Tag Archives: Phil Spector Appreciation Society

The PSAS revisited

More than a year ago I devoted some blog posts to the history of Spector fandom, specifically focusing on the UK based Phil Spector Appreciation Society (PSAS) that was active during the second half of the 70s. I was even able to follow-up with an interview with Paul Dunford who formed the PSAS in 1975.

If you’d like to read the lengthy blog post about the PSAS, go here:

https://cuecastanets.wordpress.com/2014/11/19/the-phil-spector-appreciation-society/

For my interview with the founder of the PSAS, click here:

https://cuecastanets.wordpress.com/2015/01/11/interview-paul-dunford/

In terms of the 70s, it’s fascinating to look back on this phase of Spector’s career and the lust for news, ANY news, felt by the admirers of his sound in Europe and the US. The previous decade had been Spector’s golden era with a steady flow of fantastic productions coming out of Gold Star studios. But come the 70s, the output dwindled – and even though Spector was still very much in demand, working with John Lennon and George Harrison as his most high-profile ventures, news about future plans and projects became infrequent.

With less coverage in the music papers and newsletters, Spector fans were more in the dark about upcoming projects than they’d ever been. There definitely was a void to be filled for those who still worshipped at the altar of echo and bombast despite the ever changing trends of popular music.

Insecurity behind the swagger? Phil Spector with the Kessel Brothers during the 70s.
Phil Spector with the Kessel Brothers during the 70s.

As a music fan in my mid-30s, one who’s practically grown up with the advent of the Internet and online music resources, it’s interesting to consider how difficult it must have been for Spector fans in the 60s and the 70s to stay updated. With no internet to consult, discovering new releases or gathering more info on your favorite Spector recordings depended on chance encounters in record stores or at record fairs, the odd news article or review in music papers or, if you even knew about this option, a membership of PSAS.

Luckily, quite a few Spector fans, mainly based in Europa and the US, got to know about PSAS and were thus served with a steady flow of news and background information via the DIY newsletters PSAS mailed out to its members. In the blog post I linked to above, you can read the whole story about the mid-to late 70s PSAS and how its newsletters eventually evolved into a fully-fledged and lovingly compiled fanzine with the clever title ‘Philately.’

Issue 1, 4 and 6 of Philately. The design got more professional with each issue.
Issue 1, 4 and 6 of Philately. The design got more professional with each issue.

However, what’s interesting is the fact that PSAS in fact got its name from an even earlier association started in 1969 by two young British Spector fans and friends, Phil Chapman and Steve Percival. When Paul Dunford started up his fan club in 1975, hot on the heels of the publicity garnered from the first Rare Masters compilation of previously unreleased 60s Spector productions, he simply reused the name.

Lately, I’ve corresponded with Phil Chapman of the first PSAS and I hope to be able to feature an interview with him about this fan club and other Spector-related topics shortly. But besides this, Phil has also been kind enough to send me a package with all six newsletters that the first PSAS eventually issued as well as some related material.

Here's Phil and Steve's original description of their vision for the PSAS sent out to the likeminded fans who responded to their music paper ad.
Here’s Phil and Steve’s original description of their vision for the PSAS sent out to the likeminded fans who responded to their music paper ad.

I’m very grateful that Phil would share all this with me as it means that I now seemingly have a complete set of the Spector fan club newsletters / fanzines issued through time – ranging from the very first newsletter by the first PSAS in ’69, all the newsletters by the ‘second’ PSAS throughout the 70s and finally all copies of the more professional fanzine ‘Philately’ that picked up the mantle in the 80s. This later fanzine was helmed by Spector expert Mick Patrick whose compilation work for UK reissue label Ace Records is essential listening for anyone following this blog.

Why, it's an original Membership Card for the PSAS, just waiting to be filled out with my name! Sadly, I've joined the party almost 50 years too late.
Why, it’s an original Membership Card for the PSAS, just waiting to be filled out with my name! Sadly, I’ve joined the party almost 50 years too late.

So to get to the bottom of things, this lengthy blog post is basically just to present to you the stuff Phil has kindly shared with me – I’m sure you’ll find it as interesting as I have, so no need not to share the info with likeminded fans.

