Ronnie Spector

TrackAlbum
You Mean So Much To Me (duet)I Don’'t Want To Go Home
Say Goodbye To HollywoodUnfinished Business CD
Anyway That You Want MeSiren
Love On The RooftopsUnfinished Business
She Talks To RainbowsShe Talks To Rainbows
Bye Bye BabyShe Talks To Rainbows
Whenever You’'re On My MindSomething'’s Gonna Happen
Girl From The GhettoThe Last Of The Rock Stars
You Can’'t Put Your Arms
Around A Memory
The Last Of The Rock Stars
My Christmas WishBest Christmas Ever

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Contributor: Peter Viney

Great singers who are interpreters, but not composers are at the mercy of songwriters, song selection, and also producers. Solo Ronnie Spector definitely goes for a rock sound rather than a soul sound, with a tendency to not only big backings, but stadium glory. When the band is great, as both Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes and The E-Street Band are, the combination is magic. Some other stuff suffers from 80s synth rhythms and a touch too much white-boy guitar heroics. I’d love to hear her do something with the likes of The Dap Kings.

Ronnie Spector’s first solo material was with Apple in 1971. Phil Spector wanted her to become “Veronica” (as on a Ronettes re-release) but she hated the name. “Ronnie Spector” was chosen by John Lennon and George Harrison, and she’s stayed with it. Try Some Buy Some was written by George Harrison, and was a 1971 single on Apple, co-produced by Phil Spector and George Harrison. Harrison later did the song himself. It was designed to be a teaser for an album, mainly written by Harrison, that never happened. It was a rarity for years until the Apple Come & Get It CD compilation in 2009. Ronnie hated it. She said she didn’t understand the words, and it was in the wrong key so she couldn’t hit the notes. She said “When I heard my voice fighting that droning melody all through the song, I knew my first impression was right. The record stunk.” The date and Beatles association made me want to include it here on interest value. I’d spent so many years trying to find a copy that I had to like it. But once I’d assembled the ten, there were at least a dozen better songs waiting on the outside. It had to go.

After a disastrous last tour with The Ronettes (see toppermost #199) in 1974 she was in a bad way. She had sung with Alice Cooper in 1973, on Teenage Lament ‘74, and her carer revived when Southside Johnny asked her to duet on You Mean So Much To Me, written by Bruce Springsteen. It’s on the Southside Johnny I Don’t Want To Go Home album. She went on tour with Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes for eighteen months, with a solo spot, sometimes supporting Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band. Steve Van Zandt recorded her with the E-Street Band on Say Goodbye To Hollywood. Billy Joel had written it three years earlier, with Ronnie’s voice in mind. He saw Mean Streets where Be My Baby features and went straight home and wrote the song. Ronnie has said it was like singing her autobiography. E-Street fans will love an outstanding Clarence Clemons contribution throughout. It said on the 45 that it was from a forthcoming album, but it never appeared. It was tacked on to reissues of 1987’s Unfinished Business as a CD bonus track.

Another strong record was It’s A Heartache, in 1978, a one-off single, but Bonnie Tyler got the hit.

1980s Siren was produced by Genya Ravan and suffers from submerging Ronnie’s voice under layers of over guitars. Genya Ravan (formerly Goldie, of Goldie and The Gingerbreads) wanted her to embrace punk, and Ronnie found her as demanding and bossy as Phil had been. As so often, song quality will out, which is why Anyway That You Want Me, a Chip Taylor song originally cut with Evie Sands, then a hit for The Troggs, gets the Toppermost slot. Here Today, Gone Tomorrow (with Joey Ramone) and Darling were issued as singles on Red Shadow Records.

Eddie Money had her duet on Take Me Home Tonight in 1986, a US #4 hit. Ronnie sings the Be My Baby chorus, but it’s mainly Eddie Money.

Unfinished Business in 1987 has that big stadium AOR feel to it. Mostly it was the Letterman house band, led by Paul Shaffer. When it deviated into the full synth approach on her cover of the Elvis hit Burnin’ Love, and Dangerous (with Susanna Hoffs), it now sounds extraordinarily dated, but no doubt 80s synth tracks will be the next thing. When the band is conventional, it improves. The outstanding songs are Who Can Sleep (duetting with Eddie Money), and Love On The Rooftops. They were both singles, and should really both be in, but as the second’s just Ronnie, it gets the place. The sax emulates the sound of her E-Street session. The CD has the wrong titles on the tracks when imported into iTunes. Easily sorted, but a warning.

