!

Teensville Records / Rare Rockin’ Records, which have already issued a few great releases so far, recently announced an upcoming release filled to the brim with Ellie Greenwich-penned songs and rarities. Crisp stereo versions of some of her most beloved hit songs recorded by others? You got ’em! Rare early singles by Ellie? No problem! Newly unearthed demos of Ellie singing songs like ‘Maybe I Know’ or ‘Look of Love’? Well, sure!

ellie piano

Looks like the good folks at Teensville / Rare Rockin’ Records have put together something truly outstanding with this upcoming release which I personally can’t wait to dive into. Of all the fantastic stuff that came out of the Brill Building the songs Ellie Greenwich wrote with Jeff Barry may possibly be the very pinnacle as far as I’m concerned. And it’s great that Ellie’s immense talent is still being highlighted with a release such as this.

Head on over to the Teensville website for sound samples and the full low-down on what this upcoming colection has to offer:

http://www.teensvillerecords.com/store/p21/Ellie_Greenwich_%E2%80%93_The_Kind_Of_Girl_You_Can%E2%80%99t_Forget_%E2%80%93_The_Early_Years_1962-1964.html

Odds & Ends – ‘I Wonder’

I’ve been meaning to start up a new feature on the blog called ’Odds & Ends’ where I briefly highlight some of the more obscure or overlooked releases in Spector’s body of work.

I came up with the idea thinking about how I came across his Wall of Sound myself back in about 2000 or 2001. First, I bought a Righteous Brothers compilation and it didn’t take long for me to single out the Spector productions as highlights. As a major Beach Boys fan I had heard about him before of course, but I hadn’t really investigated further. That Righteous Brothers compilation though set me off on a hunt, and naturally, back then, my first stop was the Back to Mono box.

backtomono
And no, in case you’re wondering – that’s not my copy, seemingly signed by, erhhmmm,…Darlene Love? I just searched for a photo online that would show all the content.

I guess you could say that that box, with its beautiful book and four CDs, became my rite of passage to full blown Spector nut.

Even though it was a great experience discovering all the goodies inside, I quickly learned that there were more productions out there. The missing pieces of the puzzle was something I slowly gathered during the following years, learning about obscure 60s cuts and a wealth of later 70s material that had been left off the box.

Had there been a blog like this back then, it would surely have been a god-send for the 20-year-old me! It would have meant that I had gotten a much quicker overview of what to track down. And even though recent tragic events has somewhat tarnished the beauty inherent in Spector’s art, I’m hoping that, at some point, somewhere out there, young music fans will want to google ‘Spector’ and ‘Wall of Sound’ out of curiosity to see what all the fuss was about. When that happens, I hope they’ll find that this blog and that this and later installments of ‘Odds & Ends’ will make them realize the extent and brilliance of Spector’s music.

The first song I’ve selected to fly the flag for overlooked Spector cuts is ‘I Wonder’ by the Crystals.

The Crystals
The Crystals

I still remember when I heard ‘I Wonder’ for the first time. I’d seen it described numerous times as one of the most crazy, gargantuan Spector productions – the one where he really went over the edge, Cecil B. DeMille-style, and perhaps even more so than with ‘River Deep, Mountain High’. It sounded fascinating and extreme and I was thrilled when, at a local record fair, I spotted the Marginal Records grey-area release of all the Crystals songs, ‘I Wonder’ included.

I hurried home and put the CD on with much anticipation and a pulse galloping like a pair of Castanets at a Spector session. Then the voice of a teenaged LaLa Brooks came on, enveloped in exotic Spanish guitar lines and then – BOOM! Thunderbolt drumming capable of blowing out speakers! Fat, honking saxophones cutting through clutter like machetes through a jungle! Percussion so explosive it sounded as if a thousand guys were playing shakers and tambourines!

For something that came out in 1964, the year of Beatlemania and the ‘back to basics’ sound of the British Invasion, this deafening, monophonic monster production was almost bordering on the insane, … as if Spector was somehow daring his listeners to follow him into a land with no limits to the amount of sounds you could squeeze into a tiny slab of vinyl. The result, even today, is like being hit with a sonic sledgehammer!

The-Crystals-I-Wonder-394857

Even Spector seems to have realized that it was all too much. That he’d crossed a line, pushing any hint of restraint into the stratosphere. The Crystals take of ‘I Wonder’, one of Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry’s best songs in opinion, was never released in the US, Spector’s home turf. In the UK it only hit # 36 in the charts.

For me, the definitive take of ‘I Wonder’ is the album-only take by the Ronettes with the Crystals single a close second. It’s a shame it was left off Back to Mono. There’s even a third version by girl group the Butterflys issued by Red Bird Records the same year as the two others, 1964.

Ironically, this great take of the song was produced by Jeff Barry, together with Steve Venet, and with none other than two ex-Crystals as group members! Let’s finish off with their slowed-down version.

Guest post – ‘Waiting in the Vault?’

