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Spector Of Light, Spector Of Evil

Phil Spector is a name that most of us in the music business know very well. However, most of us also have mixed emotions about the man. He passed away in prison on January 17, 2021 of Covid related causes.

Phillip Harvey Spector (born Harvey Phillip Spector, December 26, 1939) was an American record producer, musician, and songwriter who developed the Wall of Sound, a music production formula he described as a Wagnerian approach to rock and roll. Spector was dubbed the “First Tycoon of Teen” by writer Tom Wolfe and is acknowledged as one of the most influential figures in pop music history. After the 1970s, Spector mostly retired from public life. In 2009, he was convicted of second-degree murder and remained incarcerated until his death.

In 1960, he co-founded Philles Records, and at the age of 21, became the youngest ever US label owner to that point. Over the next several years, he wrote, co-wrote, or produced records for acts such as the Ronettes and the Crystals, and later, John Lennon and George Harrison of the Beatles. In all of his musical endeavors, Phil Spector was considered a genius and ahead of his time in terms of production and arrangement. He often employed what would become known as “the Wrecking Crew” as his de facto house band while collaborating with arranger Jack Nitzsche, engineer Larry Levine, and various Brill Building songwriters. Spector’s other chart-topping singles include “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” (co-written and produced for the Righteous Brothers, 1964), “The Long and Winding Road” (produced for the Beatles, 1970), and “My Sweet Lord” (produced for Harrison, 1970).

In my own time as a songwriter and producer, I met Phil Spector on several occasions. While he was certainly a genius, there was always something very creepy about the man. I instinctively kept my distance.

His production genius is perhaps best displayed on the 1962 Crystals’ hit, “He’s Sure The Boy I Love.” Give it a listen; I think you’ll agree that this track is superb in its arrangement and production values. Listen especially carefully for those famous background tracks.

In 2003, actress Lana Clarkson was found dead from a bullet wound in Spector’s home. He maintained to authorities and the media that she had accidentally shot herself. From 2007 to 2009, he was the subject of two trials, the second of which ended in a guilty verdict. He was serving a prison sentence of 19 years to life and would have been eligible for parole in 2025. In the end it is very sad that Phil Spector was at once both the “Spector of light” and the “Spector of evil.”

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Military Radio – Armed Forces Network — Pacific Paratrooper

Reblogged from GP Cox – Pacific Paratrooper. American needs to know more about its history of survival.

1943 ‘G.I. Jive’ sheet music by Johnny Mercer ARMED FORCES NETWORK Although American Forces Network Radio has officially been on the air for 60 years, listeners began tuning in at the end of World War I. A Navy lieutenant in France broadcasted information and live entertainment to troops accompanying President Wilson to the 1919 Paris […]

Military Radio – Armed Forces Network — Pacific Paratrooper

Lunedi Senza Parole #83

Indovina dove! Guess where!
Foto © Allen E. Rizzi

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Read my latest novel – Hey, Mister Publisher Available in paperback or e-book.

Follow songwriter Al Sapetello as he takes you through the back streets of the 1970’s music business on his way to the top. Where will the road lead him?The 1970’s music industry is explored from the inside out, exposing both the beauty and the ugly underbelly of the business. Presented with authority by veteran songwriter Allen E. Rizzi, Hey, Mister Publisher will give you a new understanding of music and the people who make it.

Back To Back

Since surgery has been my theme this past week, I thought you would like the amusing tale of my back surgery several years ago (2014).

If you follow this blog, you know of my unfortunate accident with the pal del fer in Italy last summer and the painful and sometimes comical aftermath. After being shot-up with enough cortisone to heal the entire lineup of the Pittsburg Steelers, I finally made it back to the United States. However, there were a few “incidents” along the way. The first occurred when I stepped out of my rental car at the Milan Malpensa Airport after a five hour drive from my mountainous home in the Italian Alps. As I swung my legs out of the driver’s seat, the right leg simply crumpled and sent me to the pavement with a thunderous crash. Undaunted, I revived immediately and boarded the flight for Atlanta shortly thereafter. After the usual welcome back lines, prodding and gate changing, I finally needed to use the restroom before boarding the final flight of our 24 hour trip. Stepping out of the restroom, the leg gave way again, this time sending my head crashing against a tiled wall. Welcome home!

