Wednesday, 20 January 2021

My Top Ten Phil Spector Songs


Far more column inches would be devoted to Phil Spector's musical legacy this week... had the rest of his life been so filled with ignominy. 

How often do you get to use a word like ignominy? The chance to do so was the final tipping point in my decision to compile this Top Ten. Little Stevie Van Zandt put it best earlier this week...

RIP Phil Spector. A genius irredeemably conflicted, he was the ultimate example of the Art always being better than the Artist, having made some of the greatest records in history based on the salvation of love while remaining incapable of giving or receiving love his whole life.

Let's put aside Spector the man and remember instead some of his finest creations...

10. Leonard Cohen - Death Of A Ladies Man

A much-derided album, described by Rolling Stone as "the world's most flamboyant extrovert producing and arranging the world's most fatalist introvert" and by Leonard Cohen himself as "grotesque". It's not among my favourite Lenny records and parts of it plain don't work, but the title track (and a couple of others) are mesmerising if you devote enough time to them.

9. The Teddy Bears - To Know Him Is To Love Him

Recorded when Spector was 19, just out of high school. His first record... and a template of everything to come.

8. George Harrison - My Sweet Lord

Some people don't like this song because of the whole "Krishna, Krishna" bit. Others call to attention the court case where Harrison was sued for "subconsciously" ripping off He's So Fine by The Chiffons. But people are generally wrong, I find, and this song never grows old.

7. Dion - Born To Be With You

The forgotten entry in Spector's back catalogue, yet still achingly beautiful. I remember reading a review of this album when it was re-issued in 2001, hunting it down and falling head over heels in love. 

6. The Ramones - Do You Remember Rock n Roll Radio? / Baby, I Love You 

Quite the odd ones out in this list (apart from Lenny), and handguns were pulled... but I'm betting the Ramones gave him as much shit as he gave them. 

5.  The Righteous BrothersYou've Lost That Lovin' Feeling / Unchained Melody

If aliens picked up transmissions from earth and these two songs were what they heard, they'd leave us alone because clearly we are a superior civilization. 

4. Darlene Love - Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)

OK, the whole album.

A Christmas record for those of us who hate Christmas.

3. Ike & Tina Turner - River Deep, Mountain High

If the intro to this stone cold classic doesn't send a shudder of joy down your entire body: I'm sorry, you're not alive.

2. The Crystals - Then He Kissed Me / Da Doo Ron Ron / He's A Rebel

Imagine having these three songs in your back catalogue and not being as big a household name as The Beatles, The Stones or David Bowie? There is no justice in the world. 

1. The Ronettes - Be My Baby / Baby, I Love You

Sheer pop perfection.


  1. So you went for it after all. A fantastic set of songs. I saw that quote from SVZ and it’s spot on.

  2. Can't really argue with that list or the fact that he was a flawed character

  3. "But people are generally wrong, I find" - so true! Present company excepted, of course...

  4. People are indeed wrong, as River Deep Mountain High is the true number one here. The pinnacle of pop (along with Pets Sounds of course)

  5. A great bunch of songs, although I'd have had "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" as my number one. But that's just me.

  6. Phil Spector (apparently, although believably) held a gun to Cohenhead when he asked if he could re-record the vocals

  7. The quietest death of a genius we will ever encounter. This is a very strong list and very close to my own (quickly assembled in my head). I don't know if this is considered a flaw, but I can separate the art from the artist.

    1. After all those years trying to defend Morrissey, I've made a career out of it.

    2. That was one of the artists I thought of too.

  8. What a canon of work! absolutely brilliant! Usually when I come across talent like this, I imagine how it would be great to 'have a beer' with the artist and ask why this or that was chosen or omitted. Richard Curtis comes to mind. In Spector's case, 'thanks but no thanks'. Wouldn't feel safe in a bar with him.

  9. All Things Must Pass would be my personal Harrison track of choice and I'd like to include something from his work with Lennon, but what to drop? Your selection is impeccable Rol.


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