S!TOP PRESS!!! April 14th 2009!!! STOP PRESS!!!
Updated Phil Spector stuff here!
Shit, it’s a gun. Phil Spector really is bonkers. And that’s an understatement. One read of Ronnie Spector’s autobiography (Be My Baby) will tell you that. Between locking her in her room, only letting her go out in the car if she took an inflatable version of himself for the passenger seat, to presenting her out of the blue with foster children, Phil had total control over Ronnie. That recent programme on Channel 4 showed him in an increasing number of crazy wigs, making an increasing number of crazy claims. No doubt about it, he killed the actress. We all know that. But……
Despite his obvious freakishness, he couldn’t half create a brilliant record. ‘Pop blues‘ he called them. Layer upon layer of guitar, drums, bass, strings, whatever percussion was lying about. And vocals. Heaps of vocals. Tons of vocals. Tapes upon tapes of takes upon takes of vocals. Ronnie thought they all sounded the same but Phil would always hear something not quite right about it and make her do another take of the same song. I own the best box set ever. I bought ‘Back To Mono’ in Vancouver 10 years ago and played it to death. Once a year I get it out and play it daft for a week. In the car, in the house, on the iPod. I thought music couldn’t sound any better. Then I stumbled acroos a 5CD bootleg of Phil’s studio outtakes. That’s music porn for a trainspotter like me. Listen! There’s extra tambourine on that one! D’you hear that? That’s Glen Campbell playing guitar! Which one? The one soaked in a gallon of reverb of course! Those 5CDs are way too much to sit through in one go. In fact, you’d have to be about as weird as Phil if you wanted too, but dipped into now and again they’re a brilliant snapshot of how he created his 3 minute ‘pocket symphonies for teenagers.’ They remind me a lot of the ‘Pet Sounds sessions’ box set, where Brian Wilson barks orders from the control room. Another mad genius. Another post no doubt. In the meantime, here’s 3 tracks that I think you’ll like.
“This is real music, baby!” Take 2 of ‘The Boy I’m Going To Marry’. Phil gave Ronnie the song. He was still married at the time. She didn’t know. But she did know that she was going to marry Phil so she put her heart and soul into singing this. Then her and Phil nipped out the back somewhere and had sex. Eugh! It’s all in the book. Think about that while you’re listening to it. Or maybe you shouldn’t.
Da Doo Ron Ronnie
Takes 1, 2, 3 and 4 of ‘Soldier Baby’. A wee bit hissy, but lots of studio chatter throughout this one. Phil cracks the whip. “One more time, let’s go.” Ronnie sings her heart out like she’s singing it for the first time, every time. “Ron. C’mon. Let’s go!” “Nah! I have to have a drum. C’mon. Let’s do it in tempo. C’mon c’mon!” “You’re going too slow. That intro’ll be ad-libed. I’ll just direct it. OK. Here we go…I, 2, 3 …” Jeez. No wonder he carried a gun. Shoot or be shot. The Ronettes and assembled musicians carried out like the true pros they were. Here’s Take 6, complete with handclaps and backing vocals to prove it.
Ronnie’s the one in the middle. John Lennon fancied her like mad. George Harrison went out with her sister Estelle (on the left)
I’ve saved the best for last. Two takes of ‘Baby I Love You’. The first is a straight rehearsal run through (Take 12) of Phil’s finest moment. The second version is just about the best thing I’ve ever uploaded. If you only download one thing this week, make it this one. An unknown take of ‘Baby I Love You’, sans music. It’s just a few handclaps, the Ronettes backing vocals and wee Ronnie singing her heart out. It’s bloody magic and could teach any of today’s ‘singers’ a thing or two. Woah oh, woah oh oh oh!
Poor Phil. I love Phil Spector. Rather, I love his music. You can’t deny he’s made many a fine finger-poppin’ track, even if the only hits he’s known for nowadays are not of the musical kind. To think that this blog was nearly named after him. I’m glad it’s not. I can’t imagine ojsimpson.blog.com gets that much traffic these days. But you never know.
Professor plumb, lead pipe, billiard room