Podcasts about The Ronettes

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American singing group

  • 160PODCASTS
  • 219EPISODES
  • 57mAVG DURATION
  • 5WEEKLY NEW EPISODES
  • Jan 21, 2022LATEST

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Best podcasts about The Ronettes

Latest podcast episodes about The Ronettes

Fresh Air
Remembering André Leon Talley / Ronnie Spector

Fresh Air

Play Episode Listen Later Jan 21, 2022 46:43


André Leon Talley, titan of the fashion world, died this week at 73. He was Vogue editor-at-large from 1998 until 2013. He spoke with Terry Gross in 2018 about his journey from the Jim Crow South to Paris ateliers. Also, we remember Ronnie Spector, the leader of the '60s girl group the Ronettes, best-known for their hit "Be My Baby." She died last week at 78. Also, David Bianculli reviews the HBO series The Gilded Age.

Rolling Stone Music Now
How Ronnie Spector Broke Free: Her Brave Life and World-Shaking Music

Rolling Stone Music Now

Play Episode Listen Later Jan 19, 2022 39:32


Hear unearthed audio of Ronnie Spector on her life with Phil Spector and the birth of the Ronettes, and dive deep into her story, with Andy Greene, Angie Martoccio, and Rob Sheffield joining host Brian Hiatt Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Getting lumped up with Rob Rossi
Rockshow special tribute to Ronnie Spector

Getting lumped up with Rob Rossi

Play Episode Listen Later Jan 18, 2022 41:25


Tribute show to the great Ronnie Spector. RockerMike and Rob discuss the life and times of Ronnie Spector. Veronica Yvette Greenfield (née Bennett; August 10, 1943 – January 12, 2022), known professionally as Ronnie Spector, was an American singer. Referred to as the original "bad girl of rock and roll", she was the lead singer of the girl group the Ronettes. Ronnie formed a singing group, the Darling Sisters, with her elder sister, Estelle Bennett, and their cousin, Nedra Talley in the late 1950s. Later known as the Ronettes, they were signed to Phil Spector's Philles label and he produced the majority of their recording output. The Ronettes' had a string of hits in the 1960s, including "Be My Baby" (1963), "Baby, I Love You" (1963), "(The Best Part of) Breakin' Up" (1964) and "Walking in the Rain" (1964). https://www.ronniespector.com/ https://mobile.twitter.com/RonnieSpectorGS?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor https://www.instagram.com/ronniespectorthebadgirl/?hl=en https://apnews.com/article/ronnie-spector-dead-84c905db02a01ffa43a6052c3ce66920 #musicvideo #musicstudio #musiclover #musiclife #musicindustry #musiclovers #musiccover #musician #musicproducer #musicproduction #musicians #musicislife #musicartist #musicphotography #musicvideos #Music Please follow us on Youtube,Facebook,Instagram,Twitter,Patreon and at www.gettinglumpedup.com https://linktr.ee/RobRossi Get your T-shirt at https://www.prowrestlingtees.com/gettinglumpedup And https://www.bonfire.com/store/getting-lumped-up/ https://app.hashtag.expert/?fpr=roberto-rossi80 https://dc2bfnt-peyeewd4slt50d2x1b.hop.clickbank.net https://8bcded2xph1jdsb8mqp8th3y0n.hop.clickbank.net/?cbpage=nb Subscribe to the channel and hit the like button --- This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/rob-rossi/support https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/getting-lumped-up-with-rob-rossi/id1448899708 https://open.spotify.com/show/00ZWLZaYqQlJji1QSoEz7a https://www.patreon.com/Gettinglumpedup --- Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/rob-rossi/support

WGN - The Dave Plier Podcast
Remembering music legend Ronnie Spector

WGN - The Dave Plier Podcast

Play Episode Listen Later Jan 15, 2022


WGN Radio's Dave Plier looks back on one of his conversation with music legend Ronnie Spector, the trail-blazing lead singer of the 1960s all-girl group The Ronettes, who passed away this week at age 78.

Ricochet Podcast
E576. Cowboy Poets Society

Ricochet Podcast

Play Episode Listen Later Jan 14, 2022 69:43


Apologies for being a tad late today, but thankfully the whole gang is back in action! Today we’ve got Susan Ferrechio, chief congressional correspondent for the Washington Examiner. She takes on all comers: from Democrats playing election projection, to the bored and tired people in charge, to talk of a (collective gasp!) Clinton comeback. Susan has thoughts on all of it. Follow her on Twitter @susanferrechio. The fellas also chat about Biden’s utterly indecent speech in Georgia; also the tragic passing of Terry Teachout and they ponder a viral thread on the worst drives in America. Stuck on a boring roadtrip this weekend? Be sure to pass the time with us! Music from this week’s podcast: Baby, I Love You by The Ronettes

The Tony Kornheiser Show
“Just like Ronnie Sang”

The Tony Kornheiser Show

Play Episode Listen Later Jan 14, 2022 60:41


Tony opens the show by talking with Jeanne McManus about the passing of Ronnie Spector and the impact the Ronettes had on music and pop culture. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports calls in to talk about NFL head coaching vacancies, and also to talk about which QB's will be under the most pressure in the upcoming Wild Card games, Jeff Ma phones in with his weekend picks, and Tony closes out the show by opening up the Mailbag. Songs : Jim Fleming “Too Many Words” ; Azro Cady “I Need a Win” Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

WGN - The Dave Plier Podcast
From the archives: Dave Plier talks with Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Ronnie Spector

WGN - The Dave Plier Podcast

Play Episode Listen Later Jan 13, 2022


Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Ronnie Spector died yesterday at age 78. In November, 2016, she joined Dave Plier to talk about her six decades on stage with the Ronettes and working with the likes of Darlene Love, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and The Rolling Stones.

