By Harvey Kubernik
Stan Ridgway, in his Wall of Voodoo days, once sang a cover of Cash’s “Ring Of Fire.” The Spector (at left), Nitzsche and Gold Star sonic universe also made a dent in his musician/writer and vocalist DIY world, before he carved out unique cinematic solo career.
In 2002 I had lunch in Venice, Ca. with Stan who eagerly admitted Spector’s “Wall Of Sound” as the reason he named his former band Wall Of Voodoo.
“I tried to go to Gold Star recording studio in the early ’70s, when I first moved to Hollywood from Pasadena. My goal was to be a janitor and empty trash at Gold Star. O.K., I walk in. This is like in 1973. Maybe 1972. Nobody was there except the engineer and co-owner, Stan Ross. And he was sitting there in the engineering booth. “Look, Mr. Ross, my name is Stan and I’d like to work here. I love the stuff that has come out of this room.” Obviously, everything had already happened. There had been tumultuous activity, but that was long ago. So I sat with Stan, and he said there was no work available. Then I said, “Is that the board that did all the stuff?” “Yeah.” And he was very nice to me and gave me a tour for a half hour. I got to touch the faders and see what was done. Then I went into the small room.
“That’s where Wall of Voodoo came from. I tore Phil’s records apart, and I tore Brian Wilson’s records apart. Wall of Voodoo started way back when I was trying to form a soundtrack company on Hollywood Boulevard across from The Masque before it happened. And I used to call it Acme Soundtracks. When the rhythm machines came in, I used to collect them and make recordings where I would “wall-of-sound” these rhythm machines at the same tempo to build this sound. I said, this is like a “Wall of Sound.” Then someone came in and said, “No, it’s a tropical voodoo thing.” And I said, “It’s like a ‘Wall of Voodoo.'” We laughed and joked. We never thought that would be a name for a band. I know later in the ’70s, Phil Spector produced Dion (Di Mucci) at Gold Star. And I loved Dion. Another guy and voice who I really communicated with his whole swagger.
“And later, when I further investigated Phil’s records, I discovered who the “Wall of Sound” players were. It coincided and dovetailed with my examination and involvement in jazz. ‘Hey man, that’s Barney Kessel playing guitar in there.’ And the West Coast jazz cats doing stuff with Phil – and they had jazz records – were gigging and recording with (American jazz drummer) Shelly Manne. So everything made a lot of sense.
“I really admire Jack Nitzsche,” said Ridgway. “I met with him at Ben Frank’s in Hollywood. It was great. And he told me I didn’t really need a producer. He wasn’t trying to get a gig out of me. Jack was very honest with me. I was a little nervous meeting with him. He heard my four-track demos, and said, ‘Get an engineer and do it yourself.'”
In mid-December 2003, I met producer/arranger, Al De Lory, a Wrecking Crew alum, veteran of all of Phil’s Gold Star sessions, at his daughter Donna De Lory’s Valley Village house. Donna is an accomplished singer/songwriter/performer, and a dancer/collaborator with Madonna for the last decade and a half, who I was taking to a local Peter Gabriel concert that same evening at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.
Al currently lives in Nashville. A Grammy winner for his terrific work with Glen Campbell on those early Capitol sides including “Galveston” and “Wichita Lineman.” Earlier he was all over Brian Wilson’s “Pet Sounds” album on multiple instruments. Al once did a a single “Traffic Jam” b/w “”Yesterday,” a cover of the Beatles’ song for Spector’s Phil-Dan label.
The Spector Christmas album was playing when I met Al De Lory. Al and I had a short music discussion, exchanged addresses, and I mentioned that winter 2003 marks the 40th anniversary of this epic album. Al, still looking sharp, and playing weekly in a Salsa band in Nashville, remembered that in the fall of 1963, Phil gave everyone who performed on those Gold Star “A Christmas Gift For You” recording sessions a brand new Polaroid camera .
