I think anyone has mixed feelings at the least regarding Phil Spector. He made gigantic sounds out of mono, and influenced all great studio greats of pop after him. But he was also deranged, abusive, and probably a murderer. It’s with that in mind that listening to his Christmas album brings such a mix of emotions for me. Was it always imbued with such a darkness, or am I applying that retroactively? For me, this stuff was part of the landscape of movies like Goodfellas before I ever heard it completely.
Is it possible to hear this garishly saccharine music, imagining Phil waving a gun around and keeping Ronnie Spector a virtual prisoner, that it was released on the day Kennedy was assassinated… and find a distorted beauty in its facade? Is it just a fascination with the dark underside of American pop culture?
Something I’ve been thinking about this Christmas, when everybody I know is having a bummer of a time or is at some sort of personal crossroads. In my world it just feels distinctly un-Christmas-like this year. No big deal, it happens.
If you’re altogether unfamiliar, AMG’s Dennis MacDonald offers up the platitudes:
Featuring Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” in its prime and his early stable of artists, the Ronettes, Crystals, Darlene Love, and Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans, A Christmas Gift for You From Phil Spector stands as inarguably the greatest Christmas record of all time. Spector believed he could produce a record for the holidays that would capture not only the essence of the Christmas spirit, but also be a pop masterpiece that would stand against any work these artists had already done. He succeeded on every level, with all four groups/singers recording some of their most memorable performances. This is the Christmas album by which all later holiday releases had to be judged, and it has inspired a host of imitators.
Anyway, I posted the mono mix from Spector’s BACK TO MONO box, and a bootleg of the stereo mix on the Phillies Records reissue by bootleg team DR. EBBETT’s. If you get one, make it the mono mix, which is definitive. I include the stereo mix for the curious who already have the mono mix.