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Phil Spector, the musical legacy: Part one

Spector’s sonic achievements coupled with his music business acumen have helped us all hear the world.

By Harvey Kubernik

Phil Spector has been away from his Alhambra, California-home and the recording studio since spring of 2009, when a California jury convicted him of second degree murder in the 2003 death of Lana Clarkson.

Phil Spector made his mark on so much masterful music. Photo from

Phil Spector made his mark on so much masterful music. Photo from

In 2011 Phil Spector is actively preparing his appeal from a California State Prison.

If you are expecting a Jailbird confession from a convicted murderer or a character pleading for freedom and justice, or the usual print and electronic media-defined and self-imposed wild man portrayal of Phil Spector, I suggest you stop reading immediately.

The legacy of Phil Spector’s productions and songwriting contributions should not be eradicated from the results of his 2009 legal decision.

Spector’s sonic achievements coupled with his music business acumen have helped us all hear the world.

Spector’s catalogue is now controlled by EMI Publishing who administrate both his music publishing and master tapes have just secured a distribution agreement for his epochal Philles label recordings and historic copyrights.

Sony Music Entertainment and EMI Publishing last year in new licensing deal launched a reissue campaign with both physical and digital Spector-birthed collaborations. The first offering was the Phil Spector “A Christmas Gift For You” album.

The “Christmas” album, initially out as “A Christmas Gift For You” on Philles, and later re-titled as “Phil Spector’s Christmas Album” for the Beatles’ Apple Records, reached #6 on the “Billboard” Top 200 chart in 1972. It was out of print for many years until Sony Music Entertainment last year re-released this Yuletide classic which includes Darlene Love’s performance of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” written for the disc by Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry and Spector.

The Legacy/Phil Spector ongoing reissue series integrates digital and physical (including CDs and vinyl 12" and 7" with replica artwork) releases of titles drawn from the original albums and singles (and b-sides) from the groundbreaking and influential Philles Records catalog.

Spector originally started the label in 1962 with then partner and music business veteran Lester Sill. The Philles moniker was birthed from the first parts of their names, Phil and Les.

The Phil Spector Philles Records catalog, including the Ronettes, the Crystals, Bob B. Soxx & The Blue Jeans, Darlene Love, Lenny Bruce and more, covers the United States, with an international roll-out to follow

On February 22, 2011 the restoration of Phil Spector’s catalog continued with 4 new compilations: “Be My Baby: The Very Best Of The Ronettes”; “The Sounds Of Love: The Very Best Of Darlene Love”; “Da Doo Ron Ron: The Very Best Of The Crystals”; “Wall Of Sound: The Very Best Of Phil Spector 1962-1966.”

The label is preparing new compilations -- including Artist's Playlists, Best of collections, and first-ever releases of Philles studio rarities -- as well as facsimile reproductions of original singles and albums are under development under the new agreement

All products in the Legacy/Spector Reissue Project will be newly remastered for the series.

"There may be no pop music more iconic than 'Be My Baby' or 'Da Do Ron Ron'," said Adam Block, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Legacy Recordings in 2010. "The Philles 'Wall of Sound' is embedded in our musical DNA, the craft of these recordings, the quality of the songwriting and the power of the productions have established a standard that continues to inspire artists and musicians. The style, attitude and voices of great artists like Ronnie Spector and Darlene Love remain a presence in pop culture. We are delighted to be bringing these records to a whole new generation."

In March 2011, Universal Music Enterprises will release the 2 CD 40th anniversary deluxe edition of Derek and the Dominos’ “Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs” which includes the two tracks produced by Spector in early 1970 that amounted to the first release by the band: “Tell the Truth” and “Roll It Over,” the A-and B-side of a single that was pulled from circulation by the group.

Phil Spector’s copyrights and master tapes are regularly licensed in visual mediums from movie and television soundtracks to advertising and commercials.

Also in development for 2011 is an HBO-TV movie about Spector starring Al Pacino, to be written and directed by David Mamet.

Harvey Phillip Spector in the mid and late ‘50s lived in Los Angeles around the Fairfax area district in an Hayworth Ave. apartment he shared with his widowed mother Bertha and sister Shirley. His father Ben was an ironworker in Brooklyn, who had taken his own life when Phil was 9 years old.

Phil Spector was born Harvey Phillip Spector. He never liked the name Harvey, which was used throughout his childhood in New York, then in L.A. at John Burroughs Junior High School.

