According to BMI music publishing, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" was played on American radio and television more times than any other song in the 20th century. It got over 8 million plays from the time it was released until 2000. Note that this includes all versions of the song, not just The Righteous Brothers'.
The husband and wife songwriting team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil wrote this song at the request of Phil Spector, who was looking for a hit for an act he had just signed to his Philles label: The Righteous Brothers.
Before signing with Spector, the duo had some minor hits on the Moonglow label, including "Little Latin Lupe Lu" (#49) and "My Babe" (#75). Mann and Weil listened to these songs to get a feel for their sound, and decided to write them a ballad. Inspired by "Baby I Need Your Loving
" by The Four Tops, they came up with this song about a desperate attempt to rekindle a lost love.
The title "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" was just a placeholder until they could think of something better, but Spector thought it was great so they went with it. With most of the song written, Mann and Weil completed the song at Spector's house, where Phil worked with them to compose the famous bridge ("Baaaby... I need your love...").
The song was the first Righteous Brothers release on Philles, and it shot to #1, giving both the duo and the songwriting team of Mann & Weil their first #1 hit. It was Spector's third #1 as a producer: he had previously hit the top spot with "To Know Him Is To Love Him
" by The Teddy Bears and "He's A Rebel
" by The Crystals.
Phil Spector produced this song using his famous "Wall of Sound" recording technique. Spector got a songwriting credit on the track, as he usually demanded one around this time and had the clout to get it. Cynthia Weil has said that Spector never really wrote, but instead "inspired" songs.
Bill Medley recalls spending about eight hours working with Spector on the vocal for this song. It was a tedious process, since they had to record over previous takes in order to put down a new one. Also, Spector was very particular about the performances. Medley produced some of The Righteous Brothers' album cuts, and typically spent about 30 minutes working on the vocals.
Phil Spector was determined to make this his finest production to date, and wanted it to be better than anything released by current top producers like Berry Gordy, George Martin, Andrew Loog Oldham and Brian Wilson. He chose the Righteous Brothers for their tremendous vocal talents, and enlisted his old Jazz guitar idol Barney Kessel to play on the song. Other musicians to play on the track included Los Angeles session pros Carol Kaye
(acoustic guitar), Earl Palmer (drums) and Ray Pohlman (bass). Cher, who did a lot of work with Spector early in her career, can also be heard on background vocals near the end of the song. Spector was the first major West Coast producer to make the musicians wear headphones, so when they heard the song, they heard it with all the processing he added, which in this case meant a lot of echo. This got the musicians out of their comfort zones and made them work together to get a sound that gelled. It took more time to record this way, but Spector didn't mind: while a typical 3-hour session would produce about four songs, Spector would spend an entire session working on one track, leaving a few minutes at the end to record a throwaway B-side jam.
In our interview with Bill Medley
, he said that when Mann and Weil played them a demo of this song, he and his bandmade Bobby Hatfield thought, "Wow, what a good song for the Everly Brothers," since the version they heard was sung in a higher register.
Said Medley: "They were singing it a lot higher than we did, so they kept lowering it and lowering it and lowering it, and Phil slowed it down to that great beat that it was. I remember being in the studio with Phil and we weren't used to working that hard on songs [laughs]. But we were smart enough to know every time he asked us to do it again, that it was getting better."
The opening line, "You never close your eyes any more when I kiss your lips," was inspired by the Paris Sisters song "I Love How You Love Me," which begins, "I love how your eyes close whenever you kiss me."
Spector put the time on the single as 3:05 so that radio stations would play it. The actual length is 3:50, but stations at the time rarely played songs much longer than 3 minutes. It took radio station program directors a while to figure out why their playlists were running long, but by then the song was a hit.
Billy Joel, who inducted The Righteous Brothers into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, makes a sly reference to this in his song "The Entertainer
" when he sings, "If you're gonna have a hit you gotta make it fit, so they cut it down to 3:05."
Phil Spector put a tremendous amount of effort (and about $35,000) into this production, but the final product was so unusual that he began to wonder if he had a hit. Seeking a second, third and fourth opinion, he played the song for the following people:
1) The song's co-writer Barry Mann, who was convinced the song was recorded at the wrong speed. Spector called his engineer Larry Levine to confirm that it was supposed to sound that way.
2) His publisher Don Kirshner, who Spector respected for his musical opinion. Kirshner thought it was great, but suggested changing the title to "Bring Back That Lovin' Feelin'."
3) The popular New York disc jockey Murray the K. Spector confided in Murray that the song was almost four minutes long (despite the label saying it was 3:05), and wanted to make sure he would play it. Murray thought the song was fantastic, but suggested moving the bass line in the middle to the beginning.
