“Caroline No,” “Yesterday,” “Standing In The Shadows Of Love,” “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter,” “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” and so many, many more songs from the mid-60s share a common sensibility, which is one of loss. This loss was conveyed in stories about love that is felt to be on the verge of ending or is already over. This sense of loss, I believe, resonated with the public mood.
There were movements in support of as well as against change over hot-button issues such as civil rights for African-Americans, women, gays and lesbians, and withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam. Change, of course, meant loss of what existed before. Whether change was defended as good or denounced as bad, the former norms of society, and therefore culture, were no longer fixed in place.
In his lyrics for “Help,” John Lennon expresses this sense of both change and loss in an unusual way for the time, which was in terms of a personal dilemma, without an association to a romantic crisis.
When I was younger, so much younger than today,
I never needed anybody’s help in any way.
But now these days are gone, I’m not so self-assured,
Now I find I’ve changed my mind and opened up the doors.
Help me if you can, I’m feeling down….
Frequently, however, change and loss in pop songs were related to love that was going or had already gone wrong. And, because of the kind of production used, the expression of these feelings in a Spector soul song could be raised to a higher level than in any other kind of pop music style.
A harbinger that the era of Spector soul and the ascendency of the pain of love theme was coming to an end happened in San Francisco in mid-1967, the Summer of Love. The San Francisco Sound garnered national attention, and the Monterey Pop Festival heralded a shift in pop song styles that became more fully realized by the following year.
Spector soul ends by 1968. It was by no means the only kind of pop music impacted by the factious and traumatic history of that year. The Tet Offensive, LBJ’s announcement not to seek re-election, the student strike at Columbia University, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy, the televised police riot against anti-war protestors in the midst of the Democratic Convention in Chicago, and the election of Richard M. Nixon as president were just a few of the events that led to new directions throughout pop music.
In a word, the sound of the city lightened up. White pop left the city and headed for the hills. The retreat from the brashness of rock ‘n’ roll was shown in the emergence of singer-songwriters and the infusion of country styling in instruments and recordings. For example, Bob Dylan’s former backup group, now calling itself The Band, released a seminal album, Music from Big Pink, in 1968. Black pop, although it remained unmistakably urban, also changed. That is, in contrast to the forcefulness of mid-60s Motown, there arose in Philadelphia a gentler style of soul.
From 1968 into the 70s, feelings were tamped down, as pop records veered away from the intensity of the mid-60s toward mellower sounds. It happened in rock, soul, country, and jazz, as indicated by the appearance of new labels for radio programing: lite rock, soft rock, adult contemporary, quiet storm, country pop, easy listening, and smooth jazz.
In my Introduction there is a quotation from Stephen Holden in his role as a film critic for The New York Times. (See: http://www.spectorsoul.com/introduction/)
It seems appropriate in my Conclusion to quote Holden again, this time as a music critic for The Times.
Once again Holden has provided phrases that, without his intent, accurately capture part of the essence of Spector soul. In a review of a live show by Little Anthony and the Imperials (April 12, 2011), he says:
“As crucial to the group’s longevity as its lead singer [Anthony Gourdine] was its association with the songwriting team of Teddy Randazzo and Bobby Weinstein, who wrote ‘I’m on the Outside (Looking In),’ ‘Hurt So Bad’ and ‘Goin’ Out of My Head,’ all of which they performed. The ballads, in particular ‘Hurt So Bad’ and ‘Goin’ Out of My Head,’ have an operatic heft; emotionally they shoot the moon.”
Strung together, phrases from Holden’s two reviews describe Spector soul in a nutshell. It is booming soul that has an operatic heft and emotionally shoots the moon.
Holden’s acknowledgement of Teddy Randazzo is important because he was not only a songwriter but also an arranger and producer. That is, Randazzo was himself responsible for the operatic heft — the wall of sound — in many records. Furthermore, he cut booming soul with two black vocal groups, one male, Little Anthony and the Imperials, and the other female, The Royalettes, as well as with Timi Yuro, who was white but, to many people, sounded black. In other words, Teddy Randazzo’s Spector soul catalog exactly represents a range of singers that extends beyond blue-eyed men, like the Righteous Brothers.
Another example of Randazzo’s career as exemplary in representing Spector soul — both in terms of its wall of sound as well as its racial and gender range of recording artists — can be associated with one song, “Lost Without You,” which, in 1964, he both co-wrote and sang on the first recording. The following year, another white singer, Billy Fury, had a #16 hit in the UK. In 1966, Randazzo cut it on Little Anthony & the Imperials for their album Payin’ Our Dues, and African American Lorraine Chandler, with other producers, recorded a third cover version, but it wasn’t released.
As new songs are identified, the Spector soul discography will continue to grow. Yet future additions will not change an essential feature of Spector soul: the singers will be women and men, black and white. The term Spector soul replaces (and corrects) the inappropriate “Righteous Brothers soundalike.”
What distinguishes Spector soul songs from other soul songs in the mid-60s is the wall of sound production. Nonetheless, the theme of the majority of Spector soul songs about the pain of love, as opposed to the happiness of love, is consistent with other pop music styles in those years. Spector soul is, on the one hand, special in its sound, but, on the other hand, its most common lyrical theme is typical of its time.