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Phil Spector: The Rolling Stone Interview

Page 4 of 8

What about John Lennon?
I haven't spoken to Lennon in some time so I don't know where he's at now. But I have a feeling that Yoko may not be the greatest influence on him. I mean, I don't know, but I have a feeling that he's a far greater talent than she is.

You know, a multi-millionaire in his position just doesn't get caught in an English apartment house by the cops on a dope charge unless you're just blowing your mind or somebody is just really giving you a fucking. I mean you have dogs, you have bodyguards, you got something to protect you. Everybody knows the Beatles were immune. Everybody knows that George Harrison was at the Stones' party the night they got busted, and they let Harrison leave and then they went in and made the bust. I mean it was like the Queen said, "Leave them alone."

So Lennon must really have been causing a disturbance or somebody must have been setting him up to get busted, 'cause it ain't no medal of honor. Like it's no medal of honor to get the clap. Being busted for marijuana don't mean nothin' – it's just a waste of time, if anything. It wasted his time. It may have even caused . . . miscarriages.

It's almost like a weird thing to see just how bizarre he can get before he really blows it or he just teaches everybody something.

But I think without question he is leader of that group, and he makes the decisions. I'd like to know how the Beatles feel about him and what he's going through. I almost get the feeling that they want to help him but I don't think they really can because he's always way ahead of them.

I just hope that he doesn't hurt himself. Lenny really hurt himself. I tried to tell him, "you're going to hurt yourself, you're going to hurt yourself," and when they get going that's it, once they really get going. 'Cause Lenny would have died for any reason that day–a tooth pulled, anything. When you get going in that direction there's nothin' can stop you, no amount of talk.

Lenny should have been out working at all the colleges, and influencing all the young people of the country. That's what he should have been doing, but instead he sat up in his room all night.

He wrote Supreme Court things, you know . . . "Dear Justice Marshall: You don't seem to understand." He was brilliant; he knew more than anybody but he didn't know there was doors to go through and ladders to climb. He thought it was just 1, 2, 3. I just hope Lennon doesn't blow it. It's his life, but he's too great a contribution.

You came over with the Beatles when they first came over to the States. What was that like?
It was a lot of fun. It was probably the only time I flew that I wasn't afraid, because I knew that they weren't goin' to get killed in a plane. That plane was really an awful trip. I mean there were 28 or 30 minutes where that plane dropped thousands of feet over the ocean. It scared the shit out of me, but there were 149 people on board who were all Press and Beatles' right-hand men, and left-hand men, and we just sat up there and talked about the Apollo and all that jive. Lennon was with his first wife, and he was very quiet. Paul asked a lot of questions, George was wonderful. It was a nice trip.

I'd just been in England for a couple of weeks and I went by their apartment, and they were leaving and said why don't you come back with us. It's really funny, but they were terribly frightened to get off the plane.

They were terribly frightened of America. They even said, "You go first." 'Cause the whole thing about Kennedy scared them very, very much. They really thought it would be possible for somebody to be there and want to kill them, because they were just very shocked. The assassination really dented them tremendously – their image of America. Just like it dented everybody's image of the Secret Service.

You were associated with the Stones when they first started. Was there any talk of you becoming their producer?
Um, yeah, but Andrew was involved at that time and he was sort of . . . they told me he tried to be like me in England. And he sort of . . . I would say in all honesty that he was my publicity agent in England at that time. In other words, he called me, and said he could do publicity, and I said, well, do publicity because I don't know what it involves. He sort of had a nice affection for me as a record producer and he supposedly held me in high esteem.

The group was thinking of breaking up at the time. They were really disorganized. It wasn't so much breaking up; shit, they couldn't get . . . nobody believed in them. They were like a dirty, funky group. They were like second-class citizens and even at my hotel they couldn't get in. They wanted 'em thrown out.

What did you do with them?
I went to see Sir Edward uh, what was his name? The owner of London Records, an old English cat. Didn't understand anything he said for half an hour. I wanted the Stones on an American label, my label, and he didn't. He offered me a percentage, anyhow, it involved things and money changed hands, and I never really was anything more than just close friends with them.

