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Tearing Down the Wall of Sound: The Rise and Fall of Phil Spector | [Mick Brown]

Tearing Down the Wall of Sound: The Rise and Fall of Phil Spector

Phil Spector, born in the Bronx in 1940, grew up an outsider despised by his peers. But he formed a band, and had a number-one hit with "To Know Him Is to Love Him". He quickly became the top producer of early rock and roll and the originator of such girl groups as the Ronettes. Hit followed hit, and for all of them he used a new recording style called the "wall of sound". But the reign of the boy-man who owned pop music was doomed, and Spector spiraled into paranoid isolation and peculiar behavior.
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Publisher's Summary

Phil Spector, born in the Bronx in 1940, grew up an outsider despised by his peers. Yet after his family moved to California, he learned everything he could about music, formed a band, and had a number-one hit with "To Know Him Is to Love Him". He quickly became the top producer of early rock and roll and the originator of such girl groups as the Ronettes. He was a millionaire by age 21 and owned his own record label by 22. Hit followed hit, and for all of them he used a new recording style and technique called the "wall of sound".

But the reign of the boy-man who owned pop music seemed doomed by the "British Invasion", and Spector spiraled into paranoid isolation and peculiar behavior. Though he seemed to improve for a time, and even returned to the recording studio to work, his renascence didn't last, and in 2003, the actress Lana Clarkson was found at his home, dead from a gunshot wound.

©2007 Mick Brown; (P)2007 Blackstone Audio Inc.

What the Critics Say

  • Nominee, 2008 Audie Award, Biography/Memoir

"Bloodcurdling....This book would feel like a crime story even if its subject were not currently on trial for Ms. Clarkson's murder." (The New York Times)
"[This] uber-detailed study of pop's scariest visionary is just about as good as a music bio can get." (Kirkus Reviews)
"[A] remarkable book about, among other things, fame, obsession, genius, money and madness....This is the definitive study of the man and the myth that engulfed him." (Observer)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (155 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Chris Sydney 06-11-12
    Chris Sydney 06-11-12 Member Since 2012

    Tell us about yourself! I love to escape into a good book.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Descent Into Madness"

    This book is fascinating and I could not stop listening to this.
    This is an incredible well researched book, that tries to portray a history of very complex man. Phil Spector worked with some of the most seminal musicians of the 20th century.
    I have to echo the thoughts of a previous members review, it would have been great to have snippets of the music mentioned in the book playing in the background. I would look up the songs on the Internet to become familiar with the music. A complex man who finally succumbed to his demons, as talented as he was it is no excuse for his actions.
    A cautionary tale for those who live in Ivory towers and have no real friends to point out that they need help. This is not a book about Lara Clarkson, and this is only mentioned in the afterword. This is a book about confronting the dark side of genius and the madness of a wounded soul.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Adrian Pleasanton, CA, USA 09-15-07
    Adrian Pleasanton, CA, USA 09-15-07 Member Since 2003
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    "excellent"

    Clearly bonkers, but his life sadly echoes one of his favourite films, Citizen Kane.
    The only thing that could have improved this reading would be to have the songs playing in the background as they are being described, so get yourself a copy of Back to Mono as you listen to this.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James Seattle, WA, United States 11-26-09
    James Seattle, WA, United States 11-26-09 Member Since 2009
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    "Wow! What A Great Book!"

    If you're any kind of music buff (like I am) at all, you'll really enjoy this book. I couldn't put it down because of the way that it described one of the most compelling figures our musical history, Phil Spector. I didn't know that he was so instrumental in the lives and careers of so many of my musical favorites throughout the years. You could almost see the tragic end coming in Phil's life, but it still keep my attention throughout and it brought back so many memories of my years growing up and listening to music the way that I did.

    I highly recommend this book, especially if you're a fan of music and were around during the 60's, 70's!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    DMHVetSurveyor Western Wisconsin 07-27-07
    DMHVetSurveyor Western Wisconsin 07-27-07 Member Since 2005
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    "Better than Fiction!"

    Wow, what an amazing life, timely or not. He made or knew anyone who was anyone in the early 60's. The guy was brilliant and knew it, but he had his problems and dealt with them as good as he knew how. A well written/well narrated story that will be enjoyed whether you knew all the music mentioned as I do or not. It's still an amazing story. Listen and Enjoy!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Adrienne Camp Connell, CA, United States 06-27-07
    Adrienne Camp Connell, CA, United States 06-27-07 Member Since 2004
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    "Fascinating & Timely"

    This is really a fantastic book,I enjoyed every minute of it. Having the Phil Spector trial going on while I was listening to it made it even more fascinating, but I think anyone at any time would be interested in listening to it. It is very well written and researched. Spector had a very interesting history and has led an unusual life. He may be a genius or a murderer or both; you decide for yourself.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    JJ California 05-20-14
    JJ California 05-20-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Terrific book, narration hit or miss"
    Did the narration match the pace of the story?

    The narrator is irritating. The voices and accents are unnecessary. The bad accents are few enough to overlook, however... When the narrator is reading the part of a woman, they all sound like drag queen voices: overly feminized caricatures.Now that said, when the narrator is speaking about/for Phil Spector, the crazy is palpable. The pace is just shy of an uncontrolled gallop and it makes the book all the more effective in communicating Spector's decades-long descent into madness.


    Any additional comments?

    The book is terrific. The balance between Spector's musical life and personal life is excellent. I knew a good bit about him musically, but the subtext of his life in between the hits was really informative and helped me get a better, bigger picture of Phil Spector.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark Filla 02-27-08
    Mark Filla 02-27-08 Member Since 2007
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    "Fascinating Character"

    I had only been aware of Phil Spector's contribution to pop music in a general sense. I've learned so many things about the specifics of his contributions from this book. These contributions, however, are diminished to a strong degree by his serious flaws as a person. His story is fascinating and tragic at the same time. I highly recommend this book.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Louise Wallingford, CT, United States 09-11-07
    Louise Wallingford, CT, United States 09-11-07
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    "luvs2listen"

    Excellent to know this screwball's background. I enjoyed every minute of it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bob deerfield beach, FL, USA 07-13-07
    Bob deerfield beach, FL, USA 07-13-07
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    "Most Interesting Person"

    Story is well told and very interesting. I enjoyed every minute of it. Since he is still alive, his story continues on each day with his trial for the murder of Lana Clarkson.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Shannon Chicago, IL, United States 02-08-08
    Shannon Chicago, IL, United States 02-08-08 Member Since 2005
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    "Too technical to be compelling"

    I bought this book because I knew very little about Phil Spector and I was intrigued by his seeming peculiarity. I had heard about his trial and wanted to know something of the character of this alleged murderer. This book provides a modicum of information about his early life, a great deal (too much) information about his recordings, some good trivia about famous singers, and some very interesting information about the murder victim and the prosecution's case. While I enjoyed hearing (once) about the intricacies of setting up and conducting a recording session and Phil's unbelievable demands on the session participants, I got bored hearing essentially the same story over and over. It was interesting hearing tidbits about his dealings with such artists as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Sonny and Cher, and Brian Wilson, and I loved the documentation of his many, many self-aggrandizing lies ("I produced Elvis".) I was unable to connect emotionally with any of the characters except Phil's monstrously neglected children and the murder victim, who was not discussed until the last hour of the book. The author seems to make the case that Phil Spector is unknowable. After about 18 hours of listening, I have to agree.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
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