Nearly every Spector soul song in my discography was recorded after 1964, that is, after “Lovin’ Feelin’” became a super hit at the very end of that year. There are only a few songs in the discography that were released earlier in the year. They include: Billy Ford’s “This Is Worth Fighting For,” Lulu’s “Here Comes The Night,” Gene Pitney’s “I’m Gonna Be Strong” and “That Girl Belongs To Yesterday,” Joey Tyler’s “Gone Are The Good Times,” Dee Dee Warwick’s “Standing By,” and cover versions of “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” by Jill Jackson and Dusty Springfield, respectively.
Although these songs do not fit my analysis of the commercial context for Spector soul, they certainly fit my description of its historical context.
Quite a few Spector soul songs are cover versions of songs that were recorded, sometimes more than once, before “Lovin’ Feelin'” was released. There are two common features about these songs. First, their theme is the pain of love, not the happiness of love. Second, they have a wall of sound that is missing in the versions that came out before “Lovin’ Feelin’.”
Occasionally, a remake that was cut in 1965 — the first full year of Spector soul — lacks a wall of sound, just like earlier versions. For example, the lead vocals in “She Cried” by Jay & the Americans (1962), Robby & the Robins (1963), the Lettermen (1964), and Del Shannon (1965) are plain and simple. Also, each recording, except the version by Robby & the Robins, has “sha-la-la-las” in the background vocals.
In contrast, PJ Proby’s “She Cried” (1965) and the Shangri-Las’ “He Cried” (1966) have intense vocals, heavier production and no “sha-la-la-las.”
Chuck Jackson’s “Since I Don’t Have You” was released in late 1964, and its heavy production is a far cry from the doo-wop original by the Skyliners (1958).
Pre-“Lovin’ Feelin’” versions of “I Wake Up Crying” by Chuck Jackson (1961), Del Shannon (1961) and Gene Chandler (1962) differ from the Spector soul recording by Tom Jones (1968).
Johnny Mathis had a top ten hit in 1963 with “What Will Mary Say.” Three years later Jay Black recorded album from which a 45 cover version of “What Will Mary Say” was released. It had a wall of sound, but it failed to chart, and the LP was never issued.
Roy Orbison had his first major hit with “Only the Lonely” in 1960 (#2 in the US on Billboard and #1 in the UK). There is no wall of sound in the original, but in the 1964 cover by Ronnie Cook (of the Superbs) it is monumental.
Orbison’s “House Without Windows” (1963) features a characteristic operatic finish by “the Caruso of Rock.” Ray Peterson’s version (1965), despite his thin sounding vocals, even if multi-tracked, climaxes with a wall of sound.
The early versions of “Either Way I Lose” by Teri Thornton (1963), Gladys Knight and the Pips (1964) and Nina Simone (1965) contrast with the later ones by Robie Porter (1966), Jackie Trent (1967) and Irene Reid (1967).
The original “Make It Easy On Yourself” by Dionne Warwick (1963) is easy listening, whereas the covers by the Walker Brothers (1965), Cilla Black (1965) and Jackie Trent (1967) are all booming.
The wall of sound is absent in “Some Kind of Wonderful” by the Drifters (1961), “You Can Have Her” by Roy Hamilton (1961), “Love Her” by the Everly Brothers (1963), and “The Show Must Go On” by The Reveres (1963). However, in the remakes of these songs by Dian James (1965), Timi Yuro (1965), the Walker Brothers (1965), and Jay & The Americans (1967), respectively, the booming sound is unmistakable, inescapable.
An excellent contrast is represented by the two versions of Live and Learn: Leslie Gore (1964) without the wall of sound and Joey Heatherton (1966) with it.
The Drifters’ “Save The Last Dance For Me” (1960), Steve Alaimo’s “Every Day I Have To Cry Some” and Martha and the Vandellas’ “A Love Like Yours (Don’t Come Knocking Every Day)” (1963) were turned into over-the-top wall of sound productions by Spector himself for Ike and Tina Turner’s album, River Deep Mountain High (1966).
An especially interesting example of “before and after” is “I Could Have Loved You So Well.” The original recording, sung by Ray Peterson, was produced by Phil Spector himself in 1961. A wall of sound is absent. The next version, by Chance Eden, has a quintessential wall of sound, and since it was released in 1966, the heavy production is virtually as predictable as its theme of the pain of love.