THE HISTORY OF ROCK ‘N’ ROLL – 1958 PART FOUR

Posted: November 16, 2014 in MUSIC, Rock n Roll 1958 Part 4
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by Robert Seoane

RITCHIE VALENS – THE BIG BOPPER – LITTLE ANTHONY & THE IMPERIALS – TOMMY EDWARDS – JAMES BROWN & THE FAMOUS FLAMES – PHIL SPECTOR

 

CHICANO ROCK

Richard Steven Valenzuela was a Mexican-American born in Pacoima near Los Angeles, California to Mexican parents. Along with “Tequila” songwriter, fellow Mexican-American Danny Flores who was born less than fifty miles away from Ritchie in Santa Paola, Valens was a pioneer in Latin rock ‘n’ roll. Flores had written “Tequila” just the year before and the catchy instrumental became a huge hit after it was first released in January 1958. “La Bamba” followed ten months later. “Chicano Rock” was born.

Rock ‘n’ Roll was flourishing all over the western world in 1958. Americans of Hispanic descent were the first to incorporate rock ‘n’ roll into their musical culture just by adding a Latin flair. As of this writing in late 2014, there are and have been many rock bands in many countries around the world writing, singing and playing rock music in their own language. Spanish language rock songs however, have charted more often in the United States than any other language in rock ‘n’ roll. That’s because many Latin rock groups were to follow after the sub-genre’s birth in 1958. They began to pop up as English language rock bands of the Sixties such as Thee Midniters (Land of A Thousand Dances-1965), a band of young chicanos from East L.A. who were the first to introduce brass into Rock ‘n’ Roll music, years before Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago.

Other groups with hispanic members included The Sir Douglas Quintet (She’s About A Mover-1965), a group from San Antonio, Texas with a Tex-Mex sound and a British sounding name, Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs (Wooly Bully-1965), ? & The Mysterians (96 Tears-1966) and Three Dog Night (various hits 1969-1974).



Latin Rock came of age on August 16, 1969 when Carlos Santana walked on-stage during the second day of The Woodstock Music & Art Fair.


The genre continued to grow and flourish throughout the rest of the 20th century and beyond with soul and pop groups and artists such as Malo, War, The Chakachas, El Chicano, Miami Sound Machine with Gloria Estefan and Los Lobos, among others.



In the Nineties, the sub-genre branched out even more. Pop artists with Latin origins, beginning with Gerardo in the early part of the decade to an ever-growing roster that includes Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, Ricky Martin, Shakira, Pit Bull and Enrique Iglesias all enjoyed chart success over the years and are still going strong in the first two decades of the 21st Century.








There are also some Latin super groups who were never able to chart any hit singles in the United Sates, like Mana and Los Aterciopelados, but are nevertheless hugely popular Spanish-language rock acts in all of Latin America and Spain.


The term “chicano” started off as a derogatory term towards all Mexicans, but the Mexican community was smart enough to embrace the word and flip it, turning it into a label of admiration instead. “Chicano Rock” however, much like “race” records and “hillbilly” music, has not survived the political correctness of the times and the sub-genre is now referred to as Latin Rock or Latin Pop.

 

RITCHIE VALENS

Brought up in an environment with Mexican mariachi, flamenco guitar and rhythm & blues as the musical backdrop of his young life, Ritchie Valenzuela started developing his musical talent as early as five years old. By age nine, he knew guitar and trumpet thanks to his father’s encouragement, and soon would also be able to play the drums. Then, a tragedy occurred when Ritchie was ten. His father would suddenly be taken away from him when he was killed in a car accident.

This forced Ritchie to immerse himself into music as a way of dealing with his loss. Soon he was able to master the electric guitar. He had the ability to add imaginative new riffs to existing songs and inventing additional lyrics to popular songs on the spot as he played. His talent was so noticeable that, by the time he was 16 years old, he was invited to join a group called The Silhouettes. Soon after, the lead vocalist left the group and Ritchie was pushed up, front and center, as the lead singer and guitarist of the band.

A high school classmate of Valenzuela’s knew Bob Keane, the owner and president of a small label called Del-Fi Records, and tipped him off to the talented young Ritchie’s abilities. Valenzuela was being labeled, appropriately enough, as “The Little Richard of the Valley” among his peers and growing fan base. Keane was intrigued and went to see him play solo at a Saturday morning matinee in a San Francisco movie theater. He was the entertainment before the film when live performances before movies were still rather common. Keane was impressed and invited Ritchie to his home where he had a small recording studio. After the audition, Keane signed the young man to record for Del-Fi on May 27, 1958 and shortened his name from Valenzuela to “Valens”. He also gave him the “Ritchie” moniker, adding the ‘t’ to his nickname because there were already too many local artists whose name was ‘Richie”.

 
C’MON, LET’S GO/FRAMED – RITCHIE VALENS

Ritchie Valens’ musical discography is short because of his tragically brief career. In 1958, the year of his debut, he only released two singles. Not much is known about his first single “C’mon Let’s Go” except the band line-up and the fact that it was written by him and Bob Keane. It’s a catchy, danceable song; a decent debut record. It just missed the Top Forty, only going up to Number 42, but its legacy would grow over the years and the song would become more appreciated after his untimely death.

“Oh, well I love you babe, and I’ll never let you go, c’mon baby so, oh pretty baby, I love you so.” C’mon Let’s Go – Ritchie Valens

The lyrics are nothing special, just the typical everyday rock ‘n’ roll lyrics from the Fifties that sang about girls and dancing. He could have sung his laundry list and it wouldn’t matter. It had a catchy melody and an up-beat, with a respectable guitar solo by Valens helping it chug along.

The single’s B-side, “Framed”, is a Lieber & Stoller song that’s essentially a classic blues arrangement heard in many blues songs, where the singer sings between the same guitar lick for four stanzas before the guitar kicks into a rhythm and accompanies the singer into the melody. Ritchie Valens sings the song with a confidence and a little bit of swagger in his voice, having the ability to change his vocal style to fit the song he sang.

“Well, the prosecutor turned and started a-prosecutin’ me, man that cat didn’t give me the one but the third degree, he says ‘Where were you on the night of July 1953?’, ‘Man I was just home, just a tweedle-a-dee’…” Framed – Ritchie Valens

 

DONNA/LA BAMBA – RITCHIE VALENS

Back when the format for individual songs were vinyl 45 rpm record “singles”, songs were recorded on both sides of the vinyl record. They were labeled the A-side and the B-side. Usually, the B-side song was a throw-away; filler tune that the record companies put there for a lack of anything else, but several times during the rock era, B-sides have become more popular than A-sides thanks to the public’s fickle tastes. Sometimes it was the record company who couldn’t decide which song was the better one, so they decided to call those singles “Double-A sides”. Ritchie Valens’ second single, “Donna/La Bamba” was considered a Double-A side. It was released on October 18, 1958.

