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Phil Spector: The Rolling Stone Interview

Page 7 of 8

There's no success like failure, and failure's no success at all.
I don't care if people put me down for what I say, but society sets a standard of living for you, and they create rules and record books . . . they force you to live by them. It's almost like being psychotic. It's like, if you can take a couple of pills and just cool it, that kind of life becomes a lot more exciting than going out and working and grooving. So they put you in a hospital and every day you stay in. That's why people go in the mental hospitals and very rarely get out, because they dig it. It becomes easier than to go out and face society with the cabs and the horns, and the people. They make it almost impossible for you to want to get out of there.

The underground sort of does the same thing. They get your standards all twisted–like the Los Angeles Times ignores your standards. It's almost like the people running the underground press must be a lot of frustrated people; a lot of them who really want to be important, like agents want to be actors, musicians' agents want to be drummers, etc.

Are you apprehensive at all about what's goin' to happen and how your stuff is going to be received?
If I say yes, then I'm frightened. If I say no, that means that I'm very cocksure of myself. I'm cocksure of myself to the extent that I know I can make hit records. I don't worry about that. I'm apprehensive about certain people who don't have any standards but drug standards, really. If they're loaded at one time, my record will sound great; if they're not loaded, it may sound bad. I'm apprenhensive about the kind of things that people expect. I mean, they don't really want hit records.

Let's face it. It's nice to see somebody on top get the shit beat out of them. That's why I stayed away for a long time, so I'll come back almost like a newcomer, because I mean, that's why everybody hates Cassius Clay; he's a very cocky son of a bitch. You want to punch him in the nose, but that's really great when you can scare the shit out of your opponents by your cockiness.

I'm apprehensive only to the extent that I don't know how to lose yet; I don't know how to say "fuck it" about my art. I get too involved. See, I could just cool it, I mean, somebody's got to come in second . . . but it's guys like Bill Gavin that make me nervous. Those are the guys that get me uptight. And so I have to say, "Fuck that guy; who cares. I'll kill 'em, I'll stomp him." And it's true. It's just that I haven't gotten over it yet, you know.

I'm still involved with why "River Deep" wasn't a hit, and what the fuck was . . . and am I that hated? Am I too paranoid? You know, you can antagonize people if they think you're not human, if you say, "Aw fuck, I ain't afraid." A lot of people will get very angry at that; disc jockeys in particular.

Herbie calls me in sometimes and says "Listen to this": I mean he played me that thing "A Taste of Honey." My engineer Larry Levine won best record of the year production for that record at NARAS, but never won with me on anything – was never even nominated! The only thing we were nominated for was the thunder in "Walkin' in the Rain."

So I guess the best thing to be is not apprehensive and to not give a fuck. I should be smart enough, knowing Dylan and knowing the Beatles, to know that they don't give a fuck anyway, and I don't give a fuck what they do–realistically. Because I don't sit and criticize their albums. They can't do anything wrong, and if I don't like it, so what? But who do they really have to impress? They have to impress all the people. People got to buy. So that's really where it's at.

The days of the dominating disc jockey are over. There's no more powerful disc jockey who rules anything. What does scare me a little bit is that there's not many more Tom Donahues around. That's bad. I mean, there aren't any guys with good ears that know how to play a record, and a disc jockey's not allowed to bust a record anymore. He's got to say–it's really commercial and play this one and scream–"I can dig it." The music comes on and he says, "Now here's a pimple commercial." That bothers me a little bit.

Where does the power lie?
The power lies in program directors.

Are there any groups you would consider working with today?
Yeah, a lot of groups–all black. I don't like the white groups. I think there is a great void in black music today–great void.

What is the void?
Not being heard enough. Motown should not dominate it. Stax shouldn't dominate it either. There should be more black groups. There should be three black groups on every label around town. Hell, they've got enough of 'em and enough singers–they just don't have anybody to produce their records for them. Ben E. King should be making hits; he's a great artist.

I mean really, Motown has got it all tied up. Stax doesn't even come near Motown. They can't get a special on television or anything. So who's dominating it?

Why do you think the Beatles' first release in this country didn't make it?
Timing. Bad timing. What else could you attribute it to but timing? It has to be timing. It has to be. I mean, I can't think of any other reason except that we weren't ready for it. They probably weren't exposed and we weren't ready for it. I mean there were probably many more reasons why they should have made it than why they shouldn't have. Now, we can look back and say, "Yeah, we were fucked up," but we could not look back then at all. I would imagine, time and maturity. Great amount of luck involved too. Elvis Presley is another guy.

What did you think of his television show?
They ruined it; you should have seen it before they edited it. I didn't see the final version. What was originally done was sensational. How it ended up, I can't tell you. I know they cut out three scenes that were unbelievable. I meanthey cut out everything that was Elvis, really Elvis. They destroyed a lot of it, so I can't tell you how the final version was. But I think he's a sensation on stage.

Do you think he's gonna come back?
Yeah, he's got a hit now. I don't know what it is, but it's a hit. Oh, he should man. He is never gonna die. Somebody ought to cut an album of him singin' the blues. You know there's a strong belief–and judging from what I saw and heard at NBC, I believed it–that when he goes into a room with Colonel Parker, he's one way, and when he comes out, he's another way. You know, it's possible Colonel Parker hypnotizes him. That's the truth, too, and I can tell you six or seven people who believe it, too, who are not jive ass people. I mean, he actually changes. He'll tell you "Yes, yes, yes," and then he'll go in that room and when he comes out it's "No, no, no." Now, nobody can you like that. I wonder about that.

What has he got that has survived the worst recording career direction in history?
He's a great singer. Gosh, he's so great. You have no idea how great he is, really, you don't. You have absolutely no comprehension–it's absolutely impossible. I can't tell you why he's so great, but he is. He's sensational. He can do anything with his voice. Whether he will or not is something else. He and Dylan–he and Dylan I would like to record. Elvis can make some masterful records and can do anything. He can sing any way you want him to, any way you tell him. Even Dion. Look at Dion. Even Dion came back. Anybody great can come back today. That's what's so good about it.

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Song Stories

“Santa Monica”

Everclear | 1996

After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

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