All Cue Castanets readers should definately make a mental note of April the 28th because this date sees the release of what looks like a really interesting Bobby Hatfield compilation by UK label Ace Records.
The lovingly compiled and brilliantly annotated compilations from Ace Records have of course for decades been god-sends for all fans of classic 60s music, none the least those who crave the heavy thump of the Wall of Sound. We have Ace and its knowledgeable compilers like Mick Patrick and Tony Rounce to thank for must-buy sets like the Phil’s Spectre series, the three Jack Nitszche volumes and an on going songwriters series covering a veritable ‘who’s who’ of the Brill Building scene.
Turns out that Ace has turned its attention to legendary blue eyed soulster Bobby Hatfield whose incredible pipes intertwined with Bill Medley’s on some of Spector’s most majestic productions. In my book, the singles and assorted album tracks Spector cut with the Righteous Brothers are at the pinnacle of the Wall of Sound.
‘You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling’, ‘Just Once in my Life’, ‘Hung on You’, ‘Ebb Tide’, White Cliffs of Dover’… Pure magic. Wearing your emotions on your vocal sleeve amid an abyss of echo and over-the-top backing has never sounded so good before or since. And yet, even though Bobby Hatfield’s stellar performance catapulted the Righteous Brothers take of ‘Unchained Melody’ to evergreen status, Bobby has arguably been somewhat overshadowed by his deeper-voiced brother. (and according to legend; Spector didn’t even produce the session despite the credit)
Bill Medley sang on the majority of the duo’s hits, at least during their mid-to-late 60s hey day, and he also had the more succesful solo career. At one point, Bobby Hatfield even had to team up with Medley-soundalike Jimmy Walker to continue recording and touring under the Righteous Brothers name.
But Bobby could hold his own – his voice was truly otherworldly when he sang in his upper register or sugarcoated songs with an effortless falsetto – case in point; check out the Righteous Brothers version of ‘I Believe.’
It is very satisfying to see that Ace has decided to put the spotlight firmly on Bobby’s cache of songs, both released and unreleased. The aptly titled ‘The Other Brother – a Solo Anthology 1965-70’ looks like a mouth-watering collection, not only highlighting the best and most interesting releases from Bobby’s struggling solo career,… but also treating listeners to some gems that never saw the light of day.
It’ll be interesting to hear the newly unearthed tracks, none the least an unreleased version of the Ronettes classic that is ‘Paradise.’ I can’t wait to hear how Bobby tackled this fantastic song and to hear the extent of the production, whether it follows the style and arrangement of the then unreleased Ronettes version or perhaps represents a grittier, more soulful take.
A little more than a week ago I was in London to see Brian Wilson and his band perform the iconic Pet Sounds album from start to finish at the Palladium Theatre. Allegedly, this will be the last European tour by the former Beach Boys leader.
As always, the Brian Wilson band, made up of stellar musicians as it is, really did the music justice and the venue was beyond beautiful. But truth be told, I found Brian Wilson’s performance quite depressing. He’s in his early 70s now and it shows by way of his voice and (lack of) energy and enthusiasm on stage.
I truly love the man and his music and have seen him live several times but based on the concert in London now may be a good time to call it a day. I hope Brian withdraws from the road with grace at some point instead of touring endlessly from now on, coming closer to a Chuck Berry-type situation. On the other hand, other fans have praised the same show I saw online so what do I know? It will be interesting to see how Brian goes about his career in the future.
Even though what should have been the highlight on my trip turned into a bit of a dissapointment, the trip was memorable for another reason. I got to meet up with two of the finest Spector experts out there; Phil Chapman, whose late 60s Spector fan club I have previously written about, and Mick Patrick whose work on compilations by Ace Records should be mandatory listening material for every Cue Castanets reader.
It was very interesting to finally meet up with these two knowledgeable gentlemen and talk about all things Spector over pasta at an Italian restaurant. Always intriguing to compare notes on favorite Spector productions, muse about what may or may not be collecting dust within the Spector tape vault and talk about Spector sound-alikes. What can I say? It was a great evening!