Newshour
German court convicts former Syrian colonel

Newshour

Play Episode Listen Later Jan 13, 2022 47:19


It's been described as the world's first criminal case brought over state-led torture in Syria. A court in Koblenz, Germany, gave a life sentence to Anwar Raslan. He's a former Syrian colonel who'd been linked to crimes against humanity at a notorious prison in Damascus during his country's civil war. Raslan was found guilty of mass torture and killings at a detention centre known as Branch 251. Also in the programme: British and Dutch athletes heading to Beijing for next month's Winter Olympics have been warned about taking their own personal mobile phones with them over fears they could be spied on by the Chinese government; and Ronnie Spector, lead singer of the 1960s all-girl group The Ronettes, has died at the age of 78. (Photo: A woman reacts as she shows a picture of her relatives, who died in Syria, after the verdict against a former Syrian secret police officer, at the Higher Regional Court in Koblenz, Germany, 13 January 2022. In the world's first trial on Syrian state torture, Anwar Raslan has been sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity, 27 counts of murder and other offences. This was announced by the Higher Regional Court in Koblenz. Credit: EPA/Sascha Steinbach)

Corso - Deutschlandfunk
Eine gewaltige Stimme: Ronettes-Frontfrau Ronnie Spector gestorben

Corso - Deutschlandfunk

Play Episode Listen Later Jan 13, 2022 6:19


Smarzoch, Raphaelwww.deutschlandfunk.de, CorsoDirekter Link zur Audiodatei

Tom Shattuck's Burn Barrel
Sherman's BBQ EP 428

Tom Shattuck's Burn Barrel

Play Episode Listen Later Jan 13, 2022 46:35


The great Ronnie Spector of the Ronettes has passed away. She was a truly remarkable American and puts our dullard, cynical political class to shame. Find us at www.burnbarrelpodcast.com Email us: burnbarrelpodcast@gmail.com Follow on Parler: @burnbarrelpodcast On Gab: @burnbarrelpodcast Facebook: facebook.com/burnbarrelpodcast And Twitter: @burnbarrelpod Rumble: rumble.com/c/burnbarrelpodcast YouTube: www.youtube.com/channel/UCWhLuhtutKdCmbHaWuGg_YQ Follow Tom on Twitter: @tomshattuck You can follow Alice too: @aliceshattuck More Tom stuff at www.tomshattuck.com Tom's "Insta" as the zoomers say: www.instagram.com/tomwshattuck/ Join us at Locals: burnbarrel.locals.com (subscriber based) Join us at Patreon: www.patreon.com/burnbarrel (subscriber based) The opening theme music is called Divine Intervention by Matthew Sweet. The closing theme music to this podcast C'est La Vie by Derek Clegg. Excelsior

Steve and Ted in the Morning
A Grinch cake, the Ronettes, and the Music Man...

Steve and Ted in the Morning

Play Episode Listen Later Dec 29, 2021 10:25


Entertainment news in "The Blur" with Ted Woodward on KNSS See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Trax FM Wicked Music For Wicked People
Music Mick's Mixvibez Show Replay On www.traxfm.org - 25th December 2021

Trax FM Wicked Music For Wicked People

Play Episode Listen Later Dec 25, 2021 119:50


**Music Mick's Mixvibez Show Replay On Trax FM & Rendell Radio. This Week Mick & The Mixvibez Show Gave Us 70's & 80's Grooves With Dance Classics From Andy Williams, Skyy, Webster Lewis, Kurtis Blow, Jenny Burton, The Ronettes, Eugene Wilde & More. Catch The Music Mick's Mixvibez Show Every Saturday From 4PM UK Time On Trax FM & Rendell Radio #traxfm #rendellradio #musicmick #mixvibezshow #soul #funk #80ssoul #boogie #70ssoul #disco #ballads #danceclassics #nusoul #musicmick #mixvibezshow Listen Live Here Via The Trax FM Player: chat.traxfm.org/player/index.html Mixcloud LIVE :mixcloud.com/live/traxfm Free Trax FM Android App: play.google.com/store/apps/det...mradio.ba.a6bcb The Trax FM Facebook Page : facebook.com/original103.3 Trax FM Live On Hear This: hearthis.at/k8bdngt4/live Tunerr: tunerr.co/radio/Trax-FM Tune In Radio : tunein.com/radio/Trax-FM-s225176 OnLine Radio Box: onlineradiobox.com/uk/trax/?cs...cs=uk.traxRadio Radio Deck: radiodeck.com/radio/5a09e2de87...7e3370db06d44dc Radio.Net: traxfmlondon.radio.net Stream Radio : streema.com/radios/Trax_FM..The_Originals Live Online Radio: liveonlineradio.net/english/tr...ax-fm-103-3.htm**

Los conciertos de Radio 3
Los conciertos de Radio 3 - Especial Versiones 2021. Capítulo II - 22/12/21

Los conciertos de Radio 3

Play Episode Listen Later Dec 22, 2021 31:32


En este segundo capítulo de versiones escuchamos a Bye Bye Lullaby con ‘Tuyo’ (Rodrigo Amarante), Javiera Mena con Piensa en mí (Leandro & Leonardo), Sofía Comas con ‘Caja de música’ (Pedro Aznar), El Twanguero con ‘Green Eyed Girl’ (Bob Dylan), Luke Winslow-King & Roberto Luti con ‘Jessie’s Love Song’ (Jessie Mae Hemphill), Emilia, Pardo y Bazán con ‘Be My Baby’ (The Ronettes), Tiburona con ‘Ponte bajo el Sol’ (Elia y Elisabeth), La Plaga N11 con ‘I Will Survive’ (Gloria Gaynor), Joel Sarakula con ‘What Is Love’ (Haddaway) y Digital 21 + Stefan Olsdal con ‘Over’ (GusGus). Escuchar audio

Tales of History and Imagination
25: The Miser of Marcham Park

Tales of History and Imagination

Play Episode Listen Later Dec 18, 2021 10:12


Hi all, Happy Holidays, however you choose to celebrate - or commiserate this year. The following episode is the last Tale of the year (I'll be back round 19th January 2022) I wanted to close out the year by dissecting a figure who entered Xmas lore back in 1843 - Charles Dickens' Ebenezer Scrooge - one of his many ‘Mean men'. Was there a real life equivalent who inspired Dickens' fertile imagination? Hit the button and find out.   The blog post of the episode is here.  Check out the blog at historyandimagination.com For just $2 US a month you can support the show, and get access to exclusive content, over at Patreon. There are a handful of episodes there now - in 2022 I'm committing to drop a bonus episode for every main episode released (22 planned for next year). Come on over and join the team!   Please leave a like and review if your pod catcher allows. More importantly, if you enjoyed this episode, share it with someone else. Creative works grow best by word of mouth. It'll also give you someone to chat about my episodes with.  Follow the show on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.  Music, writing, narration, mixing all yours truly. I normally compose on the fly, though have borrowed God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (anon - first appeared among recusant Catholic families in England in the 1650s) And Sleigh Ride (Leroy Anderson & Mitchell Parish - FYI The Andrews Sisters version may be canon, but The Ronettes cover is where it's at). For more information on Simone hit the link.   

