John Minihan, Hulton Archive This Week in Music History has returned after a…
- Posted on Aug 2nd 2011 1:00PM by Cameron Matthews
After grappling with alcohol addiction for years, Spector kicked the habit and made a career comeback. The singer has been keeping busy, recently headlining "She's Got the Power -- A Girl Group Extravaganza' at Lincoln Center in New York, a concert that included a tribute to legendary singer and songwriter Ellie Greenwich and supported Day Top Village, a charity that raises many for young people with drug and alcohol addictions.
Spinner recently spoke with Spector about her love of Winehouse's music, her haunting cover of 'Back to Black' and how going to rehab saved her from more than just a few personal vices.
You recently told Rolling Stone that you saw a lot of yourself in Amy Winehouse. Tell us about the first time you heard her music.
The first time I heard her record was when I was in my car going to get groceries and I heard 'Rehab.' [It] knocked me off my feet. The voice, you know, all that. Everything. And then when I heard 'Back to Black,' I said, "I've gotta put this in my show, this is too great." And of course it was the way she had her beehive like mine, she wore her eyeliner like mine. It was amazing. But she had that freedom that we didn't have in the '60s. She brought everything back from the '60s: The spirit of the girl groups, the sound. Everything.
I worked so hard and in the modern day to see a girl like her with a beehive, it made me feel like I was worth something, that I had done something in the '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s that meant something to people. By Amy just wearing her hair like mine and the eyeliner and the whole attitude on stage, I felt like a million bucks. I did!
Lots of bands, especially indie groups, are citing the Ronettes as an influence these days.
Yeah, I know! It's amazing to me though. I hadn't sung for such a long time in the late '60s, early '70s, and when I came back everybody was saying, "I got my 'Oh, Ohs' from you!" Like Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen. And I said "Me?" Because I never performed when I was in California. When I got back to New York I was in shock that all these people that were now great were saying that they got these little things from me, from my records.
Your rendition of 'Back to Black' is gorgeous. Why did you choose that song?
Because that's the way I felt when I sang it. I've been singing it for four years in my show. But when I recorded it, I felt so great. It was like giving her a tribute, because she wore her hair like me or eyeliner and everything. I said to Richard Gottehrer, "I've got to go into the recording studio and put this on record!" Of course, nobody knew she was going to die this soon.
You said that Amy came to one of your shows in London a few months ago?
Yeah, it was amazing, just to see her peeking out. She had this guy with her and he was tall, and she would just peak out. She loved me, obviously. So for her to come see my show when we were in London meant everything to me. And I saw her when I went into 'Back to Black,' that she was just livid [laughs]. I could see the little tears and it made me cry, you know? I'm singing your song, and you're crying! And that was just six months ago and now I feel: "What!? What?! You've got to be kidding me. She's gone? And I'm still here?"
When I was in my 20s, I was a little lost girl, I don't know what I was doing. I was drinking I didn't know why, I hated the taste. But I said, "This is how I've got to do it to get out of the situation I was in." When I heard her [sing] "I don't wanna go to rehab," it was just the opposite thing with me. I wanted to go to rehab with the drinking because I wanted to get away from the strictness in my household. It's really weird that I went in the '60s to rehab, and then years later I hear her saying "I don't want to go to rehab." Her not going, it could've save her life actually.
I really didn't need the help. I wanted the help. Because the situation I was in, I would do it intentionally so I could go to rehab and have some freedom. That's the only way I could have freedom. I couldn't have it in the mansion or anything.
So I'd go to rehab, I could watch any TV show I wanted. I could play the radio. I could go sit out with the ladies and watch them play volleyball. I would play too. To me it was like a vacation, especially with the situation I was in.
And what exactly was that situation?
My marriage to my ex [Phil Spector]. It was horrible. Nightmarish. Couldn't go out, I didn't have keys. If I went outside, I couldn't get back in. Barbed wire. It was like a little prison. And I was a prisoner. And I hated it because I wasn't performing. I lived to perform since I was 11 years old. So I couldn't do that. What a mistake. Because that was a person that I thought would carry me on.
Do you think the media mistreats alcoholism and substance abuse? Is alcoholism treated as a sort of vain character flaw, when in reality it's an actual disease?
I think it's a disease but I also think you can get out of it. And I also think, truly think, if it's your friends -- I don't even care if it's your family -- you can't hang around people that do drugs and drink if that's a problem. And that's why I moved to Connecticut, because in New York there's a liquor store on every corner. You have to get away from all that, and unfortunately Amy didn't do that. She would still be in the nightclubs. I don't go to nightclubs. I didn't in the '60s, because we worked so hard, five show a day at the Brooklyn Fox and stuff. You didn't have time. You went home and you went to bed.
And my mother was always on tour with us -- in Europe, at the Brooklyn Fox, at the Apollo. So you have to have some kind of support out there. Otherwise it's so easy in rock 'n' roll to get into that. If you don't have someone that doesn't want just your money, somebody like a parent even ... Like my mother. She loved that I loved what I was doing. But I didn't see all the drugs and stuff like that in the '60s. I really didn't
Did you ever meet Amy?
And you know why? She hadn't done an American tour yet. She was doing that Scandanvian tour and that's why they had to cancel. And then she died. That upset me so much, because she's so great.
We saw her on that awards show, and she had the black guys behind her. I thought that was so great. And she never did it in person because she went back to England and then got back into drugs. I'll be honest with you: You can't do anything if you're drinking or drugging. I don't know how people did that in the '60s on stage?
How did you get involved with the charity?
It's called Day Top Village for drugs and alcohol [treatment]. And I love it so so much, and I love it for young artists, young people that are in the business, trying to make it. And some of them go right into drugs: One hit record and they're into drugs. You know, it's because of the people they're surrounded around. You know, the business people and all that. My husband, we've been married 28 years, he's right there backstage to make sure no one's coming in to give you stuff, drugs and all that. And I've been married for 28 years and we work all the time and we have a ball.
All I've got to say is if you're young, and you're in the business please don't do alcohol and drugs. That's all I have to say.