Phil Spector may have built his name defining the girl group sound, but his biggest hit was for a blue-eyed soul duo, sung by a man whose slo-mo baritone belied the fact that he was himself barely out of his teens. “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” may have only stayed at #1 a modest two weeks, but it has since become the most-played song in the history of radio. It also became the last #1 Phil Spector would have in the 1960s. But given the sheer spectacle of Spector’s production – the most elaborate of his recordings to date – it’s not a bad way to go out. Even the song’s first line (“You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your lips”) echoes and reverses the opening of one of Spector’s earliest productions, The Paris Sisters’ “I Love How You Love Me” (“I love how your eyes close whenever you kiss me”), as if drawing opening and closing parentheses around his first hit-making era. The record certainly sounds like Spector in everything-must-go mindset, chucking in every spare instrument and vocalist, every climactic build and release, as if wanting to use them all up before they could be taken from him.
Which, in a sense, they were. The British Invasion didn’t just kick-off a rock and roll revivial, of course; it also started the trend of self-contained bands writing their own material and playing their own instruments. Unlike the teenage girls comprising the bulk of the Philles Records stable, these young men were less willing to let their strings be pulled, even by a master puppeteer. Spector’s sessions with The Righteous Brothers were an omen of pushbacks to come. The duo had already netted a few hits on their own, most notably the self-penned “Little Latin Lupe Lu,” so they were already accustomed to a certain degree of autonomy. Spector’s decision to jettison tenor Bobby Hatfield from the bulk of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” in favor of Bill Medley’s mostly solo lead was standard operating procedure – think of the Crystals records where no actual Crystal appears, or the absence of the male half of Ike & Tina Turner on “River Deep – Mountain High” – but The Righteous Brothers bristled at the producer’s insistence of complete control. (As consolation, Hatfield did sing solo on both “Unchained Melody” and “Ebb Tide,” their other two Top 5 hits helmed by Spector.)
Luckily, Medley and Hatfield acquiesced, allowing Spector to scale to the top of the Wall of Sound and create a record that made his previous sonic baroqueries sound like campfire strum-alongs in comparison. Rather than building “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” toward one great explosion in the third act, every chorus – every verse, even – boils over, upping the stakes for each subsequent segment, till at last it threatens to snap beneath the weight of all that drama. That it holds tight is proof of Spector’s artistry. Despite its continual snowballing, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” never feels overblown; despite a kitchen-sink arrangement, it never feels excessive. While Spector himself would soon retreat from the studio and wait out the rest of the ’60s as a near-recluse, his uncanny knack for balancing pomp with pop would be the template imitated by his contemporaries and beyond, to the point that, when he did return to producing at the end of the decade, it was only natural that it was for the ultimate self-contained British Invasion rock band. 9
Hit #1 on February 6, 1965; total of 2 weeks at #1
127 of 1002 #1’s reviewed; 12.67% through the Hot 100