Conexiones, el podcast de Muzikalia
Especial suscriptores: Canciones con "Shalala" - Episodio exclusivo para mecenas

Conexiones, el podcast de Muzikalia

Play Episode Listen Later Dec 17, 2021 75:48


Agradece a este podcast tantas horas de entretenimiento y disfruta de episodios exclusivos como éste. ¡Apóyale en iVoox! Vuelve el podcast Conexiones MZK especial para nuestros suscriptores (puedes apoyar la continuidad del programa desde 1,5€). ¿Te viene a la cabeza alguna canción que incluya el "Shalala"? Hoy te traemos una sesión dedicada a ese recurso tan habitual en la música popular. Desde hace más de seis décadas no dejamos de encontrárnoslo en canciones de muchos artistas que acompañan fraseos y muchas de sus estrofas con esa frase o palabra sin significado, pero tan recurrente. Igual que hace poco quisimos hilar temas con el inicio del "Be My Baby" de The Ronettes, hoy pasaremos poco más de una hora recordando canciones en las que aparezca ese "Shalala". Estarán muchas de las que conoces y esperas, pero como siempre, intentaremos sorprenderte con otras. Canciones del especial Conexiones MZK (Shalala) Ramones "Howling At The Moon (Sha-La-La)" Small Faces "Sha la la la lee" Eels "Bone Dry" Roy Orbison "Blue Angel" The Beatles "Baby It's You" Los Diablos "Un Rayo de Sol" Van Morrison "Brown Eyed Girl" Counting Crows "Mr. Jones" Arctic Monkeys "The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala" Monaco "What Do You Want From Me?" The Kinks "Waterloo Sunset" David Bowie "This Is Not America" Sonic Youth "Little Trouble Girl" Luis Eduardo Aute "Slowly" Al Green "Sha la la (Make Me Happy)" Barry White "Sha la la Means I Love You" Duran Duran "The Reflex" Madonna "Jimmy Jimmy" La Casa Azul "La Gran Mentira" Redd Kross "Yesterday Once More" Nacho Vegas "El Hombre que Casi Conoció a Michi Panero"Escucha este episodio completo y accede a todo el contenido exclusivo de Conexiones MZK. Descubre antes que nadie los nuevos episodios, y participa en la comunidad exclusiva de oyentes en https://go.ivoox.com/sq/286835

Mixology: The Mono/Stereo Mix Differences Podcast
A Christmas Gift for You From Philles Records by Phil Spector & Artists

Mixology: The Mono/Stereo Mix Differences Podcast

Play Episode Listen Later Dec 15, 2021 38:46


Hello Friends, and welcome to the second festive spectacular here on Mixology, with our look at the Christmas album to end all Christmas albums - A Christmas Gift To You from Philles Records, produced by Phil Spector and performed by The Wrecking Crew, along with the many wonderful artists on the Philles label at the time, including The Ronettes, The Crystals, Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans, and Darlene Love. Featuring 12 seasonal classics now heard throughout retail without fail each year, and a spoken word coda from the man himself, one question remains: should you go for the in print mono mix of the album, or the stereo remix issued in the 70s and 80s... before it was never to be seen again? So chuck on that Santa hat and come for a Sleigh Ride through a Marshmallow World, as we cover the most successful flop of the holiday period. Happy Listening,  Frederick Support the show and get hours of extra content at: https://www.patreon.com/backtomono   Email the show at: backtomonoradio@gmail.com   Listen to companion podcast Back to Mono: https://www.mixcloud.com/backtomonoradio/playlists/back-to-mono-complete/    Find me on Instagram @hypnoticfred Join the Facebook Community here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/backtomono

Rare & Scratchy Rock 'N Roll Podcast
Rare & Scratchy Rock 'N Roll_149

Rare & Scratchy Rock 'N Roll Podcast

Play Episode Listen Later Dec 15, 2021 45:35


RARE & SCRATCHY ROCK 'N ROLL_149 – “THE GREATEST ROCK & ROLL CHRISTMAS ALBUM OF ALL TIME” This is our sixth annual Xmas episode. We're celebrating the season with a unique presentation of the LP that's universally regarded as “The Greatest Rock & Roll Christmas Album Of All Time.” Musicologists, music critics, authors of books about rock and roll history, famed composers, and world-renowned performers are in general agreement that it's the late record producer Phil Spector's 1963 masterpiece – “A Christmas Gift For You From Philles Records.” We'll sample each and every cut on “A Christmas Gift For You From Philles Records.” All of those songs will be accompanied by the original versions by other artists that inspired Phil Spector to create his holiday opus. This is definitely a “Rare & Scratchy Rock ‘N Roll” exclusive. We're joined on this episode by a special guest expert who truly knows a thing or two about Christmas music – yes, you guessed it – Santa Claus.

Caffé Latté
#829 (Dec. 12, 2021) – Hour 2:

Caffé Latté

Play Episode Listen Later Dec 12, 2021 55:09


It's a sunny Sunday, so enjoy some R&B/ Soul gems from: Otis Redding, Sade, The Brand New Heavies, The Ronettes, Michael & Janet Jackson, James Brown, Pointer Sisters & more.... LEARN MORE The post #829 (Dec. 12, 2021) – Hour 2: appeared first on Caffé Latté.

