Arguably, Phil Spector was one of the most influential, praised, and credible producer of modern music. Phil Spector was uniquely experimental and had strong feelings about how musical instruments and composure should play out in a piece of music. Spector’s use of “wall of sound” techniques to create an atmosphere of sound is distinctive. Spector often likened himself to German composer Wagner and referred to his works as “teenage symphonies”. Any work that his name was or would be attached to, he would put his mark on in some form or another. His role as a creator became so inflated that is would impress itself on generations of creators to come. Spector’s hands on approach touched on every aspect of creation, from picking musicians and specialists to backing up artists and his vision in each session. His inspired vision can be felt throughout his lifetime of work.
Doubling and generous amounts of reverb were two of Spector’s major tricks was to use a vast number of instruments to increase the emotional volume of a song. Instead of singular instruments, he would have multiples of each type, pianos, drums, guitars and so on. In doing this it created his “wall of sound” and combine the different instruments and music in such a way that they would create a solitary impression on the piece. When he used this technique he would aim to avoid the use of stereo and instead he would use traces of the different instruments in a singular monaural track as opposed to isolating the tracks to different channels. The “wall of sound” might make a song feel as though it had four or five bands playing a single piece to its listener.
Phil Spector also was a fan of laying foundations in his works. Spector would record the musical instruments first and then layer the vocals over the instrumental recording at a later time. This helped Spector to build up the layers of music and vocals to create a full version of the track. He would record each variable in a song on its own and perfect it before moving on to another instrument. He would also record his musicians and singers for extended periods of time because he felt that it helped produce a smoother sound. He also used echoing techniques by using microphones for recording the musicians and then that recording would be transmitted into an echo chamber. The recording would be played from the studio and reverberated throughout the echo chamber before it would then be picked up by microphones. The usage of echoes and natural reverberations on the rigid walls of the chamber provided a unique rich texture.
The Righteous Brothers, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’”
In this track a listener can hear the depth of Spector’s “Wall of Sound.” The instrumentals feel larger than life and give the entire compilation a grandiose tone. This may be one of the reasons this song has been one of the most aired songs on American radio since its debut. Spector spent a lot of time working on this song and incorporating a number of famous musicians and background singers to help build up the volume and density of the track. Spector utilized an ABABCB form for this song and the original recording took over 39 takes to record to Spector’s liking. They also recorded instrumentals in layers, guitars then pianos and so forth until all instruments were recorded to Spector’s taste.
The Crystals “Then He Kissed Me”
Each generation has its own version of an iconic “girl group”, and The Crystals were influential in promoting and popularity of girl groups in the 1960s. Spector showed off his “wall of sound” technique once again in this work. Spector limited breaks when recording in an effort to limit adjustments to microphones or changes in positioning of people in the studio. Spector also worked directly with La La Brooks to channel the right mood by “thinking of somebody kissing you,” particularly her first kiss.