What’s the difference between Gary Glitter and Phil Spector? Gary Glitter was convicted for having sex with underage girls while Phil Spector was convicted for shooting a woman in the face and killing her.
And yet, of the two, only Glitter’s music has been banned.
The reason for that, of course, is that we can quite easily live without Glitter’s music (as good as it often was). We can’t live without Spector’s. Or, rather, we don’t want to.
Taken from the inscription on his father’s gravestone (“To Know Me Is To Love Me”), this song was the 19-year-old Spector’s first record as writer, producer and performer (he plays guitar and sings backing vocals). It went straight to number one in 1958.
A deceptively slight song, it begins like a whispered hymn and builds into something rather spiritual, almost gospel-like. The “to know him is to love him” refrain (perhaps unsurprisingly, given its origin) adds a degree of funereality that’s only broken when Annette Kleinbard’s measured vocal soars into the “why can’t he see?” middle eight. The music itself barely exists: a slow shuffling drum with lazy piano and guitar that’s carried along by the delicate “ba da da” backing vocals.
In all, it’s a gorgeous, dream-like pop ballad that’s lifted by Spector’s genius for melody and drama. And it’s that genius, appearing here for the first time, which explains why we’re prepared to look the other way when it comes to the man’s despicability. Despicableness.
Oh, and it’s interesting to note that you’d have to go a long way to cover To Know Him Is To Love Him badly. Whether by The Beatles or by the Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt Trio, its brilliant pop simplicity always shines though.