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Mono-Lithic

December 21, 2015

mono

[mon-oh]
Adjective
monophonic sound; monophony, the favoured recording method pioneered in the 1960s by Phil Spector.

monolithic

[mon-uhlith-ik]
Adjective

characterised by massiveness, total uniformity, rigidity, invulnerability, etc.

darlene love phil spector

Darlene Love‘s Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) is massiveness incarnate. Invulnerable, invincible and right at the top of the Christmas tree when it comes to the best musical festive fare ever recorded. The only original track to appear on Phil Spector‘s A Christmas Gift For You LP, it’s a thumping major to minor rock ‘n roll tearjerker about lost love. Phil Spector originally put it together with the intention of having his wife Ronnie along with the other Ronettes record it. But after a few false starts and failed takes, he quickly realised she wasn’t singing it with the requisite oomph and instead drafted in Darlene Love.

Ronnie recalls her time in the studio with Specctor:

“Phil worked everybody so hard on the album and the days kind of blurred into each other, thinking about it now. But there was a real Christmas party atmosphere in the studio, even though it was the height of summer, and a lot of great musicians were involved. They weren’t that well-known at the time but so many of them went on to become famous in their own right, like Leon Russell. Sonny Bono and Cher were involved in a lot of the stuff too, so was Glen Campbell. We worked hard, though, some days we’d be in the studio for eight or nine hours just doing one verse of one song.”

Darlene was way down the pecking order with Spector. She’d sang lead on He’s A Rebel for The Crystals and had applied her Noo Yoik drawl to umpteen of Spector’s kitchen sink productions, but Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) was one of the first times she’d been allowed to fly solo and, as you’ll know if you’ve heard the record, she soars gloriously.

The song was released with high hopes ahead of Christmas 1963, but in a bizarre twist of fate found itself released on the very day JFK was assassinated in Dallas. Holiday spirit instantly ruined, the record failed to find airplay amongst the bulletins lamenting the President’s death and was quickly withdrawn from sale. What could’ve been the greatest Christmas number 1 of all time never came to be.

Darlene LoveChristmas (Please Come Home)

darlene love phil spector 2

Spector loved the finished version. So much in fact, (and no doubt stung by the record’s withdrawal), he felt the record had year-round appeal. Such a brilliant cacophony of sound shouldn’t be kept under lock and key and only let out for one month in twelve, so he asked Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich to re-write it as a ‘boyfriend song’. Minus a few sleigh bells but not much else, it still sounds brilliant, yet somehow not quite right. Years of associating it with Christmas makes it a bit of a strange one.

Darlene LoveJohnny (Please Come Home)

This version was hidden away on an obscure b-side and failed to live up to Spector’s wish. Indeed, not a lot of people know it even exists. There you have it.

7 comments

  1. Top of the pile and I suspect that it may well feature elsewhere in the not too distant future.
    Interesting back story and great pictures


  2. My words. Pictures by Google!


  3. It may well feature elsewhere CC. The ultimate Christmas tune,

    What single is Johnny the flip to? None of the ones I have I just rechecked


  4. Not until 1977 – bside of ‘Lord, If You’re A Woman’. I’ve never heard it.


  5. Just checked it out. He thew everything including the kitchen sink into the production.


  6. Wouldn’t expect anything less. All killer, no filler. THAT phrase would come back to bite him on the arse.


  7. It is generally excepted that Johnny was recorded to be issued immediately after Christmas 1963 to follow up on the hit momentum of Christmas. That was because DJs stopped playing Christmas songs on Dec 25th. Dec 26th the DJs would have Johnny to play. Since Christmas was issued on three Philles singles, three years in a row…and never became a hit. Johnny went unissued until the 70s.



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