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.
I’m pleased to be able to share with you yet another interview, – this time with my old Spector buddy, US-based collector David A. Young.
David and I go back at least 12-13 years and have discussed the music in depth ever since establishing contact through the old Spectropop forum. Along the way, David has introduced me to some great tunes, like the two albums issued by Pete Anders and Vini Poncia under their Tradewinds and the Innocence guises.
David’s a hardcore fan and without a doubt one of the top Spector experts and collectors in his country – when a guy has ‘spectorcollector’ as a part of his e-mail address you know he’s serious about his Wall of Sound collection!
Suffice to say, David’s collection of all things Spector and related is extremely impressive and includes acetates, demos and assorted rarities. Although he has downsized it somewhat in recent years, there’s still a wealth of interesting collectibles to make the hearts of Spector fans worldwide race with the ‘Be my Baby’ beat.
Let’s hear what David has to say about his infatuation with the Wall of Sound.
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David, let’s start at the beginning. Do you remember when you became aware of Phil Spector’s music? Was there a specific song that won you over and turned you into a full-blown fan of the Wall of Sound?
My first reaction to that question is that I know for sure it was because of Phil Spector that I became a record collector as opposed to merely a record buyer.
When I was young, department stores sold records, and after 45s that hadn’t sold were returned to the distributor and turned into cutouts, they were bundled in plastic in packages of like ten singles for 39 cents or so and then sent back to the stores for sale as mystery value packs; you could only see the two labels that faced the outside of the package, so you were gambling on whether or not you’d like what was inside.
Through some combination of buying records on purpose and buying them blindly in this way, I noticed that many of my favorites were on the same label — Philles, of course — and had Phil Spector’s name on them.
As a result, I started buying any record I found that said ‘Phil Spector’ on it somewhere. I’m afraid I can’t honestly recall any particular song that put me over the top as you describe, though, whether before or after that realization.
I know that you’ve been active in the fan community through the decades. I remember you telling me about hosting a Spector-themed party at one point. And you of course also were a member of the Phil Spector Appreciation Society – in some of the old PSAS newsletters I’ve noticed that you offered custom t-shirts for sale?
Could you tell a bit about all of this? I’d love to hear about that party and similar fan activity. In our day and age where fans worldwide are just clicks away from the latest news, forums and contact with each other, I find this early sense of a tight-knit fan community very interesting.
I had ‘Phil Spector’s birthday’ parties two years in a row, 1975 and ’76 (cohosted by my roommate[s] at the time). I invited him both times, and once — the first time — his personal assistant, Devra Robitaille, whom you’ve also interviewed for your blog, sent me a note with his regrets.
I also called him every December 26 from about that time to just a few years ago, when the number was disconnected, to wish him a happy birthday. The parties were fun, well-attended events; to bypass having to entertain requests (and to better focus on my partying), I pre-recorded four hours of music, 100% Spector-produced or co-produced, on reel-to-reel tape each time. That way I only had to play DJ once during the festivities, when it was time to turn the tape over two hours in. The trick worked so well that I did it for all my parties for many years, putting together a different program each and every time.
Funny that you mention the t-shirts. If only I still fit into mine; I’ve grown from a size small to a large since then! I gave it to a Spector-obsessed friend years ago when he visited me. It has the famous picture of Phil holding his sunglasses in front of his mouth.
I don’t think I ever actually sold one of them, but something much better happened: people wrote from all over asking if I wanted to trade tapes of rare and unreleased Spector and girl-group recordings instead, and of course the answer was a mutually rewarding yes in each case. I wish I still had all the handwritten letters, track notes, and the reel-to-reel tapes (and, later, cassettes) from those days, but at least I still have the memories.
The Internet sure has streamlined networking, musical and otherwise! Back then, besides people I met in real life – working at record stores helped -, it was those shirts, and the Phil Spector Appreciation Society, that led to my most significant connections.
You’re known as a hardcore collector and even though you’ve sold of parts of your collection by now, I’ll bet it must still be incredibly impressive. Do you have any anecdotes about record hunting? Turning up rare records in unlikely places or at ridiculously cheap prices?
Limiting my answer to Spector records, my two favorite anecdotes are these:
Almost all my original Philles albums, including the fake-stereo ‘Twist Uptown’ by The Crystals and the real-stereo ‘Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica’ were purchased in mint-minus condition from Village Oldies in New York for $100 apiece, reserved through a lucky phone call.
I sent them a payment once or twice a month until everything was paid for, and then the whole package arrived at once. What a day! The Ronettes album has subsequently been autographed by Ronnie Spector and Hal Blaine.
Also, I got unplayed copies of both the Jay and the Americans and the Supremes versions of ‘Things Are Changing’ in their mint title sleeves at a record show from the same guy, who worked at a record wholesale company, for $4 each!