As a teenager in L.A. in the early 1950s, Harvey Phillip Spector was glued to the sounds of the AM radio dial. He loved Patti Page singing "I Went To Your Wedding" and the Chordettes' "Born To Be With You." He discovered "Work With Me Annie" on a bus ride through the city of the Angels. Phil’s life was altered when he heard songs like "60 Minute Man" and "Treasure Of Love" on the great R&B station KGFJ from DJ Hunter Hancock.

Harvey Spector had taken up guitar around 1953 at John Burroughs Junior High in the Los Angeles Wilshire Distict. Spector later attended Fairfax High School 1954-1957. Former students at the famed institution are Jerry Leiber, Stan Ross, Herb Alpert, Steven Douglas Kreisman, Larry Taylor, Elliot Ingber, James Ellroy, Larry Wildman Fischer, Bruce Botnick, Warren Etner, Warren Zevon, Anthony Kiedis, Michael (Flea) Balzary, Marlon and Jermaine Jackson, Slash, and myself.

At some point after entering Fairfax High, Phil made sure he was known only as Phil Spector to his friends and teachers. His name was legally changed to Phillip Spector (no Harvey) sometime around the middle of the 1960s.

During his Fairfax High stint, Phil hung around the music room, was a star history pupil in Mr. Goetze's history course, and learned French. Phil’s mother Bertha was born in Paris, France.

Phil Spector had a pre-destined relationship and connection to the television screen. In 1958, with The Teddy Bears, he was a guest on Dick Clark’s "American Bandstand" promoting “To Know Him Is To Love Him.”

The Teddy Bears, Bobby Darin and Ritchie Valens were on episodes of NBC’s “Pik A Platter” that Buddy Bregman hosted in 1958. The group appeared in 1959 on the "Kraft Music Hall with Perry Como." Spector then formed and recorded with the Phil Harvey Band circa 1959.

Writer and author James Ellroy around all his crime investigations and published books never spoke to Spector about his 1957-1960 job as a part-time court stenographer, after business school, in downtown Los Angeles, including the well documented Lana Turner/Cheryl Crane and Johnny Stompanato murder trial.

Phil’s mother Bertha had encouraged him to learn stenography so he could have something to fall back on if the music thing didn't work out. Spector did the keypunch typing sometimes on the infamous "Red Light Bandit" Caryl Chessman case and consequently provided transcripts to "The Herald-Express" newspaper back then. At the same time Phil did some stringer work for television host Tom Duggan, and Paul Coates' legendary black & white TV program, "L.A. Confidential."

After attending Los Angeles City College, learning French, and subsequently dropping out of UCLA, Spector then relocated in 1960 to New York. This was a period just before Phil "studied" the master songwriters and producers, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, and chose to work for them instead of doing translation work as a U.N. interpreter for Fidel Castro. Spector met Castro twice in a hotel room. A couple of Phil's high school pals told me proudly that he played the guitar solo on The Drifter's "On Broadway" session produced by Leiber and Stoller during his tenure with them.

In December 2005 I talked to songwriter, author and recording producer pioneer and a former partner in Atlantic Records with Ahmet and Nesuhi Ertegun, Jerry Wexler.

Wexler was more than happy to offer his opinions on Spector. Jerry still saw him yearly at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame meetings in New York. “He was sleeping on the couch at the Atlantic Records offices when I first met him and had a scam going using the switchboard after hours,” chuckled the then 88 year old avatar.

Wexler penned the liner notes to a mid-‘70s Phil Spector International label album “The Law, The Language and Lenny Bruce,” after producing his own monumental records with Ruth Brown, Ray Charles, The Drifters, Aretha Franklin, Sam and Dave, Wilson Pickett, Dusty Springfield, Cher, Lulu, Willie Nelson, Dire Straits and Bob Dylan. They have a deep bond. “I’m still very fond of him,” discloses Wexler

“All of Phil’s aggressions and talents were apparent to us at Atlantic when he was a kid. He was brash, cocky and talented. Ahmet Ertegun took him out to L.A. for a business and record meeting with Bobby Darin when Bobby was cruising on the charts. And Phil insulted Bobby, dismissing some of the records. That was Phil. A pop genius like Jerry Leiber,” states Wexler.

The Leiber and Spector songwriting team wrote “Spanish Harlem,” that was Lenny Bruce’s favorite song.