“The ‘Christmas’ album is really scary,” acknowledged David Kessel. “Because it’s so perfect, it’s impeccable. It’s just flawless. I would say honestly that it’s the prototype of ‘Sgt. Pepper.’ Because it’s right there. I’m not saying John Lennon is Ronnie Spector, or Darlene Love is Paul McCartney, Bobby Sheen is George Harrison, and Sonny Bono and the other voices are Ringo Starr. It’s a concept album. You can say Christmas already is the concept. No. How ’bout the concept about how you deal with the concept? That’s the ‘Sgt. Pepper’ part. ‘Cause we all know Christmas as a given. But how you attack it.”
End of the Century: The Ramones and Phil Spector
“It was my original concept for the Ramones and Phil Spector to record together,” reiterated Dan Kessel. “It was by no means an obvious combination. The most “minimalist” rock band, the Ramones, with the most “maximalist” record producer, Phil Spector. But it was my concept, and like it or not, it was a revolutionary concept. In fact, it was after “End of the Century” (the Ramones fifth studio album, left) that bands like U2 and others began experimenting with a more grandiose approach to their recorded sound. Artistically, that was my vision. I also worked on putting that deal together with the Ramones and Phil and Sire Records. I made it happen. Well, I should say, my brother and I.
“We were an integral part of the emerging punk scene in L.A. We’d met the Ramones at their first gig in L.A. at the Roxy. We took Phil with us to see the Ramones at the Whisky A Go Go, on the Sunset Strip. I suggested to Phil that he produce an album with them. My brother and I took the Ramones and Rodney Bingenheimer (a radio disc jockey on the long-running Los Angeles rock station KROQ) over to Phil’s house. My brother and I were part of the business meetings with Phil and Seymour Stein (co-founder of Sire Records). Prior to this deal I’d always received credit in connection with anything I’d done with Phil or anyone. But this time, based on the politics of the deal, my role as an Executive Producer of “End of the Century” went uncredited and my recorded work as a musician, playing keyboards, bass and percussion and singing background vocals was uncredited too. One thing I did receive credit for on that album was for my work as a guitarist. But, during a recording session, one night, I put my guitar down and turned on the Hammond B-3 organ, my brother stayed on guitar and we started jamming on “Hot Pastrami,” a 1963 hit single by the Dartells, which Phil had also recorded with the Ronettes. Joey (Ramone) started jumping around, screaming and shouting the original lyrics and making up some new ones. Phil ran out of the control booth and with the tape machines rolling, he grabbed my guitar (Ibanez Barney Kessel Model custom prototype) and immediately joined in, laying down a scorching jazz solo. The whole thing got pretty wild. That tape is still in his vault,” Dan volunteers.
On May 1, 1979 The Ramones entered Gold Star studio to begin their Phil Spector produced album, “End Of The Century.”
Drummer Marky Ramone has very positive things to say about his “End Of The Century” experience but remembers how Joey wasn’t the only band member who felt time at Gold Star often seemed endless. “John and Dee Dee were used to working fast, and Phil worked at his own pace, which really frustrated John and Dee Dee because of how things were working.”
“I still listen to the record and try to understand what Phil did, which can baffle a lot of people. He’s like a conductor,” said Marky. “I was amazed how a certain sax can jump in, then a certain guitar tone would pop up. The way the roto-toms bounced off the walls to create that low-end hum after the end of the hit, which bounced right back onto the recording. But to me it all worked. The songs sounded like one and the way I feel all songs should sound. Not one thing should stand out louder than the other.
“Gold Star had a great room,” Marky recalled. “I was facing Phil and engineer Larry Levine while doing the LP. Phil and I would put a towel on the snare drum on certain songs, an old trick, especially on ‘I Can’t Make It On Time.’
