BACKSTAGE: Creepy collaborations

    Phil Spector & Charles Manson: Jailhouse Crock?
    Record producer and convicted murderer Phil Spector in an undated police mugshot.
    Record producer and convicted murderer Phil Spector in an undated police mugshot.


    One of the more disturbing stories to find its way across our desks of late relates to an alleged approach made by infamous 1960s killer Charles Manson to the recently incarcerated Wall of Sound producer and gun nut Phil Spector, regarding a potential collaboration between the two jailbirds.

    Spector, who described himself as “relatively insane” in a 2003 interview with the UK Daily Telegraph, is currently serving 19 years to life for the shooting murder of Lana Clarkson, a 40 year old nightclub hostess, in his LA mansion.

    His formidable professional reputation was built largely on his work producing legendary 1960-70s recordings for artists including Ike and Tina Turner (River Deep – Mountain High) The Beatles (Let it Be), John Lennon (Imagine), Leonard Cohen (Death of a Ladies Man) and The Ramones (End of the Century).

    Spector’s career was increasingly derailed over the years as tales of his penchant for using lethal weapons to encourage musicians to bring their best to the studio (Lennon and Joey Ramone both claimed Spector pulled guns on them during respective recording sessions, while Cohen was threatened with a crossbow), eclipsed his talents as a producer.

    Having fallen off the radar in the late-1980s and 1990s, Spector endured the ignominy of a failed comeback collaboration with (of all people) Celine Dion in 1996. His last producing credit lies with a forgettable 2003 LP recording by UK band Starsailor.

    Manson, for his part, has spent the past forty years imprisoned for his involvement in a string of infamous murders in the late-1960s.

    Prior to his incarceration, the cult leader and aspiring muso befriended Beach Boys Dennis and Brian Wilson, recording tracks in the latter’s home studio in 1968. The outwardly sugary sweet Beach Boys even released a Manson penned tune – Cease to Exist – as a B-side in the late-1960s.

    Still, even despite Spector’s “relative insanity”, the prospect of working with the former head of the Manson Family has prompted the (occasionally) extravagantly bouffanted producer to pack away his six-guns.

    “I think Manson wants to glean some musical advice from Phil,” Spector’s publicist, Hal Lifson, told The New York Post in an interview last month. “Phil’s like, ‘I used to pick up the phone and it was John Lennon or Celine Dion or Tina Turner, and now Charles Manson is trying to get a hold of me!’”

    Spector’s wife Rachelle was equally freaked out by Manson’s request.

    “[Manson] said he wanted him to come over to his [cell],” she told the Post. “He said he considers Philip the greatest producer who ever lived.

    “It was creepy. Philip didn’t respond.”

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