So, how did it all come about, then? Well, during the 60s Phil had discovered Spector’s music and wrote back and forth with other fans he had befriended through pen pal-type ads in the local music papers. Having done so for a while – and finding that they basically just exchanged the same tid bits of info about all things Spector – he realized it might be easier to just set up an actual fan club. Contact was made with Spector’s office and lo and behold – official recognition enabled Phil to place the following ad in British music papers.

Phil1

Soon, enough fans had expressed interest for Phil and his partner-in-crime Steve Percival to launch a fan club newsletter for the first PSAS, aided by promotional photos and similar material provided by Spector’s US office. During this time Phil and Steve were still in school which makes their pursuit of setting up a fanclub and establishing contact with Spector’s office even more impressive. Naturally though, their young age and lack of experience of course meant that the newsletters has a certain naivity and amatuerness to them but you can certainly sense the earnest love for Spector’s music throughout.

The first newsletter was sent out in May 1969 just as Spector was emerging again as a music force to be reckoned with by way of ‘You Came, You Saw, You Concquered’ by the Ronettes and ‘Love is All I Have to Give’ by the Checkmates Ltd, – both on A&M.

By # 6 in May/June 1970 the PSAS, in its first incarnation, had run its course due to other obligations in Phil and Steve’s lives. Taken as a whole, the newsletters that were issued are very similar to the newsletters the second PSAS put out in the mid-70s. We’re talking Xeroxed pages with occasional newspaper clippings or photos thrown in.

Newsletters 1-6 issued by the first PSAS.
Newsletters 1-6 issued by the first PSAS.

In general, Phil and Steve reviewed the latest singles or albums such as the Checkmates debut LP for other fans. They also discussed soundalike records and listed discographies that could aid Spector / Wall of Sound collectors. Reading through the newsletters, I was glad to learn about the driving ‘Boys Cry’ by UK singer Eden Kane. Great track! And one that had somehow escaped me.

Later on, Phil Chapman would become a music producer himself who often used his expert knowledge to achieve a convincing Wall of Sound on his own productions. You can almost sense his future endeavors by reading some of his reviews for the PSAS newsletters. Often, he points out very specific details about the production values that reveal how intently he listened for things buried deep in the muddy mono mixes.

What’s interesting is the fact that tiny bits of info scattered throughout the newsletters, and undoubtedly coming from Spector’s camp to the PSAS, would indicate that ‘You Came, You Saw, You Conquered’ and ‘I Can Hear Music’ were intended for a follow-up Ronettes album. This of course never came to fruition but one wonders how much may have been recorded? Unless, of course, Spector planned to just dust off old tracks like ‘Here I Sit’ and ‘Paradise’ and issue those with the A&M single?

Among the stuff Phil has sent me is also a Phil Spector Productions / A&M Records promotional folder from this time, complete with sets of press releases detailing Spector’s resumé and short bios of the Ronettes and Checkmates Ltd. A&M clearly hyped their deal with Spector and had high hopes for the project. It’s a shame there wasn’t a bigger output.

A&M promotional folder, closed.
A&M promotional folder, closed.
And voila! A&M promo folder opened and containing promo photos, artist bios and handouts for the new Spector productions.
And voila! A&M promo folder opened and containing promo photos, artist bios and handouts for the new Spector productions.

So there you have it – the final piece in my puzzle to research the history of Spector fandom. And let me thank Phil Chapman for kindly supplying me with his insights and the spare newsletters and other material he’s kept since 1969. I hope to feature an interview with Phil in the near future. Stay tuned!

Here's a photocopy of a personal message from Spector sent to Phil during the PSAS days. Very cool!
Here’s a photocopy of a personal message from Spector sent to Phil during the PSAS days. Very cool!

 

Kingsley Abbott Interview

It’s been a while since this blog was really active but I hope you still check in from time to time to look for new posts. If you haven’t done so already, you could sign up for e-mail alerts whenever I post anything.

The reason why it’s been so quiet around here is that I’ve been extremely busy at work. Springtime and summer also generally means that I tend to listen more to the Beach Boys and harmony & sunshine pop than the Wall of Sound. For some reason I’m always more in the mood for the latter type of sound during fall and winter. And to top all this off – and here’s some blatant self-promotion – my band has been hard at work finishing our second album which you can check out here: https://surfschooldropouts.bandcamp.com/album/second-nature

So there you have it. I’ve been too busy to keep up the pace of the first couple of months blogging. Rest assured, I have lots of ideas for future posts that I’m sure will end up here over time. So please, stop by once in a while.

