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!