Larry Levine, Phil Spector’s Engineer, is Dead at 80

Surprisingly, today’s Phil Spector news doesn’t involve the legendary 69-year-old producer’s murder trial, although it does involve a death: that of the engineer who helped create Mr. Spector’s famed "Wall of Sound" recording technique.

The New York-born Larry Levine, 80, died on May 8 at his Encino, Calif. home after suffering from emphysema, The New York Times reports:

Mr. Levine, a house engineer at Gold Star Recording Studios in Hollywood, first collaborated with Mr. Spector in 1962 on the Crystals hit “He’s A Rebel,” the first of many Spector-produced records featuring lush instrumental backgrounds and heavy use of echo chamber. The wall of sound technique, which Mr. Spector and Mr. Levine refined through a process of trial and error, defined a string of hits, including “Be My Baby” and “Walking in the Rain” by the Ronettes, “Da Doo Ron Ron” and “Then He Kissed Me” by the Crystals, and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” and “Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers.

Mr. Levine was born in New York on May 8, 1928, and was reared in Los Angeles. After serving in the Army in the Korean War, he began working as a recording engineer for Mr. Ross, an owner and founder of Gold Star. Before teaming up with Mr. Spector, he worked with Eddie Cochran, engineering the sound on “Summertime Blues” and other records.

He first crossed paths with Mr. Spector in 1958, when Mr. Spector, a member of the Teddy Bears, was at Gold Star recording “To Know Him Is to Love Him.” Mr. Levine steered clear of Mr. Spector at first, put off by what he later recalled as “a little acerbic attitude,” but Mr. Levine’s calm, accommodating nature proved to be a perfect match for his volatile partner.

Meanwhile, a pre-trial hearing for Mr. Spector is scheduled for May 22, according to the Associated Press. His previous trial ended in deadlock last year, and a new trial date has not been set.

  Larry Levine, Phil Spector’s Engineer, is Dead at 80