With that, I’m happy to publish a newly conducted interview with Kingsley Abbott, UK-based music journalist, reviewer, collector etc. I’ve been a fan of Kingsley’s work for many years and cherish his various books on, among other things, the Beach Boys, Motown and also Phil Spector. Besides issuing his own quality books, Kingsley also writes articles and reviews for music magazines like Record Collector, Uncut or Mojo. A very knowledgeable music fan -and expert I’m very glad to be able to publish his thoughts on various Spector topics.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Kingsley, let’s start at the beginning. Do you remember when you became aware of Phil Spector’s music and his specific approach to production? Was there a particular song that won you over? And why?

I think it was something of a cumulative effect rather than one particular moment. I had really enjoyed both sides of the He’s A Rebel 45. He’s a Rebel for its ‘rolling along’ sound with the pianos, and I Love You Eddie for its ethereal and cavernous sound.

the-crystals-he-s-a-rebel-london-hlu-9611-1962-uk-7_880431

Then along came Da Doo Ron Ron which was joyous and infectious and one everyone loved, and then Be My Baby with the fully formed Wall Of Sound. My enjoyment of this one was begun with Penny Valentine’s great review of it in Disc & Music Echo – a lead review alongside The Jaynettes’ Sally Go Round The Roses, which she also loved.

After these I began to track back a little and pick up on ones I had missed like The Crystals Rebel follow-up. From then on I was 100 % sold on the Wall Of Sound, even though at that stage I had no idea of how it was done or what made the ‘big rumble’. It just excited me in a deep and gutsy way.

As someone growing up during the 60s how did you experience the UK reception of Spector’s recording approach and his Philles roster?

As with the Beach Boys, the Four Tops and others, Spector’s music seemed to demand more praise and respect on UK soil than in the US, at least during the latter part of the 60s? A notable Spector example could be the chart success of River Deep in the UK in contrast to its relative failure in the US. What are your thoughts on the cause of this difference?

In the UK, even then, I think we were interested in who and what was making the sounds. So we read the small print credits much more than they appear to have ever done in the States. This led us to thinking about writers, producers and later to musicians even though they did not get the credit early on. Spector albums would start to add some of the key players on them – Tedesco, Blaine et al – so this took us a bit deeper.

There were also fan groups for not just artists, but genres of sound – Tamla Motown Appreciation Society being the best example. I joined TMAS and eventually ended up running Stevie Wonder’s fan club for some years. By contrast, the Beach Boys Club was very poor then.

[Cue Castanets: For an interesting article on the TMAS, go here: http://www.themodgeneration.co.uk/2011/01/tamla-motown-appreciation-society.html%5D

UK fans were intelligent in their musical appreciation. We had good ears, and picked up on a wide variety of fine music: West Coast harmony, Spector, Motown, Four Seasons, other club soul, Southern Soul, girl groups etc. Some fans specialised, while others like me loved the whole variety – I still do.

The Tamla Motown Revue tours the UK in 1965. The UK fans are excited.
The Tamla Motown Revue tours the UK in 1965. The UK fans are excited.

We could hear that River Deep was an amazing record, so quite rightly it sold in our market. In the States it failed by comparison as some radio people wanted to take Phil down a peg or two. Many potential US buyers never got to hear it at the time.

The UK was also the base of the Phil Spector Appreciation Society. I have previously devoted some blog posts to this hardcore group of fans. (https://cuecastanets.wordpress.com/2014/11/19/the-phil-spector-appreciation-society/)

Were you a member yourself? And if so, how would you describe the world of Spector fandom as you have experienced it?

I think I was a member for a short time, but I’m not totally sure. I tended then to go my own way with a small group of friends. Being part of TMAS was the exception. Some years later I did get very excited by Mick Patrick’s Philately magazine, which I thought was fabulous with its illumination of rare records and its articles.

Issue 1, 4 and 6 of Philately. The design got more professional with each issue.
Issue 1, 4 and 6 of Philately. The design got more professional with each issue.

I’m delighted to say that Mick is still a pal. We have just finished up a new CD for Ace Records where he now works, and where I am involved in a small way too. Since the sixties, I have met some of the hardcore group of fans you speak of – great people who love the music!

