To many, the ’60s was the golden decade of motorcycles. BSA and Triumph were well established, Harley-Davidson was winning races and phasing in the Shovelhead, and the Asians were coming on strong. So-called outlaw bikers were being exploited in movies. Music was also undergoing a transition. There was a new resurgence of the blues, folk music was at its zenith, and Motown, the British Invasion, American pop, and “underground” rock were all colliding together on the radio dial, introducing listeners to what would become legendary names in the history of contemporary music. In perhaps no other decade would music undergo such fundamental changes, ushered in by Elvis and later evolving into the socio-conscious music of Woodstock by the end of the decade.
On “Bobby Jean,” Springsteen sang, “I learned more from a three-minute record than I ever learned in school…” And while we heartily endorse the importance of education, the Boss’ words ring true for those of us raised on motorcycles and rock ’n’ roll. It may not help with that job interview, but just like our bikes, rock ’n’ roll is a strong prescription for coping with the stress of everyday life. Rebellion, love, life, and the open road were common themes shared by music and motorcycles during the ’60s. They still are today. Two of this month’s releases—sets by Roy Orbison and the work of Phil Spector—remind us of that…
Wall of Sound: The Very Best of Phil Spector 1961-1966
Recent transgressions aside, legendary producer Phil Spector’s contributions to rock ’n’ roll will endure forever. For that brief moment in time during the ’60s, Phil produced some of the best records in the history of rock ’n’ roll. Chief among them are recordings by the Crystals and the Ronettes (which featured Darlene Love). His work with these two groups alone guaranteed him inclusion into the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame, yet Spector would go on to work with the Beatles (both individually and collectively), Harry Nillson, the Ramones, and many others.
This latest compilation showcases 19 of his best productions. Included are the Ronettes and the Crystals of course, along with solo works by Darlene Love, Ike & Tina Turner, the Righteous Brothers, and Bob B. Sox and the Blue Jeans. Now comes a warning: listening to this music and cruisin’ on your bike may cause one to suddenly burst out in song. These songs, most of which clock in at fewer than three minutes, are addictive and well suited for karaoke. If you’re the sort who doesn’t feel embarrassed by singing the Crystals “Da Doo Ron Ron” aloud while maneuvering a bagger through the twisties, then go ahead…
Much has been written about Spector’s “Wall of Sound” production technique, which was the layering affect achieved by recording a group of musicians en masse, and in mono no less. Whatever it was, these songs sounded great on jukeboxes and AM radios back then, and one can trace Spector’s influence to artists such as Bruce Springsteen, all the way back to these records. “He’s a Rebel,” (one of the first biker songs?), “Be My Baby,” “Baby I Love You,” and “River Deep, Mountain High” are great songs that remain unsurpassed, even by today’s pop stars. No one writes songs like this anymore and they certainly don’t sound like this! Do yourself a favor and grab this CD for a little road music. Also highly recommended are new individual retrospectives on both the Crystals and the Ronettes.