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Tearing Down the Wall of Sound: The Rise and Fall of Phil Spector

3.93  ·  Rating Details ·  536 Ratings  ·  56 Reviews
He had a number one hit at eighteen. He was a millionaire with his own record label at twenty-two. He was, according to Tom Wolfe, “the first tycoon of teen.” Phil Spector owned pop music. From the Crystals, the Ronettes (whose lead singer, Ronnie, would become his second wife), and the Righteous Brothers to the Beatles (together and singly) and finally the seventies punk ...more
Hardcover, 452 pages
Published June 5th 2007 by Knopf (first published 2007)
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Jason Pettus
Dec 09, 2008 Jason Pettus rated it liked it
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally here.)

You would think that a person could do no wrong by penning a biography of infamous record producer and gun-brandishing recluse Phil Spector -- after all, the man either wrote or engineered a huge amount of what we now consider the "classic rock" hits of the 1950s and '60s; then near the end of his pra
Jill Hutchinson
I am a great fan of Phil Spector's music productions, especially the songs of the Ronettes and the Crystals. When the infamous murder trial became news I was reminded that he had pretty much dropped from sight for a number of years and was curious to find out more about his strange and troubled life. This book fills in most of the blanks.

This was written as the first trial, which ended in a hung jury, was in progress, although I have heard that the book was updated after the second trial resulte
May 03, 2009 Jen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who want to know what the heck happened to Phil Spector
Here's a passage from the book--from 1977 when Phil Spector was in the studio producing a new album for Leonard Cohen--which pretty much sums it up:

"Cohen recognized what Spector himself, and a few around him, were not prepared to acknowledge or admit--that Spector was not merely eccentric but seriously disturbed."

I also found a Newsweek pictorial of his hairstyles over the years, "Hairdo Ron Ron":
Jan 01, 2013 Maureen rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, scandal, music
I have a hard time thinking of anyone who makes my skin crawl more than Phil Spector: he was known for his megalomania, outrageous behavior, and for being one of the biggest jerks in an industry where they replicate inconsiderate, soul-sucking assholes in Petri dishes for fun and profit. Author Mick Brown took on a Herculean task, just trying to shovel his way through the Augean stables of Spector's life, where double-dealing in business, betrayed ex-wives and ex-girlfriends, studio ...more
Craig Johnson
Dec 27, 2008 Craig Johnson rated it it was amazing
Brilliance, Guns and Harmony. Even before the whole accidental murder of Lana Clarkson there were a handful of stories about how Spector would brandish guns at people, but we mortals only got to hear about the more famous targets: John Lennon, Leonard Cohen, the Ramones. What is truly amazing is that there are a few dozen more stories out there from musicians, houseguests, girlfriends, and random passerbys who got to stare at the little freak aiming a gun at them. It would be easy for someone to ...more
Lee Anne
May 27, 2013 Lee Anne rated it liked it
I need an update! This book was written after the death of Lana Clarkson, but before the two trials that would send Spector to prison. After watching David Mamet's made for HBO hagiography of Phil Spector (sadly, ironically, starring Al Pacino, whom Spector always longed to have portray him in a movie of his life), I felt the need to "read more about it." This biography provided a portrait of the sad, insecure man that is Phil Spector, and how he came to his downfall.

Aside from wishing it went
Feb 12, 2013 Vanessa rated it liked it
It was a fascinating read. I have heard whispered stories for years about Spector because I am a fan of John Lennon, The Ramones, Darlene Love and Leonard Cohen.Here are a lot of the stories pieced together in one place. Too bad the book doesn't make it as far as his actual murder trial-that would have been fascinating. Anyway, when it is all said and done, he is responsible for some of the most influential sounds of the 20th century.What a waste of talent. As a woman, I am saddened by his lack ...more
Blog on Books
Mar 29, 2010 Blog on Books rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Veteran U.K. music journalist Mick Brown was the last reporter to interview Phil Spector before he was arrested and charged with the murder of Lana Clarkson. During their rambling four-hour discussion, the legendary producer tellingly admitted, "I have devils inside that fight me. And I'm my own worst enemy." The story ran in the U.K. Telegraph just two days before Clarkson was found shot to death in Spector's spooky Alhambra mansion, and undoubtedly this book would not exist if it weren't for ...more
Jul 27, 2015 Ben rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adulthood, music
This is a great rock biography. The author's uncanny timing of interviewing him just weeks before Spector is arrested for murder frames the book incredibly well. We start with the interview, where Spector is at his most reflective, then we go through his entire life, then we get the interview again.

