revisiting the dark history of Phil Spector » bbnworldnews.com/

As baby boomers became parents, a musical vigil from their own youth became firmly entrenched in the Christmas canon. Every December, generations young enough to have been raised in pop will present Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift for You, a compilation album featuring ’60s girl groups like the Ronettes and the Crystals singing Yuletide standards. On the final track, however, mega-producer and impresario Spector speaks directly to the listener on the sweet notes of Silent Night, explaining his vision for the project and thanking the audience for letting him into their home. There’s a chilling intimacy to the spoken song, Spector’s wispy voice soft but insincere, his speech sentimental but selfish. Even without knowing its turbulent history, a child pruning the tree may pick up on something unsettling.

Spector, a four-part documentary airing this week on Showtime, catalogs the contradictions that make up an essential and despicable figure without attempting to disentangle them. “Like many people my age who grew up listening to ’60s music with their parents, I knew about Phil Spector’s work before I knew who he was,” says Don Argott, co-director of the upcoming mini. series with Sheena M. Joyce. “I knew the quirky stories, him shooting guns, the trial, his afro hair, but that knowledge wasn’t really fully formed. He’s the man in broad strokes, a living dissonance between the creative output that gave an exquisite voice to teenybopper innocence and the violent, erratic behavior behind the scenes. But if his story is a tragedy of hubris ending in homicide, that means he’s only one of two main characters.

“One of the things we felt most strongly while we were developing this was, well, there have been Phil Spector documentaries in the past, why do we have to do a new one now? Argot said. “What else can we bring to the table?” What haven’t we talked about? We all felt Lana Clarkson’s story, her treatment, her portrayal, it was all worth watching back.

Although Spector did not perform on stage, he put his talents front and center to promote himself as a celebrity. “In his day he was hugely well-known,” says Joyce. “People who hear about it now might not see it right away, but its popularity has had it on TV all the time, appearing on I Dream of Jeannie, on Merv Griffin, on Easy Rider, everywhere. . It was a great piece of pop culture, and it was a reckoning… It cultivated an image, a sound, and a brand that went beyond both. This self-proclaimed cult of personality would prove crucial during his trial for the murder of Lana Clarkson, actress and hostess of the House of Blues in Los Angeles, where she met Spector on the night of February 3, 2003. He drove back to his lavish Alhambra estate known as the Pyrenees Castle, and after about an hour his driver heard a gunshot and spotted Spector staggering out the back door with a gun drawn. . One would logically presume a murder; he insisted that she committed suicide.

Argott and Joyce distinguish their take on a heavily analyzed figure – they spent so much time researching that they didn’t even bother to watch the Al Pacino-directed biopic – focusing on Clarkson, a woman who consisted of more than the extraordinary circumstances of her untimely death. As they detail Spector’s rapid rise to the top of the music industry, from his first gold record as a teenager to taking sole control of his own label at 21, the lesser origin known to Clarkson unfolds in a parallel that ends up merging into a fateful curve joining the two subjects. “We wanted to trace how these two people crossed paths that night,” says Joyce. “As Phil would say, it’s all about timing. Everything is timed. If she doesn’t break both wrists, she’s not at the House of Blues. If she’s not on duty there, she never meets him. Anything could have happened.

With a succession of fork-in-the-socket hairstyles and other stunts, Spector turned his trial into a three-ring media circus that he could dominate as emcee. A key part of his offensive was casting Clarkson as the villain, assigning him the tale of a failed fame hunter that the general public all too willingly accepted. She’d been a busty girl in low-budget B-movies in the ’80s, but had since crafted a second act as acerbic stand-up comic, not to mention wholesale cut back on her basic humanity. “In much of the coverage you’ll see from then on, Lana’s portrayal was at surface level,” Argott says. “That she wasn’t as famous as Spector was an incidental aspect of her life, and that’s all a lot of people wanted to know about her. It wasn’t far from ‘What did she expect to happen if she went home with him? Of course, she was killed.

Lana Clarkson. Photography: AP

The miniseries provides a fix by imbuing Clarkson with a newfound interiority, largely based on the stories of those close to him. They detail the downplayed personality in the press, remembering Clarkson as a born gregarious entertainer with a room-filling laugh. But beyond the loving portrayal of an obituary, the character reconstruction also touches on a formative trauma with the death of Clarkson’s father in a mining accident. Joyce and Argott form a dark, ironic rhyme by linking this to the suicide of Spector’s father, both of which brought the surviving children to Los Angeles for a fresh start. The creators realized they would have to empathize with both the perpetrator and the victim in their efforts to gain some moral clarity about a crime that might seem senseless.

“We were lucky to have [Phil’s daughter] Nicole’s participation in the film, and it was with her permission that we were able to use the music,” says Joyce. “Don and I were very upfront about our intention, which was to paint as accurate a picture of Phil and Lana as possible. We couldn’t make any promises as to how his father would be shown at the end, but we wanted to give him a good shake, and I think we are. Talking about the tragedies that have happened to him in his life gives context to his behavior and incidents. And we made it clear that we wanted to look closely at Lana, check in with her friends and family, get to know her as a person. I don’t want to speak on behalf of anyone, I can only tell you what our intentions were. We stick to the facts. »

The series’ latest installment eschews the prescriptive, refraining from ruling one way or another on how we’re meant to keep the complicated memory of Spector and his ever-beloved work in our minds. But after seeing this careful homage to Clarkson, it’ll be hard to hear And Then He Kissed Me or the other golden oldies without thinking about the potential that’s been taken from it.

“It’s a much bigger question, which we certainly are looking at, about whether you can separate the art from the artist,” says Joyce. “Because he’s the producer in the booth, it can be easier to listen to this music, or to keep your appreciation of the art itself unconfused, so to speak, whereas listening to Michael Jackson has become harder for some people. But I don’t necessarily think he was treated differently by the public or those in the industry for that. He was celebrated and protected. Like many people labeled as eccentric artists, their mental health issues and idiosyncrasies are dismissed. As if that was just the price to pay for genius.

Source: www.theguardian.com


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