Learn more Download now Shop now Learn more Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Shop now Learn more Shop Fire Shop Kindle Learn More Shop now Shop now



VINE VOICEon 29 September 2009
When I started writing this review, I intended to give the book only four stars. This was because I lost interest and stopped reading at the point when Spector virtually stopped producing, i.e. after the Ramones album. (All sympathy to the many who suffered Spector's excesses, especially Ronnie Spector and of course Lana Clarkson, but I could not maintain sufficient enthusiasm to read the long saga of the two decades of reclusion leading up to Lana Clarkson's murder.) To be fair to an excellent biography, I have to give it five stars.

I would highly recommend this book to music buffs, but particularly to fans of the Wall of Sound. Mick Brown is obviously a fan, and he devotes a lot of the book to the genesis of the technique. It would be very easy just to concentrate on the titanic sound, the Wall itself, but Brown takes time to show that the lyrics of many of the songs present just as idealised a picture of love (whether found or lost) as any other love songs of the 60s. He suggests that only in the songs could Spector find happiness; for example, the message of the love between him and Ronnie in Be My Baby and Baby I Love You lives forever in the recordings, whereas the relationship started to go pear-shaped as soon as they were married.

I thought I knew a fair amount about Spector, but Mick Brown filled in several gaps. For example:
-I knew that To Know Him is to Love Him was taken from the epitaph on Spector's father's gravestone, but not that his father had committed suicide
-Spector's Mother Bertha publishing company was named after his domineering mother, with whom he had a strong love-hate relationship
No surprise, then, that Brown gradually makes the case that Spector's demons originated largely from his dysfunctional family (Spector's sister had her own mental problems).

Exhaustive, tireless research supports the book, e.g. nearly five decades after the brief career of the Teddy Bears Brown tracked down, and interviewed at length, their lead singer, Annette Kleinbard (OK, she has had an extended career in the music business, but I suspect few in the UK other than the real anoraks would know the prehistory of the writer now known as Carol Connors.) Brown did hit a biographer's jackpot by securing an extended interview with Spector shortly before the Lana Clarkson murder case broke.

Several of the interviewees provide comments on the strength of Spector's musical talent, which was strong long before the Wall of Sound began.

Most of all, perhaps, the strength of this, like many good biographies, is placing the subject in the context of his contemporaries, rather than giving just a "monolithic" view.
0Comment| 10 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 13 January 2009
'Tearing Down the Wall of Sound - The Rise and Fall of Phil Spector' is an up-to-date, even-handed and interesting biographical analysis of the man who brought us such 60s musical classics as 'Be My Baby,' 'You've Lost That Lovin Feeling' and 'River Deep, Mountain High' but who increasingly in his latter years become as much known for his eccentricities as for his musical legacy, culminating in his trial for the murder of model and actress Lana Clarkson in 2007.

The book starts in 2002 and Brown's interview with Spector for the Daily Telegraph, just weeks before the incident which eventuated in Miss Clarson's demise and ends with the trial which Brown frames as almost the logical conclusion to a life lead in an increasingly bizarre fashion. The middle section of the book, which takes up the larger part of the narrative, charts Spector's life up to that fateful encounter with Lana Clarkson.

A precocious Spector is shown emerging professionally in the late 1950s as a new era is dawning in popular music. Spector is the little nebbish Jewish kid and social outcast made good. The young man escaping from a unhappy childhood: living without a father, as a consequence of an unexplained suicide, and raised by a an over-protective mother. The picture which emerges in the book is that the well-spring of Spector's genius - the famous 'wall of sound' recordings which has influenced everyone from Brian Wilson to Bruce Springsteen to Jim Steinman to Glas Vegas - is the same source which has lead to Spector's demise.

The same obsessiveness and attention to detail which lead him to create a whole new way of making music - the 'Producer-as-star,' the 'studio-as-instrument' - and changed pop music forever in the the era immediately preceding the so-called 'British Invasion' by transmuting the base metal of pop music ephemera into something more grand, more befitting of Spector's vision of "little pocket symphonies for the kids," is shown as allowing itself to curdle into something more sinister in the wake of Spector's falling out of favour in the wake of the emergence of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Californian folk-rock scene.

The obsessiveness which drove Spector in his glory days seems to fester and mutate into neuroticism and paranoia as his triumphs become increasingly remote. Spector is shown as being driven by a huge inferiority complex which in his demise is increasingly manifest in manifold ways and not least in Spector's obsessions with guns. Something of a re-occuring theme in the book. Brown ends the book questioning why the trial for Lana Clarkson's murder which neither acquitted nor sentenced Spector (it ended in a mistrial) left so many unanswered questions. The biggest unanswered question remaining Spector himself, the Howard Hughes of Pop.

Arguably as good a literary musical bio as you will find written in the last few years; well written, well researched but maybe a tad too long. Well worth a read however for those interested in delving deeper into a slice of musical history and into the mind of a man increasingly at war with itself.
0Comment| 9 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 9 July 2007
This is one of the finest biographies of it's type. The music industry is easy to write about, but difficult to write well, and this is one of the very best. Full of relevant details without be over fussy, and without listing every incident in chronological order in an encyclopaedic way. Reads like a novel. Highly recommended, even if Phil Spector is not really your scene
0Comment| 7 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 27 June 2007
If you want a well-written, intricately researched and even-handed account of Phil Spector's career in music, Tearing Down the Wall of Sound is hard to fault. But it's also surprisingly strong as a psychological portrait of a very peculiar person - "surprisingly" given the author's background as a music journalist. However you do occasionally feel that the book would have benefited from the input of an author with a background in psychology.

