Thursday, October 31, 2013


Last night, at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Ronnie Spector performed her career retrospective, a live musical documentary, Behind The Beehive.

As recounted by Ronnie, when The Ronettes teamed up with Phil Spector, and in the early 1960s, they had huge hits with "Be My Baby", "Baby, I Love You", "The Best Part of Breakin' Up, "Do I Love You?" and "Walking in the Rain."

Heck, when they toured England in 1964, The Rolling Stones were THEIR opening act!  

They partied with the Beatles, and Ronnie maintained a friendship with John and George for many years.

As their success faded, and Ronnie’s relationship with Phil Spector turned romantic, Spector’s jealousy grew. After they married, Spector’s paranoid manifested in a threatening control of Ronnie’s life– she wasn’t allowed off their heavily guarded property with shoes, for example.

Ronnie started drinking. She recounted that the only way Phil would let her leave the mansion was for alcohol rehab. ("I loved rehab! It was like breaking free.")  So she found that by continuing to drink, she would get out of the house for extended periods of time. But Phil’s dark side finally prompted Ronnie to literally flee the house without shoes.

Ronnie spoke of her subsequent successes – recording with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, Southside Johnny and Eddie Money a healthy and stable second marriage – as triumphs over that relationship.

Because the spectre of Spector still looms over the Ronettes catalog-Spector refused from prison to grant permission for the use of their biggest hits in the production, songs like "Be My Baby," "Baby I Love You" and "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" were not included in the production. Ronnie’s limited access to her hits didn’t prevent her from bringing out a lot of audience favorites that she performed in between her narrative. 

She sang "Time Is on My Side" after recounting the Ronettes’ road adventures with the Rolling Stones. (Spector does a very good Keith Richards imitation.) After that came the Beach Boys’ "Don’t Worry Baby," which Brian Wilson wrote as a follow-up to "Be My Baby;" and, keyed to her finally leaving Phil’s mansion, barefoot, Billy Joel’s "Say Goodbye to Hollywood," which Spector recorded as an E Street Band-backed single in 1977.

After a brief intermission, Ronnie performed a brief concert set, and treated the crowd to “Be My Baby” and Baby I Love You” as part of that set.

Ronnie was amazing-I do not know if she is, in fact, a grandmother, but there were times during the narrative where that’s how she came off. 

While singing some of the earlier material, she still seemed like a shy teenager (albeit a sexy shy teenager), and on a few number she simply radiated sexiness.

Her voice has lost a little range with the years, but the big, yearning tone behind all those "whoa-whoa-whoa" sobs was still in good shape

"Phil Spector wanted to erase me from the public consciousness," the producer's ex-wife, Ronnie Spector, said with righteous indignation.

I am glad he did not succeed.

She was funny and engaging while telling her stories, and captivating to watch sing. If the show comes to your town, I’d recommend it.

Ronnie’s web site offers some of her more recent recorded work, and you can still see some of the earlier albums on Amazon and eBay. 







  1. Wow, I had no idea that Phil Spector had such control over her life, even now by not letting her perform some of those songs. Glad to see that she's broken free, though, and is doing well. According to that top picture, she looks pretty good for her age.

  2. She really did look great, Bryan. I'd not realized the extent of Phil's control or his psychosis.

    Dick Clark had gotten her a gig in Vegas in the late seventies, and Phil called and told her he'd hired five hit men to kill her if she went onstage, with the one delivering the bullet to get a $50K bonus.

    She, of course, was too terrified to go on.

    You could see the emotion as she recounted some of this stuff-what a freak he is!

    She was lucky enough to get out-the actress (Lana Clarkson, I think) was less fortunate, although at least his psycho ass is in the stir.

    Tragic story, but at least she's had a happy second marriage, and still gets to do what she loves.

  3. Excellent post. I wonder if Phil in his warped mind appreciated how totally the worm turned for him.

  4. Oh, and don't put Don't Worry Baby in a battle of the bands. I'll have to call a tie. I was a bit surprised she didn't modify the words a bit like BJ Thomas did, especially since BJ's changes would work better for a girl singer. Am I being sexist?

  5. Hmmm... Very interesting, LC.

    I really liked that song she did with Eddie Money, and I owned a couple of Ronettes records back in the day, including their Christmas album.

    Can't say that I was a huge fan, but I did understand their place in Rock 'N' Roll history. I feel it's important to really research anything a person is interested in and to learn about the history that led up to this or that. And that's the reason I know a fair amount about music and musicians who were way before my own time.

    Sites like YouTube make it very easy for people to explore the work of artists they aren't familiar with. But back when we were young, the only way to hear some obscure musician was to either know someone who owned a record by him/her, or to shell out the money to buy - ears unheard - a record album (or 45) by the artist.

    I spent THOUSANDS of dollars just to hear performers I'd read about and seen referenced, but who didn't get any radio airplay. Sometimes the blind purchase paid off big time (e.g., Pat Metheny's 'Travels') and sometimes it just cost you five hard-earned dollars to learn that some newly touted "brilliant, cutting-edge, genius" artist was completely overrated and a waste of your five hard-earned dollars (i.e., Television's 'Marquee Moon').

    It was Eric Clapton who led me to Robert Johnson; it was The Doors who led me to Howlin' Wolf, and I thank them for that.

    How ironic that I now like Robert Johnson's and Howlin' Wolf's music better than I do the music by Clapton and The Doors!

    Of the shows you've seen so far at the Musical Instrument Museum, which one stands out for you as the best? (I'm assuming you've not seen Todd Rugrat there, and if you have, discount his show because I know how biased you are toward him.)

    I know you're not going to say (the depressing) Rickie Lee Jones show.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

    POSTSCRIPT: Well, I'm off now to compose my 'Battle Of The Bands' post for tomorrow, where I will show off some of my knowledge about music history and the importance of certain performers in that history.

  6. I realize you're only doing Rugrat songs here for 'BOTB', but putting The Ronettes against The Beach Boys on 'DON'T WORRY, BABY' would have been a very interesting match-up. Maybe I'll do that one someda-- er,... some year.

    'DON'T WORRY, BABY' is probably one of my 'Top Ten' Beach Boys songs (or pretty close to making that list, anyway), so you already know which way I would be voting.

    But I'd like to see how others voted. Black Female Vocal Group Vs. White Male Vocal Group. That's the sort of intriguing match-up that makes 'BOTB' so much fun for me. (Not that it's really about race or gender, but just pronounced differences.)

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'