The opening to this song is timeless. The song is one of the greatest 3 minutes of pop ever. And it is the guilty pleasure that tells us that guilty pleasures should not be guilty but simple pleasures. Be My Baby is the first 45 I bought. It feels like a privilege to own such an immense part of cultural history.
The first time I heard this was sitting around a fire on a beach. At the time I was listening to Brit pop, drum and bass, Led Zeppelin and I lacked the confidence to ask what the song was. Later a friend played it again and declared it “our song”. I wasn’t sure, it wasn’t really me. Nearly 20 years later I took my partner to see Ronnie Ronnette. It is a song that I listen to regularly. Sometimes just to let it wash over me, sometimes to hear the production and nuances of Ronnie’s incredible vocals and the Wrecking Crews amazing musicality.
The insistent, off canter beat at the heart of Be My Baby holds the listener, driving the song on. It’s the musical equivalent of a cliff hanger. The opening beats come deep from within, reverberating and echoing out. Perfectly mirroring Ronnie Ronettes yearning vocals.
The wall of sound instrumentation is so complete it engulfs and lifts you up. Through out Ronnie is in complete control, ramping the emotions up.
There is a recording of a performance given by the Ronettes. With perfect co-ordination and immaculate tailoring they look all powerful, completely in control. Towards the end Ronnie gives it the raw emotion that Spector never allowed; her “oh, oh, ohs” becoming a primal call. (The story is that after the show Spector was unhappy, physically attacking Ronnie.)
Phil Spector was certainly a horrid man whoes musical legacy can mask his cruelty to Ronnie and the fact that he was a murderer. Ultimately the music he produced is not his but the musicians and while they may be human they deserve the recognition for what is some of histories greatest music.
Look up the Wrecking Crew’s Carol Kaye she is one of music’s most incredible characters. A guitarist and not a singer when the majority of women performing were singers.
- Vinyl 45
- London American HL-U 9793
- Spector, Greenwhich, Barry
- Arranged By – Jack Nitzsche
- Producer – Spector
- London American/ Decca