“I respect Phil. He could do it all. The song and the recording existed in his brain. Phil’s records were made in his head before he even entered the recording studio. When Phil went into the studio, it came out of him, like Minerva coming out of Jupiter’s head. Every instrument had its role to play, and it was all prefigured. The singer was just one tile in this intaglio.

“How could I later argue with the results and success when Phil really became a record producer with his Wall of Sound and his studio mesh of instruments? Although I like records with more definition,” concludes Wexler, who shaped everyone’s record collection and also coined the term “rhythm and blues” when he was a music reporter in the late forties.

Around that period, Phil co-wrote some songs for Johnny Nash and produced some sides on him for ABC-Paramount Records in 1961. He had first met Nash, and songwriter Tommy Boyce, during an Army physical examination. It was Nash who later helped Bob Marley as a songwriter and a publisher, and published "Stir It Up" which Marley and The Wailers recorded.

In the May 31, 1975 issue of “Melody Maker” I published an interview with Spector, culled from a series of conversations, in Hollywood at the Sherwood Oaks Experimental College, his own Beverly Hills residence, and some studio visits where he was producing Dion Di Mucci at Gold Star studios and a new singer, Jerri Bo Keno.

At the Hollywood Blvd. action-packed question and answer seminar, Spector responds to an inquiry on how he got started. “I was a young aspiring guitar player.

“I played on some of Big Mama Thornton’s records. I always wanted to be a producer. There’s an old story I’ve told before. ‘OK. Let’s play baseball. You be the pitcher, you’re the catcher, and you’re the batter. Spector, you be the producer.’ I was always into that.

“Dave Bartholomew, Sam Phillips-I wanted to know about the people behind the scenes. The guy who played the solo in ‘Rock Around The Clock.’ The tape echo sound. These things interested me. They were exciting.

“I played on records before I made ‘em. I worked with Leiber and Stoller. Anyway, the only way you get into the record business is to make a record. I believed in individual distribution which nobody did at the time. You can’t do that today. The big companies will eat you up and spit you out.

“We made a lot of records, played on sessions by the Drifters, the guitar on ‘On Broadway,’ ‘Lavender Blue,’ ‘To Know Him Is To Love Him,’ the first one. That was the one I was gonna kick ass with. I was part of the group the Teddy Bears. We did the Perry Como show.’

I asked Spector at the time a question about recording.

“I like to have all the musicians there at once,” explained Spector of his philosophy of recording. “I get everything on one track that I need. I put everything on 24 tracks just to see if it’s plugged in. The finished track never ends up on more than one track.

“I don’t wear a ‘Back To Mono’ button for no reason at all. I believe in it. I can make quad, it’s easy.

“I record in a strange way. I haven’t changed. I go from the basic track and put it onto 24. Then I have one track and 23 open. That’s the difference between having 24 filled or 19 filled. Which means, I can get 23 string players and overdub them 10 times and have 200 strings then I put them on one track.

“My engineer was scared to death to work with me. When I record I put everything on tape echo, everything. My engineer said, ‘You’re out of your mind.’ Do you know Ray Conniff uses more tape echo than I ever used in my life? That’s a fact.

“I record basic tracks and then put it all onto one track or maybe two. Then I condense. I put my voices on.

“I’ve used Barney Kessel all the time for the last ten years. Terry Gibbs on vibes…everybody. The better the talent is around you, the better the people you have working with you, the more concerned, the better you’re gonna come off as a producer, like a teacher in a class.

“The musicians I have never outdo me. I’m not in competition with them. I’m in complete accord with them. You need the ability so you hire the best. I have the creativity. I know what I want."

Stan Ross with Dave Gold, Larry Levine and their immortal studio, Gold Star, made overt and subtle sound contributions to Phil Spector’s studio undertakings.

Ross was born in 1929 in Brooklyn New York, and moved with his parents to Los Angeles at age 15. Stan then enrolled at Los Angeles’ Fairfax High in 1946. Ross wrote a music column in the “Fairfax Colonial Gazette” called “Musical Downbeat.”

Ross worked at Electro-Vox for four years as a teenager and studied recording from a pioneer of modern disc recording Bert B. Gottschalk. Ross made one hit record there: “Deck Of Cards” by T. Texas Tyler.

Gold Star garnered more Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) "Songs of the Century" and Grammy Hall of Fame winners than any other independent studio in America.