CHOONS
Regina Richards Gets Playful On "Baby Love"

CHOONS

Play Episode Listen Later Dec 1, 2021 37:31


Regina Richards is a force to be reckoned with in the music biz. Inspired by the sounds of Motown, the Ronettes, and The Beatles, she began a prolific career as a composer at a tender age. Richards had enough songs in her portfolio that a band project (Regina Richards and Red Hot) was formed around her, becoming a fixture of the New Wave scene in New York.By the early ‘80s, she dedicated to writing and publishing full time with the help of talented drummer and fellow writer Stephen Bray. Both would coincide with future stars, including Madonna  and members of The System at The Music Building, a now legendary rehearsal facility in Manhattan.It was there where this “baby” of a record gave its first steps with aid from another Music Building regular, Mary Kessler, who along with Bray and Richards, crafted a playful and charming record that crossed over through the pop, dance and R&B charts. Though it sparked a multitude of comparisons to the almighty ‘queen of reinvention,' Regina's “Baby Love” stands on its own as an ‘80s marvel that's still being played today.Show TracklistingTon of Bricks (Regina Richards and Red Hot)Baby Love (Regina)Baby Love (The Supremes)Baby Love (The Star Sisters)Host and Producer: Diego MartinezExecutive Producer: Nicholas "NickFresh" PuzoAudio Engineer: Adam Fogel Follow us on social media: @choonspodSubscribe to our PATREON: patreon.com/choonspod

Name 3 Songs
Girl Groups Were the Original Punk Icons with Kurt Suchman

Name 3 Songs

Play Episode Listen Later Nov 21, 2021 64:16


What if we told you that early 1960s girl groups were punk before punk music existed? We're taking a look back in history to connect the seemingly unlikely dots between these two.  Years before The Beatles set foot in America, The Shirelles had wild success as a respectable girl group, paving the way for The Ronettes and The Shangri-Las to take the same sounds and put a distinct rebellious edge to the lyrics and appearance.  This teenage rebellion led to inspiring a generation of punk legends like The Ramones and Blondie.  This week we're joined by music and culture journalist Kurt Suchman to rediscover a pivotal piece of music history.  If you want to check out more of Kurt's work, you can do so here or follow them on Instagram or Twitter.  Enjoy this episode? Join our Patreon community or leave us a tip on PayPal!  Want to talk more? Find us: @name3songs | @sara_feigin | @jenna_million Check out all the sources for this episode at name3song.com  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Rolling Stone Music Now
The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (Pt. 2)

Rolling Stone Music Now

Play Episode Listen Later Oct 13, 2021 47:38


We continue our journey through Rolling Stone's brand-new list of the greatest songs ever, with Rob Sheffield and Brittany Spanos joining host Brian Hiatt  to talk about tracks from the Ronettes, Dr. Dre, the Notorious B.I.G., Prince, Chuck Berry and more  Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Keine Angst vor Hits
Hummer mit den Ronettes

Keine Angst vor Hits

Play Episode Listen Later Oct 1, 2021 41:49


IDLES überraschen mit souliger Intensität, Moritz Krämer unterstreicht seinen Status als herausragender Songwriter und Wet Leg heizen den Hype um sich weiter an. Außerdem: Rückblick auf das Reeperbahn Festival. Das und mehr in unserem wöchentlichen Musik-Update Keine Angst vor Hits. >> Artikel zum Nachlesen: https://detektor.fm/musik/keine-angst-vor-hits-kw-39-2021

Today's Top Tune
Shannon & The Clams: ‘Do I Wanna Stay'

Today's Top Tune

Play Episode Listen Later Sep 22, 2021 4:28


Wanda Jackson meets The Ronettes on Shannon & The Clams' new album, “Year Of The Spider.” Gutsy and strong, Shannon sings her heart out on “Do I Wanna Stay.” 

A vivir que son dos días
El lado oscuro | Phil Spector

A vivir que son dos días

Play Episode Listen Later Aug 29, 2021 29:40


Phil Spector creó la figura del productor estrella: sale de las sombras para ponerse en el foco y descubrir a algunos de los grupos más importantes de los años setenta y ochenta del siglo pasado, como las Ronettes. Participó en la producción de grandes éxitos como Let It Be de los Beatles. Sin embargo, Manu Berástegui nos descubre hoy su lado más oscuro, que tiene que ver con su implicación en un homicidio.

Greatest Music of All Time
#448 - Ian Beck

Greatest Music of All Time

Play Episode Listen Later Jul 25, 2021 46:54


The artist and illustrator, Ian Beck, joins Tom to talk about some of his favourite music of all time, including Debussy, Maurice Ravel, The Ronettes, The Beach Boys and The Beatles. He also discusses creating the album cover for Elton John's iconic Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. This episode is brought to you by Lumie, the original inventors of wake-up lights, whose Bodyclock Luxe 750DAB wake-up light mimics a natural sunrise and sunset. Shown to improve quality of sleep and to boost productivity in clinical trials, this remarkable device also features high quality audio with DAB+ radio, Bluetooth speakers, USB port and a selection of over 20 sleep/wake sounds. The Lumie Bodyclock Luxe 750DAB can transform the way you start and end your day, especially if you struggle to wake up in the morning and/or get to sleep at night - it certainly did for me. Go to lumie.com to find out more. This episode is brought to you by Modal Electronics, who make beautiful, innovative and powerful synthesisers. You can enjoy vibrant wavetable patches with their ARGON8 series. You can produce state-of-the-art analogue-style synth textures with their COBALT8 series. Go to modalelectronics.com to check out their incredible array of synthesisers.

Original vs Cover with DJ Crystal Clear
ORIGINAL vs COVER with DJ Crystal Clear - EPISODE 23

Original vs Cover with DJ Crystal Clear

Play Episode Listen Later Jul 11, 2021 85:36


HEYYYYY, I'M BAAAACK with episode 23 - and it is filled with lots of laughs exchanged with my gear engineer, Dr. Paul Bertolino. We talk about original and cover songs from The Ronettes, Siouxsie And The Banshees, Gloria Gaynor, Rod Stewart, Amy Winehouse, Iggy Pop, Janet Jackson, and more!

