Phil Spector's alleged murder of B-movie actress Lana Clarkson casts a heavy shadow over Mick Brown's addictive, juicy Spector bio Tearing Down The Wall Of Sound. The combustible elements that may have led to the Barbarian Queen actress' bloody demise—gun worship, binge drinking, painful insecurity, a stubborn unwillingness to let guests leave, jealousy and mercurial rage—were staples of Spector's increasingly tragic existence for decades. The surprise isn't so much that something horrible happened at Spector's castle-like estate, but that it didn't happen much, much sooner.

In Brown's telling, Spector created an outsized persona as the ultimate control-freak super-producer, only to become a prisoner of the image he worked so hard to craft. Tragedy and triumph were forever linked for Spector, whose first hit—The Teddy Bears' "To Know Him Is To Love Him"—borrowed its title from the gravestone of a father whose suicide scarred Spector for life. Spector then strove to create a legacy so vast and awe-inspiring that no one would ever abandon him or make him feel vulnerable or small. His genius and work ethic made him the man of the moment when his Wall Of Sound conquered the airwaves. Even though Spector continued to work with some important acts following his '60s peak—The Beatles, John Lennon, George Harrison, Leonard Cohen, the Ramones—it became apparent that his historical moment had passed. Sound gains a tragic momentum as Spector's big, bold, deeply sad life moves from the center stage to a sordid sideshow en route to the horrible night when Clarkson died in Spector's Xanadu-like abode in a seedy Southern California neighborhood.

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Spector emerges here as a fascinating paradox: a recluse raconteur, a motormouth bon vivant who angrily demanded to be the center of attention, yet hid from a world he once conquered. Brown's briskly readable bio suggests that behind Spector's hatred of a pop world that had passed him by lies an almost pathological desire for love that, to paraphrase a singer strongly influenced by Spector's melodramatic "little symphonies for the kids," could easily have turned murderous.