“I could see Phil grooving along with my tempo and I knew when he did that he was liking me. Dee and Johnny would play together, then (engineer) Ed Stasium would overdub some leads. We knew our vibe real well. It was all fun and we did our jobs. For John and Dee Dee it was a nightmare. They were used to working fast, and Phil worked at his own pace, which really frustrated John and Dee Dee because of how things were working. Personally, Phil was the producer and I went along with what he wanted ‘cause I knew of his experience.
“I like ‘Danny Says’ because it was your typical ‘Phil the great build up —the master at work.’ And of course, ‘Do You Remember Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio?’ All the different and wonderful instruments that wove in and out of the song. And, ‘I’m Affected.’”
Joey Ramone (born Jeffry Ross Hyman) really liked Los Angeles, and especially the music of The Beach Boys and Doors. His band before had done a version of “Needles And Pins,” that Jack Nitzsche and Sonny Bono co-wrote, made famous by Jackie DeShannon. One night I told Joey that (American singer) Chris Montez recorded “Let’s Dance” in the room we were standing in. He was stunned, took off his glasses and just shook his head in amazement. Joey also dug Jefferson Airplane and was a big Rolling Stones and Who fan. He was a gentle soul.
I remember Joey Ramone recording his vocals with a setup unique to a studio. Boris Menart, an engineer on the album, noted, “[One] thing Phil did was when they recorded Joey’s vocals, because he was so used to standing onstage holding his microphone, he would sing with one microphone on the stand and another microphone right above him that would record as well. He was so used to standing holding a mike in front of his face when he was singing, he was sorta comfortable like when he was onstage. In the mix we would bring his vocal back so he wasn’t right on top of it.”
I visited Phil Spector at his Alhambra castle for a couple of luncheons and a small dinner party in 2002. I requested some data and quotes from Phil about the “End Of the Century” album for a set of liner notes I was writing for the Rhino/Warner Music Group expanded reissue.
“The boys loved Gold Star, especially Joey. He was very prepared. He had all of his songs written and ready to go. And the boys were well rehearsed…No problems in recording them. They were open to any and everything.”
Spector also commented on the inclusion of “Baby, I Love You” on the album: “The brief story behind the recording of ‘Baby, I Love You’ with Joey was that I was against re-recording anything I had done previously but Joey begged me, as did Seymour Stein, and Brian Wilson who all said it was one of their favorite songs and would I please do it with Joey. So I consented. Jim Keltner played drums on the date and I overdubbed the strings. All done at Gold Star.”
Engineer Larry Levine had a heart attack during the middle of the session so Boris Menart finished the date, and the album. ‘Baby, I Love You’ was recently used by the telephone Yellow Pages in England for a commercial. It was a huge success.
“All the Ramones could play very well,” Spector noted. “Ed Stasium from the east coast also did some lead guitar playing on the album. I gave the boys the album title which they seemed to like. The drummer drank a little bit much but overall they were all nice kids.
“Joey asked me to come down to the Whiskey when they were filming the video for their LP and make a guest appearance but I declined” Spector continued. ” He wanted me to do a ‘Hitchcock’ type thing. ‘Alien’ (the movie) had just come out at the time the boys LP was being made, and the boys went to see it every evening and day they had off! Everyone except Joey that is. They were, especially Joey, originals. They were punk rock. No ifs ands or buts. Everyone else copied them….Including The Strokes.”
Keyboardist Barry Goldberg and saxophonist Steve Douglas were enlisted for some tracks on “End Of the Century.” “We used Barry Goldberg on the piano and organ on practically all the sides,” said Spector. “And he was wonderful. The boys really liked him, too. Everything Steve Douglas played was immediately rock and roll musical history. It was that good; and there was absolutely nobody like him.”
“Phil called me up in 1979,” recalled Barry Goldberg, “and said, ‘I’ve got something really important for some sessions.’ But he didn’t tell me what it was. I didn’t know until I walked into Gold Star. I found out when I walked in and saw all the Ramones, right. I loved the Ramones. They were rock ’n’ roll. And I started talking to them, and they found out I played keyboard on the Mitch Ryder stuff, and they loved ‘Devil With A Blue Dress On.’ They accepted me.”