You’re a record collector yourself. Could you tell a bit about your most treasured items in the ‘Wall of Sound’ section of your personal collection?

It doesn’t necessarily have to be limited to Spector productions. It could also be sound-alikes. If there are interesting anecdotes attached to some of your finds, please do tell.

This is hard! I treasure them all, but not for value. I’m just happy to have the great sounds in a variety of formats.

I was very happy to find Home Of The Brave – Bonnie & The Treasures – on Phi-Dan and the two Veronica singles, and I have enjoyed owning several original copies of the more obscure songs. But it is also fun to have things like the bootleg of Let’s Dance the Screw and Please Be My Boyfriend, hence the piece about the latter in my Spector book.

I do recall driving back through South East London and stopping off at a Deptford junk shop where I bought a huge box of 1000 US singles for just £10 I think. The best find there was Josephine Sunday’s You Don’t Even Know her Name on Tower, which I loved. Many of my best finds come from Charity shops of junk boxes. I’m still finding goodies to this day.

Your eagerly awaited ‘Little symphonies – a Phil Spector reader’ finally came out in 2011, – a very enjoyable collection of essays and interviews with insiders all revolving around Phil Spector’s music.

Why did you set out to compile this interesting collection of texts? Did you feel there was a specific void within the realm of Spector books that you wanted to cover?

Thank you for the kind words – I think it is quite a decent little book.

I saw doing it very much as completing my trilogy of books about the best of US sixties music – Back to the Beach (Beach Boys), Calling Out Around the World (Motown) and Spector. Ideally, it would have been the same size as the other two, but there were good reasons why it needed to be smaller. I took the same approach: a mix of old key articles and newly written perspectives and interviews that had worked well for the other two books, and that people told me they really liked.

51Jr7-sGpQL__SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

With the Spector book I saw the Mark Wirtz and Phil Chapman interviews as taking readers deeper and wider into the technical understanding of how Phil worked. I was asking them questions that I genuinely wanted to know the answers to myself. I also added my appendices – I like lists, reference points etc at the back of books – I guess it is a bit nerdy. But hey, they were my books!

The UK had its fair share of Spector worshippers testing the meters behind recording consoles, some of whom gave Spector a run for his money. Anyone in particular you’d like to comment on? Or perhaps some overlooked figure who more celebrated UK would-be-Spectors like Andrew Loog Oldham or Mark Wirtz have overshadowed?

Many tried, but few really achieved. In my book 500 Lost Gems there is the story about Spector himself probably being in the control room when Adrienne Posta cut Shang a Doo Lang.

As I say in the Spector book, I think Phil Chapman was probably the best at replicating not just the sound, but the feel. Many of his recordings are fabulous, and even better are some that have never been released, like a cover of Paradise and a version of Here It Comes. They sound wonderful through his studio speakers!

I also somewhere have a great cut produced by Biddu – I don’t know if this was ever released, so I need to check that one out with Mick P. one day. As a brief aside comment, it is wonderful to listen to the bootleg CDs of Spector in the studio, and just how positive and good humoured it was between him and the musicians – there was obvious mutual respect between them all – great to hear, and of course fascinating to hear the tracks take shape. Spector had very, very good ears!

and speaking of Spector sound-alikes in general; could you mention a couple of your favorites? I imagine some have ended up on Ace’s fab Phil’s Spectre compilations but others may still only be found on dusty old vinyl singles?

I think I tend more towards the Spector-influenced rather that the soundalikes, so I would want to talk about some of the great Goffin – Titelman songs like What Am I Gonna Do With You (Hey Baby) which is fab in any one of several versions; Chiffons, Lesley Gore or the Inspirations. – also Tammy Grimes, and I do like Jack Nitzsche’s production on Michelle Phillips’s album Victim Of Romance – why has there never been a Jack Nitzsche book? And please don’t tell me that there is, and I’ve missed it!

With any of these though, It is first and foremost the quality of the song that counts above everything, before any production job. Ace’s Phil’s Spectre series is wonderful, and I would recommend them to anyone. You should have them all, and the Jack Nitzsche series, especially the final one ….and the first…and the second of course!

JNace

How do you feel about the stereo versions of Spector’s 60s productions that have crept out? Personally, I really like to hear them but they tend to divide fans due to the simple stereo separation.