Obviously, he had no idea what he had there, and I wasn’t about to tell him! By then, I already had the Blossoms version, which I got from Jack Fitzpatrick, who later co-wrote the ‘Collecting Phil Spector’ book and whom I’d met through the t-shirt ad.
What are some of your most prized Spector-related items in your personal collection?
I’ve sold lots of the most valuable things over the years, so that’s another conversation, but a number of pieces come to mind that I can’t imagine ever letting go of because of my personal attachment to them.
Along with the aforementioned Ronettes album, there’s the white-label DJ copy of ‘A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records’ with a promotional letter, the copy of ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’ on the rare X-125 pressing that Darlene Love autographed to me, and especially the 1987 reissue on Rhino of the Christmas album that Phil signed for me.
By that time I’d placed my ‘happy birthday’ calls so many years in a row that Devra Robitaille called to ask for my address, saying that Phil wanted to thank me for my steadfast devotion. A few days later, the LP arrived in the mail.
Where has your Spector collecting led you beyond acquiring all the different records he produced?
Of course it started with looking at the Spector discographies that existed at the time and, one by one, checking off each release as I obtained it — and over time, the discographies became more and more complete.
Before long, let’s say the first available copy of a record was a DJ copy instead of a stock copy, so I’d have that and then think, “Cool, I’ll get the promo and issue copies of every Spector record.” Then it turns out there are all kinds of label variations: You can have a white, blue, orange, or yellow-and-red label, and the typesetting can be different from one to the next, the logo changes and now may have a thick line or a thin line under it. And that’s just the variations on Philles!
Then there’s having the same release from as many different countries as possible, maybe with a variety of picture sleeves, different B-sides, the EPs, the spelling errors (like the pressing of Phil Spector 2 by Veronica listing ‘Why Can’t They Let Us Fall in Love’ instead of ‘Why Don’t They…’), the reversed labels (as on my stock copy of Philles 123, where the side labeled ‘Stumble and Fall’ plays ‘[He’s a] Quiet Guy’ and vice versa), and on and on.
From there, it spun out of control. My thirst for the Wall of Sound proved unquenchable, so I started seeking out and buying what we now call soundalikes, and as you know, there are both credible and laughable examples of attempts to replicate the Spector sound dating from the ’60s on up through the present.
Before I knew it, I had to have anybody’s cover version of any Spector-related song, whether he had composer credit on it or not (as is the case with, say, ‘He’s a Rebel’ or ‘I Love How You Love Me’). It was bad enough when I’d learn about such covers one way or another and then seek them out, but then eBay came along and I could search by title, discovering literally hundreds of them that I doubt I’d ever have known about otherwise.
Lastly, I started seeking out other releases by artists, especially the more obscure ones,that Phil had produced. You wouldn’t believe how many 45s Kell Osborne or Obrey Wilson, to name just two examples, put out!
Beyond that, like most Spector fans, I’m also wild for the girl group sound in general and have an extensive collection in that genre as well.
Do you only collect records or do you also have old Spector-related fanclub newsletters, posters and similar collectibles? I’ve often wondered how much of this stuff was out there when Philles was active?
I have three boxes full of paper stuff such as you describe. I’ll send along scans of some of the things we’re talking about here in case you want to use them for illustrations.
There’s a bit of everything, though: newsletters, magazines, fanzines, full-page ads from Billboard and Cashbox, sheet music, publicity photos, random articles and pictures … even a typewritten letter from Phil’s sister Shirley to The Teddy Bears and bearing her signature, from when she was managing the group. I have quite a collection of pinback buttons, too, or badges, as our British friends call them.
As far as when Philles was active, there’s not much I can think of besides the promotional materials and ads that came along with new releases, other than that ‘Thanks for Giving Me the Right Time’ clock, which I don’t have, nor do I particularly care about having, given how much it sells for when it does show up.
The two ‘Rare Masters’ compilations that came out in the mid-70s contained a wealth of fully-realised, but up-until-then unreleased Spector productions. Do you think there are more recordings like these left in the Spector tape vault? Have you heard some that other fans have undoubtedly yet to hear?
Well, we’ve yet to see release of ‘Someday (Baby)’ or ‘Padre’ by The Ronettes, and I read a post on Cue Castanets! speculating that they may have recorded ‘I’ll Never Need More than This’ as well.
I haven’t heard ‘Padre’ but its existence has been confirmed by a very reliable source. It’s the same song made famous by Toni Arden and, later, Valerie Carr, and it’s fun to imagine it as a Philles-era Ronettes track.
Then there’s the very odd case of a Gold Star acetate dated 1967, supposedly after both Philles and The Ronettes had disbanded: a commercial for Rheingold Beer with vocals on one side credited to The Ronettes and on the other by Phil Spector.
