The Number Ones is a new column where I’ll review every single #1 single in the history of the Billboard Hot 100, starting with the chart’s beginning, in 1958, and working my way up into the present.
We are going to meet some monsters over the course of this column’s lifespan, and we are going to have to grapple with the idea that some of these monsters made some great music. None were more monstrous than Phil Spector, the erratic control freak, abusive husband, and, eventually, actual convicted murderer. And none made better music.
Harvey Phillip Spector was a Los Angeles high school student when he wrote “To Know Him Is To Love Him” for his vocal group the Teddy Bears, and he was 18 when he scraped together the money to have the song recorded. Spector later said that he got the song’s title from his father’s gravestone. You can’t hear anything like the symphonic majesty of Spector’s early-’60s productions on “To Know Him Is To Love Him.” Instead, it’s a simple, lovely song, recorded with a hymnlike reverence.
Lead singer Annette Kleinbard sings about a simple unrequited crush, her poise and precision underlining the sadness at the heart of the song: “Why can’t he see? / How blind can he be? / Someday, he’ll see / That he was meant for me.” All the while, Spector and Marshall Leib encircle and console, their voices orbiting Kleinbard slowly. Together, their voices rise and flutter, wrapping delicately around each other, supporting each other. It’s just gorgeous.
The Teddy Bears would only last another year, and they wouldn’t make any more hits. But during that time, Spector would figure out the way a studio worked, and he’d use that knowledge to change the course of popular music a few years later. We’ll hear from him again, of course. More surprisingly, we’ll also hear from Annette Kleinbard, who changed her name to Carol Connors and, many years later, co-wrote Bill Conti’s “Gonna Fly Now,” the Rocky theme that hit #1 in 1975.
BONUS BEATS: Here’s Amy Winehouse’s cover of the song, a B-side to her 2006 single “You Know I’m No Good.”