Dee Dee Ramone was intrigued by the entire record, especially in hindsight: “Phil didn’t really pay much attention to me. I had a low concentration span. I think if you put me in some place I would be trying to get out of it. But I know I told Phil a joke, we’re trapped together by the coffee machine and he was with (actor) Al Lewis, from ‘The Munsters.’ I knew The Beach Boys recorded in this studio. Eddie Cochran. Mark was freaked out by it too, so was John. You felt you were treading on history. Anybody would from my era. The Phil Spector sound was too powerful of a situation.”
“I like romantic lush things,” offered the bassist. “I wish for ‘End of The Century’ we would have done more things like with strings. We should have stopped touring and done another album with him. I wish I could turn back the hands of time to Gold Star and Phil and Joey would be there, ya know. Having that album is a good thing is all I got to remember those days, they were really nice times.”
“Now I realize more and more,” stressed Dee Dee, “with time Joey’s voice had a real deep, deep part of the Ramones’ sound. And really that started with ‘End of The Century.’ I think Phil Spector and Joey were a great combination. Phil brought out the romanticism in Joey. He was like a romantic guy, and some of the songs and productions on ‘End of The Century’ pushed that… And ‘Baby, I Love You’ on ‘End of The Century’ — I never thought there would be a string section on a Ramones record, but I like it.”
Concerning the cover of “Baby, I Love You,” Johnny Ramone countered with a different point of view: “Yeah, I wanted to do a Phil Spector song. . . . I realized that it was a mistake, and to me it was the worst thing we’ve ever done in our career.”
“But on ballads like ‘Danny Says’,” Johnny admitted, “the production work is tremendous. On ‘Do You Remember Rock ’N’ Roll Radio?’ the production works. On some of the things it works, some of the things it doesn’t work. Because of the echo and reverb, I can’t separate; I like to distinguish the guitar from the bass guitar from the drums. I can’t distinguish the separation, because it’s muddy. That’s the sound.”
“I’m glad I worked with Phil. I worked with a legend of rock ’n’ roll. The last things I know of that he’s done are the Ramones and The Beatles….I’m proud to be part of his discography…At the time I did it, it was very difficult, it was very stressful. But I’m still happy I did it,” implied Johnny.
I played on a handful of Spector studio sessions as a percussionist and hand clapper on recordings by the Ramones, Leonard Cohen, and the Paley Brothers, including “Baby, Let’s Stick Together.” It was a blast. A world of consistent determination, possibility and penetration revealed within the sound and pound implied melodic narrative. Being on the floor and banging a tambourine between Hal Blaine and Jim Keltner inherently provided a sense of security and identity. I never felt like a stepchild in the mix, either. I was welcomed in Drum City.
Joey Ramone died on April 15, 2001 of lymphoma. After Joey died, Phil Spector faxed me over A GOODBYE NOTE TO JOEY RAMONE, FROM PHIL SPECTOR:
It is not often in a lifetime that one meets such a beautiful and free Spirit, as you, who so loved life and music; and who did things in his own life, and his own way. And who, when we were working together, taught me that it is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.
Losing you like this is so very hard to understand, and there are no words that can truly ease the pain. And though there is great sadness in parting with someone as dear to my heart as you were, I find some comfort, as I hope your family does, in the thought that you, our beloved Joey, are now in a place of peace.
I want you to know that I, and everyone else whose life you touched, will always think of you in the most loving way, and with deep gratitude and appreciation for the very spiritual essence of love and caring that you brought into our lives. And what the heart has seen, it can see again in a memory. For memories are gifts left to us by our beloved ones. And I shall be sustained by your gifts Joey. And even though I am crying for you, I know if the eyes had no tears, the soul would have no rainbow.
And I would be remiss if I did not mention to you that my little boy Phillip Jr. is up there waiting for you. So look for him, Joey. And you’ll know him right away. Just look and listen for the loudest little angel and that’s him. I know the two of you will take good care of each other.