I’m happy either way. I’ve never been fussed about mono/stereo debates and the way some hardcore fans or some people get so hung up on that sort of minute detail. First the song, vocal performance, track and production are way way ahead for me. Having said though, if I wanted to play the Crystals’ I Wonder, one of my biggest faves, I would play the London 45 very very loud!

Spector’s 70s productions is another topic that can cause heated debate. Some really love most of them; others find his work like that on the Dion album prodding and dirge-like. How do you feel about this phase of his career?

It was always at least interesting. He was trying new feels to my ears. The Dion album was Ok in parts, a bit less so in others, but always interesting. I did interview Dion and speak to him about it, and it was obviously not one of his best experiences, and probably that affected the album as much as anything.

Dion-Born-to-Be-With-You

I think the reason that many fans don’t like it so much is that it wasn’t overtly poppy. We had become used to Spector making POP records, and loving them, and this was different. Perhaps that’s why the Ramones did get a hit with Baby I Love You. Although it had a different feel, it was still a pop song when many others weren’t. But for me I’ll take ’em all for the interest.

Is there any particular artist or album from the last 20-30 years or so you’d like to recommend for any Spector fan urging for a bombast fix?

We live in a time of retromania, as music journalist Simon Reynolds has titled an interesting book of his, but when new acts today harken back to the 60s in their approach they usually go the garage, Motown or psych route. Do you know of any recent artists with a sound that would warrant an approving nod from Spector or Jack Nitzsche?

Why not recommend that people go back to the original hits? No one has ever bettered them. Many of the so-called Spector influenced recent or less recent recordings have none of the feels that we would love. People think that if they add castanets and echo they are making a Spector record – NOT SO! This is much like many of the cod-Motown records that have always been around – nobody cut them like the guys in the Snakepit.

Having said that, there are some sounds that capture some of the feels – once again I differentiate between feels and production – and create nice pieces. I have a new snippet of a local retro-influenced group here in Norwich called Rope Store with Never Too Late to Love. It’s only a ten second snippet, but it made me prick up my ears. I think you can find it on the net. I’ll look forward to hearing the full and finished version.

What would always get an approving nod from Phil or Jack would be quality in all departments!

Finally, a question I always conclude my interviews with; please share with us your all-time five Spector productions.

So difficult, but in no particular order: He’s A Rebel, I Wonder, Lovin’ Feelin’, Baby I Love You and Little Boy – with the latter I love the sheer excess and murkiness. Tomorrow, I will probably look at this and pick different ones.

Kingsley, it’s been very interesting to read your take on the Spector sound. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

Thank you. It’s been a pleasure.

Devra Robitaille Interview

Time for another interview and I’m pleased to announce that former Spector employee Devra Robitaille has agreed to answer some questions for Cue Castanets.

For a short time during the mid 70s, Devra worked as ‘Administrative Director’ for Phil Spector’s short-lived Warner-Spector label after getting to know him while she worked for Warner Brothers records. As we shall learn, her new job was far from a walk in the park – something she has described before in Mick Brown’s seminal book on Spector, ‘Tearing Down the Wall of Sound.’

Devra Robitaile today
Devra Robitaille today

Overall, the 70s proved to be both enjoyable and frustrating for Spector fans. On the one hand, they were served with a smorgasbord of fantastic productions, both newly recorded and unreleased gems that had languished in the vaults since the 60s. On the other hand, many planned projects failed to materialize or if they did, did not receive proper promotion.

In a decade where Spector soundalikes by ABBA, Bruce Springsteen, Meat Loaf and others were riding high in the charts, the stars seemed aligned for a triumphant comeback. It was not to be. And it didn’t help that the release schedule was both erratic and often limited to select countries, no doubt due to Spector’s increasingly difficult personality. In the midst of all this was Devra, trying to nurture both the music and business side of things.

——————————————————

Devra, thank you very much for taking your time to answer some questions about this often overlooked phase of Spector’s career.

First off, according to Mick Brown’s book you began working for Spector in 1975. He appointed you ‘Administrative Director’ of the Warner-Spector label. Looking back, how do you feel about that label?

Warner Spector started out so great. It was a brain-child of Joe Smith and Marty Machat I think, and intended to be an outlet for Phil’s music and a celebration of his production talents after some rough criticism. I remember there being high expectations. It was supposed to be a wonderful homage and great collaboration between Warner Brothers and Phil…. but unfortunately, it spiraled down for oh so many reasons.

