Now considered one of his pinnacle recordings, Phil Spector‘s 1966 homage to unconditional love, “River Deep, Mountain High” just about drove everyone mad at an AFM session for the song on this day 50 years ago, as the iconic wall-of-sound producer sought to perfect his “farewell” from reality — “I wanted to go crazy for four minutes on wax,” he told Rolling Stone in 1969.
In the process, he purportedly paid the notoriously Tina-combative Ike Turner $20,000 to stay away from the studio, assembled a 21-piece choir, a matching 21-piece session cast and put down another $22,000 to record the damn thing.
But most maniacal of all, he made Tina belt out her vocal take for hours on end, of which she has since shared this anecdote: “I must have sung that 500,000 times. I was drenched with sweat. I had to take my shirt off and stand there in my bra to sing.”
Her efforts didn’t pay off initially, the song flopping on the charts because of its white pop backbone in the midst of a black-emporerment push, and feminists took issues with its old-world verse dependance on men, but as a screaming Tina time capsule, recorded by the quintessential mad hatter perfectionist of the recording industry, love’s most unbridled convictions don’t get any purer than this:
When I was a little girl, I had a rag doll?
The only doll I ever owned?
Now I love you just the way I loved that rag doll
But only now my love has grown
And it gets stronger in every way
And it gets deeper let me say
And it gets higher day by day
And do I love you?
My oh my, yeah
River deep, mountain high
Yeah yeah yeah
If I lost you
Would I cry?
Oh, I love you baby baby baby baby