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Tearing Down the Wall of Sound: The Rise and Fall of Phil Spector Hardcover – June 5, 2007

4.6 out of 5 stars 53 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This eminently readable and thoroughly researched biography from UK journalist and author Brown (The Dance of 17 Lives) chronicles the roller-coaster life of legendary (and legendarily bizarre) music producer Phil Spector, a man propelled by genius, insecurity, paranoia and rage. Spector's career was off and running before his 20th birthday, when he penned and produced the 1958 Teddy Bears' hit, "To Know Him is to Love Him." Soon enough, Spector was perched atop the industry, a dazzling figure in flashy suits and six-inch Cuban-heeled boots who produced dozens of hits for the Crystals, the Ronettes and the Righteous Brothers, worked with the Beatles and the Ramones, and defined the "Wall of Sound" technique that would change audio forever and bring the first strains of pop music into the world of serious art. And yet, Spector remained anxious, paranoid and vengeful ("the little guy rubbing the big guy's nose in it"), secluding himself for years at a time and prone to unpredictable, dangerous outbursts-in other words, a time bomb. Brown makes a chilling account of Spector's most recent brush with detonation-the 2003 shooting death of a woman in Spector's home-in a chapter titled, "I Think I Killed Somebody," featuring new interviews and grand jury testimony released in 2005. Stacked with incredible anecdotes, Brown's entertaining and nuanced portrait lifts the fog of myth and outright falsehood (including Spector's own) that have obscured the celebrity producer (like an enormous, gravity-defying wig) through the years.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Strange that a major biography of rock impresario Spector appears during, not after, his murder trial. Of course, with the prosecution proceeding at a supremely glacial pace, a verdict could be years away. Will anyone care by then? They should, because Spector's is the story of a guy who became a millionaire before he could vote, whose "wall of sound" recording techniques swamped the early 1960s pop charts with hits by the Ronettes, the Crystals, the Righteous Brothers, and others. The Ramones' End of the Century in 1980 was his last production until 2003, in which year actress Lana Clarkson died of a gunshot wound to the head at Spector's mansion. Did he shoot her, or was it, as he swears, suicide? Brown doesn't hazard a choice, but he does deliver an exciting biography, thanks to Spector's long history of recreational drug use, monumental temper tantrums, and gun-brandishing threats directed at an array of impressive people. Stay tuned to Court TV for the rest of the story. Tribby, Mike

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (June 5, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400042194
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400042197
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.5 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #556,060 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Phil Spector has been the subject of profiles and biographies ever since Tom Wolfe's essay, "The First Tycoon of Teen" was published in 1964. Subsequent volumes have included Richard Williams' 1972 "Out of His Head: The Sound of Phil Spector," and Mark Riboswky's 1989 "He's a Rebel: The Truth About Phil Spector - Rock and Roll's Legendary Madman." Each provided a view of Spector that was shaped by the author's background and the times in which the biography was written. Of the four, Brown's is the most journalistic, though given the story he had to tell, it still turned out sensationalistic.

Wolfe began the Spector profiling with a hyperkinetic magazine article (reprinted in the anthology "The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby") that read like a souped-up press release. Spector's troubled childhood, particularly his father's suicide, was omitted, and the whole psychological foundation of his behavior was left unexplained. Wolfe's portrait found Spector reaching the crest of fame that would sustain his legacy. Williams, writing in the early '70s, profiled Spector after he'd produced the grand failure of "River Deep, Mountain High," and resuscitated his legend with "Let it Be," and solo albums by George Harrison and John Lennon. Like Wolfe, Williams didn't expose the intimate detail of Spector's childhood, nor report on Spector's outrageous behaviors, resulting in more of a caricature than a portrait. The book became quite scarce (trading at $100 or more) until it was reprinted in 2003.

Williams' portrait stood until 1989, when Ribowsky wrote an explosively detailed biography. Ribowsky explored the details of Spector's childhood, including the family dynamics and the lifelong impact of Ben Spector's suicide.
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Format: Hardcover
Those familiar with Mick Brown's work for newspapers or his earlier books (in particular The Spiritual Tourist) will have an idea of what to expect. Intelligent, thoughtful and stylish writing of the highest order. Mick manages to cram the book with myriad facts, while never seeming to make it information heavy, but he also never loses sight of his subject. Unlike many biographers, Mick places Spector within the broad sweep of his life and times while simultaneously showing him to be a three dimensional character. From the earliest pages Spector, a man who many of us think we know but in reality what we know is rumour and tittle-tattle, becomes more than just a name, a reputation and a myth - he becomes a real person. This book will standout for many years to come as one of the single best biographies about a musician, or for that matter a man or woman from whatever walk of life.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book will tell you all you want to know about music producer Phil Spector in addition to a number of things you could do without. It is, without question, a thorough biography. The only thing missing is the outcome of the trial in which he is accused of murdering Lana Clarkson. Scarred during childhood by the suicide of his father and the bullying he received at school, Spector used people to advance his own cause. He would treat his musicians wonderfully while his singers who would make hits of the songs he produced would often be treated contemptuously as only teen-agers. He needed people around him to ward off the loneliness, but treated them in such a way they would abandon him. Several of his friends, among them Lenny Bruce and John Lennon, passed away leaving Spector to deliver eulogies at their funerals. His unfortunate marriage to Ronnie Bennett of The Ronettes was doomed to fail. He was smitten by her beauty while she was hoping he would advance her singing career. Upon marriage Spector slammed the door on her career by keeping her holed up in their mansion. Prescription drugs, alcohol, an arsenal of guns, bizarre behavior, and his hair trigger temper of screaming profanities have formed a combustible mixture in dealing with people throughout the decades. In the past he has threatened others who visited his mansion when they have wanted to leave, and whether he is found guilty of Ms. Clarkson's murder remains to be seen. Phil Spector's life, by his own admission, has not been a happy one. This is a very depressing life story. For Phil Spector's sake I sincerely hope he gets his life straightened out.
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Format: Hardcover
Veteran U.K. music journalist Mick Brown was the last reporter to interview Phil Spector before he was arrested and charged with the murder of Lana Clarkson. During their rambling four-hour discussion, the legendary producer tellingly admitted, "I have devils inside that fight me. And I'm my own worst enemy." The story ran in the U.K. Telegraph just two days before Clarkson was found shot to death in Spector's spooky Alhambra mansion, and undoubtedly this book would not exist if it weren't for that bizarre incident. Still, Brown's sympathetic story traces Spector's incredible rise in the early '60s, with a real understanding of how the producer turned the three-minute pop song into works of art like "Be My Baby," "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" and "River Deep, Mountain High," only to inspire the very same British Invasion that would, at first, replace him on the charts, then ultimately give him a second chance through his work on The Beatles' Let It Be and the solo albums of John Lennon and George Harrison. It's easy to compare Spector's career trajectory to that of Orson Welles, another youthful phenom never able to top himself, whose own Citizen Kane provides a convenient parallel to the producer's eventual self-exile from the world behind the gates of his gothic manse, with his Rosebud the early suicide of his father and the constant hectoring of an overbearing mother. But that doesn't begin to explain the combination of obsession, stubbornness and unbridled ambition that led Spector to create pop masterpieces that took teen angst to mythic heights. Brown leaves little doubt that Spector's continuing fascination with guns, and his penchant for waving them around to get his way, would eventually lead to a tragedy like this, without necessarily condemning him.Read more ›
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