Following on from my last post when I wrote about Amy Winehouse’s album “Back to Black”, her image at that time was very much taken from the American girl groups of the early ’60s. The most famous and recognisable of these was probably The Ronettes of Be My Baby fame.
Be My Baby by The Ronettes:
Now I would be lying if I said that I remembered this song from 1963 when it was first released, but it is one of those songs you will have heard throughout your entire life, popping up on the radio and on film soundtracks. Phil Spector, who produced the record, was an innovator and in the early 60s created his now infamous “wall of sound” as a backdrop to the sultry vocals of singers like Veronica (Ronnie) Bennett of The Ronettes and Darlene Love. This new approach to recording included using whole string and horn sections, as well as guitars and drums. The use of echo chambers and multiple tracking was also involved which basically meant that the sound was re-recorded over a demo of the previous recording many times, building up the cacophony of sound that became his trademark.
Phil Spector is one of only a few producers who became more famous than many of the artists he worked with and because the “wall of sound” was so clearly associated with him, he was able to release successful albums of his label’s greatest hits under his own name. I bought these two albums in the mid ’80s when they were re-released – Phil Spector’s Greatest Hits & Phil Spector’s Christmas Album. They are still a joy to listen to today and with so few new Christmas songs being released nowadays, his seasonal album has become a staple in our house around that time of year.
In 1987, a low-budget film called Dirty Dancing was released starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. Not ever expected to be a big hit, it has become one of the most well-loved films of all time and was the first movie to sell over a million copies on home video. As I have written elsewhere in the blog, adding the “music of the era” to a film soundtrack is a really effective tool and none more so than in the case of Dirty Dancing which was essentially a romantic drama, set in a 1963 holiday resort in the Catskill Mountains.
Be My Baby was used extensively as were other tracks from that year along with a whole load of new ones specially written for the movie. For some reason I didn’t see it when it first came out, but like most people my age, I have since bought the DVD and CD. I remember watching it with my daughter one Bank Holiday Monday and unlike when it came out in 1987, when I was in my late 20s, I felt real nostalgia for all those holiday experiences that Baby was going through. This has happened before when watching movies with my daughter – It seems that you have to be at least a generation removed to feel that emotion. At 27, I was neither young enough or old enough for that to happen. I would wager that the people who enjoyed that movie best when it came out, were either born circa 1970 (they could empathise) or 1950 (they could reflect nostalgically). Of course there are also all those people who would have enjoyed looking back at the music, fashions and social mores of that early sixties period but they would have been war babies and I don’t think that the film was aimed at that demographic when it came out.
Wouldn’t be a blog post if I didn’t mention someone who had passed away and it is sad to think that the the vital, energetic, handsome Patrick Swayze (dancer Johnny Castle in the movie) is no longer with us. Jennifer Grey is still very much with us, however her appearance has changed so much since her days of playing Baby, that I now wouldn’t recognise her. Looking back, her nose was perhaps on the large side but after having it “done”, her film career was pretty much over. A case of perhaps best to have left well alone? Who knows but yet again I end with the familiar three letter acronym – RIP, Patrick.
Be My Baby Lyrics
(Song by Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich/Phil Spector)
The night we met I knew I needed you so
And if I had the chance I’d never let you go
So won’t you say you love me
I’ll make you so proud of me
We’ll make ’em turn their heads every place we go
So won’t you, please
(Be my, be my baby) Be my little baby
(My one and only baby) Say you’ll be my darlin’
(Be my, be my baby) Be my baby now
I’ll make you happy, baby, just wait and see
For every kiss you give me, I’ll give you three
Oh, since the day I saw you
I have been waiting for you
You know I will adore you ’til eternity
10 thoughts on “The Ronettes, Phil Spector and “Be My Baby””
Yes, great song, just one of many by the Ronettes at that time, and thank you for putting it under the spotlight. I loved them in the early 60s but it wasn’t until about 1990 that I bought an album and discovered other gems like How Does It Feel. The Christmas Album is always on in my house all December. I read somewhere that it isn’t necessarily who you think it is singing on that, because if he wasn’t satisfied with a singer’s performance he would get someone else to do it (without telling her) and because he got them all to sing in the same basic way (full-out, similar range), with the depth of the production it is hard to tell.
