The Sound of Silence
Henry L. Carrigan, Jr.
In December 2002, journalist Mick L. Brown visited Spector’s grand and forbidding Hollywood home to interview for the first time in twenty-five years the musical genius responsible for a musical style the “Wall of Sound” that launched multiple careers and produced so many hit records. Three months later, Spector was being charged with the murder of actress Lana Clarkson in this same mansion.
Tearing Down the Wall of Sound: The Rise and Fall of Phil Spector (Knopf; $26.95), Brown’s engrossing biography of the man who has been called “brilliant,” “insane” and “megalomaniac” is a riveting tale of the meteoric rise and fall of one of rock’s true innovators. Drawing on interviews with Spector’s friends and former colleagues, Brown deftly chronicles Spector’s eccentricities, his insecurities, his perfectionism, and his brilliant talent. Brown carries us from Spector’s father’s suicide and his mother’s haranguing through the young Phil’s insinuation of himself into the Brill Building where he rubbed shoulders with pop music’s most famous songwriters including Leiber and Stoller and a young Carole King to his retreat and hermetic existence in his Hollywood home and the murder of Clarkson. (The trial is still ongoing at the time of this writing.) Spector’s career peaked in the early ‘60s with hits such as “Be My Baby,” “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling,” and “To Know Him is to Love Him” (a phrase he took from his father’s tombstone). He later worked sporadically with the Ramones and most famously he produced The Beatles’ Let It Be, John Lennon’s Imagine, and George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord. Brown’s fascinating book provides the first in-depth look at Spector’s mesmerizing life and career and will be the definitive biography for some time to come.