Spector heard all three opinions as criticism, and got very nervous. "The co-writer, the co-publisher and the number-one disc jockey in America all killed me," Spector said in a 2003 interview with Telegraph Magazine. "I didn't sleep for a week when that record came out. I was so sick, I got a spastic colon; I had an ulcer."
This song got a boost when The Righteous Brothers performed it on the variety show Shindig!, which launched in 1964 a few months before this song was released. Medley and Hatfield were regulars on the show, always eliciting screams from the many young girls in the audience. Appearances on the show gave them national exposure, which combined with the release of this song, made them sudden superstars. "It would be like being on American Idol every week," Medley told us. "Then recording 'Lovin' Feelin',' it had a dramatic change in our life, and it was very fast. We went from 1 to 60 in a heartbeat."
This was used in the 1986 movie Top Gun in a scene where Tom Cruise sings it to woo Kelly McGillis. When Cruise traveled to Asia, he was often asked to sing it by fans.
When the song's writers Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil sang this for The Righteous Brothers, low-voiced Bill Medley loved it, but Bobby Hatfield was puzzled, as the duo typically shared lead vocals and he was relegated to a minor part in this song. Hatfield asked, "What do I do while he's singing the entire first verse?" Phil Spector replied, "You can go directly to the bank."
According to Spector, The Righteous Brothers didn't even want to record the song, as they fancied themselves more in the realm of rock and doo-wop.
Phil Spector bought out the remaining two-and-a-half years of the Righteous Brothers' contract with Moonglow Records (with whom they had regional hits "Little Latin Lupe Lu" - later covered by Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels - "Koko Joe," and "My Babe") so he could sign them. When this song became a hit, Moonglow released a lot of their old Righteous Brothers material to capitalize on the demand.
Some of the artists who covered this include Elvis, Dionne Warwick, Hall and Oates, and Neil Diamond, among others. Warwick's version hit #16 in 1969, Hall and Oates' hot streak began when their remake hit #12 in 1980 (they followed with the #1 "Kiss on My List" and #5 "You Make My Dreams." That LP, Voices, also had the original version of "Everytime You Go Away," later made into a #1 hit by Paul Young). Hall And Oates eventually replaced The Righteous Brothers as the #1 selling duo of all time.
This is the only song to enter the UK Top 10 Three different times. It did it in 1965, and again when it was re-released in 1969 and 1990. The 1990 re-release was prompted by the rekindled success of "Unchained Melody," which itself hit #1 after being used in the movie Ghost. The re-release of "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" peaked at #3.
In the UK, a version by Cilla Black was released just ahead of The Righteous Brothers' version. Both songs charted the same week, with Black's at #2 and The Righteous Brothers' at #3. The next week, The Righteous Brothers' version went to #1, giving Phil Spector his first #1 UK hit.
In Rolling Stone
magazine, Bill Medley recalled, "We had no idea if it would be a hit. It was too slow, too long, and right in the middle of The Beatles and the British Invasion." The following is from the Rolling Stone
's Top 500 songs: "Spector was conducting the musicians for a Ronettes show in San Francisco when he decided to sign the Righteous Brothers, who were on the bill. He then asked Mann and Weil to come up with a hit for them. Bill Medley's impossibly deep intro was the first thing that grabbed listeners. 'When Phil played it for me over the phone,' Mann recalled, 'I said, "Phil, you have it on the wrong speed!"'
The Rolling Stones' manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, took out ads in the British trade papers saying that the Righteous Brothers' version was the greatest record ever made.
In 2003, The Righteous Brothers played this to open the ceremonies when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It was odd timing, as Phil Spector was arrested on murder charges just a month before the ceremony.
Before he became a successful Country/Pop recording artist, Glen Campbell was one of about 50 Los Angeles session musicians who played on many hits of the '60s. Phil Spector used him as a guitarist on several of his productions, most famously on this song. In a 2011 interview with UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph, Campbell was asked how he found working with the contentious producer. "He was a strange guy. You've probably heard that. This guy came up, one of them hillbilly singers, and asked [Spector], 'what are you on, man?' And he said, 'Decca.' Hah hah! I think he probably was doing some kind of drug. I don't know. But he knew the musicians that he wanted to play on the records. And everything that he did was really, really good."
Supergroup The Firm did a version for their 1985 self titled album. It was vocalist Paul Rodgers who chose to cover it after guitarist Jimmy Page asked him what one song in the world would he like to record. Rodgers recalled to Uncut magazine: "I'd always wondered if I could sing it, because it took two singers, to manage the octaves on it. It was a completely off the wall cover for us."