And so my dearly beloved Joey, if I may quote, and paraphrase from Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “In one of the stars you shall be living. In one of them you shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing when I look at the sky at night.”
Goodbye Joey. May you have eternal peace, and God bless you.
Your devoted, and loving friend,
I forwarded Phil’s request to Joey’s family, and formally suggested to the organizers of the planned Ramone 50th birthday party and memorial in New York City that Lenny Kaye read Spector’s heartfelt offering.
The Hammerstein Ballroom event was held on May 19th, hosted by Little Steven (Van Zandt). In 2011, Van Zandt constantly programs the music of Phil Spector on his Little Steven’s Underground Garage channel on the Sirius/XM subscription satellite radio network.
Blondie, Cheap Trick, The Damned, The Independents and others performed to 3,000 birthday party attendees. Kaye was introduced mid-way in the program and narrated Spector’s two page letter, book ending Phil’s missive with his own acoustic guitar and vocal version of The Ronettes’ “Walking In The Rain,” a record Spector originally produced and helped write.
The New Century
In late 2000, Phil Spector invited me to a party for his daughter Nicole, who had just graduated from high school in Southern California. She did her last semester paper on Jack Kerouac’s “On The Road” and later in her first year in college. Her mother told me Nicole did a comprehensive analysis about Allen Ginsberg’s epic poem, “Howl.” I was the Project Coordinator on “The Jack Kerouac Collection” and penned the liner notes in 2008 for the CD reissue of Ginsberg’s “Kaddish” album.
The party was held at a local bowling alley. Phil had asked me to invite some of my friends and to also extend a a courtesy invitation to ailing DJ Hunter Hancock, then living around the corner from singer/songwriter Chris Darrow in Claremont, California.
Phil really dug meeting Chris Darrow and talking about Ritchie Valens with him. Darrow saw Valens perform in Southern California in late 1958 in a venue located in Hawaiian Gardens. Frank Zappa was at the same show.
Phil had an encounter with Valens sometime in 1957 or early ’58 at a Fairfax High School assembly when Ritchie came to scout him at the school function. Phil might have had a hand in writing the song “Donna.” There was later talk that Teddy Bears would be in the early ill-fated 1959 Winter Dance Party tour that claimed Valens’ life. That potential booking and traumatic event further convinced Phil a life on the road was not the answer to his rock ‘n’ roll touring dreams or music business schemes.
Phil Spector is also on The Board Of Directors for The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, and was very instrumental in inducting Dick Clark, Harvey (Fuqua) and The Moonglows, Hal Blaine, and particularly Ritchie Valens into the organization. Spector also arranged plane flights and hotel rooms for members of Valens immediate family to witness the induction. Phil personally invited several Valens relatives to this 2000 event.
In addition, Phil had a fond discussion with author Kirk Silsbee on Lenny Bruce, and chatting about ‘50s L.A. jazz, and guitarist Howard Roberts.
Phil got a real kick when I introduced him to noted reggae collector and radio broadcaster, Roger Steffens, who brought along his 1958 autograph book. It contained an inscription from Spector when he was with the Teddy Bears. Phil even signed a new autograph for it right next to the original scribble that shared the pages with Eddie Cochran and Elvis Presley. Just seeing the 18 year old Phil Spector’s handwritten name scrawled right next to seminal rockers like Cochran and Presley, seemed to underscore his own soon-to-be-birthed potent mixture of rhythm and rage we still hear everywhere.
I was invited once again in February 2002 to Spector’s home for lunch with mutual friends. I am grateful for his generosity. Of the dozen invitees, four people were named Harvey. Drummer man Hal Blaine greets me with “Harvala!” Hal was born one February many decades ago as Harold Simon Belsky, and in the ’50s used to work a club in San Bernardino called The Magic Carpet with Lenny Bruce. Think about that one.