From the late-Philles era, we also haven’t seen release of Phil’s ‘Pretty Girl’, ‘Lucy in London’ or ‘Down at TJ’s.’
I was thrilled when The Crystals’ version of ‘Woman in Love (with You)’ was finally released a few years back, but we still haven’t heard — officially, anyway — their ‘Chico’s Girl’ or ‘Mary Ann’ or Darlene Love’s ‘It’s My Party’ or ‘You Can’t Sit Still’ (the backing track for which became ‘Dr. Kaplan’s Office.’)
That’s probably not a complete list, but it’s what comes to mind as we chat. Then there’s all Phil’s unreleased Apple-era stuff, and at least one finished production from the 70s PSI period: Tina Turner doing the Irving Berlin song ‘Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor.’
Add to that all the miscellaneous stuff through the years, the fabled Molly Ringwald and Celine Dion sessions, and the many, many demos, and there’s plenty left to be unearthed.
Mono or stereo? Or both? How do you feel about stereo mixes of Spector’s recordings?
Both, please! In some ways, it’s like listening to two different records, though this is more or less true depending on the particular cut. The background vocals are even different between the mono and stereo versions of The Ronettes’ ‘How Does It Feel’ for goodness’ sake!
I guess what I like is ‘dissecting’ mono recordings by listening to them in stereo to better make out all the individual components of the massed sound I hear in mono. To hear something more clearly may or may not mean to hear it ‘better’, but it helps put the puzzle together.
That said, I love the Christmas album in stereo. That blew my mind when it first came out in 1975, and it still does; I wish it would be released that way again. There’s an unbelievable amount of detail to discover there; the clattering percussion in ‘March of the Wooden Soldiers’, for example, just doesn’t work as well in mono as far as I’m concerned.
I would imagine a fan and collector like you have been to LA several times, almost on a sort of pilgrimage. Did you ever get to visit Gold Star Studios?
Nope, never made it to Gold Star.
Actually, the only time I’ve ever been to Los Angeles was in 2013 to see Ronnie Spector’s ‘Beyond the Beehive’ show. I’d lusted after a Gold Star jacket for many years, so I was excited to score one as a premium for my Kickstarter support of the ‘Wrecking Crew’ documentary last year. Yes, it’s a replica, not an original, but it’ll do for now.
Spector’s last production job was Starsailor’s ‘Silence is Easy’ and ‘White Dove’ if you don’t take Hargo’s ‘Crying for John Lennon’ and Rachelle Spector’s solo album into consideration. I suspect he was involved only in name on those two projects.
But the Starsailor cuts,… how did you feel about those when they came out? Personally, I love ‘Silence is Easy’ but I understand those who had hoped for more of a trademark Wall of Sound on it?
Gee, it’s been a while since I listened to the Starsailor cuts, but I remember thinking that it didn’t seem to me that anyone had produced ‘White Dove’, as opposed to merely recording it.
Now, ‘Silence Is Easy’ … that song is produced, and damn well. I’m not sure I would have guessed it to be a Spector production had you just played it for me cold, so in that sense I suppose I was mildly disappointed, but the brooding feel starts as a simmer and builds effectively to a boil, as befits the song, so Phil did right by it.
There’s been some much-deserved hype concerning Denny Tedesco’s documentary on the Wrecking Crew. Hal Blaine’s book has seen a reprint, Don Randi has a book coming out, there’s said to be a Jack Nitszche documentary in the works and we have also recently had two new books on the Wrecking Crew.
Is there anyone out there from that whole recording scene that you hope will feel inspired to share their stories like for instance Hal and Don has done?
I’d love to hear from David and Dan Kessel; in fact, I keep hoping that you’ll interview them (or at least Dan, who seems to be the more talkative of the twins). Have you asked them?
Between their Gold Star/Spector and showbiz connections, including having had their own Martian Records label, it would seem like there would be a book’s worth of material there. Besides being interesting, it’d bridge the gap between the original Wrecking Crew and the later sessions when, admittedly, plenty of the old gang was still around, but lots of new players and singers were used as well.
That’s certainly a good idea for an interview. I’ll look into that!
Finally, to round off, please share with us your all-time top 5 Spector productions?
I’m glad you asked that, because I know you’ve asked others the same thing, so I started thinking about it when you asked to interview me and I’m as ready as I can possibly be, though numbers three through five might change if you ask me next year:
‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’ – Darlene Love
‘Is This What I Get for Loving You’ – The Ronettes
‘Little Boy’ – The Crystals
‘Save the Last Dance for Me’ – Ike and Tina Turner
‘Memories’ – Leonard Cohen
Wow, a Cohen track on your top 5? I’ve never paid that much attention to ‘Death of a Ladies Man.’ Your listing of ‘Memories’ will definitely prompt me to re-listen to the album again with open ears.
David, thank you so much for sharing your insights with us. Much appreciated!