Okay, no harm, no foul. I was back in my home in North Carolina but this time I decided to actually do something about my back after 30 years of limping, falling and generally looking like a Joe Cocker performance from four decades ago. After we got settled in, I made the first doctor appointment with my primary physician. His face said it all; grim but with a bit of hope, just a bit. Without getting too technical, he told me what I already knew, namely that I had severely pinched nerves in the lumbar region. He used the words radiculopathy and stenosis and then sent me on to have an MRI performed with a referral to see a specialist.

I have had several MRIs in my time and I am not a fan. (Who is?) The news was not encouraging. There were big problems at play and I had lost the use of several nerves and muscles in my right ankle. I opted for a conservative treatment and agreed to proceed with an epidural cortisone procedure to see if improvement would come. This procedure itself is a mini-operation and feels much like putting a hole in a leather belt with a punch. Some of the symptoms subsided but I felt I knew what was coming next.

The blunt force of 30 years of denial smacked me like a killer whale going after a seal. I definitely needed surgery. The surgeon recommended doing a double laminectomy and a double micro discectomy along with a removal of some exploded disc material. This sounded, as we said in the 1970s, “pretty heavy.” He explained that a laminectomy was needed (removing a part of the vertebrae) to get at the disc and do the micro disectomy (removal of part of the injured discs).The discs involved were L3/L4 and L4/L5 (lower lumbar back discs). It seemed pretty straightforward so I said okay.

When I arrived at the hospital the day of the surgery, I met many, many health care providers and like a pandemonium of parrots, they all had something important to say and so I listened carefully. Questions and answers were repeated over and over at each step until I finally reached the holding room. I thought the name to be a bit odd and I likened it to the corridor where they hold livestock before they become deadstock. After speaking to the anesthesiologist, I was visited by my surgeon. We were finally ready to go, all set…. but, I needed the bathroom really badly so off we went IV in hand to do a spiritual peeing of sorts. Once I got back on the gurney, I was told, “We’re going to give you a “pre-anesthesia to take the edge off.” The injection was given and I went out before we made the first turn into the operating room.

A moment later (actually closer to two hours), I was awake with an oxygen mask. Ta-dah!  The good news was that I could go home immediately which meant no expensive days in the hospital. So half awake and half asleep, I was folded into my car and driven home to the safety of my bed by my wife. When we got home, I was feeling great and even made a few phone calls and caught up on my email. But then I remembered something that two back surgery veterans had told me: beware of the day after surgery! They were right on the money. When I got up the next morning, I absolutely knew that I had been cut…. ouch!

However, I’m kind of a “get ‘er done” kind of guy, so I began walking a quarter to a half a mile starting the second day home. It felt good to actually feel some of the pavement beneath my feet. But I soon learned that the road to full recovery would be long indeed. The weakness in the ankle and resulting partial drop foot were still there, although both had improved quite a bit. On the bright side, I found I didn’t need the walker I’d rented nor did I need the pain pills that were prescribed.

Three weeks later, I visited the surgeon for a check-up. He was encouraged by my improvement as we discussed the prognosis. But the most important question was saved for last: When could I start wading and fly fishing again? He laughed a bit and said, “Anytime you want to go is good.” But being a fellow angler he added, “It’s below freezing today. You should have gone last Friday when the weather was good!”

There is a time and place for all things under heaven: bad backs, surgery, and fishing. I’m going to try to stick with the latter for awhile!

PS – We lost Joe Cocker this week and like so many I will miss him. He was iconic in every sense.

PPS – I did go fishing but as I exited the stream, I took a really bad fall trying to go over some wet tree roots. Nothing was broken, just my pride!

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View From Santa Barbara

Here’s another piece of my poetry from 1971. Yes, that’s over 50 years ago but I remember writing this in response to the nightly briefings from the White House regarding Vietnam casualties juxtaposed with my quiet surfing life in Santa Barbara, California.

View From Santa Barbara

©1971 Allen E. Rizzi

The long clock pronounces sentence;

Another day is done.

Beneath an arch, a mother’s pleading,

“Oh my God, where is my son?”

And all along the coast, the story goes.

Habits of Hobbits are striking,

Pulling down the sun.

He has no more his hopes and dreams,

Millions have reduced to none.

And all along the coast, the story goes.

The quiet time has come at last;

Another day is done.

Twilight’s eraser rubs its mark,

His thoughts, like paint, have run.

And all along the coast, the story goes.