I was ushered into Phil’s music room and touched John Lennon’s guitar. Sean Lennon is the only one allowed to play it. It was a gift from Yoko Ono.
His music room also displays a dazzling wall plaque mounted nearby, a gesture from Capitol Records presented to Phil in appreciation of his involvement and production of George Harrison’s multiple million selling “All Things Must Pass” album.
Spector’s photos decorate the bar area: A picture of Phil at The Levi Leap Jewish camp from 1957, Phil and Tiny Tim, Chuck Berry and Phil playing piano, Keith Richards with him in 1997, and a photo of The Teddy Bears with host Dick Clark on their “American Bandstand” TV appearance in the late ‘50s. Right next to it hangs a signed note from Dick Clark from just a few years ago thanking Phil for all his efforts getting Clark inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. A couple of signed Barney Kessel albums also grace the walls.
A couple of days before my most recent visit, Spector’s office had called me making specific food arrangements accommodating my vegetarian meal request. Later, in the dining room, Phil makes a point in asking, “ Harvey, you got the vegetarian sandwich, no meat, the rest of us are eating chicken tarragon. Fine. But why is the sandwich made on buffalo bread? I’m only interested in accuracy.”
In February 2002 I received an advance copy of “The Essential Johnny Cash” double CD set in the mail. Sony/Legacy Records issued the package to celebrate Johnny’s 70th birthday. When the label’s publicist in New York later sent me the formal retail version he asked to mail one directly to Phil as well. I arranged with the PR to send a Cash package over to Phil to enjoy. Phil had just sent me a birthday card with a picture of Elvis Presley on it and knew I shared a February 26th birthday with Johnny.
Later I received another heart-felt email from Phil indicating how grateful he was and that he really dug the Johnny Cash “reviewers copy” sent to him. Phil was very pleased the company didn’t try to make it stereo and everything a mono and Johnny cash freak could want.
In the late ’90s, BMI also awarded Spector the highest honor, the winner of the most radio spins: “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” at 9 million airplays through 1997. Spector wrote the classic with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.
In 2001, the Recording Industry Association Of America and The National Endowment Of The Arts, released a list– “Songs Of The Century”–and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” was number nine.
This current century Spector-produced music is constantly heard daily around the world. Recordings leased to feature films and in select television network and cable broadcasts. A very logical pairing when you consider the fact that one of Spector’s productions in Kenneth Anger’s film “Scorpio Rising” in the early 1960s had the Crystals’ hit single “He’s A Rebel” in a much discussed sequence in his path-making cinema effort that helped define the marriage of rock ‘n’ roll music and the screen living together.
Musicians and bands still render Spector’s potent copyrights they first discovered on poptastic drastic plastic. The Gore Gore Girls cut a version of “All Grown Up,” while “Be My Baby” was covered by the Dolly Rots, and “Da Doo Ron Ron” by the Donnas. A group hailing from Japan, Mescaline Drive, recorded “River Deep, Mountain High.”
UK outfit Star Sailor did some studio work with Spector earlier this decade. While on a U.S. tour stop at their Southern California concert a handful of years ago at The Universal Amphitheater, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke dedicated “No Surprises” to Phil Spector. The band had met him earlier in England at a “Q” Magazine awards show.
August 1, 2011 is the 40th anniversary of “The Concert For Bangladesh” and January 2012 the 40th date for the live album culled from the event that Spector produced with George Harrison. They won a Grammy in 1972 for the album of the year.
Dr. James Cushing, the esteemed English and Literature Professor at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and a longtime DJ on KCPR-FM in California, emailed me some observations about Phil Spector this year:
“The specter of Spector! January 10, 2011, marked the 39th anniversary of the release of ‘The Concert for Bangla Desh’ 3 LP box set, which was Spector’s last big important record and the final instancing of that Wall of Sound that had made his name in the ten years preceding. (‘Some Time in New York City,’ ‘Rock ‘n ‘Roll,’ ‘Death Of A Ladies’ Man,’ ‘End of the Century’ — these were not big records.
