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On this day in music history: November 22, 1963 - “A Christmas Gift To You From Philles Records” by Phil Spector/Various Artists is released. Produced by Phil Spector, it is recorded at Gold Star Studios in Hollywood, CA in the Summer 1963. The thirteen track album features traditional holiday favorites given Spector’s famed “Wall Of Sound” treatment sung by Philles artists such as The Ronettes, Darlene Love, The Crystals and Bob B. Soxx & The Blue Jeans, with musical backing by members of The Wrecking Crew. The album sells poorly at first due to it being released on the day of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, though its popularity grows as time passes. The album is reissued in 1972 by Apple Records, and subsequently by Warner/Spector Records in 1974 (featuring first release of the album in true stereo). Original Philles Records pressings are rare, and now sell for $400-500 in excellent to near mint condition. Over the years, it comes to be regarded as one of the greatest holiday albums of all time, being reissued yearly from the mid 70’s to the present day. In November of 2014, Sony Music (current distributor of the Philles Records catalog) issues a limited edition vinyl pressing of the album pressed on red vinyl for Black Friday Record Store Day. “A Christmas Gift For You From Philles Records” is inducted into The Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1999.

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Candid photographs of John Lennon, George Harrison and Yoko Ono a year after the split of The Beatles. The photographs were taken by Phil Spector (an executive for Apple records and Decca who worked on The Beatles final album Let It Be) in July 1971, in a New York appartment where George asked John to perform at his charity concert for refugees in Bangladesh. But soon after the photos were taken a row sparked between John and Yoko, and John ended up pulling out. George stipulated it was only John he wanted to perform and not Yoko.

George Harrison in New York City, 30 October 1970; photographed by Tim Boxer.

“In July [1970], after a long struggle with illness, George’s mother - who had stood alone among the The Beatle parents as an active champion of their talents - died in Liverpool, and the sessions were put on hold. To complicate matters yet further, Clapton was obsessing over Pattie [Boyd].” - Mojo, July 2001 [x]

“When I was making All Things Must Pass in 1970, not only did I have Phil Spector going to the hospital and all this trouble, besides organizing the Trident Studios schedule in London with Derek & the Dominos - who many forget got their start on that record - but also my mother got really ill. I was going all the way up and down England to Liverpool trying to see her in the hospital. Bad time. She’d got a tumor on the brain, but the doctor was an idot and he was saying, ‘There’s nothing wrong with her, she’s having some psychological trouble.’ When I went to see her she didn’t even know who I was. [voice stiffing with anger] I had to punch the doctor out, ‘cause in England the family doctor has to be the one to get the specialist. So he got the guy to look at her and she ended up in the neurological hospital. The specialist said, ‘She could end up being a vegetable, but if it was my wife or my mother I’d do the operation’ - which was a horrendous thing where they had to drill a hole in her skull. She recovered a little bit for about seven months. And during that period my father, who’d taken care of her, had suddenly exploded with ulcers and he was in the same hospital. So I was pretending to both of them that the other one was okay. Then, running back and forth to do this record, I wrote that song. I made it up at home one exhausted morning with those major and minor chords. It’s filled with that frustration of going in these hospitals, and the feeling of disease - as the word’s meaning truly is - that permeated the atmosphere. Not being able to do anything for suffering family or loved ones is an awful experience.” - Musician, November 1987 [x]

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Tina Turner recording “River deep, Mountain High” with Phil Spector at Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles, 1966. 

Phil Spector offered $20,000 upfront to Ike Turner in exchange for total control over the production. Spector made Tina Turner sing the song for hours on end until she got it just right. “I must have sung that 500,000 times,” she said. “I was drenched with sweat. I had to take my shirt off and stand there in my bra to sing.” Using Spector’s “Wall of Sound” production technique, it required 21 session musicians and 21 background vocalists for the recording, including Hal Blaine, Leon Russell and Glen Campbell. George Harrison praised the record, declaring it “a perfect record from start to finish. You couldn’t improve on it.” Though it peaked at 3 on the Billboard 100 in the United Kingdom, it was a relative disappointment reaching 88 in the United States. That drove Spector mad and he went into semi-retirement. “I think when it came out, it was just like my farewell,” Spector told Rolling Stone in 1969. “I was just saying goodbye, and I wanted to go crazy for four minutes on wax.”

Photos by Ray Avery

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Some of Cathy Sarver’s photographs of George Harrison, and parts of the note George wrote to Cathy, Carol and Lucy after All Things Must Pass was completed, screen capped from the documentary Beatles Stories: A Fab Four Fan’s Ultimate Road Trip.

“An Apple Scruff was a Beatle fan that came to Apple every day Monday through Friday. Everybody knows the name of their business was Apple, and we hung out on the front steps of their building, waiting for them to arrive. And then once they’d arrived, we were waiting for them to leave.When George finished the song ‘Apple Scruffs’, he asked us to all come in. And of course, we were dumbfounded because we were never asked to come in. We’re all sitting in there and they turn on the song ‘Apple Scruffs’. ‘Apple Scruffs, how I love you.’ It was amazing. We were all in a little huddle around him. He handed us this letter.

[reading in full] ‘Dear Carol, Cathy and Lucy. Now as it’s finished - and off to the factory. I thought I’d tell you that I haven’t a clue whether it’s good or bad as I’ve heard it too much now! During the making of this epic album (most expensive album EMI ever had to pay for) I have felt positive and negative - pleased and displeased, and all the other opposites expected to be found in this material world. However, the one thing that didn’t waver, seems to me, to be ‘you three’ and Mal, always there as my sole supporters, and even during my worst moments I always felt the encouragement from you was sufficient to make me finish the thing. Thanks a lot, I am really overwhelmed by your apparent undying love, and I don’t understand it at all! Love from George (P.S. Don’t hold this evidence against me.) P.P.S. Phil Spector loves you too!

He was a sweet man.” - Cathy Sarver, Beatles Stories: A Fab Four Fan’s Ultimate Road Trip [x]

Episode #7 - Celebrities Who Have Killed People (Phil Spector: An American Treasure) is available now! 

Rae, Repy, and Austyn discuss the cases of music producer Phil Spector, basketball player Jayson Williams, and actor Johnny Lewis, who were all separately involved in ending the lives of three innocent people; Lana Clarkson, Costas Christofi, and Catherine Davis, respectively.