One of Ross’ first field -recording assignments was for then area Congressman Richard M. Nixon and his infamous ‘Pink Lady’ campaign.

David Gold created the sound effect that imbued and enhanced the creation of "Alvin & The Chipmunks" memorable recordings. The reason why the “father” character was named “David.” Gold’s additional personal credits list Ronald Reagan’s recorded promo spots with the television stars of each weeks series for four seasons of the historic “General Electric” TV broadcasts done at Reagan’s ranch, home or at Universal Studios. Reagan’s G.E. Theater speaking engagements helped him prepare for his first successful run for California governor and then President of the United States.

The studio origins of Gold Star and the Ross and Gold client bookings were not lost on teenage Phil Spector when he first knocked on the door.

“We used studio A. Eddie Cochran used our Studio B. down the stairs by the parking lot,” remembers Stan. “I cut ‘Tequila’ there by The Champs. Phil followed in a studio tradition. I did a whole lot of Eddie Cochran’s records including ‘Summertime Blues,’ ‘20 Flight Rock,’ and ‘C'mon Everybody.’ The vocal of Ritchie Valens’ ‘Oh Donna’ was recorded at Gold Star. The backing track was done up the street at Bob Keene’s studio who owned Del-Fi Records.

The Wrecking Crew membership began with the slow demise of the studio system in Hollywood at the big movie companies in the 1950s. Large orchestras started getting replaced by smaller session calls for movie and television soundtracks in addition to rock ‘n’ roll dates that were now getting booked by record producers and music supervision executives.

Stan Ross was present for Phil on his 1958 Teddy Bear’s record, “To Know Him Is To Love Him,” and a plethora of Spector production bookings 1962-1966.

In a 2000 interview in “Goldmine,” Ross described the history and the mystery of the Gold Star world. “Gold Star used to be a dentist’s office. We started pulling teeth a different way,” he jokes. Gold Star was built in 1950 and lasted until 1983 at 6252 Santa Monica Blvd until a fire destroyed the property in 1984.

“Gold Star was built for the songwriters,” touts Ross. “They were fun, wonderful people to be around: Jimmy Van Heusen, Sonny Burke, Jimmy McHugh.”

The studio origins and original client bookings were not lost on teenaged Phil Spector. “He was as concerned as they were about the song -- one of the reasons Phil’s songs have durability and are copied. I thought things we did with The Paris Sisters were terrific,” he continues. “I saw a lot of growth with Phil very early. The day he first walked in I explained to him the studio policy of buying time by the hour and a role of tape I had to be firm ‘cause I didn’t want 20 more Phil Spectors coming in.”

Ross also re-examined the room and their famous echo chamber. “It gave it the wall of sound feel. Dave (Gold) built the equipment and echo chamber. We had so much fun with that echo chamber; it never sounded the same way twice. Gold Star brought a feeling, an emotional feeling. Gold Star was not a dead studio, but a live studio. The room was 30 X 40.

“It was all tube microphones,” he stresses. “We kept tubes on longer than anyone else. Because we understood that when a kick drum kicks into a tube it’s not going to distort. A tube can expand. The microphones with tubes were better than the ones without the tubes because if you don’t have a tube and you hit it heavy, suddenly it breaks up. But when you have a tube it’s warm and emotional. It gets bigger and it expands. It allows for impulse.

“Phil appreciated mono. But we did back up with multi-track. So, if he wanted to go back to the four track, he would. He never did, ‘cause if he didn’t hear it, it wasn’t right. “When it came to multi-track you could put everything on mono. The bass drum, the guitars and keep it. Once you have it on mono, it never changes. It will be the same on Wednesday then the previous Tuesday, the same sound. So when you do transfer from one track to four tracks, it’s OK. And to that you can add voices, never losing the quality of the bass drum track, because it’s been transferred, it hasn’t been disturbed. You took the mono and transferred it to track one of a four track, tracks two, three and four are for voices and guitar fills. You follow? Everything is a fresh generation. It saves you from having to overdub four generations. You have less highs and less sibilance. And, we didn’t use pop filters and wind screens, we got mouth noises. Isn’t that life?

“Phil was pretty proud of himself. He served the song. He worked for the tape. He knew what he could get away with and what he couldn’t and he appreciated whatever suggestions Larry or myself would give him. He never closed his mind to anything. He was always open minded. He was very emotional about his records. He felt that this was like his life. As much as I love children, he was in love with his songs. They were his children,” says Ross

Gold Star also served as the recording “home” of ABC-TV's first prime time Rock & Roll series, “Shindig!”