“Donna” was his highest charted hit, making it up to Number 2 on the Billboard Pop chart, but it wouldn’t be the song for which he would be remembered. That distinction went to the single’s other A-side, “La Bamba”.

Ritchie wrote “Donna” about his high school sweetheart, Donna Ludwig. You can hear the tenderness in his voice as he sings to her in a higher range than in his previous single, and instilling a sweet, sad, dreamy quality to his vocal. The song features the “50s progression” a chord progression and turnaround that can be found in many pop songs, particularly from the 1950s and 60s. It’s also known as the doo-wop progression. Songs that use 50s progression include “Stand By Me”, “Earth Angel” and “Duke of Earl”. It’s also evident in later songs like Madonna’s “True Blue”, Sean Kingston’s “Beautiful Girl” and Green Day’s “Jesus of Suburbia”. The Beatles’ “Happiness Is A Warm Gun” is another example of 50s progression. Explaining this chord progression would take a few paragraphs. If you’re not a musician, you won’t understand it. If you are a musician, then you probably know what I’m talking about.

The single’s second A-side, “La Bamba” would be the song that would stand the test of time. It makes sense, since the Mexican song is an old folk song to begin with, originating from the state of Veracruz, a region where the song’s “Son Jarocho” musical style originates. Son Jarocho is a folk musical style that comes from Mexican Son music. ‘Jarocho’ is a colloquial term for people and things from Veracruz. The style evolved over the last two hundred and fifty years or so.

In 1958, Ritchie Valens adapted it to rock ‘n’ roll and kicked the song off with a guitar lick of his own that will forever be recognized, thus re-introducing the old folk tune all revved up and new.

The lyrics to “La Bamba” always varied greatly because it lent itself to artists’ improvisational lyrical talents. After the release of the single, the only known lyrics are now what Valens sings in the record. He obtained those lyrics through his aunt, Ernestine Reyes. The title is derived from the Spanish word “bambolear”, which means to sway back and forth, or to wobble. Valens sang the song phonetically because he did not know Spanish, which may account for the way he mispronounces the Spanish word “poco” (a bit) and says “poca” instead. By using the proper word in the lyrics, its translation to English makes sense.

SPANISH: “Para bailar la bamba se necesita una poca de gracia. Una poca de gracia pa’ mi y pa’ ti, y arriba y arriba…”
ENGLISH TRANSLATION: “To dance the bamba one needs a bit of grace, a bit of grace for me, for you, now c’mon, c’mon…”

The Spanish word “arriba” literally means “up”, but it’s also a common Spanish term for ‘hooray” or other forms of encouragement.

SPANISH: “Yo noy soy marinero, soy capitan…”
ENGLISH TRANSLATION: “I’m not a sailor, I’m a captain…”

This was a subtle reference to the fact that Veracruz, the Mexican region this song comes from, was a port town.

The traditional version of “La Bamba” was often played and sung during weddings in Veracruz where the bride and groom would dance towards the altar in a traditional Mexican “zapateado”, speeding up the dance steps as the tempo of the music accelerates.

“La Bamba” didn’t make it into the Top Twenty in 1958, stalling at Number 22. But it endured through the years as a fondly remembered, well known rock ‘n’ roll classic. It re-emerged into the public spotlight when Los Lobos re-recorded it in 1987 for the movie of Ritchie Valens’ life, also called “La Bamba”. The second time around, the song made it to Number One on the Billboard Pop chart.

Very little film footage exists of Ritchie Valens. He was scheduled to release his third single and his debut album the following year, but first he was to tour the infamous Winter Dance Party Tour of ’59, where he would join fellow musical artists, The Big Bopper, Dion & The Belmonts and Buddy Holly.

 

 

THE BIG BOPPER

Jiles Perry “J.P.” Richardson, Jr. had a career in radio for over ten years by 1958 and became a pop star quite by accident. After working part time at Beaumont, Texas radio station KTRM, he was hired full time as a DJ in 1949 and quit college as a result. After he married and had a daughter, he was promoted to Supervisor of Announcers at KTRM in 1954 at the age of twenty-three. He worked there until 1955 when he was inducted into the Army, but returned to the same radio station in 1957 upon his discharge from the military. He was given the 11AM to 12:30PM “Dishwashers’ Serenade” shift Monday through Friday. One of the station’s sponsors liked Richardson and suggested sponsoring a show from 3 to 6PM for his on-air persona. Having seen his teenage audience gyrating in all types of new dances, Richardson recalled one of them to be called ‘the bop’. He wanted to carry a title that could sound like the leader of all these teenage music lovers, so he labeled himself ‘The Big Bopper’.

As the Big Bopper, he pulled a typical DJ stunt of the day to call attention to himself, the show and the radio station by staying on the air continuously for a total of five days, two hours and eight minutes. Given only five minutes during newscasts to take a break and take care of personal issues including a shower, he broke the existing record by eight minutes.

Richardson was also a guitarist and songwriter, and wrote two songs that were later recorded by other artists to popular acclaim. One was called “White Lightning”, a song that sounded very much like a hit of the day, Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Breathless”. “White Lightning” became a hit in 1959 for country artist George Jones, who enjoyed his first Number One Country hit thanks to the song. Jones had recorded the song drunk, having heard of his friend Richardson’s demise just a week earlier and still mourning.

The other song Richardson wrote was called “Running Bear”. It was released in 1960 by singer Johnny Preston, another friend of the Big Bopper’s, in late 1959 and hit Number One on the Billboard Pop chart the following year. Having been recorded almost a year before its release, that’s Richardson and George Jones singing the “uga-uga” background vocals. Richardson had offered the song to Preston after listening to him perform in a nightclub.

Fellow Texan and country music record producer Harold “Pappy” Daily was the man who launched the Big Bopper’s career as a rock ‘n’ roll singer. At the time, he was a promotion director for Mercury Records and also had his own label, StarDay. Daily also worked closely with George Jones and was instrumental in developing his career. He signed Richardson to Mercury Records and went to work on producing his first single, “Beggar To A King”, a country song that went nowhere. Richardson decided to release his next song as The Big Bopper. This next single cemented the Big Bopper’s name as forever being linked to Fifties rock ‘n’ roll.

