While others were experimenting with stereo, mixing tracks and putting different instruments at different microphones, so they could be separated on a final recording, Spector, at his Phillies label, recorded in mono. He wanted the people out there, listening to AM radio, to hear the songs exactly as they sounded to him in the studio. It was all one big sound. He needed a sound so strong that even weak vocals would sound big. Spector would fill the studio with quality musicians, up to 30 of them. He called his recordings "symphonies for kids".
Spector, while a controversial and unpopular character in his personal life, was very successful in music. Over the years, he produced not only the early 1960's artists he is famous for but he also worked on a Beatles album and he worked, individually, with George, John and Ringo. Paul was not so keen on Spector's sound so kept his distance. BMI, the largest music licensing firm, considers a Spector production to be the most successful song ever recorded -- "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'.
While that is a brief introduction to Spector, the song that is generally considered to be the "first" of the wall of sound productions was by an all girl group. Actually, they were just a bunch of kids. They called themselves the Crystals and Do Doo Ron Ron went all the way to #3 in 1963.
That record was the beginning of the wall of sound. The Crystals would have other classic tunes over the years, including And Then He Kissed Me-- one of my favorites from the girl groups. Probably the most famous of the early wall of sound recordings was an effort by another girl group. Even Beach Boy, Brian Wilson, stated that he learned how to produce a record by listening to this #2 pop hit from the Ronettes. The year was 1963.
Spector went on to marry Ronnie, the lead singer of the Ronettes. Suffice it to say that it did not end well. Ronnie eventually fled the house and charged abuse.
The song that is considered to be the, shall we say, "masterwork" of the wall of sound was River Deep, Mountain High, by Ike Turner (another big treat of a guy) and Tina Turner. It was released in 1966. While it was highly lauded, and, in the UK, it was considered to be the masterpiece that Spector had hoped for, it bombed in the USA. You will see Ike in the video but Tina is, of course, the only one to watch.
Spector, very angry at this rejection of the song, shut down his Phillies record label. However, that did not stop him from influencing the direction of music. After closing the label, he has worked with many different artists, as mentioned previously. This is, by the way, the same Phil Spector who made the national news a couple years back, when he was charged with a murder at his home. The first trial ended in a hung jury. From what I have read, the prosecutors plan to try him again on the charge.
Steven L. Smith
Bellingham WA Home Inspections