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Well, whaddya know? It’s interview time once again.
I really appreciate your positive feedback on the three interviews I’ve featured so far. I have more planned for the near future, so stay tuned!
Today, I’m pleased to publish an interview with none other than the New York-based ‘Queen Bee’ of girl group fandom, Sheila Burgel. Or Sheila B as she’s more commonly known among girl group collectors, Spector nuts or just general fans of 60s music.
Record collector, DJ, music blogger and compiler of girl pop reissues, – Sheila does it all! You can keep up to date with her adventures on her fab blog Cha Cha Charming. It’s an online continuation of the print fanzine she used to run.
Not content to just unearth super-rare girl pop records in dusty record stores or spin her treasured finds for packed dancefloors, Sheila has also been instrumental in bringing her favorite music wider recognition in the form of interesting compilations and reissues.
The most impressive project she’s worked on remains the monumental 4-disc ‘Girl Group Sounds – One Kiss can Lead to Another’ box set issued in 2005 by Rhino Records. Sheila served as associate producer and wrote the track-by-track liner notes. Lovingly compiled, the 120 track strong treasure trove collects a plethora of great 60s girl group records ranging from fairly well-known to incredibly obscure. The packaging itself is a replica of a vintage hat box!
The following interview remains within the Cue Castanets realm – Phil Spector recordings and other songs with a production akin to his Wall of Sound. But if you like what you read, I’ll strongly advise you to head over to the Dust & Grooves blog and read their longer and more comprehensive interview with Sheila.
She’s showing off some of her favorite records and discusses, among other things, general girl group history, the prevalent ‘boys club’ mentality of record collecting, feminism and ‘girl power’ expressed through music etc. It’s a great read!
First off, how and when did you first come across Phil Spector’s productions and what was your initial reaction?
Growing up in the ’80s, ’60s hits were ubiquitous, so songs like “Be My Baby” and “Then He Kissed Me” were as familiar to me as the present-day pop hits. But I wasn’t aware that “Be My Baby” was a Spector production.
In fact, I really had no idea who Phil Spector was until I moved to London at age 17 and began to take a closer look at these songs and the songwriting and production credits. I remember my friend Mick Patrick giving me copies of his fanzine, Philately, one of which came with a green pin with “Back To Mono” written on it. That’s when I really—to borrow part of Timothy Leary’s famous phrase—“turned on and tuned in.”
While researching for this interview, I came across a website where you listed ‘Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes featuring Veronica’ as your favorite album. Can you elaborate on your love for this LP? Any specific songs you’d like to single out?
Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes featuring Veronica is one of the few ’60s girl-pop LPs that is back-to-back brilliant—from start to finish. Most ’60s girl-pop LPs have just a couple of first-class tracks and a lot of obvious covers and dull B-sides, but there isn’t a dud on this album.
I’m really surprised that it isn’t included on more “Greatest Albums of All-Time” lists. I think most people think of the Ronettes as a singles act without realizing that so many mind-blowing singles on one LP makes for a pretty damn spectacular album!
It’s a shame that a second Ronettes album wasn’t issued. It would certainly have featured some killer material; ‘Is This What I Get’, ‘Paradise’, ‘Here I Sit’, ‘I Wish I Never Saw the Sunshine’, ‘Keep On Dancing’ etc. What are some of your favorite Ronettes tracks not found on their sole album?
“Paradise” hands down. I get the hairs standing up on the back of my neck effect when I hear this one. And although “I Can Hear Music” was issued on 45, it would’ve been the ideal opener for the second album.
I know this is completely off topic, but I’d also like to give kudos to their early song “Recipe For Love.”
It’s a pre-Spector cut, but what a cheeky lil’ ditty! I never paid it much attention until I saw Ronnie perform it live at one of her Christmas performances at BB Kings. Wowzer!
You are probably one of the world’s most leading experts on 60s girl pop with an enormous collection of rarities. Any anecdotes you’d like to share about treasured records turning up in strange places or at the stroke of luck?
Oh how I wish I could turn back the clock to London 1996, when I first started buying girl-pop records because everything was cheap! cheap! cheap!
I’d pop into a high street charity shop, flip through a crappy box of 45s and find a stack of Billie Davis singles on Pye.
Then there was Lesley Duncan’s “I Go To Sleep,” which I got for £1 at a junk shop on Hanway Street, and Lorraine Silver’s “The Happy Faces” for maybe £20.
At that time, the interest in these records was teeensy, and there was no eBay to unite the demands of record collectors worldwide. I’d say I had a whole lotta digger’s luck for almost the entire time I lived in the UK.
I must also credit a Texan girl-group obsessive named JD Doyle, who once had one of the biggest collections of girl-pop records in the US. He had pretty much sold the entirety of his collection by the time we first met (via e-mail), but I still managed to nab a few gems that he had left. The Bittersweet’s “The Hurtin’ Kind” on Tema was on of them.
