Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Message to My Children's Children by Peter Reum

Despite my doubts I plunged ahead
Committing gave me horrible dread
Wars made no sense so empty I guessed
Real reasons why we fight are supressed

Young people are delicate, so young and fresh
Innocence once lost can be hard to replenish
Our children are told lies I think
By old farts whose motives stink

Wars once noble quickly turn sour
The true rationale is always dour
The mighty dollar is the real reason
Why short-term truths are really treason

Farm boys volunteer innocently to fight
Never foreseeing their upcoming plight
Promised that those skills they will learn
Will be marketable--big money they'll

Instead they go to infantry and airborne
Rueing they believed such shit-now torn
Being human pincushions are their new fate
Replacing the pitch "sucker recruiters" have made

Patriotism is a noble call to arms
If your only other choice is the farm
The men and women who entered intact
Return more broken--- that's a fact

Perhaps our armed forces' missions can change
A reason for honest national service isn't strange
It would be wonderful to aid humane missions with bread
Not waiting for the next false police action instead

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Reflections on Phil Spector: A Broken Man 100 Miles From Shore by Peter Reum

This last weekend,  there was a music itch I had to scratch.  I hadn't gotten out my Phil Spector sets in a long time, and the decision that I needed to make was what set I would listen to. I finally settled on The Essential Phil Spector double set that was powerpacked with both the pre-Phillies hits on most of the first cd and the Phillies and A&M hits on the second. The convoluted and diverse list of artists on this set make up a fine sample of the variety of styles of performances  Mr.  Spector produced.

The success of Spector's productions from roughly 1958's To Know Him Is To Love Him to his work with John Lennon, George Harrison, and Yoko Ono in the early Seventies is a body of work any producer would be proud to have accomplished. Spector's unusual lifestyle also contributed much to the legends about the man himself. His production achievements have been overshadowed since the late Sixties by sporadic behavioral episodes that led to him being labeled as reclusive, unpredictable, and agressive in suing people who he felt had maligned his reputation.

A fine guitarist, Phil Spector shortly after the release of the first Teddy Bears single

The Phil Spector who friends knew was almost completely opposite to the public image he had. He demanded discrete confidentiality  from his friends, and those people he considered close to him prized his friendship and respected his wishes without reservation. Although much has been discussed about his eccentricities, his annual bowling party and personal invitations to his barbed wire surrounded home with trained attack dogs patrolling the grounds were rarely turned down.

Mr. Spector at the front gate of his home circa 2005

The complex person that is H. Phillip Spector has been reduced to being labeled as a madman who killed a "B movie" actress. Like many complicated people, Spector's incarceration for shooting this woman has become the window through which his every action is viewed. I would submit that long term mental illness worsened by extensive ingestion/self-medication of mood altering chemicals beginning in the mid Sixties to erase grief from the suicide of his father were large factors in his mental illness. Onset of what was diagnosed as Bipolar Disorder in his mid twenties was worsened by such substances mentioned above, and are huge factors in his episodic behavioral outbursts, leading to a number of publicized incidents which eventually shredded his reputation as  a producer of highly commercial recordings. His 1974 motorcycle accident, in which he was horribly injured, further complicated his already crippling mental health. The injuries to his head were so serious according to police at the scene that they thought he was dead. The 200 stitches in two areas of his head only hinted at the severity of his head trauma. There is no evidence of Mr. Spector having had rehabilitative services following his acute care hospital discharge. Complicating the traumatic brain injuries was the very primitive state of the art in head injury trauma rehabilitation in 1974.

Mr. Spector with a firearm-early 2000s

Mr. Spector, in fact, had several periods of balanced living helped by effective medications and psychiatric services. Some of these healthy time periods were years long.

The suicide of his father was most likely a massively devastating incident which cast an imposing shadow over his boyhood.  The relationship of a boy to his father is a huge influence on the son's life, even in a healthy interdependent family.  In my own therapy practice, dysregulation in this relationship stunts emotional adaptability, judgement, and intelligence. Adding to the grief that an adolescent Phil Spector experienced was his smaller stature, leading to probable ongoing bullying.  In mid 20th Century America,  boys who were of smaller stature were easy targets for being tormented by larger boys. Victims of such cruelty had little recourse for their ongoing victimization,  and were told to "man up."

