In Which We Go Beyond The Valley Of Gwangi With Phil Spector

This Recording‘s managing editor Molly Lambert is part of a piece in today’s New York Times magazine about media moments for “The Screens Issue.” To celebrate, we’re rerunning one of Lambert’s best TR pieces from earlier this year.

Trapped In The Sound Walls

by Molly Lambert


Melissa Gira is the Carrie Nation of Cyberation. It is also a satirical post, in case you are the kind of person who needs things to be spelled out for you.

p.s. we can still have sext

Indiana Jones And The Mystery Of The Island From LOST

Stay tuned for my Jurassic Park/Russ Meyer mash-up Beyond The Valley Of The Gwangies starring The Carrie Nations.

Gwangi is a Native American word for lizard

I bet you wish Spielberg had used stop-motion claymation

Mill-e-wah-que which is Algonquin for “the good land”

Mike Myers ganked some of his Austin Powers catch phrases directly from Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls. Most notably, “It’s my happening baby, and it freaks me out!“, which is said at the height of the first party scene by teen wunderkind record impresario Z-Man Barzell.

Proto Riot Grrls The Carrie Nations Playing Prom

I wonder if Myers sent Roger Ebert (the screenwriter of Dolls, yes homo) residuals from sales of Austin Powers inflatable talking lollipop Goldmember keychains? Doubt it.

Remember when Emily Gould was merely an innocent bloggeur for Gawker, positing Lindsay Lohan as Kelly Mac Namara in a fictionally casted remake of B.T.V.O.T.D.? That’s still a pretty great idea. So how about Zac Efron as Z-Man? Maybe one of those Jonas Brothers as Kelly’s hopelessly square boyfriend Harris Allsworth. Joe Jonas is a dead ringer for David Gurian.

Phil Spector: Come On Kiss The Gun

The character of Z-Man was based on noted nut-job (and teen wunderkind record impresario) Phil Spector, foreshadowing his recent murder mistrial. Goes to show, you can be a psychotic sociopath and a musicalWall Of Sound making genius. But even though Phil produced stone classics like “Be My Baby,” “My Sweet Lord,” “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” “River Deep – Mountain High” and “Then He Kissed Me,” it still doesn’t make it cool to fucking shoot someone in the face.

and he’ll never ever be any good

The term “Wall Of Sound” first appeared in print in the New York Times on June 22, 1874, in a description of Richard Wagner’s redesigned Niebelungen Theatre in Bayreuth, Germany, which placed the orchestra (for the first time) in an orchestra pit in front of the stage rather than behind the opera singers:

Wagner’s revolutionary Festspielhaus in Bayreuth, Germany

The mere sinking of the orchestra is, however, not the only innovation. Wagner leaves there, a space of eighteen feet wide, and extending the entire breadth of the stage (not merely of the proscenium) and extending up to the roof, perfectly free. He calls this the Mystic Space, because he intends that here the invisible ‘wall of music,’ proceeding from the invisible orchestra, shall separate the real (that is the audience) from the ideal (the stage pictures.) If we may so express ourselves, the audience will perceive the scenes through an invisible wall of sound.

Raymond Scott and his Wall Of Sound in fifties Manhattan

Raymond Scott nicknamed the vast array of homemade sequencers and synthesizers that took up a wall of his studio the “wall of sound”. The term became popularly used around 1945 to describe the sound of the jazz orchestra led by Stan Kenton, (more commonly known as “sheets of sound”). It was also frequently used to describe the improvising style of John Coltrane, particularly his way of running through scales rapid fire—the individual notes blurring into a larger pattern.

The Grateful Dead’s Wall Of Sound in seventies San Francisco

The term “Wall of Sound” was also used to describe the enormous public address system designed by (LSD chemist) Owsley Stanley specifically for the Grateful Dead’s live performances circa 1974. The Wall of Sound fulfilled the band’s desire for a distortion-free sound system that could also serve as its own monitoring system.

why yes I did make this awesome photoshop myself

Speaking of crazy musical geniuses with a propensity towards insane sex crimes, grandiose statements and violence (and golden showers) other than Chuck Berry, the R. Kelly trial IS Trapped In The Closet Chapters 23 To Infinity. Don’t think we forgot about your marriage to child bride Aaliyah (r.i.p.).

R. Kelly: The Pied Piper Of Pederasty is on trial

When your legal team trots out the “Little Man” defense, you’re in trouble (who’s your lawyer Kellz, Lionel Hutz?). Everyone knows you did it Robert. Nobody cares how many remixes to “Ignition” you come out with now, you are gonna pay for your decades of kid-touching bullshit. But maybe you’ll get lucky and The Happening will happen first and freak everyone out?

p.s. the big bad is plants, Bruce Willis is dead the whole time, Soylent Green is people, and Rosebud is the sled.

Molly Lambert is managing editor of This Recording.


Think twice about where you sit.

This picture always makes me feel better.

Our childhood series hit Dublin.

This Recording Is The Wall Of Blog


5 thoughts on “In Which We Go Beyond The Valley Of Gwangi With Phil Spector

  1. I loved how when I started reading this, I was like: “I wonder if she’ll mention Wagner?” and then you did! One minor correction, though, is that the theater at Bayreuth is notable because the pit — unlike almost any other — is actually under the stage, so that audience members can’t see the musicians (who don’t have to dress up!); this was one of the reasons Wagner could use a 100+ piece orchestra; the sound doesn’t so much confront the audience as envelop them; also worth noting is that Wagner’s reason for doing this — in addition to sound quality — was to create the complete illusion of being taken elsewhere by the unfolding drama (he also insisted on completely darkening the lights), in this way anticipating the experience of the modern movie-goer that we all take for granted.

  2. Interesting article, but a better segway was needed between mentioning the Grateful Dead and R. Kelly, two things that are not even in the same ballpark, the same state, or anything, thank you very much! Lol.

  3. The link is that R. Kelly is like Phil Spector, in that he is a crazy musical genius with severe psychological problems (especially about women) and legal troubles. Thanks Sarah and TGR. I love the theatrical effect of dark movie theater lighting.

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