The sad news came across late Wednesday afternoon (June 19) that actor James…
- Posted on Mar 1st 2012 5:00PM by Cameron Matthews
Shore Fire PR
That was what the father of indie rock singer-songwriter Hargobind Hari Singh Khalsa said after leaving his son with notorious music producer Phil Spector.
It was a series of strange circumstances that led to that very moment. Hargobind, Hargo for short, was just another aspiring musician in the San Diego area. He was crazy about the Beatles so he penned an homage entitled 'Crying for John Lennon.'
After posting it on his MySpace page, Hargo received a call that would change his life.
"[Phil] called at like 1 in the morning or something like that," Hargo tells Spinner. "He was like 'I love this song! I've been listening to it on repeat.'"
Mark Elsis, curator of John-Lennon.com, had come across Hargo's heartfelt tune and was compelled to get in touch. He was working on a documentary about Lennon's life and knew the the Sikh singer-songwriter's track was the perfect addition to his project.
The two became fast friends and, soon enough, Hargo was traveling to New York to perform at Central Park's Strawberry Fields. Elsis' support for the young singer was unparalleled. He was going to put Hargo on the map.
"You won't believe who I got a letter from," Elsis told the singer while in the Big Apple.
The Wall of Sound producer had agreed to donate an interview to the film, but due to his legal hang-ups at the time (that pesky murder charge), Elsis needed to do it in two weeks. He asked Hargo to go with him.
Once back in California, the pair set off for Spector's home -- a fortified complex, complete with bodyguards and some of the music industry's most priceless artifacts.
"We went into the castle on top of his little hill over there. He's got the piano that 'Imagine' was written and recorded on sitting in his living room area. He had John Lennon's Les Paul," Hargo says.
The crew prepared for Spector's arrival, setting up lights and checking sound levels. Hargo was there simply as a hired hand, not someone in business with the music mogul.
"I didn't really know what he looked like," he confesses. "Then I see this old lady come in wearing a blonde wig and a 1960s suit with these huge lapels, overcoat and Beatle boots. It was Phil."
For the next several hours, Spector sat down in front of the cameras, attempting to separate his name from his rap sheet by delivering anecdote after anecdote about Lennon. "He talked about coming over to America with the Beatles on that flight to JFK because he was afraid of flying. He knew that plane wasn't going to go down," Hargo recalls. "Pretty crazy stuff."
After the interview finished, Elsis introduced his young assistant to the producer. He touted Hargo's songwriting talents and gushed about his song 'Crying for John Lennon.'
"Would you be interested in hearing it?" Elsis asked Spector.
"All right, we've got a few minutes," he responded.
The trio went to Spector's pool room to blare the song on the stereo. Hargo was terrified. Based on the eccentric producer's reputation, Hargo knew Spector wouldn't hold back if he though the tune was crap.
The song finished and Spector turned to face Hargo. "It's a wonderful song. How many tracks did you use?" the producer asked in a rough croak, as he had recently received surgery for polyps on his vocal chords.
"18," Hargo said.
"That's all you need," Spector replied. "It reminds me of something John [Lennon] would've shown me back in the day."
Hargo was blown away by the praise. He could be happy knowing he had approval from one of music's greatest mavens. But Elsis upped the stakes.
Spector asked for the lyrics. Hargo didn't think to bring them, but Elsis had them ready and waiting in a folder. "If anything, it could use a little more warmth in the production. Would you be interested in producing Hargo's song for the film?" he asked Spector point blank.
Spector thought to himself for a while. He said he was retired and that with his upcoming trial he wasn't sure he could handle such an endeavor. "Leave me with the CD and I'll think about it." Hargo and Elsis packed their things and rode a cloud all the way back to San Diego.
Some weeks went by, and finally Hargo received the call. Spector would produce the song. After sending his digital files to the musical mastermind, Spector spent several weeks putting together what would be his final work before his 19-years-to-life sentence for the murder of Lana Clarkson.
Spector summoned Hargo to a Northern California studio to lay down his vocal tracks, but he had to go alone. His father drove him up to meet Spector, who was waiting outside with his bodyguards. His father was reasonably worried, but Hargo assured him it would be fine. "It's not like he was going to get in more trouble at that point."
Studio engineer Graham Ward was running late, which left Hargo alone with the disheveled Spector, whose mind was elsewhere. The looming trial had taken a noticeable toll on his appearance. "He's a strange guy," says Hargo. "There's no doubt. He was actually really quiet until I kind of engaged him. He was sort of just staring at the TV, kind of spacing out almost. But once he got going, he was very cool with me."
Once Ward showed up, Spector played 'Crying for John Lennon' for Hargo. It was more than he could have dreamed of.
"I can't even describe it to you. As a songwriter, you don't get to be in the audience for your own music. But in this case, I was. I was listening to my song for the first time. He had done his wall of sound. Right from the beginning two bars. It was unreal."
Hargo's song has yet to have its first release, but you can check out his current album 'Out of Mankind,' streaming right now at Spinner's Listening Party.