To Know Him is to Love Him - the Teddy Bears
Phil Spector's first hit was this lush, haunting number for his group, the Teddy Bears. He wrote the song, produced it, sang on it, arranged it and played guitar on it all at the age of only nineteen. "To Know Him is to Love Him" reached number one and number two in the US and UK singles chart respectively.
Nine Years earlier, when Spector was only 10 years old, his father committed suicide, and the dedication on his grave stone read "Ben Spector. Father. Husband. To Know Him Was To Love Him." The words stuck, so Spector used them for his first hit, especially written for lead singer Annie Kleinbard's (later famous as Carol Connors) intimate vocal.
Spector was therefore mostly brought up by his mother who worked as a seamstress. Ronnie Spector, in her autobiography "Be My Baby" recalls how every lunchtime she used appear at the studio to bring him the classic Jewish mothers' remedy for everything, chicken soup. Spector used to lock the studio door, and put the "recording" red light on so that she couldn't enter, but she would wait, so that in the end he always had to relent and let her in. Phil moaned ' "I'm a fucking millionaire and my mother stills brings me homemade soup." '
Most of us receive unstinting and uncritical love from our mothers. The problems start if we feel that that unquestioning adoration is due from everyone.
We'd all like to return to the hope, innocence and passion of our youth which this song beautifully encapsulates with the earnest, softly strong purity of Kleinbard's voice framed by Spector and Marshall Lieb's ruminating backing vocals. It is extraordinary that, with no more than a piano, a guitar and the superb Sandy Nelson on drums, Spector achieved the perfection he is so famous for seeking so early on, no "wall of sound ", no multilayered mixing, no session musicians. Perhaps that was Spector's problem all those years. He'd already done it.
To understand how brilliant this is, just listen to all other versions and you'll see none of them come even close. But best stick with this, the universal purity of adolescence, with the shivery, brave moment 1 minute 44 seconds in when she goes "uh oh, yes!" as though she's just got what she's always wanted, and the two "yes" 's at the end of the song where she affirms this. Teenage innocence and hope caught for all time like an insect in amber. Spared the fall.