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Hi Alyson, just found your blog through Charity Chic post on Nancy. I once met another blogger in London and over many pints of London Pride, Whisky and Gin, Be My Baby was decreed the best pop song of all time. http://theghostofelectricity.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/10-best-pop-records-of-all-time.html
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Thanks for dropping by – This is quite freaky but I have just checked out the top 10 list on your link and since starting the blog last year I have written posts about half of them, mentioned most of the rest as part of another post and have The Isley Bros This Old Heart Of Mine waiting in the wings. Wichita Lineman would also be on my list. As you say though they were all “big and famous” pop records so most people of-a-certain-age’s list but still, lots of synchronicity.
It looks as if this blog is no longer active but with all those comments it must have been really popular in its day. Recognise some of the names though and good to hear you met up with another blogger at one point – Strange we visit each others blogs and chat almost daily but usually stay fairly anonymous.
As for The Ronettes – still a lot of love for them out there it seems!
But as their fame grew, so did Phil Spector’s jealousy. When The Beatles asked The Ronettes to support them on their US tour in 1966, Spector refused to let Ronnie go, sending one of her cousins as a replacement. By the time Phil and Ronnie married in 1968, the band had broken up and Ronnie’s singing career appeared to be over.
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Sorry Jazalyn – I must have missed your comment when you dropped by in November. Yes, Phil was a great producer and innovator but not the best when it came to relationships and being a good husband (understatement). Shame Ronnie forfeited her career because of him but it was probably impossible at the time for her to go against his wishes.
As a ‘late arrival’, I gotta tell you I’m really enjoying WIAA and your thoughts on life interwoven into the songs under discussion. ‘Be My Baby’ was consider by Brian Wilson to be the best pop song he had ever heard!. In addition to showcasing Veronica Bennett’s voice, it announced Phil Spector’s ‘Wall of Sound’ to the world. The session musicians on that song would go on to play on just about every hit recorded in Los Angeles in the ‘60s. I think drummer Hal Blaine has claimed to have played on 6 consecutive Grammy ‘Song of the Year’ winners in the decade. As a 1948 birth, I literally ‘grew up’ listening to Phillies and Motown records with the occasional surf song thrown in. Couldn’t have a Friday night party without them.
Great memories, Alyson. Thank you.
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Gosh Damian – This post was written a long time ago in my first few months of blogging but I did start with all the iconic songs of the 60s/70s era, and Be My Baby was most definitely one of them.
Those session musicians certainly went on the great things and if I’m not mistaken Glen Campbell was one of them, even standing in for Brian Wilson for a spell when he took time our from touring.
It’s fun returning to this era for the nostalgia element alone as these songs definitely conjure up so many memories. Glad you’re enjoying the blog.
In case you were unsure of who the real star was on these early Phillies records, the flip side of “Be My Baby” was an instrumental entitled “Tedesco and Pitman”. Tony Tedesco and Bill Pitman were two (of many including Al Casey and Glen Campbell) session guitarists that were used by Phil Spector to create the Wall of Sound.
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Thanks for this extra info – You know your Wall of Sound!
Reblogged this on What's It All About? and commented:
Yet another person written about in the early days of this blog left us yesterday. Phil Spector was an innovator, coming up with the “Wall of Sound”, a Wagnerian approach to rock ‘n’ roll. His work with the Ronettes, the Crystals and Darlene Love produced some of the finest pop tunes ever recorded, and of course he gave us the best Christmas Album ever made, A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records. I think I’ve shared something from it every year since starting this blog.
He had a troubled life however and at the time of his death was an inmate of the California state prison system. Here is not the place to go into the whys and wherefores behind the reason for that, but if you want to hear a bit of classic Phil Spector, click on the link to this post where his once wife, Ronnie Spector, performs Be My Baby with her fellow Ronettes. This two-and-a-half minute song is often cited as being the perfect pop song – A fine accolade indeed.