1991: Phil Spector - Back To Mono (1958-1969)

Let’s get this out of he way: Phil Spector is a crazy motherfucker. He always was, too. Stories abound about the producer’s temper, from abusing then-wife Ronnie Spector (of The Ronettes) to pulling a gun on John Lennon during the ex-Beatles' Rock ‘n’ Roll sessions. Then, of course, there’s the recent trial in which he was indicted for killing actress Lana Clarkson. He appeared in court sporting a classy suit and the most amazing afro you’ll ever see. Crazy motherfucker.

But Phil Spector is also an artistic genius. That word gets thrown around a lot in music criticism, but Spector’s cultural influence can’t be overstated. His ear for arrangement was impeccable, and he used this ability to revolutionize pop music. Under his watch -- in concert and competition with The Beatles, of course -- teenage pop became a serious art form. The Ronettes, The Crystals, and Darlene Love became icons of adolescent melodrama, all to the strains of baritone saxophones, glockenspiels, and strings. Many musicians, including a young Bruce Springsteen, were listening.

Back To Mono, an out-of-print, spectacular box set, does its best to encapsulate Spector’s glory years. The results aren’t always perfect -- his cloying early work will make you cringe -- but hearing Spector’s artistic evolution makes his peaks all the more dizzying. As with most chronological box sets, Back To Mono’s middle portions (in this case, the end of Disc 1 through the beginning of Disc 3) are its best. Highlights come hard and fast: “Be My Baby,” “Then He Kissed Me,” “Da Doo Ron Ron,” “(Today I Met) The Boy I’m Gonna Marry.” Heartbreak has never sounded so wonderful.

The third disc is largely a portrait of the mid-to-late 60s. As America’s post-Kennedy cultural innocence was waning, Spector’s sound was changing -- bells and strings gave way to the rawness of Ike & Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High” and “I’ll Never Need More Than This.” Spector was barely keeping up with the times, but many of the resulting tracks were amazing.

A Christmas Gift For You, Spector’s 1963 Christmas record, comprises the entire fourth disc. For my money, it’s the best holiday pop album ever released, one that contains all the pain and pleasure of the Christmas season with the mixed emotions of Spector’s best teen symphonies. Its centerpiece, Darlene Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” is Spector in a glistening nutshell: aching for the joy at arm’s length, shining like a Christmas tree, and just out of reach.

Disc 1:

1. To Know Him Is to Love Him - Teddy Bears
2. Corrine, Corrina - Ray Peterson
3. Spanish Harlem - Ben E. King
4. Pretty Little Angel Eyes - Curtis Lee
5. Every Breath I Take - Gene Pitney
6. I Love How You Love Me - The Paris Sisters
7. Under the Moon of Love - Curtis Lee
8. There's No Other (Like My Baby) - The Crystals
9. Uptown - The Crystals
10. He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss) - The Crystals
11. He's a Rebel - The Crystals
12. Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah - Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans
13. Puddin' N' Tain - Alley Cats
14. He's Sure the Boy I Love - The Crystals
15. Why Do Lovers Break Each Others Hearts? - Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans
16. (Today I Met) The Boy I'm Gonna Marry - Darlene Love
17. Da Doo Ron Ron - The Crystals
18. Heartbreaker - The Crystals
19. Why Don't They Let Us Fall in Love – Veronica
20. Chapel of Love - Darlene Love
21. Not Too Young to Get Married - Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans
22. Wait 'Til My Bobby Gets Home - Darlene Love
23. All Grown Up - The Crystals

Disc 2:

1. Be My Baby - The Ronettes
2. Then He Kissed Me - The Crystals
3. Fine, Fine Boy - Darlene Love
4. Baby I Love You - The Ronettes
5. I Wonder - The Ronettes
6. Girls Can Tell - The Crystals
7. Little Boy - The Crystals
8. Hold Me Tight - The Treasures
9. (The Best Part of) Breakin' Up - The Ronettes
10. Soldier Baby (Of Mine) - The Ronettes
11. Strange Love - Darlene Love
12. Stumble and Fall - Darlene Love
13. When I Saw You - The Ronettes
14. So Young – Veronica
15. Do I Love You? - The Ronettes
16. Keep on Dancing - The Ronettes
17. You Baby - The Ronettes
18. Woman in Love (With You) - The Ronettes
19. Walking in the Rain - The Ronettes

Disc 3:

1. You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' - The Righteous Brothers
2. Born to Be Together - The Ronettes
3. Just Once in My Life - The Righteous Brothers
4. Unchained Melody - The Righteous Brothers
5. Is This What I Get for Loving You? - The Ronettes
6. Long Way to Be Happy - Darlene Love
7. (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons - The Righteous Brothers
8. Ebb Tide - The Righteous Brothers
9. This Could Be the Night - Modern Folk Quartet
10. Paradise - The Ronettes
11. River Deep, Mountain High - Ike & Tina Turner
12. I'll Never Need More Than This - Ike & Tina Turner
13. Love Like Yours (Don't Come Knocking Everyday) - Ike & Tina Turner
14. Save the Last Dance for Me - Ike & Tina Turner
15. I Wish I Never Saw the Sunshine - The Ronettes
16. You Came, You Saw, You Conquered - The Ronettes
17. Black Pearl - Sonny Charles & The Checkmates, Ltd

18. Love Is All I Have to Give - The Checkmates

Disc 4:

1. White Christmas - Darlene Love
2. Frosty The Snowman - The Ronettes
3. The Bells of St. Mary - Bob B. Soxx and The Blue Jeans
4. Santa Claus is Coming to Town - The Crystals
5. Sleigh Ride - The Ronettes
6. Marshmallow World - Darlene Love
7. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus - The Ronettes
8. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - The Crystals
9. Winter Wonderland - Darlene Love
10. Parade of the Wooden Soldiers - The Crystals
11. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) - Darlene Love
12. Here Comes Santa Claus - Bob B. Soxx and The Blue Jeans
13. Silent Night - Phil Spector and Artists


There’s a lot of good music out there, and it’s not all being released this year. With DeLorean, we aim to rediscover overlooked artists and genres, to listen to music historically and contextually, to underscore the fluidity of music. While we will cover reissues here, our focus will be on music that’s not being pushed by a PR firm.

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