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Phil Spector

Phil Spector was brilliant but also troubled. Very troubled. He will be remembered as one of the greatest producers in rock-and roll history but he will also be remembered as a convicted murderer, who in 2009 was found guilty of the 2003 murder of Hollywood actress Lana Clarkson. Spector died Saturday, January 16, 2021 in prison.

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Phil Spector

Born Harvey Philip Spector in the Bronx, New York , (His father, under severe stress because of the family’s financial condition, committed suicide in 1949. His mother relocated to Los Angeles in 1953.) the young Spector was always a loner, but excelled in music, studying piano, guitar, drums, bass, and French horn in high school, and began writing songs with classmate Marshall Lieb.

Spector was drawn to the LA music scene and began hanging around the studios.

He officially entered the music business in 1958 as the songwriter, guitarist, backup singer, and producer for the group, The Teddy Bears, with “To Know Him Is To Love Him.” The song and title was about his late father. The grave’s inscription-“To Know Him Was To Love Him.” (The group consisted of Spector, Lieb, and another high school friend, Annette Kleinbard.)

The song became a No. 1 smash and the group appeared on several TV shows, including “Bandstand”, but were unable to follow up with another hit.

And there were also royalty problems with the record company. The Teddy Bears soon disbanded, only to resurface as The Spectors Three, but the “new group” was unsuccessful; the trio broke up for good.

Annette Kleinbard became a successful songwriter.(You may know her better by the name Carol Conners). She co-wrote “The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia” (by Vicki Lawrence in 1973 and then Reba McEntire in 1992), co-wrote “Hey Little Cobra” by The Ripchords and “Gonna Fly Now”, the first Rocky movie theme.

Spector worked for a while with independent producers Lester Sill and Lee Hazelwood who sent Spector back to New York in 1960. In 1961 Spector and Sill formed the New York-based Philles Records, which Spector fully owned by 1962. (“There’s No Other(Like My Baby)” by the Crystals was the first release.)

Spector co-wrote and produced “Spanish Harlem” with Jerry Leiber (of the equally legendary Leiber and Stoller) a Top Ten smash for Ben E. King. He also produced “Only Love Can Break A Heart” and “Every Little Breath I Take” by Gene Pitney, “Pretty Little Angel Eyes”-Curtis Lee, “I Love How You Love Me”-The Paris Sisters, “He’s A Rebel”-The Crystals, and other hits, primarily for them, The Ronettes, Darlene Love, and Bobb B. Soxx and The Blue Jeans.

Spector became renowned for “The Wall Of Sound”, which involved multiple instrumentation, heavy on the orchestration, overdubbing, double drummers or guitar players, and lots of background singers. (Sonny and Cher evolved from this. Sonny Bono was a session man, fledgling producer, and jack-of-all-trades; Cher started by singing background vocals.) Legend has it that Spector’s favorite composer was Richard Wagner. He has often said that his sound is “little symphonies for the kids.”

Spector’s reputation as a so called mad genius was mainly down to his often erratic and tempermental behavior (pulling guns in the studio, stealing master tapes, forcing wife Ronnie to drive around with a life size cut out of himself in the car). But it was always overlooked and validated because of the successful results, which in turn, made millions for himself and other executives, writers, and producers (The singers and groups themselves didn’t fare as well financially).

Spector was aware of the British Invasion before it even hit the U.S., becoming friends with The Rolling Stones. But this didn’t help him to maintain his status quo, for the entire current music industry was rocked upside down.

Many bands were writing their own material and on different issues. “Will Johnny still love me and take me to the prom?”-type songs were becoming outdated.

Nevertheless, he went on to produce “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin,” “Unchained Melody”, and “Ebb Tide” by The Righteous Brothers and the classic “River Deep, Mountain High” by Ike and Tina Turner. “River” went to No. 1 in England and many other countries, but bombed in the U.S.

This failure affected Spector, hurting him deeply. He semi-retired and married (Veronica) Ronnie Bennett, the Ronettes’ lead singer.

He re-emerged in the late ’60s and early ’70s doing post-production work on The Beatles’ “Let It Be” album, and producing George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” and John Lennon’s “Plastic Ono Band” albums.

From time to time, he produced Cher, The Ramones, Duran Duran, Dion, and Leonard Cohen (Spector allegedly held a loaded gun to Cohen’s head during the recording of his album The Ladies Man).

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 and did make an important contribution to the music of the 1960’s but it is his often erratic behavior and murder conviction that is his true epitaph.

History

Disco Days

How It Started: Emerging from Harlem’s Latin poor via the gay subculture of Greenwich Village, disco was the musical style that became a dance craze and a fashion sensation. It went mainstream with “The Hustle” in 1975 and became a way of life with Saturday Night Fever in 1977.

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Disco Days John Travolta

Why It Mattered: Like the best fads, disco was huge, hot and inescapable. It became noun, verb and adjective: You discoed at the disco in disco clothes. And, oh, those clothes–glittery tube tops, skintight designer jeans, satin jackets, white leisure suits. The phenomenon had big names, including Donna Summer, K.C. and the Sunshine Band, the Bee Gees and John Travolta.

But the real stars were the clubs themselves, places like New York’s Studio 54, where the competition was fierce to join the likes of Andy Warhol, Bianca Jagger and Calvin Klein on the other side of the velvet rope. Mirror balls, cocaine and alcohol were commonplace, and discos could even be found in hotels and airports.

The Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart had huge dance-floor hits. There was “YMCA” and “Disco Duck,” and before the fad could fade, new-wave acts like Blondie absorbed its beat. Today, dance clubs have stripped the beat down, rebuilt the engine and continue to hustle it.