As someone who’s heard literally thousands of girl group recordings, how would you describe what Phil Spector and his Philles girl groups brought to the world of 60s female pop and their overall influence on the genre?
Take a peak at Ace Records’ compilation series, Phil’s Spectre: Wall of Soundalikes, to witness the enormity of Phil Spector’s influence on ’60s female pop and beyond.
Nearly every major and minor pop artist tried in some way to mimic his sound, usually with very impressive results. On the downside, this producer-as-rock-star mentality espoused by Spector had an unfortunate effect on the artists, who were often viewed as disposable or easily replaceable. The Crystals and Darlene Love both suffered immensely from Spector’s carelessness with “He’s A Rebel,” and the bitterness remains to this day.
Also, Spector’s enormous ego took away from writers like Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, who we sometimes forget composed “Be My Baby” and so many of the other big Spector hits. And now look! Here I am calling them Spector hits as opposed to Crystals hits or Greenwich/ Barry hits.
We credit Spector with everything, whereas without the top quality songs, vocal talent, and personalities, I don’t believe Spector’s production techniques alone would’ve earned him such earth-shattering success.
The writers, artists, and Spector together created those songs and that magic.
What, if push comes to shove, are your top 5 girl group records with a Wall of Sound or similar bombast, over-the top backing track?
Adrienne Posta – Shang A Doo Lang
The Castanets – I Love Him
Cherilyn – Dream Baby
Marie Antoinette – He’s My Dream Boy
Debra Swisher – You’re So Good To Me (this record is so loud!)
You also work as a DJ spinning cool 60s girl pop for packed dancefloors. Let’s say you were to get things going at a party exclusively spinnin’ some Wall of Sound gems, not limited to Phil Spector productions. Which singles would hit your decks?
Beryl Marsden – Gonna Make Him My Baby
The Orchids – Love Hit Me
Maureen Gray – Goodbye Baby
The Girlfriends – My One and Only Jimmy Boy
The Bonnets – Ya Gotta Take A Chance
Cue Castanets deals not only with Phil Spector’s music but also with the work of similar minded producers and arrangers of the time.
Do you have a particular favorite producer or arranger that you’d say tends to get overlooked in favor of more well-known legends like Phil Spector, Jack Nitzsche, Brian Wilson etc?
I am verrrrrry fond of all the producers you mention—Phil Spector, Jack Nitzsche, Brian Wilson as well as David Gates, Bob Crewe and Shel Talmy. But I don’t pay as much attention to production and arrangement credits as I do to the songwriting credits. Because if the song (essentially the foundation) isn’t strong, not even the most skilled producer or arranger can save it.
I could list a gazillion over-looked songwriters, but those at the top of my list are Russ Titelman, Bert Berns, Howard Greenfield and Helen Miller (the team responsible for Bernadette Castro’s “A Girl In Love Forgives,” one of my all-time faves), Chip Taylor, Toni Wine, Pam Sawyer and Lori Burton.
I’d like to ask you the same question about girl group pop – any favorite, yet obscure group that stands in the shadows of well-known girl groups like the Ronettes, the Crystals, the Shangri-Las or the Supremes?
When I flip through my pile of Chiffons 45s on Laurie, I am constantly astounded by just how many excellent singles they put out. “You’re So Fine” and “One Fine Day” are just the tip of the iceberg. “Up On The Bridge,” “Nobody Knows What’s Going On (In My Mind But Me),” “Stop, Look, and Listen,” and “I Have A Boyfriend”….. the list of top-notch singles goes on and on and on.
Other favorites are the Cookies (and all of their spin-off groups), Orlons, Exciters, Honeys, and Reparata & the Delrons.
Recently, you’ve compiled the two brilliant Nippon Girls compilations of superb Japanese girl pop and you have a lot of knowledge about that country’s 60s music scene and how it was influenced by Western popular music.
The Wall of Sound seems to have left quite a mark there, so much so that there’s even been a locally released compilation of Japanese Wall of Sound pastiches from the 70s and beyond. And new stuff crops up occasionally, like Megumi Hara’s ‘Everlasting Love’.
Would you say that the wide-eyed romanticism of 60s Wall of Sound resonates in a particular way with Japanese mentality?
Isn’t it curious that the Spector sound had no influence whatsoever on ’60s Japanese pop music, and then suddenly, 10-15 years later it’s all over late ’70s, early ’80s idol pop?
I think the warm, lovey-dovey Spector sound was a bit too sweet for ’60s Japan. It was the era of the Group Sounds—Japanese rock n’ roll that leaned heavily on the Beatles and the British Invasion. And once the GS craze cooled, folk took its place.
