It all seemed so real I had to check with Tracey to make sure I hadn’t been singing The Righteous Brothers’ classic “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration”, one of their all-time biggest hits, while I was sleeping. You see, in my dream I was standing on a podium in front of the United Nations (I think) giving a lecture about Phil Spector and his “Wall of Sound”, the essence of it being, if mere mortals like Bill Medley (one of the Righteous Brothers who produced “S & I”) and Brian Wilson, whose “Don’t Worry Baby” was modeled after Phil’s “Be My Baby” production for The Ronettes, could equal – if not better – Phil’s greatest productions, was the “Wall of Sound” all that difficult to replicate?
I woke up with Bill Medley’s classic vocal in my head and started to sing it to my sister-in-law Tam while she was making coffee. She looked at me like I had two heads. But I couldn’t get the tune, or the object of my dream, out of my head. So I played the “Soul and Inspiration” YouTube video and consulted the book on Phil Spector’s sound; turns out one of the YouTube commenters had it exactly right:
Bill Medley’s “revenge” on Phil Spector. Phil dropped the boys in 1965 [Ed. note: after his stellar production of "Unchained Melody"] and left, so Medley picked up the reins, took Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s supposedly inferior follow-up to “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’” and outdid Spector’s famed “Wall of Sound” on this recording. I frankly like this one better. Medley’s power vocal and Bobby Hatfield’s responses more than get the job done.
Well, to each his own – history has shown YLTLF to be one of, if not the most-played pop songs ever recorded. Still, it’s hard not to listen to “Soul and Inspiration” and figure out that either Phil’s “Wall of Sound” wasn’t that hard to replicate if you had enough musicians crammed into a small enough room and a echo chamber to control the sound on the mix-down, or that Medley was either an astute watcher of Spector’s technique or an incredibly quick learner. In my humble opinion as a true Philophile, I do have to say I think the production isn’t quite as pristine and tight as Phil’s work; it sounds as if the echo supplied at the end overwhelmed everything else – a mistake Phil would never make.
As for “Don’t Worry Baby”, while the drum intro certainly recalls “Be My Baby”, I really don’t consider the song an attempt by Brian Wilson to replicate the Spector “Wall of Sound”. While Wilson’s obsession with “Be My Baby” is legendary, the truth is that Wilson had enough talent on his own that he was able to go out and do his own thing without having to imitate Phil Spector. I have little doubt that Wilson’s work on parts of Pet Sounds and SMiLE were his own attempts to drench the recordings in true Spector fashion – I can hear it here and here – but even the greatest Philophile would have to admit that Wilson’s body of work over the years has more than surpassed his hero Spector in every way, manner, shape, and form.