Mr. Spector had a marvelous eye for upcoming talent in popular music. He had produced a number of well known people in pop that sold well and were hits or semi-hits.  He thought of the 45 single as the best vehicle for his own productions.  Hits produced by Spector were regular presences on sales charts published by Billboard and similar magazines. With Lester Sill, a veteran record business executive,  Mr. Spector began the Phillies record label in 1961. The name was a combination of Phil and Lester's names.

Lester Sills - Phillies Co-Founder

Mr. Spector was the architect of the "single as art" style of record production and often spent as much time on the "A" side of a single as other producers spent on entire albums. The single's "B" side was almost always an improvised tune written by a member of the much celebrated Wrecking Crew...

The Phillies Record Label Logo

The list of popular  hit standards that this group of studio aces recorded is astounding. Groups on Phillies were loved in the United Kingdom and Europe as well as the USA. As the most famous record producer in the world in the mid-Sixties, Spector was under more and more pressure to top himself in his next record each time he had a hit.  The pressure had become very oppressive, and when his most dramatic and soulful single-River Deep-Mountain High, tanked in USA record charts.....Spector picked up his production charts and walked away from the business for the next 2 years. When he resumed producing in 1968, he produced a small number of tunes for his wife and A&M records. There were 2 singles by Sonny Charles and the Checkmates and 2 nice singles by his the wife Ronnie Spector. There were lots of artists that Mr. Spector  tried to sign, but he did not succeed.

A Goldstar Studio Session - Phil Spector and the Great Darlene Love

The Classic Phillies Ronettes Album Label

Ronnie Spector (formerly Bennett) 1963

Perhaps one of the most celebrated groups Mr. Spector worked with was the Beatles together on the Let It Be album resurrection. Paul McCartney strongly disliked the use of strings on the title song and The Long and Winding Road. McCartney believed that the use of strings distracted listeners from the intent and emotional power the unsweetened tapes possessed. McCartney issued an unsweetened version of that album that was closer to the sound originally he had envisioned. Because  Mr. Spector's version of Let It Be is the most familiar, his mix is the one heard most often on the radio.

John Lennon and Phil Spector 1970

George Harrison, Allen Klein, and Phil Spector 1970

After the dissolution of the Beatles, Spector once again entered the orbit of the Beatles as solo artists by producing solo albums by the members of that hallowed group, including what many people consider John Lennon's best solo album-Plastic Ono Band, and two iconic solo lps by George Harrison-All Things Must Pass and the Concert for Bangladesh. If anyone doubted that Spector had lost his producing skills, these recordings banished those thoughts.

The Iconic Phil Spector Christmas  Album 1963

The Apple Reissue of Phil Spector's Christmas Album

That serious motorcycle accident that laid up Mr. Spector in 1974, along with a painful divorce from Ronnie Spector made that year devastating. Despite these personal setbacks, Spector continued to record artists such as Cher, Dion Dimucci and Leonard Cohen. Spector's vault was opened in 1976 with major artist's albums reissued as well as an album of unreleased masters which awed longtime listeners. Mr. Spector's spectacular Christmas album was also reissued in the mid-Seventies. That album has come to represent the finest quality of Christmas music ever recorded in a rock format. The tunes from that album are regularly played on radio stations that feature the Christmas music of the holiday season.

As Mr. Spector entered the mid Seventies he had a tendency to hurry through his productions, making his work more subject to media criticism, and his quickly completed work began to impact his productions. Whether the reason for his decline was his emotional health was is unclear.  His mental health seemed to worsen, and his reputation for being a "go-to" producer suffered accordingly. He deemed his actions to be due to use of mood altering chemicals.  He also seemed seemed to decompensate when his productions were either critically panned or did not sell well. Based upon his work on the Leonard Cohen and Dion DiMucci albums, this sort of criticism does not seem accurate.

