Phil Spector's birthday today is not a happy one, one might guess. I did a bunch of recording sessions for Phil back in the day, and mostly enjoyed a lot of things about them: the cast of characters who would turn up made the dates entertaining, the music was sometimes unexpectedly wonderful, and Phil was mostly nice to the musicians, except when he wasn't.
I've dined on stories about my Spector dates for years. I remember when we did an album with Leonard Cohen. We were at a studio in Glendale, and when we had a rare opportunity for a break, I stepped out the front door onto Glenoaks Avenue. Leonard Cohen was sitting on the curb, with heis feet in the gutter. I said to him a phrase which was always appropriate at a Spector date: "Are you all right?" Without looking up, he replied, "What in the world am I doing here?" I found myself asking that same question.
I usually conclude by mentioning that I eventually told my wife that I wasn't going to accept any more of Phil's gigs, because the presence of guns worried me. I said: "There's going to be an ugly scene eventually, and I don't want to be around when it happens."
A few years later, there was, and I wasn't.
Looking at the photos that came on line today, I realized that, for Phil, the real punishment turned out to be not the years in prison, but having all those photos of him in the newspapaers without his favorite wig.