So there really wasn’t any genre appropriate for the Spector sound until idol pop—when female voices got lighter n’ sweeter and everything sounded so unabashedly pop. The combo of idol pop and Spector’s production values worked beautifully, especially on Seiko Matsuda’s “Issen Ichibyou Monogatari,” Celia Paul’s “Yume De Aetara,” and Eiichi Ohtaki “Kimi Wa Tennenshoku.” Oh, and Megumi Hara’s “Namida No Memory.”
A pet project of mine is to find modern Spector soundalikes, many of whom I’ve featured on the blog. How do you feel about musicians with all the modern, digital recording possibilities of today trying to recreate the Wall of Sound from a bygone era?
On one of your blog posts about Simon Reynolds’ interesting ‘Retromania’ book I noticed you asked the question, “why listen to modern interpretations of the past as opposed to the real thing?”
I have no problem with anyone attempting to recreate the Spector sound if they do it with some originality, taste, or talent. Just because it has the Spector sound doesn’t mean it’s a good record.
I think it’s important to remember that a big part of Spector’s success was due to quality control; he was renowned for his pursuit of perfection. If today’s music industry had just a third of Spector’s appetite for high quality records, I think we’d have a much healthier industry.
I think a lot of the Japanese Spector soundalikes are particularly appealing because you have 1) the Japanese language, which takes the track to a whole other place, 2) the ’70s and ’80s production, which automatically differentiates it from the Spector sound, and most important of all—3) the songs are well written.
That’s also why I love and adore Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black. She wears her ’60s girl groups and jazz influences loud and proud, yet the heart and soul of the album is pure Amy Winehouse.
That combination of talent, heart, and knowledge of music history doesn’t come around often enough these days. Modern interpretations of the past without talent or heart will never beat the real thing, hence what I said on my blog.
Are there any artists today you would like to recommend for Cue Castanets readers as someone carrying the torch for the sensibility, songwriting and production values of 60s pop?
I’m racking my brain to come up with one artist in the past ten years who I think has done anything remotely close to the quality/ style of ‘60s pop, but I’m drawing a blank. In the ‘90s there were acts like Japan’s Pizzicato Five and the UK’s Saint Etienne, who took ’60s elements and so seamlessly weaved them into their own sound.
There are artists today who cite girl groups and Phil Spector as influences, but I haven’t really heard anything worth recommending. Oh, wait, Janelle Monae! If you’re fond of ’60s and ’70s soul n’ funk with a futuristic twist, Janelle Monae will appeal big time! Also, she puts on an unforgettable live show—tremendous energy!
Well, I hope some of the modern Spector soundalikes I highlight on the blog might appeal to you then.
Sheila, thank you for taking your time to participate in this interview. I look forward to your future compilation projects and blog posts on Cha Cha Charming!
Over several decades Anthony has amassed a truly mindblowing collection of rare singles that display the widespread influence of Spector’s sound on the 60s music industry. Luckily for us, rather than sit on his incredible collection, Anthony has set up his channel to share his love of all things Wall of Sound and the ‘feel’ of the famed echo chambers of LA’s Gold Star Studios.
Anthony’s YouTube channel isn’t limited to the Wall of Sound but also includes fantastic 60s releases within the realm of girl group pop, Northern Soul, novelty songs, blue-eyed soul and much, much more. It’s an out-and-out treasure trove. Look inside and you’ll get a glimpse into a parallel dimension where any of the featured releases could have been hits.
As if the fact that Anthony shares this fantastic music with other fans isn’t great enough, each upload is also graced by as much background information and rare images as possible. Regularly checking out Anthony’s channel is therefore a bit like entering a virtual music class with fascination insights offered with each upload.
A dream scenario would be for some enterprising company to issue a Gold Star Studios box set with Anthony as a consultant and liner notes writer. Iconic studios like Abbey Road, Fame or Studio One have each had their own releases. So why not one documenting the distinct Gold Star sound and its key role in Los Angeles challenging New York as the 60s US pop capital?
At least we have Anthony’s channel to fill this gap and return to time and again for daily doses of echo. And truth be told – Anthony’s channel is way more comprehensive than any physical release could be unless were talking something of Bear Family-like proportions.
I’ve been interested in learning more about Anthony’s collecting and personal favorites and he has kindly agreed to answer some questions for Cue Castanets.
So Anthony, how and when did you get introduced to the Wall of Sound and music recorded at Gold Star studios?
Back in the 1960’s, I received a small record player for Christmas with some various Christmas themed LP’s. When I grew tired of those, my parents said that I could play their record albums if I was careful with them. My mom & dad were in a record club which was popular in those days, and had a regular shipment of LP’s arrive at the house every month.
Two albums of theirs that stood out and had an impact on me were ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ by The RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS on Philles and ‘All I Really Want To Do’ by CHER on Imperial. The ‘sound’ of those two albums mesmerized me even as a youngster. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I figured out that those two albums were recorded at Gold Star.