Do you think Spector achieved what he’d set out to do when he established the deal with Warner Brothers?

Absolutely not. He was deeply disappointed and offended. He never really spelled it out to me exactly what happened, but his expression when the subject was brought up even years later spoke volumes. I am sure it was mutual, Phil was very difficult to deal with on every level.

In his book ‘Magical Mystery Tours’, Tony Bramwell who oversaw Warner-Spector from the UK, claims that Spector wanted to set up the label to release everything. According to the book, Bramwell went to LA to crate Spector’s tapes up personally in his mansion and later ran them through tests in London, preparing a reissue campaign.

I hung out with Tony a lot during this and other visits. I also spent a lot of time on the phone with him once he was back in England on Phil’s behalf setting all this up. Tony was a really great guy. I feel privileged to have known him. There was another guy too, Malcolm. I don’t remember his last name. They were both gentlemen and the real deal. I hope they remember me kindly.

Rare Masters vol. 1. A second volume gathering rare and unreleased 60s recordings also came out.
Rare Masters vol. 1. A second volume gathering more unreleased and rare 60s recordings also came out.

Those tapes have been the cause of much speculation among Spector fans as to what they contain. Do you remember if there were more unreleased, fully realized 60s recordings than what eventually came out on the wonderful Rare Masters vol. 1 and vol. 2 collections? According to rumors there was at least enough material for a third volume.

You are asking me to cast back a lot of years in my memory, and because of all the more recent ugliness, a lot of it has been suppressed. But I do remember there being controversy about the tapes. I never knew exactly what was on them. Phil tended to hold things hostage so he could get his own way, to try to ransom his music for deals or circumstances as a manipulation ploy and it caused a great deal of turmoil.

This may well be why Warner-Spector ended after only three years. The stealing and hiding of masters was very common at that time. I remember a lot of wrangling about this with both Leonard Cohen and Dion, and also heard rumours about the John Lennon tapes, although possibly it was John in that case. Anyway, I am sure he did hide them at Collina Drive, although I can’t prove it as I never saw them. But I doubt he would trust anyone else, even a professional tape archive.

A lot of the output on Warner-Spector was made up of reissues of 60s material.
A lot of the output on Warner-Spector was made up of reissues of 60s material.

Do you recall which state Spector’s tapes were in generally? It would seem odd for him to keep them in his mansion instead of a professional tape archive? Do you know if what Tony Bramwell brought to the UK was the entire cache of tapes or just specific master tapes sorted beforehand by Spector? I wonder if tape copies still exist in the Warner archives?

That’s a very good question and I’m afraid I can’t throw any light on it for you. What I do know is that I myself personally recorded one of my own original songs at Phil’s request one night in the studio for use as a “b” side. He later named it “Roy Carr and Devra Robitaille” or some such – don’t ask me why, because that wasn’t the name of the song and I had forgotten about it until Tony Bramwell brought it up on Facebook. I have never been able to find out where the tape ended up. So one could conjecture that if there’s one that went missing there of course must be others?

You were present during the sessions with Cher in Gold Star Studios in 1975. I personally love the three songs cut; ‘A Woman’s Story’, the super slow take of ‘Baby I Love You’ and the duet with Harry Nilsson, ‘A Love Like Yours.’ ‘A Woman’s Story’ is a particular favorite of mine. Are you in the haunting backing chorus on this majestic production? Any anecdotes from the sessions you’d like to share? Were those three songs the only ones worked on?

Yes. I am singing backgrounds on the Cher and the Jerri Bo Keno tracks. I did some back-up vocals on the John Lennon album too, Stand by Me and Be Bop a Lula, I think. And of course on the Leonard Cohen as well as Dion album. I had the honor of sharing a mic with many interesting people, not the least of which was Bob Dylan. [Cue Castanets: on the Leonard Cohen album.]

I also played some keyboards, can’t remember which tracks, and my ex-husband, Bob Robitaille, who was an engineer with Motown and who owned a whole slew of lovely analog synths and would rent them out to studios, was also called in various times with his synths.

I remember Cher well. I had no idea who she was at first. Phil had a habit of just inviting people to the sessions so I didn’t realize at first she was the artist. it was a bit of a rabble usually, chaos. She just showed up, and I was on the microphone singing with this really tall girl with long straight black hair, and she kept “flipping” it and it kept hitting me in the face. I didn’t like her. Then of course it didn’t take long to realize that it was Cher! I also remember Harry Nilsson. I found out much later that an English engineer friend of mine was his engineer.