The author did a fantastic job of reassessing Spector's character throughout his life. Too often, biographies settle on a few key themes and keep circling back to them, but Spector changed so dramati
Kathleen Hagen
Tearing Down the Wall of Sound, by Nick Brown, Narrated by Ray Porter, Produced by Blackstone Audio, downloaded from

This is the strange story of Phil Spector, in some ways a musical genius, who developed what was referred to as “the wall of sound” which resulted in such monster hits as “You’ve Lost that Luvvin Feeling” by the Righteous Brothers. He was a millionaire by age 21. But he was always very strange. The wall of sound faded into oblivion with the English Invasion. He had som
Nov 11, 2009 Jennie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Mick Brown's Tearing Down the Wall of Sound is a well written and engaging story of the arc of Phil Spector's life and musical career. Brown tears down the wall of sound, exposing the man behind the music. The book begins with his early days in tragic detail giving the reader a glimpse of the musical genius as a wounded child of an absent father (who committed suicide when Spector was a boy) and an overbearing mother. Brown is at his best when he traces the early history of rock 'n roll and the ...more
Sep 11, 2011 Alicia rated it really liked it
Really fascinating read, almost the whole way through. I loved the chapters about the creation of the Wall of Sound and Phil's big hits and famous failures, and the anecdotes detailing the music culture of the '60s and '70s. (The book is worth reading alone for the chapter about Phil's crazy adventures with John Lennon while working on "Rock 'n' Roll.") My interest waned a little as the book moved past the music and onto Phil's descent into almost total lunacy, though I can certainly understand ...more
Tom Schulte
May 15, 2012 Tom Schulte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating insight into icon/tragedy/high functioning mad man Phil Spector. The birth of the girl group sound and the "wall of sound" from The Crystals to "Let it Be" and the John Lennon "Rock N' Roll" album get coverage making this a music history entwince witht he true crime tale of the foyer gunshot that brought it all crashing down. When this book was published, Spector has not yet been found guilt, let alone appealed lost and sentenced. However, the near hour-by-hour retelling of ...more
Apr 15, 2012 Herzog rated it it was amazing
Shelves: music
I'm a big fan of Spector's work, in particular with the Ronettes and Crystals. This book is a very detailed, anecdote packed account of Spector's life. He achieved such amazing success in his mid-20's that his career was essentially over before he was 30! He had the money to sustain him for the rest of his life and his many foibles seem the excesses of an idle rich person. He clearly had mental health issues culminating in the sad random murder at his castle.
Aug 01, 2015 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Interesting look at a divided personality

Well written, good research. Just a sad story.

Spector pulled a gun on LOTS of people over decades. It's a shame none of them pressed charges. The poor victim might still be alive. And Spector would have been forced to get effective treatment. He was seeing a psychiatrist and on lots of medication. But he apparently wasn't consistent, and also added alcohol to the mix.
Bryn Powell
Sep 05, 2014 Bryn Powell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A thorough and very interesting biography of a very successful yet strange character. While it doesn't go into the recording aspect enough for my liking (but then again music production is essentially just chucking some microphones in front of instruments and listening to what they sound like) it's certainly worth a go if you've got any love for 60's music, the music business of the time or Spector's studio mannerism.
Mar 19, 2012 Marisa rated it it was ok
While the author does a good job of covering Phil Spector, the actual Phil Spector comes across as a horrible, conniving and uncaring human being, ultimately ruining my reading experience and soiling my love for the great Ronette songs of the 1960s. Some interesting anecdotes -- Brian Wilson idolized Spector and one of his more famous songs is a homage to Spector -- but overall, Spector's personality isn't enough to save this book.
Gregarious cline
Jan 28, 2013 Gregarious cline rated it it was amazing
Excellent, balanced insight into a true maver..ick and weirdo. Mick Brown does an amazing job of conveying the "whats", "whys", and "huhs?" that lead to Spector's askew relationship to his world and ours. The chapter about Lenny Bruce was incredibly compassionate and a welcome emotional pause to drive home the point that Spector was more tortured than "evil" (although, he was a big dick).
Jul 04, 2015 Greg rated it really liked it
A wonderful addition to the library of any music history buff. Spector is an endlessly interesting and entertaining personality to read about. Like most geniuses, he's spontaneously crazy, which lends to the book's excitement. But his accomplishments alone which are recounted here are simply astounding. Very well-written biography. The author maintains a respectful tone that Spector deserves regardless of his faults and flaws.
Apr 27, 2012 Jenny rated it liked it
If you Enjoy reading about truly terrible people, this book will interest you. For me it was a bit like watching a train wreck. When Phil starts waving hiS gun around i really wanted to put it down but found I could not. The beginning of his life was not without pathos. Both horrible and fascinating.
May 12, 2012 Linda rated it it was amazing
What a fascinating book. It's especially wonderful as they talk about all these famous people that I know and all those hit songs, that I now am singing again. I'm loving this.