Jazz was captured on the sacred grounds: Oscar Moore, Gerry Mulligan, Mundell Lowe, Chet Baker, Louis Bellson’s big swing band, and The Hi-Los. Arranger Gene Page did the soundtrack “Blakula” on the lot while even William Shatner delivered his spoken word narration of “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” at this dream factory house of worship.

Stan Ross was behind the console for Jewel Aikens’ “The Birds and The Bees,” the first use of chorused guitar and was a favorite 45 RPM of Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones, which provided the sound of a guitar plugged through a Leslie speaker, giving it an organ-like effect. Cream’s “Badge,” and The Beatles’ “Let It Be” later fused the string-to-Leslie air-pumped speaker innovation.

Kit Lambert produced The Who’s “Call Me Lightning” at Gold Star and mixed their “I Can See For Miles” in the facility as well. Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band cut “Express Yourself” in the location. Shelby Flint sung “Angel On My Shoulder” as well. The famed room also delivered Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba” and “Endless Sleep” by Jody Reynolds, one of Bob Dylan’s all-time records. Gold Star was the mid wife for the album version of Buffalo Springfield’s “Mr. Soul.”

“Jungle Hop” by Don & Dewey introduced the first electronically distorted guitar. Spector’s production of “Zip A Dee Do Dah” was the first distorted lead guitar on a hit record. Gold Star also developed phasing, DT (Double-tracking) and flanging techniques.

Dave Gold, Ross and engineer Larry Levine integrated the concept of phase-shifting or “phasing” a sweeping effect that incorporated electronic music on their hit record “The Big Hurt” by vocalist Miss Toni Fisher. Larry cut the basic track and Stan infused the phasing.

Dobie Gray’s “The In Crowd,” Johnny Crawford’s “Cindy’s Birthday,” and “Call Me,” courtesy of Chris Montez, were baked in that building. As was Thee Midnighters’ AM radio anthem, “Land of 1000 Dances.”

Brian Wilson was a regular Gold Star visitor and customer for many years. In that room he produced The Beach Boys’ “Do You Wanna Dance,” “I Just Wasn't Made For These Times,” that featured the initial usage of Therimin on a pop recording, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” and the original version of “Heroes & Villains” at Gold Star. Brian mentioned to me in 2009 that he thought Gold Star’s tack piano was very good.

Stan Ross and Dave Gold’s studio clients included Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, Sonny & Cher, Buffalo Springfield, Brian Wilson with The Beach Boys, The Cascades, Iron Butterfly, Cher, the Cake, The Chipmunks, Bob Dylan, Clydie King, Art Garfunkel, Dick Dale, Bobby Darin, Black Oak Arkansas, Minnie Ripperton, Johnny Burnette, Ray Ruff, Thee Midniters, Donna Loren, Josie & The Pussy Cats, David Briggs, The Sunrays, Mark and the Escorts, Jon & The Nightriders, Dillards, Tim Hardin, Beau Brummels, The Murmaids, Jackie De Shannon, Led Zeppelin, Hoyt Axton, Mystic Moods Orchestra, Robin Ward, George Carlin and Jack Burns, Donna Loren, The Misunderstood, Duane Eddy, Margie Rayburn, Kim Fowley, Runaways, Marlon Brando, The Band, Go-Gos, Ramones, The Seeds, The Monkees, MFQ and the Turtles.

“Gold Star felt and sounded different than any other L.A. studio,” explains the Turtles’ Howard Kaylan, who recorded “The Story of Rock & Roll” pop gem and other wonderful tunes like “Eleanor” there in addition to their revolutionary LP, “The Battle of the Bands,” produced by Chip Douglas.

“You could literally smell the tubes inside the mixing board as they heated up. There was a richness to the sound that Western and United, our usual studios, never had. Those two rooms sounded ‘clean’ while Gold Star felt fat and funky. Perhaps we were all reading too much of the Spector legacy into the room, but I don't think so. Our recordings from Gold Star always just sounded better to me. I miss that room,” admits Kaylan, whose band with Mark Volman, the Turtles sold 41 million records and had 9 Top Ten hits of their own.