There are so many anecdotes and stories. I will save them for another time. Maybe my book? :-D

chernilsson

You were in charge of organizing the sessions for Dion’s ‘Born to Be with You’ album. I think it’s a masterpiece that stands up favorably to almost anything Spector did in the 60s.

Agreed! I just think some of the tracks need to be a little smidge faster in tempo, but that’s just my personal opinion. They feel to me like the sparkle is trying to come through but being dragged down – just an impression, take it for what it is.

Did Spector ever explain to you why, of all Warner Brothers artists available to him, he chose to work with Dion DeMucci?

Yes. He told me he really respected artists like Dion. He thought Dion was the real deal, really authentic. He admired that whole New York street cred kind of music and he felt a kinship with that.

Dion-Born-to-Be-With-You

I remember going to Las Vegas with Phil to see Dion perform, and when we went backstage being struck by a kind of reverence that Phil had for Dion which I had never seen in him before or even since. This was before the recordings began.

How would you describe the sessions? And do you know why the epic ‘Baby, Let’s Stick Together’ was left off the album?

Describing the sessions might have to be for another time. There is a lot to say and I don’t think you have the space! Suffice it to say that the phrase “barely controlled mayhem” usually applied, peppered with spells of sheer magic and genius. Actually, I didn’t know Baby Lets Stick Together was left off. I really liked that song.

Dion baby lets stick

Bruce Springsteen and Steven van Zandt paid a visit during the Dion sessions, hot on the heels of ‘Born to Run.’ How would you describe the atmosphere around their visit, seeing that they’d had a monster hit with the Spector sound?

I remember it well. I was priviledged to sing on a mic with them. Absolutely no idea what song it was as I was completely in awe of Springsteen, my own personal favourite type of music being Rock; I remember The Kessel brothers being there at the session and several others in the control room milling about. There was no gun play that night, at least none that I saw, so perhaps that is a huge compliment to Springsteen from Phil! Then again, one could say that it might have been a bigger compliment had there been…. One can only wonder.

After the Warner-Spector deal fell through, Spector launched the Phil Spector International deal with Polydor. Like with Warner-Spector, Tony Bramwell claims that Spector initially wanted to release everything. Why do you think he was keen set on that during the 70s?

To answer that one would have to have a deep insight into the complicated maze of personality that is Phil Spector, and I don’t claim to be able to unravel it all.

What I can say is what I experienced personally, and that is that Phil always very much needed validation for not only his musical creations but for himself as a person. He was too easily wounded by criticism and desperately craved approbation.

Some people are not cut out for fame, even while being addicted to it. Phil is a “perfect storm”; the perfect coming together of conditions and circumstances to create who he is and what he creates. You can’t pull the “Phil” out of Phil Spector music, it is his Soul expression. Maybe somewhere in here is the reason he always wanted to keep releasing everything.

Insecurity behind the swagger? Phil Spector with the Kessel Brothers during the 70s.
Insecurity behind the swagger? Phil Spector with the Kessel Brothers during the 70s.

The old Phil Spector Appreciation Society newsletters report rumors of enough material for a whole Darlene Love album. Only ‘Lord If You’re a Woman’ and ‘I Love Him Like I Love my Very Life’ came out of course but allegedly 10 tracks in total where recorded.

What do you remember about this project? Did you ever hear any other tracks? If so, do you remember anything specific about them? Were they release-worthy or were they just rough recordings?

I don’t remember there being any other tracks and didn’t hear any. I was at the sessions for ‘Lord If you’re a Woman’, particularly the mixing. A great track! There was some wrangling about the tempo as I recall. Of course Phil always won.

Darlene Love, Phil Spector, Joy Ramone and the Paley Brothers, 70s
Darlene Love, Phil Spector, Joey Ramone and the Paley Brothers, 70s

Another rumoured project in the Phil Spector Appreciation Society newsletters was a Manhattan Transfer-styled vocal group called the Brewers that Spector was supposed to have signed. What do you remember about this project? Do you think they ever got to record with him?

I don’t know anything about this group, never heard of them and don’t remember there being any sessions in that name – at least during my times.

