Ben Sargent is one of my favorite political cartoonists. This one particularly captured my feelings lately.
The Phil Spector trial has begun this week with cameras in the courtroom. Must 3-year old Maggie down the street be subjected to the ravings and hairstyles of a mad Los Angeles courtroom? Well, maybe she should. "Never get in the car with crazy record producers, Maggie. Learn to produce your own records."
There’s a very poignant recap of the Spector saga written by Joe Domanick in the Los Angeles Magazine. Although some of the Cher's biographies and Ronnie Spector’s book do cover Phil history, I learned a few fun facts about him in the LA Magazine article.
On the positive side, Domanick describes Spector as the first rock-star producer of the 60s with a "transformative vision that combined the raw power of juke-joint blues with the energy of teeny-bopper pop." Domanick states that Spector "took youth culture into the realm of the operatic" and that his singles had an almost "Wagnerian force." Spector worked on Beatle-related classics such as "The Long and Winding Road," "Let it Be," George Harrison’s "My Sweet Lord," and John Lennon’s "Imagine." Bruce Springsteen’s "Born to Run" was inspired by Spector, as were the bands The Killers, Nine Inch Nails, and The Shins, according to Domanick’s piece.
On the negative side...his parents were first cousins and his father committed suicide by the car-and-carbon-dioxide method when Phil was 8. As a child. Domanick describes Spector as an "asthmatic elfin misfit." His mother and sister were allegedly domineering. Does that neccessarily cause issues with women? Early girlfriends comment on Phil's early struggles with anger and jealousy. He’s been in therapy since 1965 and was on the wagon for a year prior to the incident with Lana Clarkson; however, prior to that he pulled guns on various dates and musicians including Stevie Wonder Dee Dee Ramone and Leonard Cohen. He also allegedly fired a round when producing John Lennon.
I dread following this story. More gun violence issues, hooray. But as Cher Scholar, I feel compelled to keep a side-glance on it. Spector and his minions were a big part of the Sonny & Cher sound, pre-Snuff Garrett.
Cher sang backup on the oft-mentioned signature recordings: "You’ve Lost that Lovin Feeling" by the Righteous Brothers, "Be My Baby" by the Ronettes and the Spector Christmas album. Spector also produced Cher’s first single "Ringo, I Love You," a super-rare collectible of pop culture because it’s desired by Spector fans, Beatle fans and Cher fans.
At Spector’s recording studio, Gold Star on Vine Street in Hollywood, Spector worked with a core group of studio musicians he called The Crew. Cher worked with many of them throughout her tenure with Sonny & Cher: Hal Blaine appears on many Sonny & Cher records (his daughter Michelle Blaine is prominent in the Clarkson murder investigation as she worked for Phil until recently and allegedly deflected his marriage proposals), Glen Campbell who made a few appearances on Cher’s variety shows in the 70s, Leon Russell who wrote "Superstar" which Cher recorded before The Carpenters turned it into a hit, and Mac "Dr. John" Rebennack who also played with Sonny & Cher in the early days.
Sonny probably picked up a lot being Phil Spector’s helper-bee. I remember Sonny talking on an 80s Phil Spector documentary saying how brilliant the Wall of Sound was but that this was basically all Phil could do.
This crime story is also a map of a fading Los Angeles nightlife: Phil hit Trader Vics and Dan Tanas before picking up Clarkson at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip. Lana Clarkson was an aging actress struggling to pay her rent on a shabby bungalow in the Venice canals. Maybe she should have looked for less exclusive and cheaper rent somewhere else, instead of paling around shifty entertainment types at the House of Blues. The LA Magazine article makes her out to be a sweetheart of a smart gal. But they fail to explain (or even raise the question – the veritable elephant in the room) of why this far from doe-eyed-right-off-the-bus actress (she’d been a lei girl on Fantasy Island for God’s sake) didn’t know better than to go home with someone who everyone knows has more guns than wits about him. Was he attractive? No. Was he a star maker of the moment? No. Was he treating her swell that night? No. So WTF??
This is the mystery I’ll be pursuing during this trial. Not if he did it; not why he did it; not why none of the other victims called Spector to acount for years of abusive incidents. Even crazy-old power paralyzes in Hollywood, so it would seem. What I want to know is why the hell Lana Clarkson ended up in that house.
The latest coverage of the trial can be found here, including interesting revelations this week about the jury pool.