Phil Spector is charged in slaying

Legendary producer posts bail in shooting of woman at his home

February 04, 2003|By Geoff Boucher, Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein | Geoff Boucher, Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

LOS ANGELES - Phil Spector, the influential but erratic rock `n' roll producer best known for his layered "Wall of Sound" recording technique, was charged with murder early yesterday after a woman was found shot to death at his suburban hilltop mansion.

Police said they were called to the gated estate in nearby Alhambra about 5 a.m. by a limousine driver who reported hearing shots fired after he dropped off the couple. Officers arrived to find the victim - described only as a woman in her early to mid-20s - dead, her body sprawled in the marble foyer.

They quickly arrested Spector, 62, the force behind such hits as "Be My Baby" and "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin." He was released last night after posting $1 million bond.

Los Angeles County sheriff's investigators said the victim and Spector were the only people in the house at the time of the shooting, although other people might have been on the wooded estate, which towers over a modest, middle-class neighborhood of single-story homes.

Legendary for his work in the 1960s and 1970s with artists including the Beatles, the Righteous Brothers and the Ronettes, Spector built a reputation by the 1980s as a recluse, chased behind mansion walls by personal demons, haunted by drinking and reckless behavior. Friends said they thought he had put that behind him in recent years and expressed bewilderment at the charges.

"None of this equates," said guitarist Dave Kessel, one of Spector's closest friends. "He has been in great spirits and great shape, and feeling so good about everything."

Lt. Daniel Rosenberg, the sheriff's homicide detective in charge of the investigation, said investigators recovered a gun that was thought to be the murder weapon. Investigators pored over the estate all day yesterday, especially the foyer, where the shooting is thought to have occurred, and the driveway, where a new black Mercedes-Benz sat facing the front gate, its driver's-side door open.

Spector bought the 33-room Alhambra mansion for $1.1 million in 1998. Spector commented later in Esquire magazine that he had bought "a beautiful and enchanting castle in a hick town where there is no place to go that you shouldn't go."

Spector's move to Alhambra appeared to reflect his desire to stay out of trouble after years during which he was dogged by accusations of domestic abuse and public drunken rages. The Ramones accused him in 1980 of brandishing a gun in the studio, and three years earlier, singer Leonard Cohen called him an out-of-control madman.

Spector has been married several times and has four children. Among his wives was Ronnie Spector, lead singer of the Ronettes.

In recent years, friends said, Spector seemed to have found a harmony in his life.

Spector had re-engaged the music world, they said, becoming a frequent figure at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame events, checking out new bands at Sunset Strip concerts and returning to the studio to try to restart his career with the promising British band Starsailor.


Spector's fame was shaped by his layered, orchestral work, the famous Wall of Sound, which gave a luminosity and power to late-1960s songs such as "Then He Kissed Me" by the Crystals. He called the songs "pop symphonies for teens."

"He showed he was a genius," Wexler said. "He created these records out of his own imagination and created a way of recording. The Wall of Sound is something we all learned from."

Born Harvey Phillip Spector in New York City, Spector was a 17-year-old high school student in Los Angeles when he wrote and produced his first hit, "To Know Him Is To Love Him," a title taken from an inscription on his father's tombstone. By age 21, Spector was a millionaire dubbed the "teen tycoon" by author Tom Wolfe.

He put strings on "The Long and Winding Road" for the Beatles, built the musical foundation of "You've Lost that Lovin' Feelin" for the Righteous Brothers and shaped the raucous backdrop to John Lennon's "Instant Karma." His other credits included Lennon's "Imagine," George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord," Ben E. King's "Stand By Me," and "River Deep - Mountain High" by Ike and Tina Turner.

Geoff Boucher, Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein are reporters for the Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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