What was it that attracted you to this particular type of music?
The ECHO! It did and still does captivate me. There was something different about the Gold Star echo and it was easily identifiable to me as I immersed myself more into record collecting.
You obviously have an incredible collection that must have taken a lot of effort and time to build. How did you get the collector bug in earnest?
Not only did my parents allow me to play their LP’s on my little record player, my mother dug out a huge box of her old 45’s that she had stored in the garage. None of them were in sleeves and were not in the best of condition but the music on those 45’s in that dusty box, which was mainly between the years of 1956 to 1965, were a gift sent down from heaven to me. That’s where the interest in record collecting began.
I would guess you have your fair share of anecdotes about records turning up in strange places or getting some rarities as a stroke of luck while record hunting? Any stories to tell?
I think my favorite acquisition was finding the blue label Philles LP of ‘Presenting The Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica’ in a dumpy thrift shop in the mid 1970’s for the princely sum of fifty cents! What makes the story all the more crazy is I didn’t have the fifty cents at the time so I hid the record in the store and went back on a later date to buy it when I had the money.
You live in the greater Los Angeles area – it must be fascinating living so close to the place where your favorite music was recorded?
It is. In fact, some of my best record collection memories took place in the late 1970s in the parking lot of the Capitol Tower in Hollywood, only a few blocks north of Gold Star near Hollywood & Vine. Back in the day there was a monthly record swap meet there held late at night. A flashlight with good batteries was a necessity! Good memories…
Is there anything specific out there you’re still looking for for your collection?
I really get excited finding unreleased acetates from the early to mid 1960’s.
[Cue Castanets: Anthony features quite a few acetates on his channel. Here’s a great example…]
Why did you decide to set up a YouTube channel?
I enjoyed the videos that other YouTube users were uploading of their 45’s and thought that I could do that too.
In 2010, I started playing with the Windows Movie Maker program and with over 700 videos that I’ve uploaded over the past four years. I try to include as much information I can document about the records as well as have a nice mix of brightly saturated color images of the labels. Photos of the vocalists and any other image that may pertain to the records I try to include as well. They are sort of little, musical monuments to the artists, musicians, producers, arrangers, engineers and anyone else who was a part of these vinyl and styrene pieces of musical history.
I know that this question is bordering on torture for a collector like yourself, but if you were to bring only five songs to a desert island ….which ones would it be?
Believe it or not, that is an easy question for me to answer. With the thousands of records that I’ve accumulated over the years, these five are really special to me:
‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ – RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS (Philles 124 – 1964)
‘Better Off Without You’ – BEVERLY NOBLE (Rally 502 – 1965)
‘The Thrill Is Gone’ – CLYDIE KING (Imperial 66109 – 1965)
‘If You’re Gonna Love Me’ – CHI CHI (Kapp 749 – 1966)
‘Love Her’ – WALKER BROTHERS (Smash 1976 – 1965)
The list of iconic 60s producers is long; Phil Spector, Jack Nitzsche, Brian Wilson, Burt Bacharach etc; but is there a particular, lesser-known producer from the time that you think is criminally overlooked? Explain why?
I think Perry Botkin, Jr. may be somewhat overlooked in comparison to Spector, Nitzsche, Wilson, Bacharach, Crewe, etc. While he was for the most part, an arranger, the vast list of sessions that he worked on contributing his talent is astounding.
[Here’s Anthony’s pick of a single that shows off Botkin’s stellar arranging skills.]
One thing is of course the producers featured on your channel, but which are your all-time favorite songwriters from that era?
Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil
Eddie Rambeau, Bob Crewe & Bud Rehak
Russ Titelman & Gerry Goffin
Joey Brooks & Aaaron Schroeder
Have you ever met any of the artists, songwriters or producers whose work is represented on the different playlists?
Over the years I’ve met some artists at various Record Shows here in the Los Angeles area. Thanks to YouTube, I’ve had the pleasure of receiving personal messages on some of the videos that I’ve uploaded at YouTube from musicians, songwriters, engineers, producers, arrangers as well as from the artists. They’ve all been very humble and appreciative of the interest in their musical past.
In line with the main theme of this blog, do you have a particular favorite among Spector’s productions you’d like to comment on? It doesn’t necessarily have to be one of the well-known hits.
If I had to choose, I prefer all of Spector’s productions from the Ronettes hit ‘Walking In The Rain’ and onward until the end of the Philles era with Tina Turner. The backing tracks alone by the Righteous Brothers, Ronettes and Tina Turner are masterpieces.
I have to believe that sitting on a dusty shelf somewhere are some amazing, unreleased Spector produced, ‘Wall of Sound’ tracks on reels of recording tape waiting to be discovered and shared with the world. I hope I see that day in my lifetime.
