Saturday, January 15, 2022

Brick Wall of Sound

 


In 1994, Woody Allen wrote and directed (but did not act in) a movie titled Bullets Over Broadway, the plot of which hinged on an artistic genius who turns out to be a cold-blooded killer. Or was it about a cold-blooded killer who turns out to be an artistic genius? Whichever it was, toward the end of the film, an Allenesque character played by John Cusack declares art should not be exempt from moral concerns. With that in mind, we'll skip the artistic genius in the forefront of the above photo and look at the three young women in the background. From left to right it's Estelle Bennett, Veronica Bennett, and Nedra Talley, better known as the 1960s girl group The Ronettes. Veronica, nicknamed Ronnie (hence the group's name), was the erotically-nasal-sounding lead singer, leading the group to such chart-topping successes as "Be My Baby", "Sleigh Ride" and "Walking in the Rain". It also eventually led her and her record producer, the aforementioned artistic genius, to the alter, at which point she became Ronnie Spector, the name she's best known by today. According to Ronnie's now-all-too-credible autobiography, the marriage was a volatile one, which could have ended with her as a chalk outline on the floor. Fortunately, it didn't, though the artistic genius threatened to send a hit man (a la Chazz Palminter?) after her if she didn't agree to leave him with the entire estate after the divorce. Some years later, she and the other Ronettes successfully sued the artistic genius for back royalties, and lived to talk about it. Ronnie Spector's unforgettable voice was itself an ingenious work of art. Sometimes referred to as the bad girl of rock and roll, at least she was never evil.

1943-2022


 



14 comments:

  1. Hi, Kirk!

    That doggone reaper has taken another little piece of my heart and a big part of my youth, good buddy. I suspected that you'd publish something about Ronnie Spector as she joins the ever-expanding list of famous people who have died in the last couple of weeks. Ronnie passed away almost exactly one year after the death of her abusive former husband Phil Spector.

    I know every other single released by The Ronettes, but I must honestly confess that I wasn't familiar with their Spectorian version of the seasonal standard "Sleigh Ride." The song was included on the somewhat ill-fated album A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector, originally released as A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records. Sales of the album were crippled from day one because it was released the very day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Many great recordings suffered poor sales in the dark weeks that followed the assassination as Americans grieved and debated conspiracy theories. Even so, the Spector album managed to peak at #13 on Billboard's special Christmas albums chart, and The Ronettes "Sleigh Ride" made it to #10 on the pop singles chart and on Billboard's special Holiday 100 chart. Until now, the only song I knew from that Spector Christmas album was Darlene Love's "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," the song she sang on the Letterman show year after year. I just now listened for the first time to The Ronettes' "Sleigh Ride." It's way cool. I love it.

    Another career highlight I'd like to mention as we remember Ronnie Spector is her featured role in Eddie Money's 1986 single "Take Me Home Tonight," a song that brought Ronnie out of retirement and allowed her to resume her solo singing career. Throughout Money's song, Ronnie can be heard singing the "Be my little baby" refrain from The Ronettes' biggest hit "Be My Baby." Ronnie appears in the official music video, putting on makeup in the dressing room and eventually joining Money on stage to finish the song. The video was big on MTV and heavily requested by viewers of the MTV station where I worked at the time.

    R.I.P. Ronnie Spector, one of the principal contributors to the soundtrack of my youth. Thanks, good buddy Kirk, and have a nice weekend!

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    1. You know, Shady, I've read theories that the Beatles success here in the Unitec States was due to the JFK assassination, that it helped people get over the pain or whatever. But I don't buy it. The Beatles would have been just as successful had Kennedy still been around, in my view. As for the immediate slump in record sales that you speak of, were people too depressed to buy music, or too scared to part with their money in a time of great uncertainty? I think the passage of so many years has proven the lone gunman theory right, but it does seem like it may have gotten a hasty and premature endorsement by the Powers That Be in order to get people buying things again.

      Only six years age difference between Ronnie Spector and Eddie Money. Odd that they should be associated with two different musical eras.

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  2. The world is full of boring people. Ronnie was not.

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    1. Andrew, not if you have the sense of sound. The sense of sight doesn't hurt either.

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  3. A true survivor of all the misogyny life could throw at her.

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    1. And she managed to get that life back, Debra.

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  4. Hello Kirk, It's just a year since Phil Spector died, and now this! Phil Spector, in spite of his musical genius, was a gun nut whose threats were to be taken for real, and who ended up spending hos twilight years in jail after actually killing someone. Ronnie's sound was unique and a real signature of the 1960's. Much as we hate to admit it, hubby Phil was probably a major developer of her sound and success.
    --Jim

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    1. Jim, I ignored Phil Spector's death last year because I just felt his personal misdeeds outweighed his artistry, but your point is well-taken. All I can say is as much as Ronnie Spector, as well as The Righteous Brothers, Darlene Love, etc, need Phil Spector, so too he needed them.

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  5. They are dropping like flies. Make it stop!

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  6. RIP Ronnie. When I read the news, I thought she had already passed on. Maybe I was getting confused with her ex!

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In order to keep the hucksters, humbugs, scoundrels, psychos, morons, and last but not least, artificial intelligentsia at bay, I have decided to turn on comment moderation. On the plus side, I've gotten rid of the word verification.