Can ‘Wall of Sound’ keep murder charges from sticking? |

Can ‘Wall of Sound’ keep murder charges from sticking?

Legendary music producer Phil Spector is on trial for the murder of part-time actress Lana Clarkson. In the early morning of Feb. 3, 2003, Clarkson was shot with Spector’s handgun just inside his mansion in Alhambra, Calif.

His driver testified last week that Spector stepped out of his house after the shooting and said, “I think I killed somebody.” Spector’s pit-bull defense attorney made much of the fact that the driver had previously quoted Spector saying, “I think I shot somebody.” Not sure I see a difference.

Spector had brought Clarkson home early in the morning after touring four bars with others (none his wife) from the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip where she was a hostess. Clarkson was found dead in a chair in the foyer. Maybe the butler did it.

The prosecutors are proceeding on a theory of “implied malice,” alleging Spector did not intend to kill Clarkson, but caused her death by reckless behavior and in taking an extreme risk.

This was not the first time Spector had assaulted a woman with a gun. In fact, four other women came forward and testified before the jury that they were similarly threatened with a gun by Spector. All four were subpoenaed and seemed reluctant to testify against Spector, but each described how his usual jovial mood could darken quickly. That is powerful testimony.

The prior gun incidents were deemed admissible to show that the death of Clarkson fit “a recurring, common plan used by Spector to intimidate women into staying with him.” Admission of such compelling testimony will be the basis of Spector’s appeal if he is convicted.

While the testimony has been damaging to Spector, his defense team in opening argument explained how they will show that Spector was not covered with any gunshot residue, while Clarkson was, suggesting she shot herself. They will call renowned (celebrity) scientist Henry Lee to testify. Boy, that will help get to the truth.

Your intrepid reporter has a question for the defense attorneys. If Clarkson was suicidal and wanted to kill herself as will be alleged, why would she do so in a chair in the foyer of Spector’s mansion near the front door. It’s not like she was thinking, “I think I will kill myself.” Actually that was one of the points made by the prosecutors to a grand jury that found sufficient evidence to charge Spector. Good question.

Every news item I have read on Spector’s trial closes with a statement that Spector rose to fame in the 1960s and ’70s, changing rock music with the “Wall of Sound” recording technique. What the heck is that?

Spector was a creative music arranger who enhanced pop music by mixing orchestral strings and horns with a typical rock-‘n’-roll band consisting of guitar, keyboards, bass and drums. He would line up multiple musicians, sometimes four or five guitarists, in the recording studio. He would then funnel the music into a sort of echo chamber that created music that was greater than the sum of its parts. The Wall of Sound.

He worked with the Ronettes, the Righteous Brothers, the Beatles and even the Beach Boys. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine named the One Hundred Greatest Artists of the music genre. Spector made the list at number 63 ” ahead of the Eagles, Police and the Kinks. Three of my favorites.

Even if you are unsure about Spector, if you are an old fogy like me, you will recognize some of his music accomplishments. He wrote some of these memorable oldies and produced them all: 1958 “To Know Him Is to Love Him” (the first 45 record I ever purchased); 1960 “Spanish Harlem”; 1961 “Pretty Little Angel Eyes”; 1963 “Da Doo Ron Ron” (When He Walked Me Home) and also “Then he Kissed Me,” both by the Crystals; 1963 “Be My Baby”; 1965 “Unchained Melody”, of course, by the Righteous Brothers.

Other records he produced include “Let It Be” (you know, the Beatles), “Plastic Ono Band” (John Lennon), and “All Things Must Pass” (George Harrison).

We will see whether Spector’s fame helps or hurts or doesn’t matter.

Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter-Simon with offices in Truckee, South Lake Tahoe and Reno. He may be reached at or at the firm’s Web site

Support Local Journalism


Support Local Journalism

Readers around Lake Tahoe, Truckee, and beyond make the Sierra Sun's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User


See more