Spector, Phil

Spector, Phil

▪ American record producer
in full  Harvey Phillip Spector  
born Dec. 26, 1940, New York City, N.Y., U.S.

      American record producer of the 1960s, described by the writer Tom Wolfe as the “First Tycoon of Teen.” There had been producers since the beginning of the record industry, but none had assumed the degree of control demanded by Spector.

      At age 18 he and two Los Angeles school friends recorded "To Know Him Is to Love Him," a simple teenage ballad (pop ballad) written by Spector, its title taken from his father's gravestone. Released under the name of the Teddy Bears, it was one of the biggest hits of 1958. But the group was never to be heard from again, because Spector had other ideas. He moved to New York City and served an apprenticeship with the writer-producer team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller (Leiber and Stoller) before branching out to supervise the recordings of Curtis Lee ( "Pretty Little Angel Eyes" ), the Paris Sisters ( "I Love How You Love Me" ), and others. In 1962, needing to escape the restraining influence of older and more conservative opinion, he formed his own label, Philles Records, and, working at in Los Angeles, he began to release a string of records that demonstrated his unique vision of what pop music could achieve in its age of innocence.

      With the Crystals' "Da Doo Ron Ron" and "Then He Kissed Me" and the Ronettes' "Be My Baby" and "Baby I Love You," Spector blended conventional teen romance sentiments with orchestral arrangements of immense scale and power in what he described as “little symphonies for the kids.” Others called it the wall of sound, and the style reached a peak in 1965 with the blue-eyed soul of the Righteous Brothers' epic "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'," a huge worldwide hit. Spector threatened to top it with Ike and Tina Turner (Turner, Ike)'s majestic "River Deep—Mountain High" the following year, but some sectors of the music industry, jealous of his success and irritated by his arrogance, ensured its commercial failure. A wounded Spector went into a retirement from which he briefly emerged in 1969 to work on the solo records of John Lennon (Lennon, John) and George Harrison, at whose behest (and to Paul McCartney's lasting displeasure) he completed the postproduction of Let It Be, the Beatles (Beatles, the)' final album. Later collaborations with Leonard Cohen (Cohen, Leonard) and the Ramones (Ramones, the) were no more successful than his attempts to reestablish his own label. His time had gone.

      In 2003 a woman was fatally shot at Spector's home, and he was subsequently charged with murder. His 2007 trial ended in a mistrial after the jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision.

Richard Williams

Representative Works

● Various artists, Philles Records Presents Today's Hits (1963)
● Various artists, A Christmas Gift for You (1963)
● Ronettes, Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes (1964)
● George Harrison, All Things Must Pass (1970)
● John Lennon, Rock 'n' Roll (1975)

Additional Reading
Mark Ribowsky, He's a Rebel (1989), is a biography. Ronnie Spector and Vince Waldron, Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness, or My Life as a Fabulous Ronette (1990), written by Spector's singer-wife, describes life in and out of the studio with Spector. Richard Williams, Out of His Head: The Sound of Phil Spector (1972); and John J. Fitzpatrick and James E. Fogerty, Collecting Phil Spector: The Man, the Legend, and the Music (1991), discuss Spector's work.

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Universalium. 2010.

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