“That Wall of Sound has always sounded to me like a gesture of optimism fitted to an optimistic time. Spector’s early hit records –Crystals, Ronettes, Darlene Love, the Xmas album — all seem to want to evoke a response like this from the listener: Here we are, just kids living in a world made by and for adults, and to the adult world, our romantic feelings for each other are trivial, private, childish moods we’ll outgrow. However, to us, these feelings are massive, mythic, life-sustaining moments of energy and grace, and Spector’s 3-minute teen operas capture and magnify those moments in the public arena. ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’ confirms our emotional existence in an adult world that denies it.
“The public instantiation of private feeling. Hence the undercurrent of triumph in the songs, even ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’ by the Righteous Brothers (my personal all-time favorite Philles records thing). A private plea, a “moment of poignant longing,” yes — but made to sound as massive & monumental as it feels… and we get to join in the singing.
“Spector is a tragic figure in this music; for a time, he had the key, but they changed the lock on him, and his creative madness turned destructive to himself (consider how low his reputation had fallen even by 1991) and to poor Lana Clarkson, victim of Spector’s tragedy, another lost angel over the hill and looking for a return to innocence.”
“After 1967, that kid/adult dynamic changed in popular culture. Dylan and Lennon and Hendrix reinvented rock into an art form made by and for a new group of hip dissenting adults; blues is not an adolescent mode to be outgrown. Spector’s art was for songs of innocence. His association with the Beatles after the deluge – ‘Let It Be,’ ‘Plastic Ono Band,’ ‘Imagine’ and the two George Harrison triples — feel like a farewell: the artist of innocence trying to turn back the clock. (Is the minimalist ‘Plastic Ono Band’ really a Spector album at all? Was he just there in the studio to make John & Yoko feel better, one old-timer consoling another?
Music historian and musician, and former Toronto Tycoon of Teen himself, Gary Pig Gold, recalls his long term relationship with the music created by Phil Spector.
“It wasn’t until sometime deep within 1977’s Summer of Hate, equipped with a fantastic new stereo system and the best headphones some money could buy – plus a fresh from the factory-sealed Warner/Spector Canada Phil Spector’s Greatest Hits double-longplayer – that I finally could begin to properly understand the magic and majesty of that great big Wall we all continue to worship beneath,”
“Sure, I’d heard Bill and Bobby and Ronnie and Tina and (though I never knew it) Darlene on the few Spector gems which had managed to fight off the British on my mid-Sixties, CHUM-AM powered, childhood six-transistors. Then there was of course Let It Be and John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and the triple-threat All Things Must Pass especially. Not to mention those regular, royal, vintage Brian Wilson Phillip-by-Proxy productions.
“But I can still most vividly recall laying back that fateful summer night, switching off the bedroom lights, dropping the stylus and hearing ‘To Know Him,’ ‘River Deep,’ ‘Black Pearl’ et al purely, clearly, and powerfully for the very first time, direct from the turntable. Yes, the way the Wall should always be experienced.
“And soon afterwards, so very eager to hear, love, and learn even more, I was snapping up every single Seventies-imported Phil Spector International album I could find so as to dig deeper still into Dion and ‘Do I Love You’ and on and on and on. Those were, are, and shall as long as people still have brains between ears remain the absolute, unquestionable ultimate in arrangement, performance and, yes, production.
“People often ask why they don’t make records like those anymore. I’ve too often heard it said it’s because the industry has changed, the technology is different, and/or the world just isn’t ready to meet on a Monday anymore.
“I beg to differ. The reason they don’t make records like those anymore is because they CAN’T.
“Because, most unfortunately for both he and you and I, Phil Spector just can’t be there behind the board for us anymore.”
Harvey Kubernik has been an active music journalist since 1972, and a record producer since 1979. Kubernik was briefly a studio session percussionist with Phil Spector on recordings by Leonard Cohen, The Paley Brothers and The Ramones.