Mick was kind enough to bring along two recent vinyl releases from Ace Records for me and while typing this blog post I’m listening to the Knickerbockers’ carbon-copy Righteous Brothers version of ‘Wishful Thinking’ off the Phil’s Spectre vinyl edition. I wrote about this release a few months ago and as of writing it’s just about to hit the streets.
In short; this is an extract from Mick’s pioneering trilogy of Phil’s Spectre compilations that came out during the 00s, chock-full of bombastic Wall of Sound imitations. As such, if you have the CDs you’ll know each song on here but obviously, it’s very satisfying to hear them via the format they were recorded for back in the day.
Typically for Ace, the packaging is superb with extensive inner sleeve liner notes, cool photos and label scans and a nice cover with a red/yellow colour coordination that harkens back to the first Phil’s Spectre release. As if that wasn’t enough, the vinyl itself comes in beautiful orange – I’m guessing later print runs will just be regular vinyl.
I was quick to let Mick know how much his compilations, especially the Phil’s Spectre series, have meant to me through the years – almost as much as Spector’s own body of work. I’ve always been intrigued by soundalike discs and the study of what makes a planned soundalike production fall into place and sound convincing. So the mere concept of Phil’s Spectre has always been dear to me.
When I got heavily into Spector’s music at the very start of the 00s I craved for more Wall of Sound once I had traced down every production with a Spector production credit. Therefore, the trio of Phil’s Spectre discs was a god send for me and kept my flame burning during the following years.
Since the release of the third installment in the series I’ve crossed my fingers that Ace would give Mick the go ahead for a 4th volume. And without making any promises, Mick indicated that there have been talks about re-activating the series once again. Let’s hope this will happen because there are many, many fantastic sound-alikes out there just begging for being lovingly compiled on a Phil’s Spectre disc.
Something that could be very interesting – even though it will probably never happen – would be for the series to go past the 60s and venture into other decades. Heck, you could easily make a killer Phil’s Spectre disc only made up of 70s Spector sound-alikes. The 70s was ripe with adulation for the Wall of Sound which I’ve previously written about here:
But in all honesty, the 60s of course was the decade where the most convincing, authentic Spectoresque sounds where put to vinyl so you won’t hear me complaining if a possible continuation of the series will have its focus stricktly on that decade. I just hope that some day, in the not too distant future, I will study liner notes on a new Phil’s Spectre compilation while wonderful monophonic masterpieces blast from the speakers.
Noreen Corcoran has just purred ‘Why Can’t a Boy and Girl Just Stay in Love’ as the last track on side 2 of Phil’s Spectre – the vinyl edition. Excuse me while I get up and drop the needle on side 1 once Again…
In many of my posts I’ve referred to the holy trinity of Spector soundalike compilations, Phil’s Spectre vol. 1, 2 and 3 put out by legendary UK reissue label Ace Records during the 00s. All three volumes are indespensable and revelatory in that they show how far-reaching the Wall of Sound was in terms of aspiring producers, engineers and artists to go for a similar approach with the cream of the crop ending up on these fine compilations.
Some obvious choices couldn’t be included due to licensing problems but suffice to say, the majority of the very best 60s soundalikes can be enjoyed on the comps. Now, if only Ace would put out a 4th volume? Or even continue into the 70s, – a decade ripe with blatant Spector imitation. See my blog post about this here: https://cuecastanets.wordpress.com/2015/08/02/that-70s-wall-of-sound/
Oh well, we can dream, can’t we?
In the meantime it would appear as if Ace is gathering choice cuts from all three volumes for a special vinyl release under the ‘Phil’s Spectre’ moniker. A few days ago, the label let it be known via their Facebook page that they had a new LP underway in March followed by this nice-looking cover sporting the familiar image of Spector at the Gold Star console.
No info or track listing yet on the Ace Records website but my guess is that this is basically just a ‘Best of’ Phil’s Spectre-type of release. Not that this isn’t way cool in itself though! Vinyl was the medium these tracks were made for so it’s great to see that the format’s resurgence can lead to something like this.
Let’s hope Ace shifts a lot of copies and may look into releasing more Spector-relevant material on vinyl or otherwise.
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…