Cousin Brucie's Saturday Night Rock & Roll Party
Cousin Brucie's Saturday Night Rock and Roll Party - Ronnie Spector of the Ronettes

Cousin Brucie's Saturday Night Rock & Roll Party

Play Episode Listen Later Jul 11, 2021 7:39


Cousin Brucie gets a big surprise when Ronnie Spector of The Ronettes calls in.  Listen as they reminisce and talk about the future.

Rare & Scratchy Rock 'N Roll Podcast
Rare & Scratchy Rock 'N Roll_138

Rare & Scratchy Rock 'N Roll Podcast

Play Episode Listen Later Jul 1, 2021 85:52


RARE & SCRATCHY ROCK 'N ROLL_138 – “THE MANY SIDES OF PHIL SPECTOR” – His remarkable career was a contrast of very good music and very bad behavior. But there's no question that Phil Spector's musical achievements across six decades beginning in 1958 and ending in 2003 earned him an indelible place in rock and roll history – and an in-depth retrospective on our little podcast series. We'll salute artists who had hit singles that were produced and/or composed by Phil Spector. Plus hit 45s on which Phil Spector performed as a singer or a studio musician. In particular, Gene Pitney, Connie Francis, the Crystals, the Ronettes, Darlene Love, the Righteous Brothers, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, John Lennon & Yoko Ono, and George Harrison, among many others. Phil Spector's trademark “Wall Of Sound.” was one of the most innovative, complex, and successful record production formulas of the 1960s. Our resident Rockologist, Ken Deutsch, will be along to explain how all that worked. And Radio Dave will have more of the greatest rock and roll stories on record. Hear it all here.

Classic 45's Jukebox
Do I Love You? by Ronettes

Classic 45's Jukebox

Play Episode Listen Later Jun 25, 2021


Label: Philles 121Year: 1964Condition: M-Last Price: $45.00. Not currently available for sale.One listen to this seldom-heard Ronettes tune will make clear why it ranks so highly in Dave Marsh's list of the 1,001 greatest singles ever made. Pure girl group bliss! The B side is a non-album cut. Note: This beautiful copy comes in a vintage Philles factory sleeve. It grades Near Mint across the board (Labels, Vinyl, Audio).

Jingle Jank
Episode 27: Who Sang it Better? Round 2 (w/Jack Ford)

Jingle Jank

Play Episode Listen Later Jun 24, 2021 52:34


Jay and Scott do another "Who Sang it Better?" contest with special guest judge Jack from the Total Christmas Podcast. This round's songs are O Holy Night by Andy Williams, Sleigh Ride by The Ronettes, and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Frank Sinatra. https://jinglejank.com/episodes/027.html

Simpatía por la Industria Musical
Simpatía por la industria musical #79: Juan de Pablos

Simpatía por la Industria Musical

Play Episode Listen Later Jun 1, 2021 117:44


JUAN DE PABLOS aterriza en una nueva entrega de SIMPATÍA POR LA INDUSTRIA MUSICAL. Conversamos con la persona que ha criado musicalmente a más de una generación. Del que aprendimos adjetivos como "recoleto", y a amar por igual a los RAMONES, a las RONETTES, a LOS FRESONES REBELDES o a SYLVIE VARTAN. El que nos inoculó en vena el "Azzurro" como himno vital, desprejuciandonos, y haciéndonos amar aún más las canciones, viniesen de donde viniesen, y sin mirar etiquetas ni procedencia.Un ser excepcional y un privilegio para todos que alguien así exista. Y en esta más que especial edición de tu podcast favorito, un montón de amigos se lo recuerdan.....Arrivederci e presto pino!!!

Real Punk Radio Podcast Network
The Big Takeover Show – Number 332 – May 31, 2021 – Homebound Edition LXIII

Real Punk Radio Podcast Network

Play Episode Listen Later May 31, 2021


This week, after a 1980 Lightning Raiders trill: brand new Chills, TUNS, Reno Divorce, Marty Stuart, Songs For Snakes, 93MillionMilesFromTheSun, and Reds, Pinks and Purples, plus Ronettes, Dee Dee... Real Punk Radio podcast Network brings you the best in Punk, Rock, Underground Music around! From Classic Oi!, Psychobilly and Hardcore to some Classic Rock n Roll and 90's indie Alt Rock greatness!! With Tons of Live DJ's that like to Talk Music From Garage Rock, to Ska.. We are True MUSIC GEEKS!

Snapshots
Girl Groups of the '60s - Listen to the Music #5

Snapshots

Play Episode Listen Later May 19, 2021 31:05


Welcome back to our monthly look at nostalgia and history all focused on music. This week we rewind the clock and look at four girl groups of the '60s! No, not the ones you expect. Everyone knows the big ones. We're going to look at those girl groups that made a huge dent in history but never got the lasting attention they deserve. It's a shame but we bring light to these groups today. Let's learn a little bit more about The Chiffons, The Crystals, The Ronettes, and The Angels! _____ Share/Comment: http://amalfimedia.com/snapshots/girl-groups-of-the-60s-listen-to-the-music-5 Watch: https://youtu.be/eLsApMhYRpM More Shows: http://amalfimedia.com/shows Amalfi Instagram: @AmalfiMedia Amalfi Twitter: @Amalfi_Media Email Blaine: snapshots@amalfimedia.com.

This Is A Disaster
Episode 47: Phil Spector

This Is A Disaster

Play Episode Listen Later May 5, 2021 49:33


Ever wanted some of your favorite songs ruined by the story of the man behind them?  Leigh makes it real hard to separate the man from the art.  The Ronettes, John Lennon, George Harrison, hit records, guns, and death.   Leigh's song pick:: Be My Baby by The Ronettes https://open.spotify.com/track/2TVhxOesu7h90ZTAHj4Tyc?si=cd75a111aa4d4ad9   Peter's song pick:: Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) by Nancy Sinatra https://open.spotify.com/track/4JLcAU2xY90qTkTSNM1lUa?si=a6761aa286ca4d4e   If you like what you hear, please subscribe and leave a review! Also, tell your friends! Tell your enemies too, we're not picky.   Become a patron, get exclusive content, help us make more disasters! www.patreon.com/thisdisasterpod   SHIRTS!  Pre-order for the next run is open now until June 30th!  Visit https://shop.thisdisasterpod.com and backorder your shirt!!   Instagram/Twitter/Facebook: @thisdisasterpod www.thisdisasterpod.com   Theme song by Blank Sun: https://blanksun.bandcamp.com