 
CHANTILLY LACE – THE BIG BOPPER

Parents did what they were good at when “Chantilly Lace” hit the airwaves and became dutifully outraged. Who was this black man with that lewd laugh and how dare he sing those suggestive lyrics, lasciviously listening to all kinds of unspeakable suggestions from an innocent, presumably white, girl? Mom and Dad refused to believe the fact that the Big Bopper was actually as white as they were until a picture was offered up as proof. Even then, once corrected, they were none too happy with this lyrical phone conversation between the Big Bopper and a girl who will apparently suggest anything to him just to go out and party.

“What’s that, baby? Pick you up at eight? And don’t be late? But baby… I ain’t got no money honey…. (no voices as The Big Bopper listens to the girl he’s talking to on the phone and finally reacts with a lascivious laugh) ha, ha ha, oh alright honey you KNOW what I like!” Chantilly Lace – The Big Bopper

“Chantilly Lace” was written by Jerry Foster, Bill Rice and J.P. Richardson. It was released during the summer of 1958 and reached Number Six on Billboard’s Pop Chart, ultimately becoming the third most played song of the year. It was similar in chord progression to Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen” released just six months earlier. Jayne Mansfield recorded a truly terrible song called “That Makes It” a short time later. It was an answer record to “Chantilly Lace”, this time with the conversation from the girl’s side of the line.

Thanks to the success of “Chantilly Lace”, Richardson took time off from his job at KTRM radio and decided to tour during the 1959 “Winter Dance Party” with Ritchie Valens, Dion & The Belmonts and Buddy Holly.

 

LITTLE ANTHONY & THE IMPERIALS

By 1958, doo wop had deeply encroached into rock ‘n’ roll music until they became almost undistinguishable to the public ear. Rock ‘n’ Roll’s wailing guitar was being toned down to fit young pop ears without driving them crazy, behavior that concerned parents were all witnessing as a result of rock ‘’n’ roll and its sexually overt teen idols. By the end of 1958, the Establishment was winning battles, but the war was from over. Those in White America who was still being threatened by the music and was doing everything in their power to drown in out and ultimately kill it in the States didn’t count on a burgeoning movement developing across the pond over in England.
Despite the fact that by 1958 Rock ‘n’ Roll was already losing its edge, it wasn’t losing anything in terms of the quality of the songwriting and playing. Little Anthony & The Imperials is an example of a group who survived the Fifties and continued to remain relevant and popular into the mid-Sixties with tunes that broke through the Rock ‘n’ Roll songs of the day due to their sheer quality and timelessness.

Little Anthony & The Imperials only had three Top Ten Hits over a seven year period, but they were songs that deserve to be remembered. Anthony Guardine started it all when he joined The Chesters in 1957 as lead vocalist. They recorded briefly for Apollo Records, then decided to change their name to The Imperials and signed with End Records in 1958. Renowned rock ‘n’ roll pioneer, DJ Alan Freed had a local radio show in New York City and gave Guardine the nickname “Little Anthony” when their first single was released. All of their previous recordings were labeled as being just by The Imperials, but after Freed dubbed him “Little” Anthony, the group eventually changed the name of their group.

 
TEARS ON MY PILLOW – LITTLE ANTHONY & THE IMPERIALS

The group was a favorite on Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand” and “The Saturday Night Beech Nut Show”. “Tears On My Pillow” was a typical doo-wop song about lost love, but the melody made it popular enough to have it chart up to Number Four on Billboard’s Pop chart. They wouldn’t have another Top Ten song for another six years but in the interim, they continued to release other recordings. One song in particular, although it didn’t make it into Billboard’s Top Twenty, remains a well-regarded rock ‘n’ roll classic due to its catchy hook and its introduction to a new nonsense phrase into rock ‘n’ roll lexicon.

 
SHIMMY SHIMMY KOKO BOP – LITTLE ANTHONY & THE IMPERIALS

Although they released three more singles between the end of 1958 and the summer of 1959, none of them reached higher than the upper 80s on Billboard’s Top 100. But in 1960 they made it up to Number 24 with “Shimmy Shimmy Ko Ko Bop”, a fun tune about one of the many dance crazes that would emerge over the next several years like The Twist, The Frug, The Watusi and many more.

The lyrics sing about a guy sitting in a native hut, who’s presumably a native or else why would he be sitting in a native hut, minding his own business when suddenly this girl comes in and starts dancing. He soon joins in the dance and suddenly it implies that they’re doing more than just dancing. Finally, the last lyrics teach you how to do the dance.

You can do the ko ko bop, now’s no time to stop, left foot forward, one right back, bring them side by side, syncopate your last two steps, now you’re going to glide, keep along the rhythm track, girl please show ‘em how, now you start to arch your back, man you got it now…” Shimmy Shimmy Ko Ko Bop – Little Anthony & The Imperials

After “…Ko Ko Bop”, their next few singles did no better than the last three. By 1961 Little Anthony & The Imperials were washed up.

A funny thing happened in 1964. While The Beatles opened up the floodgates from Great Britian and rock ‘n’ roll music enjoyed a vital resurgence, 50’s doo wop group Little Anthony & The Imperials were growing up. They released four singles from August 1964 to the following summer and all of them made it into the Top Twenty. One in particular made it into the Top Ten at Number Six in October of 1964, when Beatlemania and the British onslaught had taken over the airwaves. This song managed to cut through and endure as one of the most romantic songs of the Sixties, playing at every single high school dance and I’m sure many weddings and other romantic events for years after its release.

 
GOIN’ OUT OF MY HEAD – LITTLE ANTHONY & THE IMPERIALS

Three years after their career began to stagger, The Imperials’ collaboration with songwriters Teddy Randazzo and Bobby Weinstein proved fruitful. Little Anthony had attempted a solo career after he witnessed all his group’s singles stall miserably in 1961. Not achieving much on his own either, he made an about face and the group reunited, thanks to this dynamic songwriting duo. Their comeback single was “I’m On the Outside (Looking In)”, released in August of 1964.

Their second single was released two months later, in October 1964 and became one of the most played songs of the rest of the year and beyond. It reached Number Six on Billboard’s Top 100 Pop chart but went on to be heard well into the rest of the decade as a radio standard. Its simple, romantic arrangement and dreamy vocal sounds like a perfect blend between sensual and angelic, having more the feel of a song from a Broadway play than anything born from rock ‘n’ roll. The song’s words ring true particularly because of the vocal interpretation, as if Little Anthony was declaring his love to the listener and thrilling in the feeling of it.