The following post has been submitted to the blog by a fellow Spector fan and good friend of mine who I’ve discussed Spector’s music in-depth with for the last 10 years or so, both online and in person. He’s extremely knowledgable on the subject and I’m honored that he has offered to contribute here under the appropriate blogger-name ‘Spectorlector’.

If any other readers have ideas for interesting blog posts they’d like to contribute then please do contact me. I will happily publish relevant posts on here from guests and I’m sure that fans out there have a lot to say on various subjects.

Hopefully, over time this blog can become a platform of sorts where fans can have the opportunity to publish research and essay-like posts that are longer and more in-depth than your typical forum message.

And with that, I’ll get out of the way and let Spectorlector ponder the possible existence of a certain unreleased Ronettes track…

Waiting in the vault? – ‘I’ll never need more than this’ by The Ronettes.

It is no secret that Phil Spector recorded a lot of material, of which only a fraction saw release  during the Philles label era. Sometimes, Spector would even record the same song twice with different artists using the same backing track, such as ‘Girls can tell’ and ‘A Woman in Love’. Other times he would record different backing tracks for the same song as heard on versions of ‘I Wonder’ and ‘All Grown Up’.

With this in mind, there are reason to believe that a Ronettes version of the Ike and Tina Turner track ‘I’ll never need more than this’ is still in the Spector vault – the original, perhaps?

Phil Spector’s favorite writers, the married couple Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, were responsible for many a hit on Philles: ‘Be my Baby’, ‘Then He Kissed Me’ and ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’. In early 1963 Spector had recorded a co-written song of theirs called ‘Chapel of Love’ with both Darlene Love and The Ronettes (prior to ‘Be my Baby’) None of the recordings were released at the time, and when Barry and Greenwich started to work at Red Bird Records under the wings of Leiber and Stoller, they choose to release a version of the song by The Dixie Cups to launch the label. The record went to number 1 on the charts, topped The Beatles in sales and caused Spector to cut his connections with Barry and Greenwich.

The Ronettes, beehives piled high...
The Ronettes, beehives piled high…

Sometime during late 1965, Spector decided to swallow his pride and call Ellie & Jeff back for a writing session. He had lost The Crystals and The Righteous Brothers, and he had to get the best possible material for upcoming recording dates. Unknown to Spector, the couple was going through a divorce, but they still decided to meet and write with Spector. At this time Red Bird was closing down…. and very soon Philles would be finished too. An era of great music was almost over, unbeknownst to the people involved.

The session was not a piece of cake. The former happy-go-lucky couple was now two broken hearts trying to turn words of love and sweet music into future Spector hits. Before the session was over, 4 very heartfelt song were completed: ‘River Deep, Mountain High’, ‘I Can Hear Music’, ‘I wish I Never Saw the Sunshine’ and ‘I’ll Never Need More than This’

Just look at those poetic, sad lyrics to ‘I Wish I Never Saw the Sunshine’:

“Baby do you know what you did today, Baby, do you know what you took away,

You took the blue out of the sky, My whole life changed when you said goodbye,

And I keep crying, crying.

I wish I’d never saw the sunshine

Cause if I never saw the sunshine,

I wouldn’t mind the rain.”

Ellie & Jeff - Spector loved their songs.
Ellie & Jeff – Spector loved their songs.

The lyrics for ‘I’ll Never Need More than This’ was in the same heartbreaking mold:

“Oh I love the songs you sing me, And I love, the love you bring me,

And you’ll never know the way I feel inside, I can only say that I’m all filled up with pride

Loving you, loving you…. And I’ll never need more than this,

No I’ll never need more than this

And I wish this could go on forever, and ever, and ever

Don’t let me go, I love you so.”

If you are a hardcore Ronettes fan (as I am) and if you listen closely to the back-up vocals on ‘I’ll Never Need More than This’ something strikes you: It sounds like The Ronettes on back-up?…Especially on the “I love you baby” parts, you can easily pick out Ronnie Spector’s vocals in front of a large number of back-up singers.

Spector and Tina take abreak during recording sessions.
Spector and Tina Turner take a break during recording sessions.

Ronnie has confirmed to me in 2014 that she is in the mix, though she insists she never worked on a Tina Turner recording session. This can only lead one to believe that a Ronettes version of the song was intended and that a basic track and back-ups were recorded with them in mind. Maybe Ronnie even recorded a completed lead-vocal? The song would surely fit the style of The Ronettes, bearing in mind ‘Everything under the Sun’ (which Tina Turner would later record herself) and ‘I Wish I Never Saw the Sunshine’ from that period. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll even get to hear it?….

Unfortunately, the track Spector picked for his next magnum opus, ‘River Deep, Mountain High’ bombed, and the rest of those great Greenwich/Barry songs either got shelved or was ignored by the public. Neither Barry, Greenwich or Spector would ever achieve an equal level of succes again. ‘I´ll Never Need More than This’ by Ike and Tina Turner was pressed as a single on Philles, but sadly either withdrawn or never officially released.

The Philles single that never was...
The Philles single that never was…