Thursday, 21 January 2021

My Top Ten "Without Phil Spector..." Songs

After completing my Top Ten tribute to the work of Phil Spector on Tuesday evening, I couldn't help but feel like there was something missing. Yes, I'd covered the very best of Spector's own musical output... but what of his legacy? If it hadn't been for his influence, chances are we wouldn't ever have heard any of the songs below... at least not in the way we know and love them.

(As to the photo above, Bruce probably regrets that now almost as much as the ill-advised Ben Affleck goatee.)

10. Cher - Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)

Beginning his career as a gofer for Phil Spector, Sonny Bono went on to emulate his former boss on many of the records he produced later in the 60s.

9. Abba - Waterloo 

Prior to the sessions that produced this, Ring Ring, and other Spector-esque Abba classics, engineer Michael B. Tretow read Richard Williams' book Out of His Head: The Sound of Phil Spector. After that, he layered on the overdubs, and Abba's sound changed forever.

8. Spiritualized - Ladies & Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space

Jason Pierce = Phil Spector In Space.

7. Wizzard - See My Baby Jive

Roy Wood made no secret of the fact that he was aiming to recreate the Wall of Sound on songs like this one and I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday. The kitchen sink was full utilised.

6. The Jesus & Mary Chain - Just Like Honey

From the opening echo-drenched drumbeats, stolen directly from Be My Baby, there's little doubt that the Mary Chain had been listening to a lot of Phil Spector.

5. The Walker Brothers - The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore

Producers Johnny Franz and Ivor Raymonde set out their stall as the British equivalents to Phil Spector, and this is probably the song that came closest to emulating the Wall of Sound sound. Ironically, it was released in 1966, the same year Spector became demoralised with the music industry following the weaker-than-expected chart performance of his masterpiece, River Deep, Mountain High.  

4. The Shangri-Las - Leader of the Pack

Produced by George 'Shadow' Morton, who aimed to take Spector's sense of melodrama to the next level... and arguably succeeded on tracks such as this and Past, Present & Future. Morton wore a cape in the studio, but - as far as I know - never pulled a gun on anyone.

3. Meat Loaf - Bat Out Of Hell

As much as Jim Steinman stole from Bruce Springsteen, he stole far more from Phil Spector. If Spector created the Wall of Sound, Steinman built another three walls and then a roof on top. Many see this as excess, but it's that very excess that appeals to me in Steinman's work. He might get more respect if he had a little more restraint... but he's all right in my book.

Back in the 90s, record company bosses tried to get Spector to work with Steinman... to produce, of all people, Celine Dion. Spector refused, saying he had no desire to work with, "amateurs, students, and bad clones of yours truly."

Steinman, in typically Steinman-esque fashion, replied, "I'm thrilled to be insulted by Phil Spector. He's my God, my idol. To be insulted by Phil Spector is a big honour. If he spits on me, I consider myself purified."

2. The Beach Boys - Good Vibrations

I'm sure George will have something to say about me placing this at #2, or for choosing it ahead of anything from Pet Sounds, which Brian Wilson described as an "interpretation" of Phil Spector's Wall of Sound production technique. I will freely admit that I consider God Only Knows to be a better song than Good Vibrations (and maybe even my #1)... but God Only Knows doesn't sound as Spectorish to me as this does. 

Brian Wilson created Good Vibrations with the aim of portraying his "whole life performance in one track", telling himself, "This is going to be better than You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling". Spector pulled the song apart, saying there was way too much "tape manipulation" and too many edits for it to be a "beautiful" record.

1. Bruce Springsteen - Born To Run

Well, I'm nothing if not predictable, am I?

Producer Mike Appel explains how Bruce came to him before the recording of Born To Run and said, "I’m trying to meld my lyrics with more Phil Spector-type songs and I’d like to use his production values", which Appel then helped him develop.

 “Phil’s greatest lesson," Bruce later said, "was that sound, sound, sound is its own language.”


  1. The Boss ahead of the Beach Boys. George will be apoplectic

    1. That was, of course, my sole consideration during the ranking process.

  2. I'm with you 1001% on "God Only Knows" being a better song than "Good Vibrations" and I'll fight anyone who says different!

    Damned fine top 10 you have there.

  3. Excellent post, Rol. Am with you on God Only Knows too.

  4. Thank goodness that opening drumbeat of Be My Baby never gets old since hundreds have emulated it. Strong list, Rol. Going back for seconds on some of these right now.

  5. An inspired idea for a second Top Ten - The Wall of Sound on these other recordings is just so obvious now but first time I wouldn’t have realised where the influence came from. One of the upsides of getting older is you have a new appreciation for things you took for granted back in the day (but one of the only upsides).

    “Another three walls and a roof on top” - Your writing is on point at the moment, despite the times.

  6. You just put that at number 2 to provoke a comment, because you KNOW it's the number one track. And putting Springsteen at no. 1 is enough to give me a strapadichtomy

    1. As I said to CC above, George, provoking you is my sole consideration when writing this blog.

      Keep taking the tablets.

  7. Wow, you ignored The Righteous Brothers' "(You're My) Soul and Inspiration", produced by Bill Medley in a style aping Spector.

    1. Not really a case of ignoring it, Ryan. It just didn't make my 10, unfortunately.


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