“I went to Gold Star my first day in Hollywood when I was an adult,” proclaims Kim Fowley, “I was the campus correspondent for ‘Dig’ Magazine. I went to the Champs’ ‘Tequila’ session. They bought me lunch. I later mastered ‘Alley-Oop’ by the Hollywood Argyles that I co-produced there. And I produced ‘Popsicles and Icicles” by The Murmaids there. I had two number one records out of Gold Star. I liked the room. The echo chambers and there were good vibes. It was a magical scenario on many levels.

“There were five editions of The Runaways. As a trio the first one made demos at Gold Star with Stan Ross engineering. At Gold Star studio one day I asked Brian Wilson, ‘What is the basis of your songwriting?’ And he said, ‘Well, school is nine months a year and the summer holidays are three months and you write about that and getting in trouble with your parents.’”

Gold Star regulars Charlie Greene and Brian Stone were managers and producers, real show biz operators, who represented Buffalo Springfield, Iron Butterfly, The Poor, Bob Lind, The Cake, Dr. John, Jackie De Shannon and Sonny & Cher.

“All I Really Want To Do” Cher's first solo hit came out of the room, along the duo’s “The Beat Goes On” and Sony Bono’s solo masterpiece, “Laugh At Me.” The soundtrack to Sonny & Cher’s movie “Good Times” as well. De Shannon subsequently did her “Laurel Canyon” LP there, and years later, the original demo of her song “Betty Davis Eyes.”

The Band even recorded some songs at Gold Star. The recent re-mastered and expanded “Music From Big Pink” Band album adds new “bonus” tracks “Key To The Highway” and “Long Distance Operator” culled an outing at the Gold Star shrine.

Their “Music From Big Pink” was done at Capitol Studios on Vine Street in Hollywood, with some additional sessions held down the same street at Gold Star in 1968.

“We were doing some recording at the studio at Capitol Records in Hollywood and it was one thing, but there was such talk about just ‘the vibe’ and ‘the sound’ at this other place, Gold Star,” Robbie Robertson informed me in an interview I conducted with him in 2003.

“We were kind of off the clock, and we were going to record some things that weren’t necessary going to be on the record, so we thought, ‘let’s just go and check it out.’ I think we were only there one day or two days. And there’s two other tracks that we did there that I don’t know what’s become of those.”

In 2008, Gold Star’s own history was displayed in a documentary, “The Wrecking Crew’ by filmmaker Denny Tedesco, son of jazz guitarist and session man, Tommy Tedesco. The movie chronicles the1950-1983 world of Gold Star and the session players.

In 2008, The Wrecking Crew got honored with an induction into The RockWalk of Fame in front of Guitar Center store in Hollywood, Ca.

No story on Gold Star or about Phil Spector would be complete without citing resident recording engineer, Larry Levine, who died in 2008 on his 80th birthday.

Levine won a Grammy in 1965 for his work on Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass’ "A Taste of Honey.” Alpert later recruited Levine to design and oversee the first recording studio B at A&M Records modeled after Dave Gold’s “compact” studio blueprints developed and first installed at Gold Star.

Levine engineered albums for Eddie Cochran, The Beach Boys, Sonny and Cher, Wings, the Carpenters, Dr. John, and reunited with Spector in the late 70s working on albums by Leonard Cohen and The Ramones.

In addition, Levine engineered The Ramones’ “End Of The Century” (with Boris Menart and assisted by Bruce Gold) had his own memories about the magical Gold Star and Spector pairing when we talked in 2002.

I spoke with Larry Levine about all his work with Spector and on the classic Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass albums he engineered at Gold Star an later at A&M Studios. We also chatted about Burt Bacharach, a former A&M Records solo artist.

Larry offers an observation he has on Spector’s studio philosophy. “I used to have a theory [that] part of the reason we took so long in actually recording the songs was that Phil needed to tire out the musicians—[til] they weren’t playing as individuals, but would meld into the sound that Phil had in his head.”

“Good musicians start out and play as individuals and strive to play what Phil wants. As far as the room sound and the drum sound went, because the rooms were small, with low ceilings, the drum sound, unlike other studios with isolation, your drums sounded the way you wanted them to sound. They would change accordingly to whatever leakage was involved.

“As a matter of fact,” Levine continues, “Phil once said to me the bane of his recording existence was the drum sound. A lot of people attribute to echo to what Phil was doing. The echo enhanced the melding of ‘the wall of sound,’ but it didn’t create it. Within the room itself, all of this was happening and the echo was glue that kept it together.”

Continued here