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Say Goodbye to Hollywood - Bette Midler

Few Phil Spector produced stars went on to further success once they had left the fold of Phil Spector's Philles Record Label which existed from 1960 to 1967. The record label was set up by Spector and Lester Sill, but Spector bought Sill out in 1962 and therefore produced nearly all of the label's hits himself. Of the 36 singles the label released (this number excludes singles that were withdrawn for one reason or another), 31 were produced by Spector and 28 of them charted in the US Hot 100, which is one of the highest label hit ratios in the history of record production, a rate of just under 80%.

As blues-based rock, West Coast rock and Motown swamped the charts at the back end of the sixties, Spector's lavish rock and roll style epics went out of fashion, and he became a superstar production nomad, working with the likes of the Beatles, collectively and singly, Leonard Cohen and the Ramones, with mixed results. By the eighties he was something of a professional recluse, his admirers preferring to come up with their own versions of his "wall of sound" rather than risk working with the eccentric man himself.

Of the original Philles artists, only Tina Turner went on to have any substantial musical success post Philles. Ronnie Spector was no exception despite several attempts in the 70's and 80's, some of which were produced by Spector himself. The best of these was her cover of Billy Joel's consciously Spectoresque "Say Goodbye to Hollywood" which committed the cardinal sin of not being as good as the original. Midler's version is better and more Spectorish than both, recapturing the original sense of occasion and excitement of the original Phillies' discs.

Curiously, Bette Midler first made her name in the early seventies with her dynamic and outrageous performances at New York's legendary Continental Baths, the gay epicentre of the city. The Ronettes, Ronnie having just run away from husband Phil and returned from LA to hometown New York , were doing shows there at the same time, so it's certain that they would have seen each other's acts and met. As a result, both became gay icons, not only for their lavish music but also for their over-the-top costumes and make -up. Interestingly, the important songs in Ronnie's life reflect her emotional journey beginning with the inescapable irony of the fact that that she originally fell for Phil while singing "Why do Fools Fall in Love?" for him (see two posts ago) and ending their relationship with ""Say Goodbye to Hollywood", having run away from their Beverly Hills home, the Faustian pact over, and the third best version to boot.

So, in this instance, Bette is best, but even though he didn't produce it, the musical ghost of Spector is still there. Like most of his productions, for best results, turn the volume control up to high and get up on the table.

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