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Monday, November 29, 2010

Little Symphonies For The Kids: The Phil Spector Story

BOOK REVIEW

Tearing Down The Wall Of Sound
The Rise And Fall Of Phil Spector
by Mick Brown
Published 2007

    Phil Spector, currently doing a life sentence, is a personal hero of mine.  I don't think there is any one person who is more emblematic of the story of popular music in the 20th century then Spector.  Spector was born in NYC, moved to LA as a kid, had a hit record before he was out of high school, gave up on a career as a performer before he was 20, hung out with the Brill Building Gang in NYC in the early days of rock n roll, invented the Wall Of Sound in a Los Angeles studio- recording in Mono, ran his own record label and publishing firm, made a Beatles record, made a John Lennon record, made a Ramones record, became an alcoholic, lived as a recluse for twenty years and killed a woman after a lifetime of drinking and playing with guns.

  It is clear from Tearing Down the Wall of Sound that Spector had mental illness running strong in his family (his father was a suicide and his older sister spent her life in and out of mental institutions.)  Independent of any issues regarding mental illness, he also had a lifetime inferiority complex that led him to isolate himself from humanity and led to the disintegration of almost human relationship he every formed.

   Spector's main contribution to the history of popular music was his creation of the rock producer as star.  That was his goal from the very beginning- he wanted to be 'bigger than the music.'  He created the Wall of Sound by jamming dozens of musicians together in the same room and having them play the same note at the same time.  The fact that he accomplished this...in Mono, is perhaps the most impressive part of the Spector legacy.  He called his approach "writing little symphonies for the kids" and was the first person to take the art of rock and roll seriously.  He understood that pop music for teenagers could be art before anyone else.

  How this book has avoided becoming a movie is beyond me- Spector even had his lead actor picked out (Al Pacino.)  I'd love to see a movie about Phil Spector.  When can that happen?

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