The work he did with several new bands like the Ramones baffled him and the bands he tried to record had punk rock backgrounds. Despite his mental health setbacks, he showed a strong desire to remain a solid producer worthy of the legends about his work in the Sixties and Seventies.

No overview of Mr. Spector's life and career would be complete without addressing how he approached women in his life. There is his mother and sister, with whom he had a loving relationship. After he became a producer, he would assist both women. His hectic studio schedule made seeing them often impossible. Based upon research, Mr. Spector had a solid relationship with his mother and sister. This makes some of his misogynistic subsequent behavior toward his wives seem somewhat inconsistent with his family relationships. Mrs. Spector was widowed when Phil was 10 years old. Showing admirable and resilient adaptability, she moved herself and two children completely across the United States to the Fairfax neighborhood of Los Angeles. With the exception of about five years in New York City in his early twenties, Los Angeles became, for better or worse, his headquarters for his production career and later life. His marriage to Annette Kleinbard was short, lasting roughly four years. The peak years of the Phillies label offered little in the way of directly referenced incidents of misogyny, other than Spector's tendency to record hits with less known artists, and to offer little financial remuneration for hits by  The Ronettes, The Crystals, Darlene Love, and so forth. It is evident that Mr. Spector genuinely liked the groups he recorded, possibly with the exception of The Righteous Brothers, who jumped labels after cutting a few hits and three lps for Phillies.

It is, according to Ronnie Spector's autobiography that, at some level, Mr. Spector saw other men as a threat to his relationship with Ms. Spector. Consequently, Ms. Spector was only able to record roughly an album's worth of material during her decade long relationship with Phil. She recalls the mansion they occupied as cold, almost impossible to feel warm in. As time passed, the feeling in Ms. Spector's autobiography about her time with Mr. Spector, was being somewhat of a bird in a gilded cage. Being in her twenties, Ms. Spector had lost the adulation of thousands of Ronettes fans. She remembers fondly being with her fellow Ronettes members, and delighted with the support of fans, and even some musicians, like The Beatles. When she left Spector, she felt free and could breathe fresh air, which she felt as wonderful. The impression this writer gets is that Mr. Spector felt that if he lost Ms. Spector that he would never have another wife like her. These feelings enduced a desire for complete control of Ms. Spector due to the fear of losing her to another man. Ms. Spector, in her autobiography, notes that she was not allowed to leave the Spector mansion by driving herself unless there was an inflated rubber male figure, designed to ward off potential men who might harm her while she was out. Of course, that inflated figure would also intimidate from afar possible potential male suitors. Ms. Spector, along with Phil, adopted three children during their union. Two of these children were twins. One of the twins died of cancer, further driving the couple into unresolved grief. Ms. Spector finally snuck out a window in 1972, never to return to that cold home.

Mr. Spector during the period he produced for A&M Records-late Sixties

Apple Records Photo of Ms. Spector in Early 70s

The middle Seventies saw Mr. Spector working with poet/songwriter Leonard Cohen, Cher, Dion DiMucci, and also the release of several compilations highlighting past productions from the Sixties. Of interest in this series was an album of rare masters and a compilation of Seventies productions by Spector. Of interest to those of us who were longtime fans was a series of reissue compilations of masters into albums featuring the major artists Spector recorded in the Sixties. Of highest interest was a collection of gems produced by Mr. Spector in the Sixties which had been unissued up to that time (1976). Here are a few of those compilations...

The album that cracked open the unreleased masters

Excellent Compilation of Sixties Crystal Masters

Perhaps the Finest Ronettes Compilation

Unusual Compilation of Some of Spector's Seventies Productions

The Wall of Sound compilations reintroduced Mr. Spector to a group of Boomers who had all but forgotten him. They also brought in a new group of listeners that enjoyed the convenience of having all those rare Sixties singles compiled into album format.

