(Since its inception in 1973, the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame has enshrined nearly 1,000 recordings across all genres. The Making Of … series presents firsthand accounts of the creative process behind some of the essential recordings of the 20th century. You can read more Making Of … accounts, and in-depth insight into the recordings and artists represented in the Hall, in the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame 40th Anniversary Collector's Edition book.)
A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector
Phil Spector And Various Artists
(As told to Tammy La Gorce)
What I remember most about making ["Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)"] is that we were doing it at the hottest time of the year. It was August when we were recording. And we would go into the studio at 1 in the afternoon, and we wouldn't leave till 1 or 2 in the morning. We never knew what time of day it was because we were working with Phil Spector, who worked us until our tongues were hanging out of our heads. But it was still fun.
"Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" was the only original song on [A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector]. [Writers Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich and Spector] came up with this great song, but because it was an original I was kind of scared. I thought, "You're gonna come along and do a brand-new song?" But after we finished doing it, everybody just kind of stopped and stared. It was like, "Wow, what did we just do?" It had this power, even in the session.
And a lot of people didn't know Leon Russell was our piano player. When we got to the end of the song, he was playing so much he was sweating. I don't think all he was playing at the end even made it onto the record, but he was playing so hard he actually played himself off the end of the bench. Well, thank God that ended the session. After he did that we were like, "OK y'all, it's time to go home."
(Tammy La Gorce is a freelance writer whose work appears regularly in The New York Times.)