loved this book/ love nonfiction/ loved hearing names/ songs I knew and what a wild and wierd and sad person Phil Spector was, though most of the time I wanted to give him a spanking.
May 21, 2012 sid rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another fascinating account of a tortured/disturbed artist. Read by the same performer who did the Bobby Fischer biography I reviewed...and I still cannot decide if I care for his particular style.

There is a disappointingly abrupt end to the book, before the actual trial occurs. I would have enjoyed hearing more about the proceedings that followed between 2007 and today. (2012)
Jul 22, 2008 Kara rated it really liked it
Loved this! The author is Mick Brown.
Mick Brown had written a scathing article on Spector portraying him as crazy. Phil read this article the next day and was infuriated, breaking a year long sobriety streak and getting loaded. Within 24 hours Lana Clarkson was dead.
A must read for anyone who followed the Spector trial or WILL follow the re-trial in the Fall of 2008.
Oct 22, 2007 Babs rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Yvette
Makes you wonder how someone who exhibited signs of insanity so early on in life, got so far. Brilliant, multi-faceted look at the rise and fall of Phil Spector- with lots of famous names thrown in.
Aug 03, 2007 Alex rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: geniuses who exist in a constant state of mental agitation
A man supervises the recording of some of the greatest songs of all time, tries to hire the banjo kid from "Deliverance" to play at his birthday party, and then (allegedly) becomes a wig-wearing crazy person. When he is accused of shooting somebody, no one is surprised.
Slim Khezri
Apr 18, 2013 Slim Khezri rated it it was amazing
Indispensable rock and roll history, rich in detail about song making and song makers. Fun scandalous detail, tho the legal royalty battles and sidetracks on other people stretch it out a little. Good Book!
Tara Ferris
Nov 13, 2015 Tara Ferris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this was a great bio as it gives you a clear idea who Phil Spector was/is. Great info on how the wall of sound was created, which is what I wanted to learn about. But multiple times (too many times to count) I was audibly saying, "Wow this guy is an asshole." So good book, tough subject.
May 12, 2008 Julie rated it liked it
I really liked this. It was a weird mix of the history of rock 'n roll, a study of someone's struggle with mental illness and how that illness manifests itself in a lifestyle where almost anything goes, and a little Court TV thrown in at the end.
Dec 27, 2007 Hannah rated it really liked it
Oh, Phil Spector... This book was a little slow, but every bit of information was essential to the understanding of Spector's character. I found it especially interesting, having read Ronnie Spector's autobiography ("Be My Baby") in the past, which paints a pretty different picture.
Jan 17, 2009 Phil rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Most of this book shows the evolution of a boy-genius in the music industy in the 50's-60's-70's. It dwells only briefly on his current circumstances(accused of murder). Its a bit of a "downer" at the end bust fascinating non the less. Watch him meet Sonny, Cher, The Beatles and many more.
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Mick Brown (born 1950 in London) is a journalist who has written for several British newspapers, including The Guardian and The Sunday Times and for international publications. For many years he has contributed regularly to The Telegraph. He is also a broadcaster and the author of several books
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