The First Modern Record Producers: Joe Meek and Phil Spector

Here’s a fine article from Medium on Joe Meek and Phil Spector, arguably the first modern record producers.

If rock ’n’ roll’s initial blithe cacophony (1955–58) had liberated teenagers, then the period immediately after (1958–61), like the final scene of The Graduate, saw doubt and fear and a sense of agoraphobia creeping in. These were new and very real teenage emotions, and they needed an artistic outlet, away from the increasingly adult (Darin’s “Mack the Knife,” no. 1, ’59) and plain silly (Brian Hyland’s “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini,” no. 1, ’60) records dominating the chart. The Aquatones’ “You,” a minor American hit from the tail end of ’58, had articulated this still, small need for calm. It was a 6/8 ballad that owed little to classic rock ’n’ roll beyond its heavy backbeat.

The backing track was a mush of repetitive piano, thrummed acoustic guitars, and dense, soupy bass. It sounded like the musicians were three rooms away. Over this, a keening female vocal, high and pure yet oddly emotionless, echoing in a well of loneliness, gave the record a hypnotic, womblike quality.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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