February 3, 1967. Eccentric U.K. record producer Joe Meek, said to be the British equivalent of genius pop producer Phil Spector, takes a sawed-off shotgun and shoots his landlady down a flight of stairs before turning the gun on himself.
February 3, 2003. Phil Spector, from the looks of things, becomes America's answer to Joe Meek.
Although the details surrounding the death of B-movie actress Lana Carlson are sketchy, Spector's long infatuation with pulling out guns for effect may have provoked the undesirable result. As Spector's former colleagues and recording artists appear before inquiring TV cameras to express shock over the 62-year-old's arrest on murder charges, it may actually be more of a shock that something like this didn't happen sooner. A recent interview with Spector, published in London's Daily Telegraph two days before the murder, casts an even more chilling pall: He refers to himself as "relatively insane" and says he's taking medication for schizophrenia, all the while denying he's even schizophrenic. "I have a bipolar personality," he's quoted as saying. "I'm my own worst enemy." Perhaps that wasn't a good omen for the British youngsters Starsailor, for whom Spector had recently emerged from seclusion to do some production work.
For many, the star producer's classic '60s and '70s recordings are a memento of pop's bygone innocence -- an era that seems ever more distant now, in light of recent events. So, while politically correct oldies stations wonder whether it's fair to pull "Be My Baby" and "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" from their playlists, what better time for us to play "Rate the Spector Record" than now? Here are the most bizarre documented incidents of violence, megalomania, and raging insanity from behind the Wall of Sound. We invite you, the court of public opinion, to decide if Spector indeed was:
A) A Mad Genius
B) Mad Magazine Mad
C) Just Plain Mad
D) Mad Like a Potential Murder Suspect Mad.
We know where we stand.
To Know Grim Is to Love Grim (1958)
In tribute to his late father, Spector pens his first No. 1 hit by paraphrasing the epitaph on Ben Spector's headstone: "To know him was to love him." Spector was less than loving to the voice who sang the words to the Teddy Bears' hit. When hearing of Annette Kleinbard's near-fatal car wreck the following year, Spector muttered, "Too bad she didn't die." Hey, that's not nice!
Let's Dance the Screw, Parts 1 and 2 (1963)
In order to rid himself of so-called "parasitic" business partners at Philles Records, Spector releases such controversial Crystals records as "He Hit Me and It Felt Like a Kiss" (later covered by Hole) and "Please Hurt Me" to make them nervous and sell out. It works, and with one business partner left standing -- his mentor, Lester Sill (the "Les" in Philles) -- Spector goes into the studio with the Crystals to cut a very special fuck-you record just for him. It features Spector's monotone lawyer urging Sill to "dance the screw."
The Best Part of Breaking Down (1964)
Deathly afraid of flying, Spector believes that if a plane is full of losers, it is doomed. He is relatively calm on the Beatles' first transatlantic flight to the U.S., but passengers on an American Airlines flight later that year aren't so lucky. Spector begins screaming, "This plane is full of losers! It's not gonna make it!" Spector is banned from the airline for life.
Beat My Baby (1972)
Once Ronnie says "I do" to Phil Spector, she doesn't have much of anything to do. Kept away from the recording studio and held as a virtual prisoner in the couple's high-security mansion, Ronnie turns to alco- hol to shut out Phil's shrieking verbal and physical abuse. One night, during a three-way punch fest with Ronnie's mother, Phil announces he has a solid gold, glass-top coffin reserved for Ronnie in the basement. What girl could resist that?
Is This What I Get for Loving You, Baby? (1973)
Spector decides that the only way he'll pay Ronnie $1,300 a month in spousal support is to have three Brinks guards deliver the money in nickels. When he agrees not to do it again, the judge makes it clear that pennies are strictly out, as well.
(Don't) Stand by Me (1974)
When John Lennon needs to record an album of oldies, he turns to producer Phil with the wrong choice of words: "I wanna be just like Ronnie Spector." Phil promptly ignores John in the studio and drives the ex-Beatle to drink. The Rock N Roll sessions finally collapse when Phil fires his gun into the ceiling and an enraged Lennon says, "If you're gonna kill me, kill me. But don't fuck with me ears."
He's Sure the Ghoul I Love (1974)
Phil has a serious auto accident in 1974. Upon his release from the hospital, he spray-paints his hair silver and gold, and hangs an oversize cross around his neck to distract people's attention from his unsightly facial scars. However, his efforts don't divert the LAPD's attention from the Spector entourage's collective gun arsenal. Although they were all fully licensed, the group spends the night in jail, mainly because Spector looks like an extra from The Devil's Rain.
Suspicious Minds? (1975)
Despite widespread inaccuracies picked up from the AP wire service, Spector never produces Elvis Presley. He and some pals do, however, visit the King backstage in Vegas fully armed, producing some tense moments for the Memphis Mafia, until the whole meeting devolves into a mutual gun-admiration society.
Deaf of a Layteeth Man (1978)
Volatile, boozing, and depressed, Spector may not be the perfect choice right at the moment to be producing a Leonard Cohen album. It's during these sessions that Spector aims his gun at a violinist's head and orders him out of the studio for making fun of his lisp.
Da Doo Run Run for Your Life! (1986)
While trying to convince LaToya Jackson to let him produce her next record, he imprisons her in his house for four hours and freaks her out by giving her a key that reads "Bates Motel," asking her if she'd like to go there with him. Cue screeching orchestral stabs!