The final two chapters cover the death of Lana Clarkson, and although this hardback edition was published shortly before the start of Spector's murder trial, the prosecution and defence cases are presented in detail, based on grand jury testimony and so on. We can assume that the paperback edition will be updated to cover the trial itself.
0Comment| 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 1 June 2009
I've been reading Dominick Dunne's excellent review of Phil Spector's trial in Vanity Fair so when I saw this book I had to have it. Very detailed, but it skips along at a fair pace and gives an honest and often amusing insight into someone who is undoubtedly a genius but also a person with serious personality flaws to say the least. Since reading the book Phil Spector has, of course, been convicted and will serve serious jail time.
0Comment| 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 18 June 2007
This is the best book on popular music I have ever read abd I include in that things like Hellfire, No Direction Home and Chronicles. Even if it wasn't so beautifully written, the insight and wealthy of information on Spector's hundreds of collaborators would make it worth the cover price alone. If you have even the remotest interest in The Beatles, this is essential reading. GREAT.
0Comment| 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 7 January 2011
I started reading this book on a flight from London to Boston. All the other passengers were furious that the entertainment system wasn't functioning but I couldn't have cared less - the book was all the entertainment I needed and the next six and a half hours went by faster than any plane trip I've taken. I always loved the Spector songs and knew a little about him but not enough, I realized as I read. I had had no idea he'd worked with Leonard Cohen, for example. Mick Brown writes beautifully and gets across the feeling of the times and the sense of the man - not easy as clearly he is one of the more complicated men of our times. A fantastic, brilliant book. Buy it.
0Comment| 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 5 April 2007
Those familiar with Mick Brown's work for the Daily Telegraph or his earlier books (in particular The Spiritual Tourist) will have an idea of what to expect. Intelligent, thoughtful and stylish writing of the highest order. Mick manages to cram the book with myriad facts, while never seeming to make it information heavy, but he also never loses sight of his subject. Unlike many biographers, Mick places Spector within the broad sweep of his life and times while simultaneously showing him to be a three dimensional character. From the earliest pages Spector, a man who many of us think we know but in reality what we know is rumour and tittle-tattle, becomes more than just a name, a reputation and a myth - he becomes a real person. This book will standout for many years to come as one of the single best biographies about a musician, or for that matter a man or woman from whatever walk of life.
0Comment| 6 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
VINE VOICEon 29 September 2009
When I started writing this review, I intended to give the book only four stars. This was because I lost interest and stopped reading at the point when Spector virtually stopped producing, i.e. after the Ramones album. (All sympathy to the many who suffered Spector's excesses, especially Ronnie Spector and of course Lana Clarkson, but I could not maintain sufficient enthusiasm to read the long saga of the two decades of reclusion leading up to Lana Clarkson's murder.) To be fair to an excellent biography, I have to give it five stars.

I would highly recommend to music buffs, but particularly to fans of the Wall of Sound. Mick Brown is obviously a fan, and he devotes a lot of the book to the genesis of the technique. It would be very easy just to concentrate on the titanic sound, the Wall itself, but Brown takes time to show that the lyrics of many of the songs present just as idealised a picture of love (whether found or lost) as any other love songs of the 60s. He suggests that only in the songs could Spector find happiness; for example, the message of the love between him and Ronnie in Be My Baby and Baby I Love You lives forever in the recordings, whereas the relationship started to go pear-shaped as soon as they were married.

I thought I knew a fair amount about Spector, but Mick Brown filled in several gaps. For example:
-I knew that To Know Him is to Love Him was taken from the epitaph on Spector's father's gravestone, but not that his father had committed suicide
-Spector's Mother Bertha publishing company was named after his domineering mother, with whom he had a strong love-hate relationship
No surprise, then, that Brown gradually makes the case that Spector's demons originated largely from his dysfunctional family (Spector's sister had her own mental problems).

Exhaustive, tireless research supports the book, e.g. nearly five decades after the brief career of the Teddy Bears Brown tracked down, and interviewed at length, their lead singer, Annette Kleinbard (OK, she has had an extended career in the music business, but I suspect few in the UK other than the real anoraks would know of the writer now know as Carol Connors.) Brown did hit a biographer's jackpot by securing an extended interview with Spector shortly before the Lana Clarkson murder case broke.

Several of the interviewees provide comments on the strength of Spector's musical talent, strong long before the Wall of Sound began.

Most of all, perhaps, the strength of this, like many good biographies, is placing the subject in the context of his contemporaries, rather than giving just a "monolithic" view.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on 23 April 2016
Mick Brown is a sterling writer, both as an author and a journalist. He tackles his subject here with ferocious insight and intelligence. Phil Spector, whose ability as a music producer sits in the highest place, is also a dark personality riddled with self-doubt and a measure of self-loathing that descends to the lowest levels. Ego on his scale is disturbingly chaotic and tends to threaten a peaceful order that the overwhelming majority of us subscribe to. But this ego has given birth to some of the most uplifting sounds in the pop pantheon. Mick Brown tells this story on a measured way, taking the reader through the fascinating but loopy career of the man whose mantra was that he wanted to give the world "little symphonies for the kids."
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse

Customers also viewed these items


Need customer service? Click here

Sponsored Links

  (What is this?)