Strong Songs
"Cameo Lover" by Kimbra

Strong Songs

Play Episode Listen Later Mar 24, 2021 55:18


Open up your heart! Open up your heart! Open up your heart, let Kimbra pull you out! On this episode, Kirk goes for a swim in the extra-buoyant waters of Kimbra's 2011 pop stomper "Cameo Lover." It's an intricate musical narrative told through shifting time-feels, retro drum beats, leaping vocals, and sneaky key changes, and it's just the song to raise our spirits after a long, dark winter. Written by: Kimbra Johnson Album: Vows (2011) Listen/Buy: Apple Music | Amazon | Spotify ALSO FEATURED/DISCUSSED: “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye from Making Mirrors, 2011 “Settle Down,” “Plain Gold Ring” and “Sally I Can See You” by Kimbra (Plain Gold Ring by George Stone) from Vows, 2011 “In My Bones” by Jacob Collier from Djesse Vol. 3, 2020 “Be My Baby” by Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich, and Phil Spector as performed by The Ronettes, 1963 OUTRO SOLOIST: Dan Nervo This episode's outro soloist is the fantastic Dan Nervo. Dan plays guitar in the San Francisco Bay Area in bands like Neon Velvet, and also teaches private guitar lessons. Hit him up if you want to get good at guitar: https://www.facebook.com/DanNervoGuitarLessons/ STRONG MERCH! Visit the Strong Songs merch store for some cool t-shirts, mugs, totes, and more: store.strongsongspodcast.com KEEP IT SOCIAL You can follow Strong Songs on Twitter @StrongSongs: http://twitter.com/strongsongs And you can find Kirk on Twitter @Kirkhamilton and on Instagram at @Kirk_Hamilton: https://www.instagram.com/kirk_hamilton/ NEWSLETTER/MAILING LIST Sign up for Kirk's mailing list to start getting monthly-ish newsletters with music recommendations, links, news, and extra thoughts on new Strong Songs episodes: https://kirkhamilton.substack.com/subscribe STRONG PLAYLISTS Kirk has condensed his Strong Songs picks into a single new list, which you can find on Spotify and Apple Music, and YouTube Music. SUPPORT STRONG SONGS ON PATREON! Thanks to all of Strong Songs' Patrons! For more on how to support the creation of this show (and get in on the new Strong Songs Discord server), go here: https://Patreon.com/StrongSongs MARCH 2021 WHOLE-NOTE PATRONS Christopher Miller Tim Byrne Allison Clift-Jennings Patrick Funston Jamie White Johanna L. Branson Thomas König Angus McKimm Christopher Kupski Christopher McConnell Joshua Jarvis Rick Klaras Niko Laurie Acreman Ken Hirsh Jez Jenness Gardner Simon Cammell Guinevere Boostrom Narelle Horn Nathaniel Bauernfeind Bill Rosinger Anne Britt David Zahm Erin Aidan Coughlan Jeanneret Manning Family Four Matt Butler Doug Paton Robert Paul R Watson Viki Dun Christer Lindqvist Sami Samhuri Craig J Covell AccessViolation Ryan Torvik Merlin Mann Fraser Glenn CALEB ROTACH Andre Bremer Mark Schechter Dave Florey Dan Apczynski MARCH 2021 HALF-NOTE PATRONS Bernard Khoo Andrew Shpall Robert Heuer Matthew Golden Brian Meldrum David Noah Ben Hunt Geraldine Butler Richard Cambier Madeleine Mader Andy Smith will reddell Fernando Rodriguez Timothy Dougherty Jason Pratt John Hargis Stewart Oak Caroline Miller Abbie Berg Sam Norton Nicole Schleicher Doug Belew Dermot Crowley Achint Srivastava Ryan Rairigh Michael Berman stephen matthews Bridget Lyons Melody Valdez Olivia Bishop Jeremy Schwartz John Gisselquist Elaine Martin Belinda Mcgrath-steer Eoin de Burca Kevin Potter M Shane Borders Pete Simm Shawn McCarthy Dallas Hockley Jana J Terron Ishihara Jason Gerry Rich Roskopf Melissa Gallo Nathan Gouwens Will Dwyer Alethea Lee Lauren Reay Eric Prestemon Erika L Austin Cookies250 Damian Brady Angela Livingstone Jeffrey C. Yarnell David Friedman Phillip Dalton Christopher Cudnoski Sarah Sulan Diane Hughes Kenneth Tiong Jo Sutherland David Catlett Joe Laska Michael Casner Michael York Barb Courtney Derek Bender Jen Small Don Hutchison Lowell Meyer Etele Illes Jeff Almond Stephen Tsoneff Lorenz Schwarz Becca Sample Wen Jack Sjogren Aparajit Raghavan Benedict Pennington Geoff Golden Robyn Fraser Alexander Geddes Pascal Rueger Randy Souza JC Brendan Jubb Clare Holberton Jake Tinsley Diane Turner Tom Coleman Judy Chapple Stuart Terry Mark Perry Malory Dhu Wik Mel Eric Helm Jake Roberts Briony Leo Bill Fuller Jonathan Daniels Steven Maron Michael Flaherty Jarrod Schindler Zoe Little Albukitty Caro Field Judith Stansfield michael bochner Duncan Dave Sharpe brant brantphillip Markus Koester David Cushman Alexander Jeremy Dawson Gavin Doig Sam Fenn Tanner Morton AJ Schuster Jennifer Bush David Stroud Amanda Furlotti Andrew Baker Brooke Wilford Cyrus N. White Chris Brown Juan Carlos Montemayor Elosua Matt Gaskell Jules Bailey Eero Wahlstedt Bill Thornton Brian Amoebas Brett Douville Jeffrey Olson Matt Betzel Mueller Nate from Kalamazoo Melanie Stivers Richard Toller Alexander Polson John and Sharon Stenglein Tom Lauer Earl Lozada Jon O’Keefe Justin McElroy Arjun Sharma James Johnson Andrew Lee Kevin Morrell Tom Clewer Kevin Pennyfeather Nicholas Schechter Justin Liew Emily Williams

