Size always matters: there are few surer-fire ways of creating a pop impact than by recording something which sounds bigger than whatever else is around. It might not win credibility (step forward, Meat Loaf) but it generally wins fans. But the moment passes and faced with former blockbusters you can find yourself scratching your head and saying, yes, but what’s it for?
The Wall of Sound isn’t entirely immune – a few of Spector’s riper productions sound a little bit ridiculous now, as blowsy as the operatic ballads of the pre-rock 50s. But on the whole his insight – that if your songs dramatise young love in crisis, you can never sound too big – served him well. The Righteous Brothers don’t sound young, though, in fact their deep, slow voices sound exhausted, crushed, bound for the tomb – if not already there.
Numbed and broken by their struggles in the quicksand of a dying love, the Brothers sound shocked, then angry, and then the dam breaks on their double-voiced grief and desperation. It’s in that call and response section – and in the granite determination of the final chorus – that Spector’s methods really justify themselves.
(The opening line of this song is fantastic, too – tiny, acute, heartbreaking, you immediately know that no matter how loud the record gets, this is a hopeless battle.)