In his liner notes for the CD box set of the complete recordings of the Walker Brothers, Everything Under the Sun, Mark Paytress says that when that trio of Americans arrived in London in mid-February 1965, “The song that everyone was talking about was that week’s chart-topper, The Righteous Brothers’ ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin.’ A second version, sung by Cilla Black, loitered tearfully in the lower reaches of the Top 10.”
Paytress implies that the Righteous Brothers soundly trumped Cilla Black. Although by mid-February Cilla’s version was coming down to the lower reaches of the Top 10, it had been number 2 when the Righteous Brothers topped the charts. According to Wikipedia, “This was the first of only three occasions in the history of the British Top 40 where the same song, recorded by two different artists, held the top 2 positions in the chart in the same week.”
Furthermore, Cilla’s version did rather well, considering it was the target of a PR campaign aimed at turning record-buyers against it. Around Christmas 1964 — just after her cover was released and before the original crossed the Atlantic — Andrew Loog Oldham, the manager and producer of the Rolling Stones, took out the following ad in Melody Maker and other British music papers: “This advert is not for commercial gain, it is taken as something that must be said about the great new PHIL SPECTOR record, THE RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS singing ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.’ Already in the American top ten, this is Spector’s greatest production, the last word in tomorrow’s sound, today, exposing the overall mediocrity of the music industry.”
In retrospect, what matters most in pop music history is not that the Righteous Brothers won the duel with Cilla Black, but that Phil Spector’s version of “Lovin’ Feelin’” was a clear and immediate influence on many records made in the U.S. and the U.K. One of the first was “Love Her,” which was cut in Los Angeles by the Walker Brothers a month before they flew to London. It was released in the late spring and reached #20 in Great Britain.
Over the next couple of years, some of the many songs George Martin produced for Cilla Black were, like “Lovin’ Feelin’” and “Love Her,” about the pain of love, such as “Everything I Touch Turns To Tears” and “A Fool Am I.” In these recordings Martin followed Spector’s lead and, to borrow from the title of one of her albums, he surrounded Cilla with a wall of sound.
“Love Her” and other records by the Walker Brothers are often referred to as “Righteous Brothers soundalikes.” For example, Stephen Holden, in his New York Times review of a film about Scott Walker, 30 Century Man, says that the Walker Brothers’ “mid-60s signature hits, ‘Make It Easy On Yourself’ and ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore,’ …echoed the booming, blue-eyed soul of the Righteous Brothers.” (December 17, 2008)
Since Spector used an echo chamber to create his wall of sound, Holden’s use of “echoed” makes a nice pun. However, because he simply associates the Walker Brothers with the Righteous Brothers (and blue-eyed soul), his readers are left in the dark about the real history of the “booming” soul songs that were composed and recorded after “Lovin’ Feelin’” in the United States and Great Britain.
In fact, hundreds of them were released on labels famous and obscure. They were created by scores of different songwriters, producers and, most critically, singers. Besides the Righteous Brothers and the Walker Brothers, women as well as men, who were black as well as white, cut soul records that had a wall of sound. For example, Ike and Tina Turner’s “Everything Under The Sun” is as booming as the Walker Brothers’ own version.
In his liner notes for the CD, Kent’s Cellar of Soul, Dave Godin, one of the most esteemed writers about soul music, says of a song by the Dreamlovers, “Not a million miles from the style of the Righteous Brothers, ‘You Gave Me Somebody to Love’ is very much a city sound of its time.”
However, instead of explaining more about this sound, Godin immediately shifts his attention to “the influence of film music on records.” For Godin, “You Gave Me Somebody To Love” “reflects all that creative energy that was flowing between various media formats about this time.”
I believe Godin is correct to note that this song is very much of its time because there were lots of other songs in the mid-60s that sounded similar to it. But I think Godin is mistaken to contextualize it in terms of film music. It is more appropriate to associate the song with Phil Spector, the creator of “the style of the Righteous Brothers.” This city sound of its time came from bringing together, by Spector first of all, afterwards by many others, the wall of sound and soul music.
In short, booming soul songs are what I call “Spector soul.”