“Goin’ out of my head over you, out of my head over you, out of my head, day and night, night and day and night, wrong or right, I must think of a way into your heart…” Goin’ Out of My Head – Little Anthony & The Imperials

“Goin’ Out of My Head” is statistically one of the top 50 most recorded songs in the history of recorded music, with sales of over 100 million by over 400 different artists including Petula Clark, Ella Fitzgerald, Sergio Mendes, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Raphael, Frank Sinatra, Dionne Warwick, Lawrence Welk, Vicki Carr, Doc Severinsen, Luther Vandross, Percy Faith & His Orchestra, Queen Latifah, The Fifth Dimension and Dr. John, among others.

 
HURT SO BAD – LITTLE ANTHONY & THE IMPERIALS

Their third single was “Hurt So Bad”, released in early 1965. It came from the “Goin’ Out of My Head” album and was to be their last Top Ten hit. Similar in style as ‘GOOMY’, “Hurt So Bad” is a powerful and dramatic love song. Little Anthony’s unique tenor makes you feel the hurt in the song’s title. The song’s classic Broadway orchestration continued to cut through the rock ‘n’ roll being heard on the radio in 1965 and aimed instead straight at the heart.

Their last Top Twenty hit and subsequent single after “Hurt So Bad” is “Take Me Back”, another track from the ‘GOOMY” album. It peaked at Number Sixteen and was an unmemorable song. It was the last song of theirs that was written by Teddy Randazzo.

As a result, each subsequent single peaked lower every time. “I Miss You So” barely made it into the Top Forty at Number 34 and “Hurt” couldn’t crack the Top Fifty. Their songs were suddenly and completely out of touch with what was being listened to in 1965. New rock ‘n roll artists were popping up, many of them from Britian, and Little Anthony & The Imperials’ musical output suddenly sounded terribly dated, lacking the timelessness in the melodies of “Goin’ Out Of My head” and “Hurt So Bad”. Still, they continued releasing music well into the Seventies, but no song of theirs ever cracked the Top Fifty after 1965.

As of 2012, the Imperials are one of the few 1950s-era R&B groups still touring with most of their original members, including “Little” Anthony Gourdine. In early 2014, Gourdine toured the UK. As of 2014, only original member Tracy Lord is deceased.

 

IT’S ALL IN THE GAME – TOMMY EDWARDS

The reason for this song’s inclusion into the history of rock ‘n’ roll isn’t just because it charted during the early rock ‘n’ roll era, but because its success benefited by rock ‘n’ roll’s influence on the choice of musical instruments being used in recordings of the day, most notably percussion.

Tommy Edwards was a singer/songwriter whose biggest hit was a song written by then future Vice-President of the United States Charles G. Dawes in 1912. Dawes was Vice-President to Calvin Coolidge from 1925 to 1929. The instrumental composition that later went on to become “It’s All In The Game” was originally titled “Melody In A Major” by Dawes.

Lyrics were later added in 1951 by veteran Duke Ellington collaborator Carl Sigman. Besides this, Sigman is also the lyricist for the theme song from “Love Story”, the top grossing film of 1970, which Andy Williams later sang and released as a single in 1971.

Tommy Edwards first recorded “It’s All In The Game” in 1951, after Sigman wrote the lyrics. It was only a moderate hit, climbing up to Number 18. The better known version, released in 1958, benefited by a more contemporary production that echoed doo wop and included the percussion and guitar so defining of rock ‘n’ roll. As a result, even though the song is a beautiful, romantic, laid back tune reminiscent more of old time ballads (which it essentially was), it hit Number One on the Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart, the R&B chart and the UK Singles chart. It sold over 3.5 million copies and earned gold disc status.

Edwards never released anything else that came close to the success of “It’s All In The Game”. Cliff Richard re-recorded “IAITG” and Elvis recorded the Edwards’ penned song “A Fool Such As I” in 1961. Various other artists like the Four Tops, Bobby Vinton and Donny & Marie recorded songs written by Tommy Edwards.

Tommy Edwards died in 1969 after suffering a brain aneurysm at the age of 47. The liner notes of his 1994 compilation “The Complete Hits of Tommy Edwards” suggest his aneurysm was due to alcoholism.

JAMES BROWN

Thanks to James Brown, we have Soul, Funk and Michael Jackson’s dance moves.

Winter 1958 was approaching and a tour bus was making its way cross-state returning to Macon, Georgia. Riding inside was a fledgling group of soul singers, led by a twenty-five year old James Brown. He was fidgeting in his seat, coming back from appearing at the Million Dollar Palms Club in Florida. His friend and ex-cellmate Johnny Terry had given James a tune he was struggling with. At one point during the drive home, he approached guitar player Bobby Roach, a member of his band with The Famous Flames. James showed him the tune and Roach was able to craft a guitar part for the song. The members of the Famous Flames arranged their back–up vocals and soon they were recording a demo of a song called “Try Me”. They sent it to the original naysayer of the James Brown Sound, King Records head Syd Nathan. Nathan had heard an earlier demo of The Famous Flames and almost fired the person who had signed them. But despite his original reaction to Brown’s voice, the group’s subsequent success had evidently changed his mind. Nathan had them re-record the song and released it soon after.

“Try Me” hit Number One in the Billboard R&B chart in late 1958. The song also charted in Billboard’s Pop chart and climbed to Number 49, becoming the first single James Brown ever recorded to break into the national charts. After the initial success of their first single, “Please Please Please”, Brown had released nine more singles between 1956 and 1958, each with little chart success.

James was traveling that night with a new line-up of singers that were christened The Famous Flames after the original members walked out just a few weeks before. It seems that their manager suggested that the name of The Famous Flames be changed to James Brown and The Famous Flames. Out of pride, they walked. Some were smart enough to return after a while, but those who didn’t fell into overnight obscurity. James Brown’s career, on the other hand, would develop slowly but steadily throughout the Sixties and early Seventies, releasing record after record. Most of his songs barely cracked the Top Forty because his sound was still too raw for many white ears, but he was incredibly popular in the R&B chart. Soon, he was being called “Soul Brother Number One”. and “The Hardest Working Man In Show Business” because of his physically exhausting performances. By 1970, he was christened “The Godfather of Soul”. In taking a look at his career, it’s clear now that he alone created not just one but two different musical styles. James Brown managed to extract soul music out of the doo-wop music of the day only by singing. His voice however, contrasted greatly from Sam Cooke’s delivery, who introduced the smoother sound of soul with “You Send Me” in 1957. Brown’s was an imperfect, yet deeply personal series of wails that essentially sounded like beautiful pain. Where Cooke’s soul was smooth and easy, reminiscent of Nat “King” Cole’s style, Brown’s soul was tortured, reminiscent of nobody. Today, James Brown’s voice remains one of the most recognizable in rock ‘n’ roll history alongside Elvis and Mick.

