The world of music was shaken yesterday as we found out that Phil Spector has been convicted of second degree murder after actress Lana Clarkson was found shot dead in his house.

Phil Spector

Phil Spector

Although people are quick to scorn the man who has been a virtual recluse since Lana was shot through the mouth in his home back in 2003, we think it’s time to look back at the life and career of the former music producer.

Early Life

Born on December 26, 1940, Harvey Phillip Spector, he grew up in a middle class Jewish family in the Bronx in New York City until 1949 - when his father committed suicide - prompting the family to move to Los Angeles.

It was the move to LA that sparked Phil’s interest in rock music, and in turn, prompted him to take part in a number of musical events and groups; namely The Teddy Bears, with his friends from high school, Marshall Lieb, Harvey Goldstein, and singer Annette Kleinbard.

Whilst trying to expand his knowledge of the music industry as much as possible, Phil Spector often visited local recording studios, which payed off as he won the confidence of record producer Stan Ross, co-owner of Gold Star Studios in Hollywood, who, in turn, began to tutor the young man in record production and who exerted a major influence on Spector's production style.

Early Career

As Phil spent more and more time in the studio, he called time on The Teddy bears, hoping to make a career behind the scenes, and in doing so, he quickly learnt his trade, and co-wrote the Ben E. King Top 10 hit "Spanish Harlem", with Jerry Leiber.

Spector started to find his feet when Leiber recommended he should produce Ray Peterson's Corrina, Corrina, which reached number nine in January 1961, and that wasn’t the only top ten he bagged in the early days either, later, he produced Curtis Lee’ Pretty Little Angel Eyes which made it to number seven.

That year, he decided it was time to form his own studio, so he joined forces with Lester Sill, and together they created Philles Records and before long, Spector had found three groups he wanted to produce: The Ducanes, The Creations, and The Crystals.

Unfortunately, The first two signed with other companies, but Spector managed to secure The Crystals, and their first single, There's No Other (Like My Baby) was a real success, reaching number 20 in the charts, whilst their next release, Uptown, did even better, making it to number 13.

Though he was busy running his own company, Phil also worked freelance, and briefly took a job as head of A&R for Liberty Records. Whilst there he heard a song written by Gene Pitney, called He's a Rebel, which was due to be released on Liberty by Vicki Carr, but Spector rushed into Gold Star Studios and recorded a cover version using Darlene Love on lead vocals, released it through the Crystals, and quickly rose to the top of the charts.

Although, by the time the single made it to the top of the charts, Lester Sill had left the company, and Spector had Philles all to himself. To cure the boredom, he created a new act, Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans, featuring Darlene Love and Bobby Sheen, a singer he had worked with at Liberty.

The Wall Of Sound

Anyone who was following Phil Spector back in the early days must have heard of his trademark Wall of Sound, which was a production technique that utilised a dense, layered effect that reproduced well on AM radio and jukeboxes; thus making him very highly in demand.

He was also known for his temperamental and quirky personality with strong, often unconventional ideas about musical and recording techniques, and despite the trend towards multi-channel recording, Spector was strongly opposed to stereo releases, claiming that it took control of the record's sound away from the producer in favour of the listener

The Golden Years

In early 1965,The Righteous Brothers’ You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin‘, became the label's second number one single, for Spector’s label, but that was just the tip of the iceberg, as three more major hits followed, including the massive hit, Unchained Melody, which found it’s real success 25 years after Phil had worked his magic, when it was featured prominently in the 1990 hit movie, Ghost.

Phil Spector's final signing to Philles was the husband-and-wife team of Ike and Tina Turner in 1966, and he worked his magic on their recording of River Deep - Mountain High, but it seemed too little too late for Phil, who was rapidly losing enthusiasm for his label and the recording industry.

However, not content with letting work pass him by, there’s no denying that it’s widely regarded that Phil’s greatest achievement is the work he did on John Lennon’s Imagine, which cemented Phil’s name in the British music industry.

Following his success with Lennon, Spector was invited to turn the Beatles abandoned "Get Back" recording sessions into a usable album; which in time was turned into Let It Be - a massive commercial success which topped the US and UK charts.

Following the break up, the solo career’s of The Beatles often featured Spector’s handiwork, and Lennon used him for the 1971 Christmas single Happy Xmas (War Is Over).

No one can deny that the 1970’s saw Phil become a virtual recluse following a horrific car crash in Hollywood which saw him narrowly escape death after being thrown through the windshield of his car.

The accident couldn’t have come at a worst time either, as he had just established the Warner-Spector label, which undertook new recordings with Dion, Cher, Harry Nilsson and others.

After taking some time off, Phil returned with a controversial 1977 album by Leonard Cohen, entitled Death of a Ladies' Man, which angered many devout Cohen fans who were used to his stark acoustic sound versus the orchestral and choral wall of sound the album contains, but showing just how much people resist change, that album is now considered one of Cohen's best.

Recent Years

We didn’t see much from Phil Spector in the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s, although he did attempt to work with Céline Dion on Falling Into You, Silence Is Easy by Starsailor, as well as The Vines which was halted because of his murder trial, which has, in turn, resulted in a 18 year jail sentence.

Regardless of the trial outcome, what Phil Spector has done for the music business, no-one can take away from him.

FemaleFirst - Ruth Harrison

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