Visitors to our shop will notice that pride of place is given over to our ‘Wall of Sound’ sign, custom built by local artist and prop maker Paul Harrison. The sign is a reference to the magical sound created by the celebrated and controversial record producer Phil Spector. You’ll have undoubtedly heard Spector’s huge, ambitious sonic creations in classic recordings from the likes of The Crystals, The Ronettes, Ike & Tina Turner, The Righteous Brothers, Dion, The Beatles, John Lennon, George Harrison and Leonard Cohen among others.
Tales of his unpredictable and often disturbing behaviour are legendary and his conviction in 2009 for murder make Spector a most unlikely candidate for providing the soundtrack to cosy Christmas scenes across the world, but his ‘A Christmas Gift For You’ album originally released in 1963, remains an absolute perennial and the most celebrated of this largely sniffed at seasonal genre. In fact unlike any other christmas album, this record is so revered it was subsequently voted to number 142 of Rolling Stone magazine’s ‘500 Greatest albums of all time’.
It was recorded in the autumn of ‘63 at the legendary Gold Star Studios in Hollywood, scene of countless all time classic recordings including The Beach Boys’ inimitable celebration of cosmic positivity ‘Good Vibrations’. In fact Beach Boy Brian Wilson, who claims ‘A Christmas Gift’ as his favourite album of all time, according to legend plays piano, uncredited, on the sessions. Other notable studio musicians assembled by Spector for the recordings include Barney Kessel, Leon Russell, Sonny Bono and the great producer and arranger Jack Nitzsche.
The album featured vocal acts Darlene Love, The Ronnettes, The Crystals and Bob b Sox & The Blue Jeans from his stable at Philles Records and on release wasn’t quite the commercial hit that one now might imagine but rather has grown over the years in stature and popularity. Undoubtedly contributing to it’s continued popularity and artistic elevation it was re-released by The Beatles’ own Apple Records in 1972, retitled ‘Phil Spector’s Christmas Album’ and bearing a new cover, this time featuring Spector himself sporting a Santa outfit, beard and all.
Certainly many, possibly most, of the bankable household names in music have dipped an elf like toe in the Christmas album waters, from the likes of James Brown, Elvis Presley and Ella Fitzgerald, all of whom made a decent fist of it, to more modern attempts by leftfield heroes such as Minnesota group ‘Low’ and celebrated US singer songwriter Sufjan Stevens, both of whom have also managed to impress critics and fans alike with great, uncynical and worthy seasonal musical gifts.
Never before or since though has anyone truly managed the nigh on impossible task of creating a cross generational and almost universally loved and respected artistic treasure from the low expectations of the Christmas album sub genre. It’s testament to the incredible quality and vision of Spector’s much impersonated ‘Wall of Sound’ that this album has managed to transcend it’s narrow seasonal remit.
Happy Christmas all!!
Del Day and Danny Wilson run Union Music Store
in Lansdown Place www.unionmusicstore.com