From the She Talks To Rainbows 5 track CD EP, Bye Bye Baby is a duet with Joey Ramone on the classic Crewe-Gaudio song for The Four Seasons. She also does Don’t Worry Baby, which Brian Wilson wrote specifically for her, and submitted it to Phil Spector who rejected it. There’s a 1998 clip on YouTube of her performing it. It may be only a 5 track album, but three tracks jostle to be Toppermosts. Joey Ramone’s She Talks To Rainbows gets a place, as I’ve cheated in an extra with the video link to Don’t Worry Baby.

Something’s Gonna Happen was released in 2003, another five tracker, or EP length release, four songs were written by Marshall Crenshaw, plus Owen Paul’s 1986 hit My Favourite Waste of Time. The Crenshaw tracks date back to 1989 and are somewhat swamped by the synth heavy backing. Whenever You’re On My Mind is the best arrangement and match to her voice. I know the Owen Paul song backwards (having used an instrumental version on a project) and prefer his original. Great song.

You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory was written by Johnnie Thunders, ex-New York Dolls. covered on the 1999 She Talks To Rainbows set with assistance from Joey Ramone, and reappears on The Last Of The Rock Stars. She produced the album herself, and guests include Keith Richards and Patti Smith.

The centrepiece of The Last Of The Rock Stars (2006) is Girl From The Ghetto. The lyric was modified by Ronnie. Read her autobiography to see why. It’s directly to Phil Spector. It reads:

All the things you said I’d never do
All the things you said that were untrue
All the times you made me feel alone
Said I’d never make it on my own
Things are looking up for me now
Seems like kharma’s making its rounds
I won’t be held down, no, no
Kharma’s going to visit you too
For all the things you put me through
I hope you do, I know you will, yeah, yeah

I hope your hell is filled with magazines
And on every page you see a big picture of me
And under every picture a caption will read
Not bad for a girl from the ghetto like me

Ronnie sings that twice, but the song is so triumphantly autobiographical that the third time, with Phil Spector on trial, she changes the words to:

I hope your CELL is filled with magazines …

Good one, Ronnie. She finished in triumph Spanish Harlem, yeah! Girl from Spanish Harlem! It’s magnificent, it’s her life, it’s one of the best things she’s ever done. The same year, Ronnie sang the title track, Brace Yourself, on the Various Artists tribute to Otis Blackwell, Brace Yourself. I wish I could squeeze it in.

In 2010, Ronnie decided to go for Christmas, as the Phil Spector Christmas Album had become a perennial and produced the 5 track Ronnie Spector’s Best Christmas Ever. That’s three five track CD – EP in her career. Excellent production and backing throughout on good new seasonal songs. My Christmas Wish is terrific.

A cover of Back to Black was part of an Amy Winehouse tribute in 2011, after all Amy Winehouse had modelled her hair on Ronnie.

There are a lot of appearances on YouTube with various people including Darlene Love, Eddie Money and Brian Wilson.
 

Ronnie Spector website

Ronnie Spector biography (iTunes)

TopperPost #205

4 Comments

  1. Peter Viney
    Feb 25, 2014

    It was in the Twitter Feed, but a note that Ronnie Spector is performing in London on March 9th. I already have tickets that night for Rodriguez, which is a Sophie’s Choice situation, but Rodriguez is only 3 miles away, so wins.

  2. Peter Viney
    Apr 19, 2014

    A quiet Record Store Day but a centerpiece is the reissue on 7″ of “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” which finally sees the B-side Baby Please Don’t Go available.

  3. Rose
    Jul 24, 2014

    Hi – was ‘She talks to Rainbows’ produced as a record as well as a CD? My son loves records and hates cd’s.

  4. Peter Viney
    Jul 24, 2014

    I can’t find any trace of a “She Talks to Rainbows” vinyl release ever, though as “Goodbye to Hollywood” on vinyl sold out pretty fast on Record Store Day 2014, maybe they’ll do one.

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