As James Brown’s music continued to develop and change, he invented a whole new sound by 1968 and spawned a brand new genre. Funk music began with James Brown. The term ‘funk’ originates from the word for bad body odor. James Brown did indeed work up a heavy sweat with all his moves and gyrations and his performances were so fiercely physical that his dance moves mirrored the beat. His signature groove emphasized the downbeat with heavy emphasis on the first beat of every measure. That simple groove was utilized again with the debut of Sylvester’s Stewart’s band Sly & The Family Stone in 1968. By the end of the decade, funk bands were cropping up like weeds. Funk Rock spun out of Funk music as did Funk Boogie. Funk groups in the Seventies also played Disco and the two genres became closely intertwined by 1974. Many more major classic funk acts, singers and songwriters started to crop up like Ike & Tina Turner, Parliament/Funkadelic, Earth, Wind & Fire, Booker T. & The MG’s, Chaka Khan, Labelle, Prince and Michael Jackson.

Brown’s road to funk wasn’t an easy one. He was born to a very poor young couple in a small, wooden shack in Elko, South Carolina on May 3, 1933. His mother was sixteen years old and his father was twenty-two. His name was originally to be Joseph James Brown but his first two names were inadvertently reversed on the birth certificate. They moved often, at one time staying in a brothel owned by his aunt. James was eventually abandoned by both parents and spent much of his childhood on the street, obtaining no more than a sixth grade education. To make money, he sang in talent shows as a child and danced on the streets for money.

As he grew into a teenager, he learned harmonica, guitar and piano. He began a career in boxing until he was sent to a juvenile detention center in Toccoa, Georgia for robbery at age 16. During his stay, he met some people that shared an equal passion for music and formed a gospel quartet with four fellow cellmates while in prison, calling themselves The Swanees. They fashioned their own musical instruments, using a comb and paper, a washtub bass and large lard tubs as drums, which Brown played. Brown was paroled three years later on June 14, 1952, his time having been a sort of incubation and rehearsal period for the musical phoenix that was about to rise from the flames of his difficult early life.

 

THE FAMOUS FLAMES

Taking on several jobs as a janitor or dishwasher and attempting to re-start his boxing career, Brown joined the Ever Ready Gospel Singers in 1954 with his old cellmate and Swanees group member Johnny Terry who was also released from the detention center at around the same time as Brown. The group was struggling to get a record company to hear them in order to get signed and recorded when another old friend during his days in the center named Bobby Byrd called him. It seems that Troy Collins, the lead singer of Byrd’s own group, The Avons, was killed in a car accident and would James be interested in joining the group as lead singer. Destiny had stepped into his life, since James Brown’s powerful, unique voice could never sing anything other than lead. Feeling that he had a better chance to succeed with The Avons, Brown agreed.

Upon joining the group , they changed their name to the Toccoa Band because there were other groups using the “Avon” name, but once they saw Little Richard perform in 1955, they decided they needed a hotter group moniker, so they changed the group name once again, this time to The Flames. Soon, they were hired by Little Richard’s agent Clint Brantley to perform in his club in Macon, Georgia. It was Brantley who suggested they added ‘Famous’ to their group name.

 
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE – THE FAMOUS FLAMES

The Famous Flames’ reputation grew along with Little Richard after his success with “Tutti Frutti”. Brantley included the group in all of Little Richard’s live performances as second billing. Evidently feeling inspired by their growing success, Brown sat down to begin writing songs with some of his band members. By the end of 1955, Brantley recorded a demo of a song Brown wrote with ex-Swanees member Johnny Terry called “Please Please Please”, and gave it to a local Macon radio station to play. Brown had been inspired to write the song after Little Richard wrote the word ‘please’ three times on a napkin. Brown held on to that napkin as a reminder and managed to write lyrics with Terry. The melody was taken from The Orioles’ rock ‘n’ roll version of Big Joe Williams’ “Baby, Please Don’t Go”.

“Please Please Please” was sent to several record labels in the hopes that one of them would pick them up. After several refusals, it came down to two interested labels. Ralph Bass of Federal Records eventually signed them and they re-recorded the song in early 1956. After Bass to assured record owner Syd Nathan that James Brown’s voice was what people wanted to hear, Nathan agreed to release the single. It reached Number Six in Billboard R&B Chart in September of 1956.

One thing that was certain after the release of “PPP” was that James Brown’s voice was uniquely distinctive. The Famous Flames had inadvertently relegated themselves as the background vocals, suddenly rendering their participation trivial and easily replaceable. When their new manager Ben Bart, chief of the Universal Attractions Agency, suggested they add James Brown’s name to the Famous Flames group moniker, their collectively pierced ego compelled them to choose from only two options Bart gave them, to “staying and working for $35 a night or go home’. Upon handing in their resignation, The Famous Flames were almost immediately replaced by The Dominions, Little Richard’s back-up band, and re-named them The Famous Flames.

TRY ME – JAMES BROWN AND THE FAMOUS FLAMES

It wasn’t until two years later when James Brown and the Famous Flames had their breakthrough success with “Try Me”, topping the Billboard R&B chart and cracking the National Top Fifty Pop chart, peaking at Number 49 by early 1959. Bobby Byrd was asked by Brown to return to the newly named group, James Brown and The Famous Flames. Byrd agreed. In April of 1959, they debuted at the Apollo Theater, opening for Little Willie John.

With the success of “Try Me”, James Brown was able to pick and choose who he wanted to sing with and managed to also start recording himself. He also began to develop his stage routine, singing the song “Please Please Please” with such intensity during live performances that he would feign exhaustion, especially after he realized that his audience loved to see him pour it all out. He would drop down to his knees while singing as if collapsing and the crowd would go wild. Fellow Flame, usually Bobby Byrd, would approach him with a towel and drop it on his neck, before helping him get back up with much struggle and help him offstage, patting his back all the way in reassurance. Suddenly, Brown would tear off the towel and shirk away the reassurances, coming back to the mike and delivering another series of wails that sent the crown into a further frenzy. This crowd-enticer would become a standard in all his performances, soon trading the towel for a trademark cape instead, mimicking Little Richard and a wrestler of the day named Gorgeous George who both used capes during their introductions.

