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SPECTRE OF CONTROVERSY,
This review is from: Tearing Down The Wall of Sound: The Rise And Fall of Phil Spector (Paperback)
'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.