The True Stories Behind 8 Of Phil Spector’s Greatest Songs

It seems like forever ago when we were first introduced to “al.pacino.wig.jpg.” Good times, good times. The banner image for life is actually a still from Phil Spector, a David Mamet biopic about the famed Wall of Sound producer starring Al Pacino and Helen Mirren that finally airs this Sunday. Like the man himself, Spector has seen its fair share of controversy since it was announced, which is understandable, especially considering, according to Grantland’s Andy Greenwald, it’s a fairly sympathetic look at a man who murdered actress Lana Clarkson in 2003.

It’s worth noting that even if he hadn’t, oh, gunned down a woman, Phil Spector would still be considered one of the biggest psychopaths in music history. A great talent, man; a great man, no. Here are but a few true stories behind some of Spector’s greatest songs, including “Be My Baby,” “Baby I Love You,” and “Then He Kissed Me,” many of which prove that the only thing more massive than his hair was his ego.

Artist: the Ronettes
Song: “Baby I Love You”

The two non-Ronnie Bennett (later Spector) Ronettes, Estelle Bennett and Nedra Talley, were unavailable for the “Baby I Love You” sessions, so Darlene Love and Cher filled in for background vocals.

Artist: the Righteous Brothers
Song: “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'”

Listen closely and you’ll hear that only one of the Righteous Brothers, Bill Medley, sings before the chorus. This greatly annoyed the other Brother, Bobby Hatfield, who loudly asked Spector what the hell he was supposed to do until he could join in. Spector’s response: “You can go straight to the f*cking bank.” He wasn’t wrong, either: “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” had more radio/TV play than any other song in the 20th century.

Artist: Ike & Tina Turner
Song: “River Deep – Mountain High”

Tina Turner (and OVER 20 SESSION MUSICIANS) went through Hell to make this song as perfect as it is. It cost $22,000 to record, a then-unheard amount for a single track, as well as another $20,000 from Spector to Ike, to keep him away from the studio, because Tina had to sing it, in her own words, “500,000 times.” By the end of the sessions, she was “drenched with sweat. I had to take my shirt off and stand there in my bra to sing.”

Artist: the Crystals
Song: “Then He Kissed Me”

Dolores “LaLa” Brooks was only 15 years old when she recorded the vocals for “Then He Kissed Me,” and, as rumor has it, had never been kissed before. THIS SONG IS A LIE.

Artist: the Ronettes
Song: “Be My Baby”

The B-side to “Be My Baby,” a respectable choice for the greatest song ever, is “Tedesco and Pitman,” a lazy instrumental that sounds like it was recorded when a bunch of tired musicians were just fooling around in the studio. This was an intentional choice on Spector’s part — he often picked terrible B-sides, so that all the attention would be on the great single, in this case “Be My Baby.”

Artist: the Beatles
Song: “The Long and Winding Road”

Paul McCartney hated what Spector did to “The Long and Winding Road,” from 1970’s oppressively overdubbed Let It Be, to the degree that when Macca made his case to Apple Records business manager Allen Klein on why the Beatles’ partnership should be dissolved, he used this song as one of six reasons why.

Artist: the Crystals
Song: “Da Doo Ron Ron”

Spector always hired only the finest session musicians, including Hal Blaine, who owns one of the more random streaks in music history: he played on six consecutive Record of the Year winners, from 1966 (Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass’ “A Taste of Honey”) to 1971 (Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”).

Artist: the Ramones
Song: “Baby, I Love You”

Guns were drawn, chords were played hundreds of times, drums were hit for hours on end…

Just watch the video above.