The divorce from Ronnie Spector, painful as it was for both people, seemed to reinspire Mr. Spector's production of excellent albums as mentioned above. Then was a time when Spector once again found the ambition to look for new artists to work with in the studio. Perhaps the most controversial was Mr. Spector's production of the 1980 Ramones album. Neither party seemed content with the product as issued. The Ramones were especially put off by Spector's adding strings to a few tracks on the album. They were also somewhat put out by Mr. Spector's behavior in the studio.

For Mr. Spector, much of the following two decades were a difficult period, with periods of sobriety and periods of use of mood altering chemicals to excess. However reclusive he was in the Seventies, the two decades that followed made Spector's Seventies appearances and work seem hyperactive. There were highlights in these years, such as appearances at awards shows. Reports of Spector pulling guns on unexpecting artists in the Seventies and Eighties such as Leonard Cohen, Deborah Harry, John Lennon, and wife Ronnie Spector further alienated possible artists who contemplated using Spector's services.

Phil Spector taking a bow at a BMI Dinner in the late Eighties

In  1994 Mr. Spector was Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

In the Nineties and the first decade of the new millenium, Mr. Spector had extended period of abstinence from mood altering chemicals. He seemed to be adrift, trying to drop anchor in decades that had forgotten who he was and what he had accomplished. Some biographies were either published or reprinted which lent some truth to some of the legends, both true and untrue. Spector was occasionally seen at industry functions.  Albums were begun with Celene Dion and Starsailor, only to crash when Spector had creative differences with each artist. Hargo had Spector produce a John Lennon tribute in the early 2000s.

The pattern of using alcohol or other mood altering chemicals returned in 2007, with tragic consequences for an actress who came home with Spector after a night of heavy drinking. A gun was fired at his home in an altered state by Spector, according to the trial results as recorded. A life of walking on a highwire between sobriety and creativity and intoxication and gunplay was no longer viable. The reader is referred to extensive articles about the legal proceedings and both trials which can be read by use of most search engines.  Mr. Spector married a young woman in 2008 between the first and second trials. he apparently produced an album's worth of material with her singing. Mr. Spector's occasional antics during the trials made headlines in local papers and on television. His daily wig was the subject of each day's court proceedings, and numerous pictures can be seen online.

Mr. Spector's Police Photograph Taken Shortly After Ms. Clarkson's Death

Mr. Spector Flashing a "Hawaiian Good Luck Gesture" During Trial

Unusual Wig Worn During His Trial

After two trials, Mr. Spector was finally convicted of Murder in the Second Degree by a Jury and sentenced to 19 years to life.

Mr. Spector's life has been difficult in prison. His tendency to offer opinions when none are wanted have caused him to lose his teeth from a punch by a much larger inmate.  Mr. Spector and his third wife divorced in 2016. Mr. Spector filed a complaint in court that his wife was using up his fortune at a rate that alarmed him.

Phil Spector's story, often sad, other times sadder, is the story of a man who was given incredible talent.  As with numerous rock musicians, there are too many "if onlys." Here is a man passionate about studio work, who truly innovated in a manner equaled only by a few other music producers. But...there is also the man who didn't ever feel that his success was deserved. Like too many gifted people to mention, the messages he received from record distributors, executives, and performers was that he had been lucky, and that he would eventually stumble and fall. The scars from the bullying in school and the loss of his father had taught him that living for today was the way to live, because tomorrow it all might be gone. To quote a passage from Ecclesiastes, "eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die." Close friends had passed away, each one's death shook him to his foundations...

But there is the music, records that bring happiness, deep sadness, regret, unfulfilled expectations....

So, just to renew that I am first a fan of this fellow named Spector, I will list ten of my favorite Spector produced records... 