I went back to work for Phil again in the mid eighties after I came back from England. My second tour of duty was quite tame compared to the first and only lasted a mere six months.

The Leonard Cohen album really divides Spector fans. Some like it, others hate it. Including, seemingly, Leonard Cohen himself! Looking back, how do you feel about it and the sessions that took place?

What a fantastic adventure in my life to have been involved in that project. I booked all the sessions and attended every excruciating moment! That is said with a smile though.

So many adventures, too much really to report here. I even received an album credit, the wording of which I have forgotten now, but it was a thank you from Phil for somehow keeping order in the face of all the chaos. I have the utmost respect for Leonard who was always a perfect gentleman and has so much class.

cohen

Were there any other steps taken towards recordings projects that either didn’t materialize or were left in the can?

Not that I can remember.

Did Spector for instance, to your knowledge, record more songs with Jerri Bo Keno than ‘Here It Comes (and Here I Go)’? Was there other acts he signed and worked with that the fans probably don’t know about?

I don’t know of any others, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t exist.

He recorded a version of ‘Baby, Let’s Stick Together’ with the Paley Brothers that finally came out on a retrospective of theirs in 2013. Do you know if he recorded more stuff with them?

No idea.

The Paley Brothers
The Paley Brothers. They recorded quite a few great Spectoresque power pop songs on their own.

Also at this time, rare stereo versions of some of the 60s recordings became more widely available as part of reissues, for instance the songs off the lone Ronettes album. Do you think this was a decision of Spector himself or rather a case of someone involved in the reissue projects chancing it and releasing the much sought-after stereo versions behind his back?

I don’t really know, but if I had to make a guess I would say that no-one really wanted to “chance it” with Phil. His wrath was legendary, and I think he would always want to maintain control.

And finally, what are your personal top-five favorite Spector-produced recordings?

I am going to have to do some listening to rehabilitate my ears to this music. Off the top of my head though, I can say that I really liked ‘Lord If You’re a Woman’!

Debra, thank you very much for sharing your insights. I’m crossing my fingers that you’ll write a book about your adventures in the music business someday.

Paul Dunford Interview

I have previously written an in-depth blog post about the various stages of Spector fandom in the form of fanclubs, newsletters and fanzines. You can read about it here:

https://cuecastanets.wordpress.com/2014/11/19/the-phil-spector-appreciation-society/

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.

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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”

Paul and his 'Echoes of the 60s' silver disc.
Paul and his ‘Echoes of the 60s’ silver disc.

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.

Bob Harris
Bob Harris

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.

The PSAS office - hard at work promoting the Wall of Sound!
The PSAS office – hard at work promoting the Wall of Sound! Note the ‘Phil Spector Story’ book by Rob Finnis on the table.

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. cher ws 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!

Add for New York dates on Ronnie's 'Beyond the Beehive' tour.
Add for New York dates on Ronnie’s ‘Beyond the Beehive’ tour.

Thank you for all this info, Paul. Finally, what are your five personal favorite Spector records?

My personal all-time favorites are

  1. The Ronettes – ‘Be my Baby’
  2. The Crystals – ‘Then He Kissed Me’
  3. The Ronettes – ‘When I Saw You’
  4. Checkmates Ltd – ‘Black Pearl’
  5. Dion – ‘Born to Be with You’

The Phil Spector Appreciation Society

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.

Members of the Phil Spector Appreciation Society (PSAS) sent in their personal top 10 in 1976. Here are the results.
Members of the Phil Spector Appreciation Society (PSAS) sent in their personal top 10 in 1976. “Here are the results of the Spectorian jury.”

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.

The PSAS predict a bright future for Spector at the end of 1976.
The PSAS predict a bright future for Spector at the end of 1976.

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.]

Image of the six 60s PSAS newsletters as shown in Philately # 4.
Image of the six 60s PSAS newsletters as shown in Philately 4.

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.]

PSAS newsletters from the 70s.
PSAS newsletters from the 70s.

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)’!

PSAS members part at their convention, September 1976.
PSAS members party at their convention, September 1976.

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.]

Issue 1, 4 and 6 of Philately. The design got more professional with each issue.
Issue 1, 4 and 6 of Philately. The design got more professional with each issue.

And thus concludes my ‘dissertation’ on the obscure and overlooked, but wonderful world of Spector fandom & fanzines.