Brown was quickly followed by white imitators, particularly Wayne Cochran, one of the first white soul singers and dubbed “The White Knight of Soul”. Cochran also dropped on his knees to be taken away in a cape and return, introducing the same routine to a receptive, mostly white audience who weren’t aware of James Brown’s existence.

Brown’s dance steps were lightning fast and many of Michael Jackson’s dance moves can be plainly seen in Brown’s style, but by the end of the Fifties, these signature styles of his were still in development.

He continued to release single after single throughout the Sixties, amassing a steady and large output’ although most of his singles never charted very high in the Pop charts, unlike the R&B charts. He broke a few times into the Top Ten and went on to further perfect his style throughout the rest of the decade and beyond. His biggest hits were “(I Got You) I Feel Good” (1965), “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag” (1965), “Get On The Good Foot” (1972) and “Living In America” (1986). James Brown died on Christmas Day in 2006 from congestive heart failure due to complications of pneumonia. He had just come back from a tour through Europe and had no intention of slowing down. James Brown was 73 years old.

 

PHIL SPECTOR

Phil Spector is among the very short list of producers who made more of an impact on rock ‘n’ roll than many of the artists he produced during the early to mid-Sixties. By 1969, he was working with the top names in rock legend, despite the fact that controversy constantly accompanied him, and almost always due to his own actions.

Phil Spector’s innovations in the studio are now standard audio effects found in any audio console. His legend has loomed large for decades, not just in his influence on the ongoing development of rock ‘n’ roll music back during its early days and beyond, but also over the entire recording industry, with the “Wall of Sound” effect he had invented through pure aural experimentation. As he aged however, his egomania became more and more unhinged and as of the writing of this blog in 2014, finds himself sitting in prison, charged with second degree murder. It’s reasonable to say therefore that Phil Spector is probably the most famous, and certainly the most infamous, record producer in Rock ‘n’ Roll history.

 
TO KNOW HIM IS TO LOVE HIM – THE TEDDY BEARS

It all started when Harvey Phillip Spector taught himself how to play guitar as a teenager. His interests weren’t just limited to playing and writing songs however. He was particularly interested in the recording process also. Being an entrepreneurial fellow even at the age of eighteen, he started to write songs and soon formed a doo-wop group called The Teddy Bears with his high school friends Marshall Leib, Sandy Nelson and Annette Keinbard. It would be the only time he would ever sing in a group during his entire career.

In 1958, The Teddy Bears recorded two Spector-penned songs for single release. The recording helped them secure a deal with Era Records and in September of 1958, “To Know Him Is To Love Him” was released. By December 1 it was Number One on Billboard’s Pop chart, selling well over a million copies. It would be a flash in the pan however, because their following single release “I Don’t Need You Anymore” barely entered the Top 100 and stalled at Number 91.

Intent on learning everything there was to know about producing a record, Spector hung around recording studios in Hollywood. Stan Ross, co-owner of Gold Star Studios in Hollywood, took a liking to the kid and began to mentor him in record production. Gold Star Studios would go on to become one of the premier recording facilities between 1950 and 1984, but back when Spector worked there, it was only known for its echo chambers.

 

THE WALL OF SOUND

Phil Spector’s experimentation with microphone placement and heavy instrumentation developed into a completely unique recording technique later christened by Rolling Stones’ manager Andrew Loog Oldham as “The Wall of Sound”. Although the term had been used before during the Fifties by writers describing the impact of the Stan Kenton Orchestra’s brass section, Oldham, who was hired to promote The Righteous Brothers’ single “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” in 1964, released large print ads advertising the song’s release and calling Spector’s production technique “Tomorrow’s Music Today” in some ads and “Wall of Sound” in others.

“The Wall of Sound” had to do with overdubbing guitars over guitars, pianos over pianos, drums over drums, playing the same notes, then mixing them all together. Once that’s done Spector would place several microphones inside an echo chamber studio and recorded his mixes in the echo chamber. This gave the sound a density and orchestration that cleanly cut through AM radio. In fact, Spector has always insisted that his sound was meant to be heard in mono, because the sound is being produced exactly how the producer wants you to hear it and doesn’t give you the option of changing the producer’s intention by placing stereo speakers in certain angles and focusing on instruments that were meant to be heard as part of a solid ‘wall’ of music.

“There was a lot of weight on each part… The three pianos were different… one electric, one not, one harpsichord, and they would all play the same thing and it would all be swimming around like it was all down a well. Musically, it was terribly simple, but the way he recorded and miked it, they’d diffuse it so that you couldn’t pick any one instrument out. Techniques like distortion and echo were not new, but Phil came along and took these to make sounds that had not been used in the past. I thought it was ingenious.” –Barney Kessel; session musician during Spector’s recordings.

Today, this “Wall of Sound” could easily be duplicated by simply pressing the ‘reverb’ button, but back during Spector’s day, the sound actually had to be created. Spector was the first producer to experiment with sound in order to get an altogether different sound and feeling.

By the end of 1959, the Teddy Bears had quit and Spector focused fully on music production. He worked as an apprentice with the legendary rock ‘n’ roll songwriting duo Jerry Lieber & Mike Stoller that same year and listened intently as orchestrator Stanley Applebaum layered in strings to The Drifters’ song “There Goes My Baby”.

By 1960, he had co-written another hit, this time with Jerry Lieber, called “Spanish Harlem”, which went on to become a Top Ten hit for Ben E. King. He also worked as a session musician sometimes, playing the guitar solo on the Drifters’ song “On Broadway”. By 1961, Spector was working for Atlantic Records and was asked to produce a song by a group called The Top Notes called “Twist & Shout”, later to be recorded by The Isley Brothers and then The Beatles to ultimate acclaim. Spector was still developing his recording style, so The Top Notes’ “Twist & Shout” doesn’t have the “Wall of Sound” technique he was soon to perfect.

From 1960 to 1966, Phil Spector career blossomed, producing Top Forty hits for groups he had either discovered or created himself, such as The Crystals (“He’s A Rebel”, “Da Doo Ron Ron”, “Then He Kissed Me”), The Ronettes (“Be My Baby”) , Ike and Tina Turner (“River Deep, Mountain High”), Gene Pitney (“Every Breath I Take”), Connie Francis, Bob B. Soxx & The Blue Jeans (“Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah”) and The Righteous Brothers (“You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”, “(You’re My) Soul & Inspiration”, “Unchained Melody”) among others.

One particular Spector touch is in 1962’s “Zip-A-Dee-doo-Dah” by Bob B. Soxx & The Blue Jeans. Having remade the Disney song and giving it a rock ‘n’ roll beat, he broke with tradition and turned off the mic that was recording the guitar. The guitar was now being heard spilling into the microphones of the other instruments in the room. The sound of the “bleeding guitar” especially during its solo, gives it a unique, ethereal feel.

