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Phil Spector is dead: From the »Wall of Sound« behind the prison wall - Obituary


In the 1960s, Phil Spector revolutionized pop music and created world hits. The music producer convicted of manslaughter spent the last years of his life behind bars. An obituary.

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Phil Spector 2007 shortly before his trial in Los Angeles: From "Mad Genius" to criminal monster



"I'd say I'm probably relatively crazy to some extent," said Phil Spector just weeks before he was charged in November 2003 with the murder of actress Lana Clarkson.

In the interview with the British Daily Telegraph, the first that the reclusive music producer had given in many years, the then 63-year-old revealed himself to be a soul tormented by demons.

He talked about his bipolar disorder and his fear of suffering from schizophrenia.

“Believe me, you don't want my life,” he told the newspaper, “because it hasn't been a particularly pleasant life.

I wasn't happy «.

In the 1960s, Spector revolutionized pop music with his recording technique known as the "Wall of Sound" and created world hits such as "Da Doo Ron Ron", "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" or "River Deep Mountain High".

But then he became the "Mad Genius of Rock'n'Roll", a feared, criminal monster.

In 2009, a US court sentenced him to 19 years in prison for manslaughter, and Spector has been in prison in California ever since.

He died in a local hospital at the age of 81, possibly as a result of a Covid 19 disease.

Almost all malice, bitterness and sarcasm

On Twitter and other social media, things remained unusually calm on Sunday when Spector's death became known, when a great figure in pop history passed away.

Hardly any “rest in peace”, no celebrities condoling sadly or sharing memories from their common history with the dead.

Instead almost all malice, bitterness and sarcasm.

A Twitter user wrote that instead of paying tribute to Spector, it would be better to remember the Ronettes, the female vocal trio from Harlem who became famous with Spector hits like "Be My Baby".

In 1968 Spector married the Ronettes singer Ronnie, then locked her up with several adopted children in his castle-like villa in Southern California, abused them and threatened to kill them, as she described it in her 1990 biography.

In 1972 she fled with the help of her mother: "I knew I would die there if I didn't go." Decades later, Spector shot and killed Lana Clarkson, a chance acquaintance he met in a music club, in the same house.

At first he had claimed that she killed herself.

Similar to other deeply fallen stars in music and film history, including Roman Polański, Michael Jackson and R. Kelly, it seems impossible to separate the work from its creator the more one learns about the dark abysses that open up underneath .

From today's perspective, Phil Spector is above all a murderer and an overbearing tyrant who was notorious in the late stages of his producer career for threatening musicians, allegedly including the Ramones and songwriter Leonard Cohen, at gunpoint in the studio.

In 1966 he had Tina Turner sing against a 21-piece orchestra with an equally strong background choir until she was exhausted.

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Phil Spector in Court (2005): "I am my own worst enemy"

Photo: Damian Dovarganes / AP

Back then, such hair-raising stories, be they true or not, were overshadowed by the success and aura of his sublime music.

These were other, ruthless times, a stormy gold rush in the music industry that turned men like Spector into inviolable rulers, whose madness was tolerated if not admired or ridiculed as eccentric.

In 1965, the reporter Tom Wolfe wrote an essay on Spector and his immensely successful and youth-popular music, which he composed for girl groups such as The Ronettes and The Crystals, entitled "The First Tycoon of Teen".

Beach Boys composer Brian Wilson, himself a pop genius, once called Spector "the greatest inspiration of my entire life."

John Lennon, who had worked with Spector on the Beatles album "Let It Be" and some solo albums, considered him the "greatest producer of all time."

Paul McCartney hated Spector's opulence, however, and in 2003 he released the album again in a tonally reduced version as "Let It Be ... Naked".

Spector, who liked to show himself in public with grotesque, poodle-like wigs, turned what was previously considered nerdy and gray as a producer into something colorful.

The man at the sliders of pop was suddenly seen as a gifted


, as the director of an orchestrated work of art.

"I knew that Beethoven was more important than anyone who played his music," Spector once said.

He described his pop approach as "Wagnerian"; he wanted to create "little symphonies for the kids".

The composer and sound designer Spector also borrowed the pathos and the moment of overwhelm from Richard Wagner's opera bombast.

In the mid-1960s, the no less flamboyant British music producer and Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham called Spector's opulent layers of sound a “wall of sound” and used the term to advertise an album by the Righteous Brothers produced by Spector (“Unchained Melody”).

This “wall of sound”, which Spector and his “Wrecking Crew” recording team built in the Gold Star Studio in LA and later in the Brill Building on New York's famous Tin Pan Alley, changed pop music forever.

Early techniques of overdubbing and layering

Spector was one of the first to make a recording not just with a guitarist and a drummer or percussionist, but with four or five at the same time, plus numerous strings, brass, several basses and accompanying instruments of all kinds Play the recorded music back through the studio speakers during further rehearsals, which created distorting, almost cacophonic reverb effects like in an echo chamber.

These early techniques of overdubbing and layering, today's standards of modern pop production, resulted in a dense, very loud sound through subsequent compression, which no longer allows individual instruments to be heard: a stunning, maximally powerful effect.

Brian Wilson used similar methods for the groundbreaking Beach Boys albums "Pet Sounds" and "Smile".

Bruce Springsteen used the "Wall of Sound" for his album "Born to Run", among other things.

Spector's compositions, the melancholy melt of the Righteous Brothers, Ben E. King's "Spanish Harlem" and the songs of his own early band The Teddy Bears always had something gloomy about them, a hint of great tragedy.

"He installed a drama in pop music that didn't exist before him," said rock producer Jimmy Iovine in 1990 to Rolling Stone.

Disappeared in obscurity

This can already be heard in Spector's first hit with the Teddy Bears and singer Annette Kleinbard, which landed at number one on the US billboard charts in 1958.

Spector, born in 1939 into the lower middle class of the New York Bronx, borrowed the title of the ballad from his father's gravestone, whose inscription read: "To Know Him Is To Love Him."

Benjamin Spector, a son of Jewish immigrants and metal workers, had committed suicide in 1949 when his son Harvey Phillip was just eight years old.

It is, perhaps, a primal trauma that Spector could never overcome.

It wouldn't excuse anything.

After a decade, whose pop music he had a decisive influence, Spector disappeared into obscurity in the mid-1970s after an almost fatal car accident and became a hermit.

The world rediscovered him when the 2003 murder charge hit the headlines.

Even at the height of his success, he never felt he belonged, he told the Daily Telegraph about his mental health problems, he wasn't doing well enough to function as a regular part of society, so he didn't done: "I am my own worst enemy."  

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Source: spiegel

All life articles on 2021-01-18

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