I came to hear the sea’s sweet song;

I came to listen upon her shore.

I came in hopes of tasting wind,

But now I find they are no more.

And all along the coast, the story goes.

As always, I would appreciate your comments. My complete poetry anthology can be found here. I think you will enjoy it!

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I wanted to update all of you as to my recent health emergency and offer my sincere and heartfelt thanks for your many words of encouragement.

On January 6, I underwent a hemicolectomy. The surgery went well and the good news is that I did NOT have cancer. A large tumor was resected and that should have been the end of it aside from 6 weeks of recovery. That’s the textbook version. Mine went way off the page in several scary directions.

Every conceivable and inconceivable thing went wrong from the start. A simple catheter was misplaced before surgery causing extreme and unexpected bleeding. The first 90 cc bag came off one third full of blood. Then came 2 days of vomiting great quantities of bile. (That was fun!)

Then the real problems surfaced. As leg messagers were put on a little too late, it soon became apparent that I had developed massive pulmonary embolisms in both lungs. This in turn put extreme stress on my heart. The first signs appeared as I was walking. My pulse jumped to 158 BPM with the atrial chambers fluttering at 310 BPM. Then came the crash cart!

After stabilizing the heart, I was rushed to the CTA lab for lung imaging. The images confirmed that my left lung was almost one solid embolism while my right was not a great deal better. Then I had a most unusual treat. While changing the portable oxygen tanks, they opened the valve without purging it first. The result was about two cups of water being forced into my nose, throat and lungs. In normal parlance, this is called water boarding.

I was put on massive does of IV and oral blood thinners and an assortment of medications to stabilize the heart rate. The embolisms were so great that my breathing and heart functions were stressed to their absolute limits. That required more oxygen as my Pulse Ox stats had crashed into the 60’s and 70’s.

The three day hospital stay had turned into a week. I finally insisted on being sent home and was reluctantly discharged. Things started to look up until after two days home, I developed enormous bowel bleeding, probably from the site of the  anastomosis. This required an emergency visit to the surgeon who immediately took me off of the blood thinners. We both agreed to wait and see at home before re-admittance to the hospital.

So that’s the update folks. I’m home under the superb care of my wife with my medical future very much in doubt. Will I have permanent heart and lung problems? I hope not!

A little side note on the hospital: It was the filthiest place I have ever been with a nursing staff (save two) that was confused, undertrained and plain inadequate. Imagine that I finally had to put my foot down and insist that the bedding be changed after three days and that I finally be given an opportunity to bathe! I will not return to this hospital under any circumstances.

In all, this is the most trying situation I have gone through in my 72 years. I am worried, disgusted and angry. Thank God that my wife is my strength!

PS – The photo is the cover from my poetry anthology: Prescriptions from the Rhyme Doctor.

Martin And Martians

Years ago in San Fernando, California I had a childhood friend named Martin. He lived up the block and the two of us went through school together. We were great friends back then.

In junior high school we both became interested in science fiction movies and the people who made them. This interest also included emulating some of their work on our low budget scale. There was a movie called Invasion of the Saucermen which was about invaders from Mars. We were so taken with the movie that we sat about making our own Martian masks.  These were intricate masks made of paper mace, utilizing old electric cables that we pilfered from industrial trash bins combined with lots of hand painted details. We often set about at night in our neighborhood to scare the crap out of people by scratching at their windows with the masks in place. If we tried that today, we would be met with a hail of bullets to be sure.

We also made mummy masks and other little artifacts from science fiction movies, always trying to copy what we had seen on the screen. We both got pretty good at the craft. At the time there was a magazine called Famous Monsters of Filmland that was published by Forrest Ackerman. I forget why but we were invited to his house to meet many of the science fiction writers and movie makers of the day. I think we were 14 years old at the time. What a thrill! We met great minds like Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimoff and a host of others. As I recall, we took some of creations to the event and we were well received by everyone.

Over the years Martin and I have been mostly out of contact. We each went in different directions after school. Occasionally I’ll hear from him but it’s only once in awhile. A couple of years ago, I sent some of the photos of our creations from years past. He like me still has a soft spot for times gone by,

Martin and Martians – Both have a spot in my heart and mind that will not be forgotten.

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40 Acres

I had to find something amusing from my past posts to boost my spirits today. Here goes!