He is a former West Coast Director of A&R for MCA Records.
In November 2006, Kubernik was a featured speaker discussing audiotape preservation and archiving at the special hearings called by The Library of Congress. Kubernik is acknowledged and credited in over 150 music and pop culture books.
Kubernik is the Consulting Producer of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival entry “Troubadours The Rise of the Singer-Songwriter” directed by Morgan Neville that will be broadcast March 2nd nationally in the U.S. on PBS-TV. HYPERLINK “http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/troubadours-carole-king-james-taylor-the-rise-of-the-singer-songwriter/carole-king%E2%80%99s-monumental-tapestry-album/1776″http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/troubadours-carole-king-james-taylor-the-rise-of-the-singer-songwriter/carole-king%E2%80%99s-monumental-tapestry-album/1776/
For July 2009, Kubernik conducted a full-length interview with Brian Wilson and penned the text essay for the Genesis Publications LTD. signed and limited edition book and print set “That Lucky Old Sun – Brian Wilson and artist Sir Peter Blake.” The book includes 12 exclusive new prints created by Blake, presented and numbered, fine art serigraphs housed in a cloth bound volume. 1,000 books contain Brian’s hand-written sheet music and lyrics to “Midnight’s Another Day,” a VIP pass from the live performance of “That Lucky Old Sun” as well as a CD pressing of the album in every boxed set that is hand crafted in Italy. Blake designed the album cover for the Beatles “Sgt. Pepper’s” album.
Kubernik wrote the liner notes for the April 22, 2008 Sony/BMG Records release of the deluxe edition of Carole King’s Tapestry album, one of the biggest selling records of all time. He also penned the 5,400-word liner note booklet for the Sony/BMG Records 4-CD box set, Elvis Presley ’68 Special, that was released on August 5, 2008 coinciding with the label’s marketing plans for “Elvis Week.”
Rhino/WMG Records asked Kubernik to contribute a liner note essay to their fall 2009 4 CD box set release “Where The Action Is! Los Angeles 1965-1968” which chronicles the L.A. and Sunset Strip record world of that era. In May 2006, he penned the liner note essay for the Water Records CD reissue of Allen Ginsberg’s Kaddish LP, originally produced by Jerry Wexler in 1965 for the Atlantic Records label. Kubernik also wrote the liner notes on the expanded re-release of The Ramones’ End of the Century CD in 2002 on the Rhino/WMG label.
Kubernik during 2008 and early 2009, authored, assembled and served as curator of all visuals on a 384- page coffee table book with 350 photos, “Canyon Of Dreams: The Magic and Music of Laurel Canyon” that Sterling/Barnes & Noble published in October. Photographer Henry Diltz licensed over 200 of his vintage photos for Kubernik’s endeavor.
Kubernik’s debut hardcover book, This Is Rebel Music: The Harvey Kubernik InnerViews, was published in 2004 by the University of New Mexico Press,.
The author’s second book, Hollywood Shack Job: Rock Music in Film and on Your Screen, was published in January 2007 by the same UNM Press.
Kubernik’s writings have been printed in several book anthologies, including The Rolling Stone Book of the Beats and Drinking with Bukowski. He is project coordinator of the recording set The Jack Kerouac Collection. Kubernik also conducted an exclusive 32-page interview with Brian Wilson for Wilson’s worldwide 2007 concert tour program.
Harvey Kubernik’s work has been published nationally and internationally over the last third of a century in Melody Maker, The Los Angeles Free Press, Crawdaddy!, Musician, Goldmine, MIX, The Los Angeles Times, MOJO, UNCUT, Discoveries, Music Life, HITS, Calabasas, and Record Collector News,” “Treats” among other publications.
Since 1982 he has produced over fifty spoken word, poetry and music albums in the last twenty years. His studio credits include producing audio biographies, educational and interview compact disc recordings on Paul Kantner and Ray Manzarek . Kubernik is the Project Coordinator of “The Jack Kerouac Collection.)