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‘Musical Hitler’

“Poor Phil Spector. He may be a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the producer of a string of hits from ‘Be My Baby’ (The Ronettes) to ‘The Long and Winding Road’ (the Beatles). But now, thanks to Court TV, it looks as if he will be remembered chiefly for owning the ‘castle’ in which B-movie actress Lana Clarkson was found dead, with a bullet in her head. …

“Before his arrest and trial, Spector was most famous for his production technique, the ‘Wall of Sound.’ … His treatment of ‘Long and Winding Road’ provided the Beatles with their last No. 1 single, but it so angered Paul McCartney, who had written — and, so far as he knew, recorded — a simple piano ballad, that Sir Paul cited it as one of his non-Yoko reasons for the band’s breakup.

Spector considers himself another Wagner, but he was more of a musical Hitler. For him, the Wall of Sound was all about control. By eliminating any hint of silence in a recording, he forced the listener to be completely passive, free from that moment of anticipation that permits the mind to fill in the next blank.”

Aaron D. Wolf, writing on “Wall of Sound,” in the August issue of Chronicles

Screwball romance

“Romantic comedy is entertainment in the service of the biological imperative. The world must be peopled. … Romantic comedy civilizes desire, transforms lust into play and ritual — the celebration of union in marriage. The lovers are fated by temperament and physical attraction to join together, or stay together, and the audience longs for that ending with an urgency that is as much moral as sentimental. For its amusement, however, the audience doesn’t want the resolution to come too quickly. …

“The best directors of romantic comedy in the 1930s and ‘40s … knew that the story would be not only funnier, but much more romantic, if the fight was waged between equals. The man and woman may not enjoy parity of social standing or money, but they are equals in spirit, will, and body.

“As everyone agrees, this kind of romantic comedy — and particularly the variant called ‘screwball comedy’ — lifted off in February 1934 with Frank Capra’s charming ‘It Happened One Night,’ in which a hard-drinking reporter out of a job (Clark Gable) and an heiress who has jumped off her father’s yacht (Claudette Colbert) meet on the road somewhere between Florida and New York. Tough and self-sufficient, Gable contemptuously looks after the spoiled rich girl. He’s rude and overbearing, and she’s miffed, but it helps their acquaintance a little that they are both supremely attractive.”

David Denby, writing on “A Fine Romance,” in the July 23 issue of the New Yorker

Equally miserable

“The U.S. is a rich nation getting richer. …

“Reason to celebrate? Not according to those worried that the rich are getting richer faster than the poor are getting richer. …

“The general view among liberals is that economic inequality is undesirable because it makes people miserable; they propose to solve the problem through redistributive policies such as higher income taxes. …

“To focus our policies on inequality, instead of opportunity, is to make a serious error — one that will worsen the very problem we seek to solve and make us generally unhappier.”

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