A History Of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs
Episode 117: “Don’t Worry Baby” by the Beach Boys

A History Of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs

Play Episode Listen Later Mar 20, 2021


Episode one hundred and seventeen of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Don’t Worry Baby” by the Beach Boys, and how the years 1963 and 1964 saw a radical evolution in the sound and subject matter of the Beach Boys’ work. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a ten-minute bonus episode available, on “You’re No Good” by the Swinging Blue Jeans. Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust and http://sitcomclub.com/ (more…)

A History Of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs
Episode 117: "Don't Worry Baby" by the Beach Boys

A History Of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs

Play Episode Listen Later Mar 20, 2021 36:00


Episode one hundred and seventeen of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at "Don't Worry Baby" by the Beach Boys, and how the years 1963 and 1964 saw a radical evolution in the sound and subject matter of the Beach Boys' work. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a ten-minute bonus episode available, on "You're No Good" by the Swinging Blue Jeans. Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt's irregular podcasts at http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust and http://sitcomclub.com/ ----more---- ERRATA: I say that the Surfin' USA album was released only four months after Surfin' Safari. It was actually over five months. Also, for some reason I pronounce Nik Venet's name as if he were French here. I believe that's incorrect and his name is actually pronounced “Vennit”, though I'm not 100% sure. More importantly, I say that "Sweet Little Sixteen" wasn't a big hit, when of course it made number two on the charts.    Resources There is no Mixcloud this week, because there were too many Beach Boys songs in the episode. I used many resources for this episode, most of which will be used in future Beach Boys episodes too. It's difficult to enumerate everything here, because I have been an active member of the Beach Boys fan community for twenty-four years, and have at times just used my accumulated knowledge for this. But the resources I list here are ones I've checked for specific things. Becoming the Beach Boys by James B. Murphy is an in-depth look at the group's early years, up to the end of 1963. Stephen McParland has published many, many books on the California surf and hot-rod music scenes, including several on both the Beach Boys and Gary Usher.  His books can be found at https://payhip.com/CMusicBooks Andrew Doe's Bellagio 10452 site is an invaluable resource. Jon Stebbins' The Beach Boys FAQ is a good balance between accuracy and readability. Stebbins also co-wrote The Lost Beach Boy, David Marks' autobiography. And Philip Lambert's Inside the Music of Brian Wilson is an excellent, though sadly out of print, musicological analysis of Wilson's music from 1962 through 67. The Beach Boys' Morgan recordings and all the outtakes from them can be found on this 2-CD set. As a good starting point for the Beach Boys' music, I would recommend this budget-priced three-CD set, which has a surprisingly good selection of their material on it. Transcript Today, we're going to take our second look at the Beach Boys, and we're going to look at their evolution through 1963 and 1964, as they responded to the threat from the Beatles by turning to ever more sophisticated music, even as they went through a variety of personal crises. We're going to look at a period in which they released four albums a year, had three lineup changes, and saw their first number one – and at a song which, despite being a B-side, regularly makes lists of the best singles of all time. We're going to look at “Don't Worry Baby”: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Don't Worry Baby"] When we left the Beach Boys, they had just secured a contract with Capitol Records, and released their first national hit, "Surfin' Safari" backed with "409". Since then we've also seen Brian Wilson working with several songwriting collaborators to write hits for Jan and Dean. But now we need to double back and look at what Brian was doing with his main band in that time.  After "Surfin' Safari" was a hit, in one of the many incomprehensible decisions made in the Beach Boys' career, Capitol decided to follow it up with an album track that Brian and Gary Usher had written, "Ten Little Indians". That track, a surf-rock version of the nursery rhyme with the group chanting "Kemo sabe" in the backing vocals, made only number forty-nine on the charts, and frankly didn't deserve to do even that well. Some have suggested, in fact that the record was released at the instigation of Murry Wilson, who was both Brian, Carl, and Dennis Wilson's father and the group's manager, as a way of weakening Usher's influence with the group, as Murry didn't want outsiders interfering in what he saw as a family business.  After realising the folly of deviating from the formula, the group's next single followed the same pattern as their first hit. The B-side was "Shut Down", a car song co-written by Brian and Roger Christian, who you may remember from the episode on "Surf City" as having been brought in to help Brian with car lyrics. "Shut Down" is most notable for being one of the very small number of Beach Boys records to feature an instrumental contribution from Mike Love, the group's lead singer. His two-note saxophone solo comes in for some mockery from the group's fans, but actually fits the record extremely well: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Shut Down"]  "Shut Down" was a top thirty hit, but it was the A-side that was the really big hit. Just as their first hit had had a surf song on the A-side and a car song on the B-side, so did this single. Brian Wilson had been inspired by Chuck Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen", and in particular the opening verse, which had just listed a lot of places: [Excerpt: Chuck Berry, "Sweet Little Sixteen"] He might well also have been thinking of Chubby Checker's minor hit, "Twistin' USA", which listed places in America where people might be twisting: [Excerpt: Chubby Checker, "Twistin' USA"] Brian had taken Berry's melody and the place-name recitation, and with the help of his girlfriend's brother, and some input from Mike Love, had turned it into a song listing all the places that people could be surfing -- at least, they could "if everybody had an ocean": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Surfin' USA"] "Surfin' USA" became a huge hit, reaching number two on the charts, and later being named by Billboard as the biggest hit of 1963, but unfortunately for Brian that didn't result in a financial windfall for him as the songwriter. As the song was so close to "Sweet Little Sixteen", Chuck Berry got the sole songwriting credit -- one of the only times in rock music history where a white artist has ripped off a Black one and the Black artist has actually benefited from it. And Berry definitely did benefit -- "Sweet Little Sixteen", while a great record, had never been a particularly big hit, while "Surfin' USA" is to this day regularly heard on oldies radio and used in commercials and films. But that success meant extra work, and a lot of it. "Surfin' USA" was the title song of the group's second album, released in March 1963 only four months after their first, and they would release two more albums before the end of the year -- Surfer Girl in September and Little Deuce Coupe in