Tuesday, 18 December 2007

The Day Phil Spector Saved My Saturday

Praising Phil Spector isn’t a particularly fashionable occupation these days. His contribution to popular music is undisputed but you don’t find too many commentators sticking up for him lest they be found guilty of eulogising a, erm, murderer, should he be found guilty. No-one really knows whether he did it, though. His only real crime might be the wearing of the worst hairpieces in Hollywood. Today, though, I love Phil Spector. I really, really love him and here is why:

I had a really crap day. I set off this morning to old London town in order to buy as many Christmas presents as I could for my loved ones. I know from experience that unless I have a pretty good idea of what I intend to buy I’m quite likely to come home with nothing, I am a man after all, so it might seem foolish that I had little idea of what I was going to get today. But, I reasoned, I’m going to London where everything in the world is sold so this won’t be an issue. Covent Garden! Soho! The entire West End! How could I possibly fail?

I failed miserably. Really miserably. After standing on a crowded Underground train for the entire hour of my journey into town I sustained a bad back that was to last the rest of the day. I walked miles around the busy streets of central London, often retracing my steps to return to shops just so I could decide not to buy whatever it was that I’d already decided not to buy in the first place. I really tried. I entered more shops than I ever have in one day and looked at more crap on shelves than ever before but just couldn’t find anything suitable and ended up buying just one measly present. And the amount of people! I shouldn’t whinge about the streets and shops being horribly crowded since this is only to be expected on the penultimate Saturday before Christmas in the West End and I may as well spend my time complaining that water is sometimes a bit too wet for my liking. But I’m going to whinge anyway. It was fucking horrible. And also very lonely.

As it became apparent that my expedition was to end in failure, I became more and more angry. I hated everyone in my path and, even more, I hated myself for lacking the wit and imagination to be able to buy gifts for those I care about. I ended up taking the weight off my feet in a pub (a pint of lager with a chaser of self-loathing please!), which only made me feel like I was wasting even more of everyone’s time. I felt like crap.

So, I wasn’t in a good mood as I took the train home but at least I had the knowledge that at the other end of the line was a pub where I could sit and watch the football. A Fulham win and beer would make everything okay. Well, that idea failed too. The match was dire and Fulham lost to the only goal after conceding a last minute penalty. Brilliant.

Outside the temperature hovered around freezing and I walked the mile and a half home into a biting wind whilst wishing that I’d worn more clothes and also not had most of my hair cut off the day before. I bought a takeaway and I’d just about have enough time to eat it when I got home before my friend Darren came round. What I really needed was someone to whom I could have a moan, someone with whom I could set the world to rights over a few more beers. Just as I finished a quite satisfying fish and chips Darren phoned. He was working late and couldn’t make it. I was quite disconsolate and seriously considered going straight to bed, anything to be rid of this wretched day.

It was then that I noticed some mail with my name on. One was a Christmas card and the other looked like a cd. I didn’t remember buying a cd. I opened the package and found to my utter delight that it was the Phil Spector Best Of and Christmas album double set that I’d ordered (for the princely sum of £5!) two weeks previously. I rushed to my room knowing exactly what I wanted to hear. Cd in, track 2, volume up loud, sprawl out on my bed and….boom, boom boom, BANG, boom, boom boom, BANG….The Ronettes’ Be My Baby starts and I’ve already forgotten that I’m supposed to be in a rotten mood. More than that, I have the sound of one of Pop’s all time great moments washing all over me and it felt beautiful. I lay on my back staring at the ceiling with a huge grin plastered all over my stupid face. And there was more to come.

Has there ever been a song more aptly titled than River Deep Mountain High? Tina Turner’s vocal is, for me, the greatest ever recorded and never was Spector’s Wall Of Sound production more effective. It does exactly what it says on the tin with a song that is almost elemental in its power. Here is music that could halt the flow of rivers and move mountains and, more importantly, make me feel triumphant on a Saturday night that would otherwise have been heading nowhere. Phil Spector had saved my Saturday.

Phil, putting aside this Lana Clarkson business, you know you’ve been quite beastly in the past to a number of people. But you’ve also created moments of transcendent beauty that the world can cherish long after you and your silly wig collection have left us and for that I am forever grateful.

1 comment:

speculator said...

bravo, Ian !

Indeed, sometimes mean people produce great music (as in Beethoven and Wagner), but the genius of the sounds is what lives on and on.

Sorry for the day- and the football result. Sounds a bit like life with the Boston Red Sox before 2004. A desert of defeat soothed only by the likes of Bass Ale or Sam Adams.