Many artists copied Spector’s “Wall of Sound” technique, most notably Brian Wilson and his Beach Boys recordings with soaring harmonies. These harmonies were less compact than Spector’s style, sounding more like a wave than a wall, but it was a style undoubtedly sparked by Spector’s successful tinkering. Other artists that have developed their own sound thanks to Spector include The Beatles, The Rolling Stones. The Four Tops, The Lovin’ Spoonful, ABBA, Meat Loaf and Bruce Springsteen, among others.

PHIL SPECTOR AND THE BEATLES

By 1969, the Beatles were very close to breaking up. The songs recorded for the upcoming “Get Back” album had been indefinitely shelved because the four were having trouble focusing on the work while being filmed in an empty film studio for their upcoming movie (which turned out to be “Let It Be”) instead of their usual comfortable Abbey Road surroundings. Soon, the Beatles abandoned the music that resulted out of those sessions. They took a break from each other for a few months, then reunited one more time to record their last masterpiece, “Abbey Road”. The “Get Back” sessions were all but forgotten, until John Lennon took it upon himself to find a producer who could make something out of what they had recorded. Along with George Harrison, John reached out to Phil Spector to produce and release the “Get Back“ album. Re-named “Let It Be”, Spector got to work.

Sprinkled with loose conversation and musical snippets that segued into other songs, “Let It Be” turned out to have Spector’s fingerprints all over it. Although he didn’t use his “Wall of Sound” technique exactly, he did do many overdubs of orchestras and angelic voices, adding them particularly to three tracks “Across The Universe”, “I Me Mine” and “The Long and Winding Road”. John and George were satisfied with the result but Paul McCartney was not. He had wanted “Long and Winding Road” to be a simple song, and felt that the entire album was overproduced. Some Beatles critics also sniffed at the Spector Sound placed on a Beatles album. Still, the album as well as “Let It Be’ and “Long & Winding Road” all hit Number One and sold millions.

Thirty three years later in 2003, Paul finally got to produce the album the way he wanted it to sound and called it “Let It Be…Naked”. With the tracks in different order and the inclusion of “Don’t Let Me Down” in this version, the album sounds a lot cleaner and delicate, closer in sparse recording style with the White Album, and a worthy follow-up as the last album the Beatles would ever release again as a group. If one listens to Spector’s version of “The Long & Winding Road” back to back with McCartney’s produced version from “…Naked”, Spector’s heavy-handed production technique will become abundantly clear to the listener.

Despite the “Let It Be” controversy, Spector continued to work with both John and George during the early solo years. Spector produced Harrison’s “Concert for Bangladesh”, co-produced “All Things Must Pass” and single “Bangla Desh” with George.

He also produced John Lennon’s “Plastic Ono Band”, “Imagine” “Sometime In New York City” and “Rock and Roll” albums as well as the singles “Instant Karma” and “Power to the People”.


Phil Spector was an erratic eccentric all his life with a love and penchant for weapons. Those close to him say his eccentricity was rooted in his fame going to his head. Spector married Ronnie Bennett of the Ronettes in the mid Sixties and had to endure Spector’s cruelty. As Kurt Loder reported on VH1, Spector “became abusive, keeping her a prisoner in their mansion, and at one point threatening to have a hit man kill her.”

“Phil was a very normal person at the beginning of his career, but as time went on, they started writing about him being a genius and he said ‘yeah, I’m a genius’. And then they would say he was a mad genius, so he became a mad genius.” -Ronnie Bennett Spector

He owned all types of licensed guns and often carried them on his person while working. In the late Seventies, Spector produced another controversial album, this time by Leonard Cohen, called “Death Of A Ladies’ Man”. The same complaints from purist fans regarding Spector’s heavy-handed production technique over Cohen’s earlier, starkly acoustic work caused friction between artist and producer. Spector had locked Cohen out of any participation in producing the album with him and at one point even threatened Cohen with a crossbow. He would not be the only artist who had that same crossbow story to tell.

A year or so after Cohen’s album, Spector also produced The Ramones in 1979. This time, Ramones fans were upset about their radio friendly sound. Spector always received a lot of criticism for his style but it ultimately always was a successful release. The Ramones’ “Rock & Roll High School”, “Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio” and an old Spector-penned Ronettes song called “Baby I Love You” were all produced by Phil.

Johnny Ramone recalled a time when Spector got upset when the group wanted to go home.

“…and then he reaches into his pocket and well, he pulls out a gun, puts it on the table right in front of us and says, ‘you guys don’t really have to go yet, do you?’” –Johnny Ramone

Nothing however, compares to the stories while he was recording John Lennon’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll” album,

“Rock ‘n’ Roll” was an album filled with oldies recorded by John Lennon. The album was made simply because of a legal obligation in a settlement with the owner of Chuck Berry’s “You Can’t Catch Me”, Morris Levy. Levy had sued Lennon and the Beatles for using the line “here come ol’ flattop” and the same blues chord structure in “Come Together” as “You Can’t Catch Me”. They agreed that Lennon would record at least three of Levy’s song properties he owned, many of them Fifties classics. Lennon agreed and called Spector to produce.

“It started in ’73 with Phil and it fell apart. I ended up as part of mad, drunk scenes in Los Angeles and I finally finished it off on me own. And there was still problems with it up to the minute it came out. I can’t begin to say. It’s just balmy, there’s a jinx on that album.” –John Lennon 1975; Rolling Stone

John had separated from Yoko from the summer 1973 thru Thanksgiving of ’74, a year and a half of debauchery in L.A. with Yoko-approved Japanese girlfriend May Pang in tow, and a veritable Rock ‘n’ Roll Rat Pack. John Lennon was palling around mostly those days with Harry Nilsson, and occasionally Keith Moon would join in on the recordings with Spector. Besides the “Rock ‘n’ Roll” album, John was also working on Harry Nilsson’s “Pussy Cats” album in which Keith Moon contributed three tracks. A brief glimpse of the insanity involved during this period can be found in a note John wrote to Spector during that period.

“A MATTER OF PEE – Phil, See you around 12:30! Should you not yet know, it was Harry (Nilsson) and Keith (Moon) who pissed on the console! We left at 11:30… Jerry wants to evict us or that’s what Capitol tells us. Anyway tell him to bill Capitol for the damage if any? I can’t be expected to mind Adult Rock Stars nor can May. Besides she works for me not A&M! I’m about to piss off to Record Plant because of this crap! John” – Letter from John Lennon to Phil Spector

Because Spector was so insistent on producing his records his way, he hesitated to work with John on “Rock ‘n’ Roll” at first because he didn’t want Lennon’s interference.