Today as I drove back home from another day of fishing, I ventured off the main road to look at some estate homes mostly just to see how the other half lives. The homes were enormous (6,000 to 8,000 square feet) and all neatly perched on large acreages. As I completed my tour and got back on the main road heading for home, I mused with my wife about a dream we once shared: 40 acres.

I was brought up in Southern California but spent most of my youth in the wide open outdoors. Ranches, farms and large tracts of national forests were my playgrounds. However, I lived in a small house that my parents had purchased in the town of San Fernando, California in 1950. Because I spent so much time in the large expanses of the California and Montana wildernesses, my dream in life quickly became to own 40 acres of land. The number I thought was adequate enough to keep the rest of the world at bay. That dream continued for decades, although I always found myself living in small homes in the Californian suburbia.

Years passed and I met my wife. She was from New York City and like me longed for 40 acres. New York and Los Angeles feel like jails to some young people and the both of us felt in many ways like prisoners. After we were married, our homes were always on the edge of open land but never on that magic island of 40 acres. The acreage thing really got into high gear when we started regularly fishing in Montana. We thought we should move there. We looked at many houses, all on large private acreages. In Montana, 40 acres isn’t even really considered acreage; it’s more like a large lot. We almost bought a place with 60 acres near the town of Whitehall back in 2001. But instead, we made an abrupt u-turn and had a house built for us in Northern Italy. Was it on 40 acres? No, no indeed. That much land in Northern Italy would cost about 40 million Euro or about 50 million dollars. That was a tad out of our league. Instead, we settled for a very nice housing arrangement in the Dolomite Alps with a very large garden. The 40 acre thing came up now and then but with less remorse. In the end, we started actually believing that smaller was better.

When we moved back to the United States a couple of years ago, we again looked at properties with acreage. However, all of a sudden, the number 40 seemed a bit too much. How about ten? How about five? In the end, we said yes to the question, “What about one half? What happened? We got a bit older and the thrill of dirt roads and mending fences had staled a bit with age. We were no longer eager to run a spread and we figured we really didn’t need 40 acres to keep out the bad guys. A baseball bat would probably do. So far, we’ve been happy with our new found adjustments.

We still regularly wander the mountains, streams and forests in both Europe and North Carolina. However, now we don’t feel we have to own the land; renting it on a daily basis free of charge is okay by us. We are still children of the great outdoors but when the weather is freezing, we love the comfort of the indoors. So today, as I turned back onto that highway that leads to our home, I looked at my wife and asked with a snort, “Remember when 40 acres is all we wanted?” We laughed together at the mere thought and imagined that our next home would probably include a zero lot line and lots of paid people to run the spread. It’s funny how time changes a person. Some would say we’ve given up. I prefer to think we’ve wised up. 40 acres? Not in this lifetime friend!

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Name That Tune

As a songwriter with over four decades of experience, I would like to think that I know a thing or two about songs. Even as a youth of 14, I studied the “B-sides” of all the hit singles and got a pretty good handle on who was who.

Flash forward. In my kitchen here in Italy a couple of years ago, a friend casually mentions to me that Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” was written by Paul Anka. “No damn way!” I protest. “I’m a songwriter and I knew Paul Anka!” Well, apparently I don’t know what I think I know. Yes, he wrote the song.

But why is it that I can recall that a group named The Thirteenth Floor Elevators recorded “You’re Going To Miss Me” and that “How is Julie?” is my favorite Lettermen cut? Is time making me tone deaf or has the music shuffle mechanism in my head gotten stuck? I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately but I still have no answers.

So, for the fun of it, let me pose this question to my readers: How many of you know who wrote “Cotton Candy Dreams”, “Sand Castles” and “Three A.M.?”

I did….

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Lunedi Senza Parole #82

Indovina dove! Guess where!
Foto © Allen E. Rizzi

Please follow this blog by clicking  follow below. Your comments are always welcome.

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Read my latest novel – Hey, Mister Publisher Available in paperback or e-book. This is an excellent book for any musician, songwriter and anyone who has ever wondered about the people who write the songs.

Follow songwriter Al Sapetello as he takes you through the back streets of the 1970’s music business on his way to the top. Where will the road lead him? The 1970’s music industry is explored from the inside out, exposing both the beauty and the ugly underbelly of the business. Presented with authority by veteran songwriter Allen E. Rizzi, Hey, Mister Publisher will give you a new understanding of music and the people who make it.