Imprisoned Spector Returns To Music With Wife’s CD

In the often weird world of show business marriages, the love story of Phil and Rachelle Spector is among the strangest.

The 70-year-old Spector is a rock music legend imprisoned for the murder of an actress.

His wife, an aspiring singer who just turned 30, is dividing her time between prison visits and promoting her new album, for which he is listed as the producer.

For Rachelle, there has been a whirl of clubs, red carpet openings, travel, interviews and recording sessions, all happily reported on her Facebook page. For Phil, there is life in a tiny cell at a prison in Corcoran, Calif., where he lives on hope that his appeal will be granted and he will get a new trial. He was sentenced to 19 years to life behind bars.

Photo: AP Photo

But with Rachelle’s album, Out of My Chelle, Spector has a chance to jump back into the music world, where he built his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame credentials by producing such acts as the Beatles, Ike and Tina Turner, Cher, the Ramones, the Ronettes, and many others.

“I was as excited about this album as when I met Elvis or the Stones. It’s a gift from me to her,” he said in a recent interview from prison.

The album, which was released last month, is billed as the first “Phil Spector Production” in 30 years. Spector had been retired for decades, and while he did work with the British group Starsailor on their 2003 album, Silence is Easy, they fired him before it was done because of his mood swings and creative differences (two Spector-produced songs made the album).

Some have cast doubt on whether he actually produced Out of My Chelle. It has none of the hallmarks of Spector’s famed “Wall of Sound” recording technique, and the songs are lightweight pop and dance numbers without the elaborate arrangements for which he was known.

But Spector insists he produced the record during the three years before he went to trial for the shooting death of Lana Clarkson.

“I was there for recording of all the tracks,” he said. “Making that record with Rachelle was one of the greatest experiences of my life.”

Although Spector is now a convicted murderer, his reputation as a music icon has not diminished, and gives the album any luster that it has. The back cover of the album says: “Executive Producer: Legendary Genius PHIL SPECTOR.” It is credited to Rachelle’s record label called, “Genius 4Ever Records.”

Still, the album has not generated much serious attention, dismissed as a novelty record. It has been trashed by most critics as an insult to Spector’s vaunted reputation.

The album’s first song, “Here in My Heart” is intended as a love song from her to her imprisoned husband with lyrics including, “You’re with me night and day/ even when you’re far away.”

Asked about his life in custody, he said: “Prison life is very difficult. I’m in here with sociopaths and misfits. My appeal is filed and it’s coming up within the next couple of months. Hopefully I’ll be out of here in four or five months.”

But he adds Rachelle is the light of his life. She drives 2 1/2 hours to Corcoran and waits in line for hours for a visit with him. They spend a few hours holding hands and talking at a table in a prison cafeteria, are allowed one kiss and one hug and then she goes back to life at Spector’s castle in Alhambra, a suburb eight miles from downtown Los Angeles.

They talk by phone every day.

“She comes every week to see me,” Spector said. “I see skyrockets each time I see her. She’s the fairy princess in my world.”

Photo: AP Photo
Seated in the courtroom during his retrial murder case at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in Los Angeles.

Spector said that when he met Rachelle at a Hollywood restaurant in 2003, shortly after his arrest in the shooting of actress Lana Clarkson, he did not know she was an aspiring singer and did not hear her sing until after they were wed. He said he decided then to give her some songs he had from young writers for a new album.

Rachelle Short grew up in the small town of Beaver Falls, Pa., where she played trombone in her high school marching band and performed with jazz combos. She and a sister were raised by their single mom, a waitress. After high school, Rachelle studied business and music, and, following her dream to be a singer, headed to Hollywood in 2001.

She worked as a waitress, restaurant manager, bartender and model while performing at small clubs. She has said she knew nothing of Spector’s reputation as a music legend nor about the Clarkson shooting when they met.

Rachelle went to work as Spector’s assistant and was running his business by the time they married in 2006 in the foyer of his mansion, where Clarkson was found shot to death in February 2003. Spector’s defense claimed she shot herself in despair over her failing film career. Prosecutors claimed that Spector, known for threatening behavior around women, shot her.

Rachelle was a constant presence at his side during two trials, the first of which ended in a jury deadlock and the second in a conviction of second-degree murder. She believes in his innocence.

“He is my husband and my lover. He would never do anything like that to anyone. The whole thing is a complete tragedy,” she said. “The Clarksons lost a daughter and sister and I lost my husband and best friend.”

No matter how different their lives are now, both Spectors say they are committed to a future together.

She said there are plans to issue a new version of his classic 1963 album, A Christmas Gift to You From Phil Spector re-titled, A Christmas Gift from The Spectors and including tracks by her.

Photo: AP Photo
Minus his wig and freedom somewhere in a California prison.

“Phil is my world, and I am his,” said Rachelle.