“On the Rock ‘n’ Roll it took me three weeks to convince him (Spector) that I wasn’t going to co-produce with him, and I wasn’t going to go in the control room. I was only… I said, I just want to be the singer, just treat me like Ronnie. We’ll pick the material, I just want to sing. I don’t want anything to do with production or writing or creation. I just want to sing.” –John Lennon 1980; The Lennon Tapes

The sessions would often dissolve into drunken chaos.

“The first song they did for that album was ‘Bony Maronie’. By this time we had waited for Phil for three hours., and now everybody’s blitzed. By the time John came to sing his guide vocal he was half drunk – and there’s Phil, waving around this wand. He had a wand to conduct proceedings. Every day was something different. You see the man come in one day dressed as a doctor, the next as a karate expert.” –May Pang, 2010; Uncut Magazine

At times, Spector himself would get frustrated at the drunken disorganization in the studio and used his own brand of getting the musicians’ attention. In Mark Ribowski’s book “He’s A Rebel”, Spector “fired a shot into the ceiling”. Lennon held his ears and said “Phil, if you’re gonna kill me, kill me. But don’t fuck with me ears, I need ‘em.”

Spector produced nine songs for that album but only four made it on to the final release. Spector never completed “Rock ‘n’ Roll”. Instead, he decided to steal the master tapes. It took a year for John Lennon to go through legal proceedings to force Spector to relinquish the tapes. Once John had them in his possession, he finished the album himself.

“One day when he didn’t want to work, one night he called me, he said the studio had been burnt down. Now these… in the early days I didn’t know about it, you know, didn’t know how far away he was. So I said, ‘oh, the studio’s burnt down’. So I get somebody to call the studio, it hadn’t been burnt down. That was the Sunday, the following Sunday he calls and he says on the phone ‘Hey, Johnny’… I said ‘oh, there you are Phil, what happened?’ We’re supposed to be doing a session. ‘I got the John Dean tapes’. I says ‘what?’ ‘I got the John Dean tapes…’ What he was telling me in his own sweet way was he had my tapes, not the John Dean Watergate tapes, he had my tapes locked in the cellar behind the barbed wire and the Afghan dogs and the machine guns. So there was no way you could get them. So that album was stopped in the middle for a year, and we had to sue through Capitol to get them back off him.” –John Lennon, 1980; The Lennon Tapes

Once the Seventies ended, Spector grew inactive for the rest of the century with only occasional excursions into music production. He had become considerably more eccentric. His obsession with weapons and his gun collection grew more dangerous, having more than one girlfriend accuse him of pointing a gun on them. His substance and alcohol abuse only exacerbated his bizarre behavior. It culminated in the morning of February 3, 2003.

64 year old Spector spent the night of February 2nd being driven by his chauffeur Adriano DeSouza and accompanied by different women throughout the evening. At 12:30AM, Spector arrived at L.A. celeb hangout Dan Tana’s with an unknown blonde and spent the next hour and a half drinking and enjoying himself. By 2AM, after leaving a huge tip, Spector and his blonde of the moment got in his limo and headed to the House of Blues.

Lana Clarkson was a 40 year old b-movie actress working as a hostess at the House of Blues in order to make ends meet. She was moderately well-known among the b-movie circuit for appearing in “sword and sorcery” films such as Roger Corman’s “Deathstalker” and “Barbarian Queen”. She was also well-known for displaying her attributes by shedding her top for many of her films. Clarkson was a statuesque blonde who was going through a time in her life where she was struggling to restart her acting career while working as a hostess in the meantime.

Closing time everywhere in Los Angeles is 2AM so when Phil Spector arrived at closing time, Clarkson approached him. She didn’t recognize Spector to even be male when she tried to stop him from coming in.

“Excuse me, ma’am, you can’t come in here.” Clarkson told Spector. But once a House of Blues employee set her straight as to who he was, she allowed him in and seated them in the VIP area. After ordering champagne and staying another half hour, Spector’s date left for home, leaving him to chat with Clarkson for a while. Spector invited her to come to his mansion and she agreed. They got into his limousine and chauffer DeSouza remembers hearing them chatting and laughing in the back seat while watching a DVD on Spector’s portable player.

When they arrived at Spector’s mansion, he told his chauffeur to wait for him, that they’ll be back out in an hour.

Only Spector and Clarkson truly knew what happened during the hour they were alone in his mansion. At around 5AM, DeSouza heard a gunshot coming from the house. Deciding to investigate, he exits his limousine and walks around back, spotting Spector exiting his back door with a gun in his bloodied hand.

“I think I killed somebody.” Spector told DeSouza who immediately called 911. The police had to use a taser to calm Spector down when they arrived. He immediately needed to be restrained, struggling with the police while trying to explain that it was an accident. Once they entered the living room, they saw Lana Clarkson’s body in a short black dress and black stockings and slumped on a chair, her legs stretched out and a gun at her side on the floor. Her blonde hair was tousled and blood emanated from her nose and down her neck in streams. She had been shot in the mouth.

After being apprehended, Spector changed his story from having accidentally shot her to having it been a suicide, telling the police she had “kissed the gun”. The coroner’s report did indeed disclose gun residue on both Clarkson’s hands, suggesting she had shot the gun. There was however no evidence pointing as to who the gun belonged to since it wasn’t registered to either of them and the gun had been wiped clean of any fingerprints.

“I don’t know what the fucking lady… what her problem is, but she wasn’t a security at the House of Blues and she’s a piece of shit. And I don’t know what her fucking problem was. But she certainly had no right to come to my fucking castle, blow her fucking head open…” Alleged quote by Phil Spector to police after his arrest.

Phil Spector was released on $1 million bail and went through two trials. The first was declared a mistrial on September 26, 2007 because the jury was hung 10 to 2 for conviction when the decision had to be unanimous. On April 13, 2009, the jury in his second trial found Spector guilty of second degree murder. The fact that Clarkson was found with her purse at her side when her body was discovered and the limousine waiting for her outside to take her home were just some of the compelling facts that made the jury skeptical of a person going to a person’s house just to kill herself. People who knew Clarkson also testified to her character and painted a picture of a woman looking forward to her future.

Phil Spector was sentenced to nineteen years to life in state prison. He will be eligible for parole, if he lives, when he’s 88 years old.

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