Paul McCartney was unable to contact Spector, but wrote to Allen Klein on 14 April 1970 detailing his objections. He demanded that the “strings, horns, voices and all added noises to be reduced in volume”; “vocal and Beatle instrumentation to be brought up in volume”; and “harp to be removed completely at the end of the song and original piano notes to be substituted”.
Allen Klein decided – possibly having consulted the others, but certainly not me – that Let It Be would be re-produced for disc by Phil Spector.
So now we were getting a ‘re-producer’ instead of just a producer, and he added all sorts of stuff – singing ladies on ‘The Long And Winding Road’ – backing that I perhaps wouldn’t have put on. I mean, I don’t think it made it the worst record ever, but the fact that now people were putting stuff on our records that certainly one of us didn’t know about was wrong. I’m not sure whether the others knew about it. It was just, ‘Oh, get it finished up. Go on – do whatever you want.’ We were all getting fed up.
However, Let It Be was released on 8 May 1970 without McCartney’s changes being made. The work on ‘The Long And Winding Road’, in particular, was a point of contention which angered McCartney for many years; in 2003 Let It Be… Naked reversed many of Spector’s changes, presenting the songs in their original, unadorned fashion.
I heard the Spector version again recently, and it sounded terrible. I prefer the original sound that’s shown on Anthology 3.
Phil Spector was unrepentant about his work on Let It Be, and adopted a typically combative approach when asked about McCartney’s objections.
Paul had no problem picking up the Academy Award for the Let It Be movie soundtrack, nor did he have any problem in using my arrangement of the string and horn and choir parts when he performed it during 25 years of touring on his own. If Paul wants to get into a pissing contest about it, he’s got me mixed up with someone who gives a shit.
Let It Be was a huge commercial success, topping the charts in the UK and US. ‘The Long And Winding Road’ was also a number one single in the US. John Lennon later defended Spector’s work on the album, suggesting that the songs would have remained unreleased without his input.
When Spector came around, it was like, ‘Well, alright, if you want to work with us [laugh], go and do your audition, man.’ And he worked like a pig on it. He’d always wanted to work with The Beatles and he was given the shittiest load of badly recorded shit – and with a lousy feeling to it – ever. And he made something out of it. It wasn’t fantastic, but I heard it, I didn’t puke. I was so relieved after six months of this black cloud hanging over.
Lennon Remembers, Jann Wenner
Spector later worked with both John Lennon and George Harrison. In 1970 he produced the raw, stripped-down John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album, and Harrison’s ornate and orchestrated triple album All Things Must Pass.
In 1971 he was appointed director of A&R for Apple Records, a post which he held for just one year. With Lennon he co-produced the ‘Power To The People’ single, and the chart-topping Imagine album. Spector also worked on Harrison’s ‘Bangla Desh’ and Ronnie Spector’s Harrison-penned ‘Try Some, Buy Some’ and recorded the chart-topping triple album The Concert For Bangladesh – for which he used up to 44 microphones during the live performances.
Phil is, I believe, a great artist. But like all great artists, he’s very neurotic. But we’ve done quite a few tracks together, Yoko and I, and she’d be encouraging me in the other room and all that. And we were just lagging, and Phil moved in and brought in a new life to it because we were getting heavy.
Lennon Remembers, Jann Wenner
Further work with Lennon included the 1971 single ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ and the 1972 album Some Time In New York City. The following year he began work on Lennon’s Rock ‘N’ Roll album, although the pair’s relationship drew to an end during the sessions amid accusations of wild behaviour. Spector is said to have brandished a gun in the studio, and later disappeared with the tapes; Lennon eventually completed the album himself.
Spector became increasingly reclusive after suffering severe head injuries in a car accident in March 1974. Earlier in the year he had established the Warner-Spector label, and the following year he set up the Phil Spector International label with Polydor.
Recordings with Cher, Dion, Leonard Cohen and The Ramones followed, with varying degrees of success, but critical and commercial acclaim – as with many of his recordings – grew in the years after their release. A 1977 compilation of his Philles recordings led to a reappraisal of many of his earlier songs.
In 1981 he worked with Yoko Ono, producing Season Of Glass, her first album after the death of John Lennon. However, his reclusive nature increased during the 1980s and 1990s, resulting in few recordings. In 1989 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
On 3 February 2003 Spector was arrested on suspicion of murder after the body of 40-year-old nightclub hostess and actress Lana Clarkson of Los Angeles was found at his California mansion. Clarkson, who had been shot, was pronounced dead at the scene. On 20 November Spector was indicted for her murder, and in September the following year was ordered to stand trial in Los Angeles.
Spector claimed that Clarkson’s death was an “accidental suicide”. He was released on $1 million bail while awaiting trial, which began in March 2007. He was charged with second-degree murder, but in September 2007 the judge declared a mistrial after the jury announced that it could not reach a verdict.
In April 2009, following a five-month retrial, a second jury unanimously found the 68-year-old Spector guilty of second-degree murder.
Spector died on 16 January 16 2021 at the age of 81, from complications relating to Covid-19. He died in San Joaquin General Hospital in French Camp, California.