Phil Spector: 'I Have Devils Inside That Fight Me'

From head to toe, Phil Spector is a decidedly odd-looking man -- from his ever-ever-evolving hair to his 3-inch Cuban heels. He is also an undisputed musical genius. And despite his strange appearance, he has viewed life from the top of the musical pinnacle.

When Spector was 17 years old, he wrote the song "To Know Him Is to Love Him," a tribute to his father, who committed suicide when Spector was only 9 -- a family secret his mother told him he must always keep. The title came from the inscription on his father's tombstone, and by the time Spector turned 18, the record had sold 1 million copies.

According to Mick Brown, a British journalist who has written a book about Spector, "[He] was indisputably the kingpin in American music. He was a unique figure, a towering figure."

He was also a troubled figure, according to Brown.

Brown's book is called "Tearing Down the Wall of Sound: The Rise and Fall of Phil Spector." He was the last person to interview Spector before the music legend was arrested for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson in his home.

"His whole life has been a tragedy," said Brown.

In their four-hour interview, Brown said Spector was painfully honest about his own fragile psyche, and about his childhood in his New York Bronx neighborhood and later California.

"He was a very lonely little boy. When they moved to California, he was small. Physically unprepossessing," said Brown. "And here he is, this little kid, moving to California, into a classroom full of vitamin-enriched, sun-kissed giants, which Phil Spector certainly wasn't. Hopeless at sports, not the best-looking kid in the class. But at the same time, a very smart kid."

By the late 1950s, Spector wrote and produced music for doo-wop groups and then went on to produce for groups such as the Ronnettes, the Ramones and the Crystals.

"He really is the link, if you like, between Elvis and the Beatles," said Brown.

The 'Spector Cake'

In the 1960s, Spector produced for the Rolling Stones, and he produced other classics like "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" for the Righteous Brothers and "River Deep Mountain High" for Ike and Tina Turner.

But perhaps Spector's most stunning achievement came with the Beatles. In 1970 he produced the "Let It Be" album, and the next year he produced the "Imagine" album with John Lennon.

And what did Phil Spector bring to artists like the Beatles? A whole new sound.

"He dreamed of creating a kind of orchestral pop …" said Brown. "Back in those days, the basic components of a rock 'n' roll group, in a recording session, would be bass, drums, guitar, piano maybe, saxophone maybe. Spector wanted to get a bigger sound than this. So instead of having one guitarist, you'd have six guitarists. Instead of having one pianist, he'd have three pianists."

"And then the final garnish on top of all Phil Spector's records is this extraordinary percussion … there's sleigh bells, there's castanets, there's maracas. It's this wonderful tintinnabulation, which is really the sort of … keynote garnishing on the Spector cake," he said.

But it wasn't only about the sound, it was about the words.

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