Sound & Structure

Spector soul records have two essential elements.

1)   A wall of sound production. In the chorus, backup singers, if not a choir, typically join the lead singer(s), who may be double-tracked.

2)   Intense (soulful, not “pop”) vocals.

In determining whether a record is Spector soul, I think that the most difficult factor to assess is whether there is a “sufficient” wall of sound. In dealing with this, I have kept in mind a description of Gary Puckett and The Union Gap’s first single, “Woman Woman,” which was released in November 1967. The on-line All Music Guide says that it, “Suggest[ed] a mellower Righteous Brothers sans producer Phil Spector’s majestic firepower….”

This description applies to many of Gary Puckett and The Union Gap’s recordings. Their songs, like those by the Righteous Brothers, feature soulful, intense singing, but the wall of sound is downsized. I suggest the reason for this is that the songs by Gary Puckett and The Union Gap were released well after the key years of Spector soul (1965-1966), and production with a wall of sound was diminishing in the recording industry.

My discography of Spector soul, which is provided at the end of this essay, includes songs that have a “heavy” as well as a “mellow” wall of sound. For example, it is heavy in Jody Miller’s “Magic Town,” whereas it is mellow in the Vogues’ version.

In their book, Collecting Phil Spector: The Man, the Legend, and the Music  (Popular Culture Ink, 1991, p. 119), John J. Fitzpatrick and James E. Fogerty include the Vogues’ “Magic Town” in their category of “Righteous Brothers Soundalikes.” However, the principal connection between the Vogues and the Righteous Brothers is male vocals, not a wall of sound.

Although Jody Miller’s recording, with a female vocal, cannot be classified as a Righteous Brothers soundalike, it is actually closer to the sound of the Righteous Brothers because it is more Spectorian.

To take one more example, Gene Pitney’s “Nobody Needs Your Love” has a relatively mellow wall of sound, whereas it is heavy in Tammy Grimes’ version. I consider both to be Spector soul. In contrast, Jerry Butler’s version lacks any sort of wall of sound and, therefore, it is not in my discography.

There are also many Spector soul songs that share the following three parts in the structure of the melody. A record does not require these parts to be Spector soul, but they are so common that the three parts establish a kind of Spector soul “template.”

Part A)   In the verses, the melody is sung in a lower range.

Part B)   There is a transition from the verse to the chorus during which the melody goes to a higher range. The length of the transition varies — brief, long or in-between, as illustrated by three examples below.

Part C)   The melody in the chorus is sung at the highest range in the song. The chorus reaches a crescendo and then falls off before the next verse. If there is a lyrical or instrumental bridge in the song, the crescendo also falls off before the bridge.

An example where the length of Part B is between short and long is “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.”

a)   You never close your eyes
Anymore when I kiss your lips
And there’s no tenderness
Like before in your fingertips

b)   You’re trying hard not to show it, (baby)
But baby, baby I know it

c)   You’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’
Whoa, that lovin’ feelin’
You’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’
Now it’s gone…gone…gone

An example where the length of Part B is brief is “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore.”

a)   Loneliness is a cloak you wear 
A deep shade of blue

b)   is always there

c)   The sun ain’t gonna shine anymore 
The moon ain’t gonna rise in the sky 
The tears are always clouding your eyes 
When you’re without love…(baby)

An example where the length of Part B is long is “Hurting Each Other.”

a)   No one in the world
Ever had a love as sweet as my love
For nowhere in the world
Could there be a [boy/girl] as true as you love

b)   All my love I give gladly to you
All your love you give gladly to me
Tell me why then
Oh why should it be that

c)   We go on hurting each other/We go on hurting each other
Making each other cry
Hurting each other
Without ever knowing why

I acknowledge that a few songs in my discography are beyond the pale of actual Spector soul. Four examples are Lou Christie’s “If My Car Could Only Talk,” Jan and Dean’s “You Really Know How To Hurt A Guy,” Wayne Newton’s “They’ll Never Know,” and Bobby Vee’s “Run Like The Devil.”

None of these songs has soulful vocals, since Lou Christie, Jan and Dean, Wayne Newton, and Bobby Vee are not blue-eyed soul singers. However, I include these songs because they demonstrate that the impact and influence of “Lovin’ Feelin’” was so broad that “pop derivatives” of the Spector soul template were recorded.

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