I knew there would eventually be problems between Andrew and them because . . . I don't know. I just had a feeling. Then there was another guy involved too, another Eric somebody. He was involved. I saw them in America a few times. The first time they came, they did awful; their tours were bombing. They got hung up in hotel rooms, and nobody knew what was going on.

The funniest call of all was when Mick Jagger called. Andrew used to sleep in my office in New York, when he stayed there. We used to get these phone bills to London, all kinds of nonsense. Didn't know who was doing them or who was calling. One day we got a phone call, you know, and it was Mick Jagger. I happened to pick up the phone and he said, "What you say there?" And I said, "Who's this?" He said, "This is Mick Jagger – wha' happening?" I said "Nothing." I said, "Where are you?" He said "In Hershey, Pennsylvania. Everything is fuckin' brown here. The phones are brown, the rooms are brown, the street is brown, every fucking thing is brown. I hate it in this fuckin city, Hershey, Pennsylvania." He didn't know that Hershey, Pennsylvania, is where Hershey's chocolate company is located.

Did you negotiate their contract?
Well, this was an involved thing. I made a lot of bread real fast and that's about all. But I never wanted to get anything else except to see them happen, because they were really discouraged.

I mean London Records didn't know whether to believe in them or not – their record company. It was just a thing that I felt that if another group was going to make it after the Beatles, they would make it. They were tremendously popular in London. The girls screamed for them everywhere and yet they hadn't had a hit. I figured somethin's here, you know and they tried to get in hotels and people kept them out, and they said they were dirty and they smelled.

So I went to see Sir Edward Lewis. We talked and we worked out some kind of deal, and then they got a hit – "Not Fade Away" became a big hit in England – and then they came here and slowly they happened. But it wasn't until like a year later, when they exploded, that the contract really meant anything, as far as I was concerned. But financially, it didn't mean anything until much later on. Of course there were so many people involved in the background scene before they ever went to Allen Klein. And I don't think Allen Klein ever knew what was going on, and he's not a very good cat.

What do you think about music now? Rock and roll music obviously has this tremendous thing with young people.
What tires me in this business today is that I'm tired really of hearing somebody's dreams and somebody's experiences. I would like to hear a little bit more of . . . I mean the Beatles combined it; and they do it well – their experiences, their love and their feelings. I don't know if they lived "Yesterday," but I know they wrote it.

Now I'm getting a little tired of hearing about, you know, everybody's emotional problems. I mean it's too wavy. Like watching a three or four hour movie. I'm getting so fed up with it. No concept of melody–just goes on and on with the lyric, and on and on with the lyric. They're making it a fad. If it had more music it would last, but it can't last this way.

I mean country and western is evident of that, because it's lived so long by being so obvious. The old tunes have lived so long because they're obvious. I mean "all the things you are" and all the great songs you've heard were obvious in their way. Everybody went to a minor seventh in the bridge. I mean it was standard. You started out in a major seventh chord and you went to the minor seventh of the fourth and that was it, and you wrote a great song. So they had their formula and we have ours today, but they are ruining the formula.

They are going to really kill the music if they keep it up, because they're not writing songs anymore. They are only writing ideas. They don't really care about repetition. They don't care about a hook or melody. And I know the Beatles do. I mean "Lady Madonna" was a hit song. They didn't write that for an emotional experience and you don't have to put things into those songs – they're right there – blah. That "ooh bla dee, ooh bla da . . ." I mean that's a hit song. Ten years ago that was a smash. I mean "life goes on." We must have more songs.

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Song Stories

“Money For Nothing”

Dire Straits | 1984

Mark Knopfler wrote this song with Sting, and it wasn’t without controversy. The Dire Straits frontman's original lyric used the word “faggot” to describe a singer who got their “money for nothing and their chicks for free.” Even though the slur was edited out in many versions, the band, and Knopfler, still took plenty of criticism for the term. “I got an objection from the editor of a gay newspaper in London--he actually said it was below the belt,” Knopfler told Rolling Stone. Still, "Money For Nothing," undoubtedly augmented by its innovative early computer-animated video, stayed at Number One for three weeks.

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