phil spector


On this day in music history: May 28, 1966 - “River Deep - Mountain High” by Ike & Tina Turner is released. Written by Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich and Phil Spector, is the first collaboration between Turner and legendary producer Spector. In the Spring of 1966, Phil Spector approaches Tina Turner about working together. Well aware of Ike Turner’s reputation, and the tight control he has over his wife’s career, Spector pays Ike $20,000 to work with Tina and keep him out of the studio. Recorded at Gold Star Studios with members of The Wrecking Crew, Spector intends it to be his “ultimate production”. The single is credited to Ike & Tina, though Ike does not actually perform on it. However, it flops in the US peaking at #88 on the Hot 100 on June 18, 1966. Though it is a big success across Europe, hitting #3 on the UK singles chart. Crushed by the records failure in the US, Spector goes into a deep depression, causing him to withdraw from the music business for nearly two years, and signals the beginning of his decline both professionally and psychologically. In time, “River Deep - Mountain High” is regarded as one of Phil Spector’s greatest achievements, and is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1999. The song is covered numerous times over the years, including versions by Nilsson, The Supremes & The Four Tops, Deep Purple, and Celine Dion.


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]


Record producer Phil Spector with his then-future wife Veronica Bennett (Ronnie Spector), lead singer of the Ronettes at Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles, California, 1966.

After they married in 1968, Phil Spector pulled her from the limelight and imprisoned her in his California mansion. The only time Spector allowed her to leave was once a month, “to go get my feminine stuff, if you catch my drift” she told The Telegraph. If she was gone longer than 20 minutes he’d send a bodyguard. According to her, she would be summoned to Phil’s side while he was recording with other artists – just to sit on the stool next to him, not moving. “He would say, ‘You’re my inspiration,‘” she recalls. She would be punished like a little girl, often sent to bed hungry.

He’d scream at her so violently, she says, that she eventually became mute: “The last year of my marriage I didn’t talk at all. Because if I said anything he’d yell at me, so why say anything. I was a scared little girl from Spanish Harlem living in this mansion with five servants, not knowing what to do with any of it. I cried every night I was married.”

Finally in 1972 she escaped after a visit from her worried mother. Spector had a glass coffin installed in the basement of his home. He showed Ronnie’s mother, telling her it’s where Ronnie will lie if she ever tries to leave him. Ronnie and her mother plotted her escape. Spector had two dogs at the front gates and a dog by the car. They asked his permission to go on a walk and left. He often hid her shoes so she left barefoot.


(In Which We Cover Covers)

The Ramones – “Baby, I Love You” 

On paper, End Of The Century sounds like a match made in heaven. Phil Spector, one of the all time great rock producers, teams up with The Ramones, one of the most paradigm-shifting bands in history (and a secret descendent of the work that Spector did in the 60s). That seems like the sort of pairing that could draw out something great. But instead, it only led to an okay record (and a lot of scary gun stuff, because Phil Spector is a spectacularly shitty human being). 

I think that the reason for this can be seen most clearly in the album’s cover of “Baby, I Love You” which Spector originally wrote and produced for The Ronettes. The main problem, I think, is that it’s not a Ramones song: it’s a Joey Ramone song produced by Phil Spector. Far too often on End Of The Century, Spector removes everything that’s great about The Ramones and turns them into just another act for him to channel his music through. And that’s a shame, because the moments that feel like Phil Spector AND The Ramones are the best parts of the album. 

On “Do You Remember Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio?” they take a classic Spector pop song and crank up the energy so that it flails and gallops like the best of their tracks do. The results are invigorating. And my favorite song on the album, “This Ain’t Havana” could have come from any of their previous records, except for the fact that Spector makes the kick drums sound like they’re from a fucking Viking warship. It’s a subtle but awesome flourish that leaves you wishing that Spector had the sense to take a more of a supporting role in the partnership. 

Unfortunately, those moments are exception, rather than the norm. That’s the ultimate reason that End Of The Century falls short of greatness: it’s too often a Ramones album without The Ramones.