1) I Wish I Never Saw the Sunshine -- I can't think of a song that better combines the drama of Spector's studio work with the wistful tone that Ronnie Spector brought  to the sadder tunes that she performed

2) Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) -- Darlene Love hits this tune out of the park....the tune's heavy production equals the powerful anguish of her vocal. Performed on David Letterman's Show annually for years

3) Da Do Ron Ron-The Crystals surf the powerful wave of a track perfectly...seldom has there been a better match of music and vocals. One of Spector's "little symphonies for kids"

4) Walking In the Rain -- Once again the marriage of Ronnie Spector's vocal and Spector's track, with help from the late Larry Levine at Goldstar Studios for thunder effects turns this song from what might be a throwaway tune into a Grammy Award winner

5) This Could Be the Night -- Spector's closest sound to the classic Beach Boys/Lovin' Spoonful sound. Brian Wilson's favorite Spector tune, and easily is one of mine as well

6) Happy Christmas (War Is Over) -- The dream of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, who truly understood the meaning of Christmas

7) Paradise-Ronnie Spector's voice sounds at once hopeful and yet lost on this track, which is a Spector tour de force

8) Just Once In My Life -- The Righteous Brothers play off of each other perfectly on this song, which communicates the desperation of a man who truly is on his knees, begging his wife/girl to stay

9) My Sweet Lord-George Harrison sings with his heart on this tune with a perfect accompanying track produced by Phil Spector and Harrison

10) River Deep, Mountain High -- Tina Turner turns this tune into a passionate raw sexual experience, singing in an impassioned female way over Spector's virile masculine track

Here is to everyone who ever heard a Phil Spector production, or who has wondered what made his music so special.

Copyright 2016 by Peter Reum--All Rights Reserved


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thank God for Entropy by Peter Reum

They say you can't legislate brotherhood
Attitudes don't change by force
Societies fall apart through conflict
That sane people would never endorse

The lessons history has taught us
It seems we are doomed to repeat
We think that somehow we are different
Our uniqueness makes us elite

Change is neither good nor bad
It is inevitable like taxes and death
We stubbornly cling to our biases
Until we draw our last breath

We seem to swing in perpetuation
Wondering if we are holy or ape
There must be a third choice somewhere
There is a logical answer that
concerns neither celibacy or rape

Clearly our ability to reason
Has not imitated the deity some say
Created the planet on which we live blithely
Instead we destroy our home---living only for today

What will it take to teach us to see
That ruining this Earth for all species
Is an incredibly short sighted outcome
That renders all humans contemptible
For believing there is no stink in our feces

Thankfully our destiny is extinction
Before we can spoil our nest
Entropy may intervene on behalf
Of Mother Earth-when we fail
Life's simple test

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Pedazos Para Ti by Peter Reum

There are a few things that I would like to mention to the readers of this blog. I have been busily reading the biographies of several musicians and will be sharing my impressions over the next few months. Watch this space periodically.

I have been asked to do articles on Smiley Smile, Lei'd  Hawaii, and Wild Honey over the next several months for Endless Summer Quarterly, the best of the Beach Boys Magazines extant.This excellent magazine is the main resource for accurate information on the Beach Boys and related artists. I invite you to check out their fine site, They also have back issues of ESQ. Their access to Beach Boys and Brian Wilson musicians is unsurpassed.

For people who enjoy articles about the western areas of the USA, I have two pieces on western artists in the works. I also am working on the second segment of my illustrated overview of Montana's most famous artist, Charles M. Russell.

For those of you who enjoy the pieces on Western wildlife, I am also working on a couple of pieces discussing issues related to endangered Western USA animals.

I hope this gives everyone an idea of what is coming. I will be reviewing Brian Wilson/Beach Boys music as time permits.

Thank all of you for visiting and reading Reuminations articles!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Flim Flam Man by Peter Reum

He said that he would make us rich
He told us that we would be safe
He assured us that he would build
Walls that would make us brightly white

His presence was reassuring
We flew to him as moths to a flame
He tapped into the cavernous depths
From which emanated toxic shame

We were afraid--shaken to our core
He encouraged the ugly fears
We did not want to face
The ugliest emotions that lacked grace

Anger buried, reared its ugly head
Racism declared as gone
Returned undaunted instead
Encouraged by the Flim Flam Man
How can he go to bed?

Nobility is sorely missed
Gentility, absent and gone
A country's worst sides shown
The question on our world's mind
Will America's worst traits
Continue to render us blind?