The Last Word: Disco died a fiery death in Chicago on July 12, 1979. A “disco sucks” rally between games of a White Sox doubleheader culminated with a centerfield bonfire. The fuel? Saturday Night Fever soundtracks, “Ring My Bell” singles and 20 pounds of TNT. The result: a large smoking crater in centerfield, flying vinyl and a full-scale riot.

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History

Richard Seaman And When The Nazis Went Mad For Grand Prix Racing

The 1930s saw the birth of modern Grand Prix motor racing. It was an era absolutely dominated by Germany, as Hitler used the sport as a powerful propaganda tool to demonstrate his country’s engineering superiority.

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Richard Seaman

It was no surprise when the Mercedes team won the 1938 Berlin Grand Prix: except for the fact that the winning driver, seen giving a Nazi salute as he received his wreath, was a young English aristocrat called Richard Seaman. Seaman was one of Britain’s greatest racing drivers, but his decision to race for the Germans in the ’30s has seen him written out of history and his remarkable tale remains largely unknown.

Seaman enjoyed a privileged upbringing and his father had high hopes for him – he was bitterly disappointed to learn that his son wanted to dedicate his life to a subject as trivial as mere sport. Motor racing was no more than an expensive hobby in England, but Seaman intended to make it his career.

He started off in unreliable British MGs and ERAs, racing for teams whose lack of professionalism drove him to distraction, particularly after he had experienced German excellence while visiting the 1935 Monte Carlo Grand Prix. Monte Carlo inspired him to set up his own workshop and he was consequently unstoppable in England in 1936, catching the attention of the Mercedes team manager.

When he signed for Mercedes, Seaman became the first ever top-class British racing driver. He was earning big money, but had to live in Germany and gradually became ensnared in the Nazi propaganda machine, meeting Hitler at the 1938 Berlin motor show.

Richard Seaman 2

It wasn’t just German engineering and professionalism that seduced Seaman – he also fell for beautiful young heiress Erica Popp. As war approached, they were married and Seaman’s mother wrote him out of the will – he was now reliant on Germany with Mercedes his only source of income. Europe lurched towards war, but motor racing tried to struggle on. Not for Seaman, however. His life ended with as much drama as he had lived it, chasing glory on a rain-soaked Belgian racetrack in 1939. His London funeral was graced by a six-foot lily wreath – from Adolf Hitler.

Mercedes engineers drilled any piece of metal they could to reduce the cars’ weight, Auto Union were the first team to race a mid-engined car – the norm for Grand Prix ever since – and both made use of special streamlined bodies for one race on Berlin’s fastest track – the Italians were so intimidated that they dropped out, leaving the Germans to battle it out between themselves.

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History

How Fares The Elephant Man now he is no longer a 9 days wonder

In 1889 a journalist payed a visit to the London Hospital that had become home to Joseph Merrick aka The Elephant Man…

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The Elephant Man

Wondering how the unfortunate so-called “Elephant Man” was faring now that be had ceased to be nine days’ wonder, a London journalist journeyed the other day on his way to the London Hospital. After a few minutes of lounging and parleying in the waiting-rooms, watching all sorts of cases being brought in, from compound fracture to a put-out thumb, the emissary gained his point and was escorted by attendant towards the secluded part of the institution where poor Joseph Merrick makes his home.

Some time back, when the latter was abiding in one of the wards, he used to receive numbers of visits from curious impertinents, to use Cervantes’ phrase; but now, though various ladies of rank, in particular, are still very kind and thoughtful in their attentions, the general public is fast forgetting the “Elephant Man”. Merrick was having a meal when the reporter entered bis little room, built out on the ground floor of the ward that bears the singular name of Blizard (with one z). He brightened up visibly seeing new face, and affably motioned his visitor to taka a chair, but than relapsed Into his favourite attitude of resting his head upon his strangely disproportion ed right hand. This he does, as he has no hesitation in telling you, to relieve the pain that he constantly feels in his head, which measures as many as 36 inches in circumference.

It would serve no good purpose to descant upon Merrick’s many malformations, though, to be sure, he is willing enough to talk about himself; but it may be noted that his left hand is quite normal, and gripped the newspaper man’s band in right hearty fashion, and that he walks very lame, using stick, and alleging that this lameness it the result of fall in boyhood, which his family carelessly treated of no account. He is decidedly short and rather slight, and speaks in a very intelligent manner. His accent shows plainly that be is not Cockney.

As matter of fact, Herrick was born in Leicester some 29 or 30 years back. The disease only began to manifest itself noticeably when was in his teens, while, unhappily, his mother, who might have looked after him, died when be was ten. There were two other children by this first marriage, but his father married again, has had large family by his second wife, and has not set eyes upon his hapless son for 14 ysars. Merrick speaks with considerable bitterness of the way in which he was swindled on his tour in Belgium by his Austrian entrepreneur.

In his own words he is pretty comfortable in the London Hospital, where he has been now for considerably over two years, but how can the man, whose terrible malady seems it anything to be growing worse, be cheerful as cricket or as blithe as a lark. His little room is hung round with pictures and decked out with knick-knacks. Joseph Merrick spends a good deal of his time in making card-board models, but his chief relaxation and solace is reading. He has some shelves filled with books of various kinds, and loves nothing better than to plunge into some exciting, sensational novel or book of travel. He says that he is apt to imagine himself actually in the position of the hero of these tales; and without this comfort, indeed, he might possibly turn melancholy.

Cornish Times – Saturday 18 May 1889

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