What’s your absolute favorite obscure song / production by anyone that you’d recommend readers to check out right away? What is it you love about the particular song?
I’ll have to recommend my #2 choice of my top 5 45’s.
Beverly Noble – ‘BETTER OFF WITHOUT YOU’ – at only fourteen years old, Miss Noble sings with an amazing maturity over a gorgeous backing track dripping with echo. A beautiful song that is presented with a stunning arrangement by Don Ralke.
Stereo versions of Wall of Sound tracks can result in heated debate. Some take the side of Spector himself, arguing that the stereo undermines the original mono impact of the production technique, others love the fact that you can get a better understanding of the different elements that make up the Wall.
What’s your stance on this? Any stereo versions that you prefer over the mono mix?
The Spector ‘stereo’ tracks are not true stereo. Unless you enjoy the entire rhythm section on the right channel, strings on the left channel and vocals in the center. Spector didn’t record for stereo, just utilized the three tracks available to him to record on. Sonny & Cher’s early productions were recorded with that method as well and are not my preference.
Regarding Spector’s Philles productions, I am an admirer of the dense, ‘one microphone over everything’ sound of glorious monophonic.
And finally, – not a question but rather a wholehearted thanks for taking your time to give this interview – and above all making your incredible collection available for us all to hear online.
Thank YOU, for adding another dimension of enlightenment and praise to this style of music that I so admire and love.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – –
As a postscript to the interview, I can’t resist listing my current 5 favorite songs from Anthony’s channel that I can thank him for discovering.
I probably wouldn’t have come across these, and countless others, if it hadn’t been for Anthony. Rather than slowing down the post with too many embedded videos, I’m listing the direct links. Enjoy!
My guess is that since you’ve taken the time to read some of the posts here, you probably already know quite a bit about the Wall of Sound. I assume you’re well aware that as a 60s musical phenomenon the Wall of Sound wasn’t limited to the releases on Phil Spector’s Philles Records.
It’s basic music business instinct to jump on the bandwagon, whenever something catches on and sets the Top 40 on fire. So it’s no surprise that once Phil Spector had major hits under his belt, numerous imitators copied his distinctive style hoping to garner quick sales.
But there’s also another element. Besides the remarkable success Spector had with his Philles label, he was also greatly admired by his producer contemporaries or those who was just trying to carve out a place for themselves in the record business. Dubbed the ‘Tycoon of Teen’ early on, Phil Spector proved that you could have great success following your instincts and personal quirks rather than producing records the conventional way. He literally broke every rule in the book, – meters going in the red, singles running over the advised length for radio airplay, string arrangements more suitable for Wagner than pop etc.
That so many copied Spector during the 60s wasn’t only down to the prospect of having hits. It was also a case of testing yourself to see if you had it in you to follow in his footsteps. And who knows? Perhaps even beat him at his own game. I can imagine that when a producer heard the Wall of Sound back then, it was like having Spector slap you in the face with a glove and challenge you to a no-holds-barred, echo-chamber-crunching duel! Look at Brian Wilson for god’s sake. Literally shaking, he had to pull over his car when he first heard ‘Be my Baby’ blaring from the car radio!
Brian and many others took up the challenge and rose to the occasion with fantastic results. The British specialist re-issue label Ace Records has issued a fantastic serious of CDs during the 00s called ‘Phil’ Spectre’. Over three volumes they have compiled some of the best 60s Spector soundalikes. If you don’t own these compilations already, go buy them immediately. They are as essential as some of Phil Spector’s best work. Highly recommended! And that also goes for other Ace Records compilations focusing on the work of Spector’s favourite arranger Jack ‘Specs’ Nitzsche or the Brill Building songwriting duos whose best songs often got the Wall of Sound treatment. Spectorphiles worldwide have a lot to thank Ace Records for.
Sadly, the label has indicated that we have probably seen the last volume in the series. They are difficult to compile since the most appropriate songs for inclusion are spread over a myriad of obscure labels. You can imagine how that results in a licensing nightmare.
So what do you do if you have a craving for obscure attempts at the Wall of Sound but aren’t willing to spend years and a fortune rummaging through old boxes for dusty 45s? Enter Anthony Reichardt.
Anthony has a truly mindblowing collection of singles that show how sparks flew all over when Spector’s sonic call to arms made the US music scene reverberate. Best of all, Anthony graciously offers all fans the chance to listen in via his incredible Youtube channel. You can literally spend hours there browsing through his playlists and checking out interesting videos, – it’s the Youtube equivalent of walking into a record shop and discovering a box in the far corner labeled ‘Obscure Spector Sounds.’
The amount of great work on those playlists is mindboggling. We’re talking at least 10 potential ‘Phil’s Spectre’ volumes here. Anthony’s videos are beautifully compiled and almost all feature all the info on the artist, label, studio etc he has been able to locate.