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The Ronettes, “Be My Baby”

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I’m reading Q magazine on the “1010 songs you must own”. Yeah, Q has this obsession with lists, but it’s a good list – part Q‘s own suggestions, part nominations from musicians – that points out quite a few new tunes to check out. It does end with a top 10 that’s not particularly controversial:

  1. Marvin Gaye “I Heard it Through the Grapevine”
  2. The Beach Boys “Good Vibrations”
  3. U2 “One”
  4. Nirvana “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
  5. The Beatles “She Loves You”
  6. Michael Jackson “Billie Jean”
  7. The Ronettes “Be My Baby”
  8. Bee Gees “Stayin’ Alive”
  9. Bob Dylan “Like a Rolling Stone”
  10. James Brown “Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine”

Sure, you could come up with another equally acceptable 10 songs (I’d put Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” in there, probably), but it’s hard to deny the quality of these tunes.

The presence of the Ronettes on that list made me think of how “Be My Baby” gets cited as an influence by everyone from Brian Wilson to the Ramones (their responses were, respectively, “Don’t Worry Baby” and “the KKK Took My Baby Away”). Even the whole shoegazer movement borrows from the Wall of Sound. Heck, the song opens both Dirty Dancing and Mean Streets, and that’s about as far apart in tone as you can get. But then, how could you not be influenced? “Be My Baby” is a pure, shimmering pop moment, with the voice of Ronnie Spector (then Ronnie Bennett) pregnant with longing, heart close to bursting with the love she has in her, spilling out everything she has to say and putting everything she has into the accumulating song until finally all she has is just pure sound, pure “woh-oh-oh-oh”. Even in a club, you can see its magic: slapped away from the BPMs, the clubbers sway in a kind of time-stopped dream moment. It’s unadulterated, exhilarating joy right from the moment Hal Blaine’s iconic drum intro (“the Morse code of the gods“) kicks in. You hear that irregular heartbeat of a girl in love, and you know for her – and for you – nothing will ever feel this powerful ever again.

Taken from Delta Sierra Arts

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About Daryl

  • Vern Halen

    Much of Spector’s early ’60’s productions have the same magic, but BMB might have the strongest magic of all. When you consider Spector’s personal life, it makes you wonder how he could create such a powerful song about young love. It just goes to prove once again that you don’t necessarily have to know what you’re writing about to write about it effectively.

  • Eric Olsen

    absolutely beeautiful writing worthy of the song, thanks Daryl!

  • dang, that last sentence gets close to describing those moments i get when “spilling over”, when the music is so powerful i can’t hold back the tears.

    very cool.

  • Funny enough how for years, the reissues of the original song were so wimpy in sound. I’m fortunate enough to have an original Philles 45 of “Be My Baby”, and it’s a powerful testament to the superiority of vinyl over CDs in many cases. Some of the Spector-authorized reissues were positively drenched in reverb, with Hal Blaine’s drums mixed way back, and Ronnie too far forward in the mix (unfortunately sounding a bit unflattering), renderings of this track that were perhaps inspired by Spector’s trying to keep control of the legend that this has become.

    Funny enough, for all of its power, it’s not necessarily the best performance of “Be My Baby” the Ronettes did. That honor belongs IMSHO to their electric performance on The Big TNT Show (which absolutely demands video release; consider a lineup which not only included Ronnie, Estelle and Nedra, but the Lovin’ Spoonful, the Byrds, Ray Charles and Ike and Tina at the peak of their powers).

  • Eric Olsen

    thanks TP, cool stuff. It is amazing how much mixes and pressings vary over the years – a clean 45 is almost always the biggest, fattest sound

  • thanks for the compliments! and i’d kill for a really good vinyl pressing of Be My Baby. that drum intro really needs to boom in.

  • It’s a great song, arguably the greatest on that horrible list, if not second to “Good Vibrations.”

    Bee Gees? One?

    I think the author of that article only included the Ronettes as token inclusionism (Outkast anyone?) to the Girl Groups of the late 1950s and early 1960s, but it was a significant genre of pop music that bridged doo wop, Motown, and R&B. The Ramones were serious students of this kind of pop music and have said in interviews that some of their biggest influences were girl groups like The Shirelles and The Chiffons. It’s not just Quentin Tarantino who loves the old records with black girls singing — they really took bubblegum pop and made it huge in their own way, making all the pop of the last half-century possible.

    That is all.