Inside the dark world of Phil Spector as he dies – Murder, guns, abuse and wigs

In the dark and twisted world of Phil Spector, it was normal to change weapons as often as outfits, secretly adopt twins as a Christmas gift and then subject those children to unspeakable abuse.

He imprisoned his wife behind a barbed-wire fence, stole her shoes to stop her escaping, and threatened to murder her and display her body in a glass-topped coffin.

The music producer has died behind bars aged 81, four weeks after being diagnosed with Covid-19.

He was serving a life sentence for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson, who he shot in the mouth in 2003.

Spector, who transformed pop with his “wall of sound” recordings, worked with The Beatles, The Righteous Brothers and Ike and Tina Turner.

But behind his success, he was warped, violent and fascinated by guns. In 1958, on tour with his first group The Teddy Bears, he claimed he was the victim of an attack in a toilet where four men urinated on him. From then on, he carried guns for protection and travelled with bodyguards.

By the 1970s he used firearms to intimidate the biggest stars of the day. Working with John Lennon on an album, he would routinely arrive late to the studio, high on amyl nitrate “poppers”, dressed as a surgeon or karate expert, with a pistol in his hip holster.

One time he chased the former Beatle around the studio, brandishing his gun, while another time he fired a shot as a prank close to the singer’s ear.

In typical deadpan style, Lennon said: “Listen, Phil, if you’re going to kill me, kill me. But don’t f*** with my ears. I need ’em.”

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Singer Leonard Cohen described their sessions as “armed to the teeth – you were slipping over bullets.”

Blondie’s Debbie Harry and The Ramones also told how Spector pulled a gun on them.

Born in New York in 1939, Spector’s father took his own life when the producer was just nine. His controlling mother often accused him of driving his father to his death and his sister ended up in an asylum.

He became a chart star in his teens thanks writing single To Know Him Is To Love Him. Before he was 20 his musical genius had made him a millionaire, but he had no friends.

He later became a recluse and would walk round his mansion in the dark, dressed as Batman.

Spector’s first wife was singer Annette Merar, but they divorced in 1966. Two years later he wed Veronica “Ronnie” Bennett, lead singer of The Ronettes, who he produced.

But he put her through years of abuse. In her autobiography, she remembered waking on the first day of their honeymoon to hear workers erecting barbed wire-topped walls around the mansion.

He never wanted her to leave the house, and kept the curtains drawn. When on tour he would call her every evening and tell her to leave the receiver on the pillow so he could hear her breathing all night.

Ronnie later wrote she knew she would die if she didn’t leave and eventually managed to escape – barefoot – in 1972 with her mum Beatrice’s help.

In their divorce settlement, she forfeited all future record earnings. Later the Ronettes took Spector to court and it emerged they had only earned $14,000 from him in three years.

Ronnie also revealed how Spector had given her an unexpected gift for Christmas 1971 – twin five-year-old boys called Gary and Louis he had adopted without telling her.

Ronnie, who had adopted son Donte with him two years earlier, said: “We were in the car and all of a sudden we pull up to the mansion and there’s these twins running around.

“He said, ‘Merry Christmas!’ No one wants live children as a surprise.”

The twins later claimed that they had been abused by their adopted dad.

And Donte said Spector locked him and his brothers in their bedrooms “with locks on the door” and made them simulate sex with his girlfriend.

Fast-forward to 2009 and Spector was jailed for the second-degree murder of Clarkson. He claimed she was playfully kissing the barrel of his gun when it was accidentally discharged but a pathologist found bruising on the 40-year-old’s tongue, indicating the weapon was forced into her mouth.

Spector was sentenced to a minimum of 19 years but his biggest worry was not having his bouffant wigs in jail.

He used them to hide scars from a car crash head injury in 1974 and even his wives had never seen him without one. Ronnie said he would sit “for days” trying to get his hairpieces to look natural, and refused to leave the house if he couldn’t get them right.

He sported a series of bizarre hairpieces during his trial but couldn’t in prison.

In 2019, a mug shot emerged of him with a goatee, bald head and hearing aids. He had made millions and become one of the most famous men in music, but he died alone in hospital.

As Ronnie said afterwards in a statement: “Darkness set in. Many lives were damaged.”

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