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Arena - The Agony And The Ecstasy Of Phil Spector

First major TV interview with legendary Phil Spector screened on BBC Two



In an exclusive for BBC Two, Arena presents the first major television interview with the legendary music producer Phil Spector, set to the soundtrack of his greatest hits.

 

In a career stretching back to his first hit in 1958, To Know Him Is To Love Him, Phil Spector has never given a substantial broadcast interview – until now.

 

Filmed in Spector's own home – literally his castle – before the piano he bought with John Lennon to play in the promotional film for Imagine, he discusses his relationship with music greats from the girl groups of the Sixties through to The Beatles and Tina Turner.

 

He also talks about his troubled personal life, his sense of being hounded and the anger and rage which helped him to develop his art, long before it was recognised as anything other than mere pop music.

 

As his retrial approaches for the murder of Lana Clarkson, Arena brings an enthralling exploration of one of the most influential careers in popular music to BBC Two tonight (Saturday 25 October) at 9.40pm.

 

Phil Spector transformed rock 'n' roll. He was the first music producer to become the star – giving us Be My Baby, You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin', Let It Be, All Things Must Pass, John Lennon's solo work and even The Ramones.

 

Through his songs he articulated teenage angst and soundtracked a generation.

 

Taken from Arena's exclusive interview in March 2007, the film dissects his songs, from the perspective of Spector's inner world, casting a spotlight on a unique creative process that is, for the first time, explained by its author.

 

Footage from his trial last year provides a dramatic counterpoint to this unprecedented material.

 

Arena – The Agony And The Ecstasy Of Phil Spector is produced by Anthony Wall, Editor of nine-time Bafta-winning Arena, and is directed by multi-award-winning Vikram Jayanti.

 

Anthony Wall says: "We've always wanted to make a film about Phil Spector and we're delighted to have Vikram directing it. His hallmark is the exploration of genius and he is exactly the right person for this film."

 

Vikram Jayanti adds: "It was a timely moment to make a film about one of the most important figures in popular music in the second half of the 20th century, as the ongoing trial threatens to eclipse his musical legacy."

 

Quotes from film

 

On loneliness and rage:

"They ostracised me in high school. They had nothing to do with me. I was not popular, we were poor but the rest of the school was wealthy, middle-class white Jewish kids who were very stuck up."

 

"I was just a loner and was always treated with contempt; they [the establishment] never considered me with the same respect that they considered Berlin or Gershwin. but that just builds up the anger and the rage which made you do better, made you do a lot better."

 

On his art and the 'Wall of Sound':

"Most producers don't create, they interpret. When I went into the studio I created a sound that I wanted to hear. and I always compare it to what Da Vinci did when he went to a blank canvas. and I always considered it not rock 'n' roll, I always considered it art."

 

"The Spector sound took a lot of work and creativity and it was a bitch to get."

 

".pain is just there, it's a constant. It's hurt, hurting is a natural phenomenon with art."

 

About his first hit, To Know Him Is to Love Him, he says: "Nobody knew it was about my father and nobody knew it was about death and it was a love song to somebody up beyond."

 

He talks about Brian Wilson's obsession with the sound and how he was: ". dreaming how I got Be My Baby sound, you know going crazy, you know figuring out, I mean he's a little gaga over it... I'd like to have a nickel for every joint he smoked trying to figure out how I got the Be My Baby sound, you know he is demented about it."

 

On working with The Beatles:

Spector recalls when he first met John Lennon and that he said: "He did say that 'Oh, Spector kept rock 'n' roll alive for the two-and-a-half years that Elvis was in the Army' which was very flattering."

 

Spector famously produced The Beatles' final album Let It Be, after the band asked Spector to make their January 1969 recordings into an album.

 

He remembers: "I went in there with a very clear attitude, I wanted this to be a great farewell album. I knew they were breaking up, I knew they were never going to come back together again. I knew there was going to be no reunion. The public didn't and I was there to make a commercial album, because I wanted to sell 12 million albums and the public ended up buying it and I was Mr Commerciality."

 

And later, as a non-believer, he recalls working with George Harrison on My Sweet Lord: "It's just a matter of convincing the artist that you are on the same level with them and I believe what George was saying for these moments I was with George, I became a part of George. You can do things that have art as its basis that are not in your heart, but are in your soul."

 

On his 'infamous' hair:

".it was a tribute to Albert Einstein and Beethoven, it was done in jest, but I was wearing my hair like Albert Einstein in those days... That day it got a little extreme."

 

On his beliefs:

".I don't let myself get depressed. Depression is a wasted emotion to me like pity, it's a wasted emotion. I'm concerned with the fact that I have not been made a doctor at any college and Bill Cosby has, even Dylan has. I think I've offered more to the American culture and music or at least as much than they and a lot of the people that have been given them, Mrs Bush and people like that."

 

"I envy the little old lady who sits in front of the TV and believes and holds her hand up to the screen and says 'Amen'. Yes and believes that she is gonna get to Heaven and believes there's a thing there after... When little Phillip [his son] died, I may not believe in God but I know there's a devil. You know, I mean, I wish I believed. I wish to hell I believed."

 

On last year's trial:

Regarding the jury selection: "Forty-five per cent of them wrote down they believed I was guilty and 20% of them wrote down I was insane. Based upon their pre-trial publicity over the last four years."

 

"If they don't like yah, they don't like yah. if they don't like you for whatever reason they will screw you and that's just it."

 

"I am hounded now. I'm very much hounded..."

 

The Agony And The Ecstasy Of Phil Spector, BBC Two, Saturday 25 October 2008, 9.40pm (100 minutes)

 

LG

 

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Category: Factual & Arts TV; BBC Two
Date: 25.10.2008
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