October. Not only were they having to churn out a quite staggering amount of product -- though Little Deuce Coupe featured four songs recycled from their earlier albums -- but Brian Wilson, as well as writing or co-writing all their original material, started producing the records as well, as he was unhappy with Nik Venet's production on the first album. Not only that, but as well as making the Beach Boys' records, Wilson was also writing for Jan and Dean, and he had also started making records on the side with Gary Usher, doing things like making a "Loco-Motion" knock-off, "The Revolution", released under the name Rachel and the Revolvers: [Excerpt: Rachel and the Revolvers, "The Revolution"] According to some sources, Usher and Wilson found the singer for that track by the simple expedient of driving to Watts and asking the first Black teenage girl they saw if she could sing. Other sources say they hired a professional session singer -- some say it was Betty Everett, but given that that's the name of a famous singer from the period who lived in the Mid-West, I think people are confusing her for Betty Willis, another singer who gets named as a possibility, who lived in LA and who certainly sounds like the same person: [Excerpt: Betty Willis, "Act Naturally"] Wilson was also in the process of breaking up with his girlfriend and starting a relationship with a young woman named Marilyn Rovell. Rovell, along with her sister Diane, and their cousin, Ginger Blake, had formed a girl group, and Brian was writing and producing records for them as well: [Excerpt: The Honeys, "The One You Can't Have"] As well as making all these records, the Beach Boys were touring intensively, to the point that on one day in June the group were actually booked in for four shows in the same day.  Unsurprisingly, Brian decided that this was too much for one person, and so in April 1963, just after the release of "Surfin' USA", he decided to quit touring with the group. Luckily, there was a replacement on hand. Alan Jardine had been a member of the Beach Boys on their very first single, but had decided to quit the group to go off to university. A year later, that seemed like a bad decision, and when Brian called him up and asked him to rejoin the band, he eagerly agreed. For now, Alan was not going to be a proper member of the group, but he would substitute for Brian on the group's tour of the Midwest that Spring, and on many of the shows they performed over the summer -- he could play the bass, which was the instrument that Brian played on stage, and he could sing Brian's parts, and so while the Beach Boys still officially consisted of Brian, Carl, and Dennis Wilson, Mike Love, and David Marks, the group that was on tour was Carl, Dennis, Mike, David, and Alan, though Brian would sometimes appear for important shows. Jardine also started recording with the group, though he would not get credited on the covers of the first couple of albums on which he appeared. This made a huge change to the sound of the Beach Boys in the studio, as Jardine playing bass allowed Brian Wilson to play keyboards, while Jardine also added to the group's vocal harmonies. And this was a major change. Up to this point, the Beach Boys' records had had only rudimentary harmonies. While Brian was an excellent falsetto singer, and Mike a very good bass, the other three members of the group were less accomplished. Carl would grow to be one of the great vocalists of all time, but at this point was still in his early teens and had a thin voice. Dennis' voice was also a little thin at this point, and he was behind the drum kit, which meant he didn't get to sing live, and David Marks was apparently not allowed to sing on the records at all, other than taking a single joint lead with Carl on the first album. With the addition of Jardine, Brian now had another singer as strong as himself and Love, and the Surfer Girl album, the first one on which Jardine appears, sees Brian expanding from the rather rudimentary vocal arrangements of the first two albums to something that incorporates a lot more of the influence of the Four Freshmen. You can hear this most startlingly on "In My Room". This is one of the first songs on which Jardine took part in the studio, though he's actually not very audible in the vocal arrangement, which instead concentrates on the three brothers. "In My Room" is a major, major, step forward in the group's sound, in the themes that would appear in their songwriting for the next few years, and in the juxtaposition of the lyrical theme and the musical arrangement.  The song's lyrics, written by Gary Usher but inspired by Wilson's experiences, are about solitude, and the song starts out with Brian singing alone, but then Brian moves up to the third note of the scale and Carl comes in under him, singing the note Brian started on. Then they both move up again, Brian to the fifth and Carl to the third, with Dennis joining in on the note that Brian had started on, before Mike and Alan finally also join in. Brian is singing about being alone, but he has his family with him, supporting him:  [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "In My Room"] This new lineup of the group, with Alan augmenting the other five, might even have lasted, except for a chain of events that started on David Marks' fifteenth birthday. Murry Wilson, who was still managing the group at this point, had never liked the idea of someone from outside the family being an equal member, and was particularly annoyed at David because Murry had tried to have an affair with David's mother, which hadn't worked out well for him.  But then on Marks' fifteenth birthday, he and Dennis Wilson both caught a sexually transmitted infection from the same sex worker, and when Murry Wilson found this out -- as he had to, as he needed to pay their doctor's bills -- he became furious and started screaming at the whole group.  At that point, David had had enough. His mother had been telling him that he was the real talent in the group and he didn't need those Wilsons, and as a fifteen-year-old kid he didn't have the understanding to realise that this might not be entirely true. He said "OK, I quit". At first, the rest of the group thought that he was joking, and even he wasn't at all sure that he wanted to leave the group altogether. He remained in the band for the next month, but Murry Wilson kept reminding his sons that Marks had quit and that they'd all heard him, and refused to speak directly to him -- anything that Murry wanted to say to David, he said to Carl, who passed the message on.  And even though the rest of the group definitely wanted David to stay -- especially Brian, who liked having the freedom not to go out on tour, and Carl, who had been the one who'd lobbied to bring his friend into the group in the first place -- David was still, as the youngest member, the only one who didn't sing, and the only one not part of the family, regarded by the others as somewhat lesser than the rest of the band.  David became increasingly frustrated, especially when they were recording the Little Deuce Coupe album. That album was made up entirely of songs about cars, and the group were so short of material that the album ended up being filled out with four songs from earlier albums, including two from the Surfer Girl album released only the previous month. Yet when David tried to persuade Brian to have the group record his song "Kustom Kar Show", Brian told David that he wasn't ready to be writing songs for the group.  All this, plus pressure from David's parents to make him more of a focal point of the group, led to his resignation eventually being accepted, and backdated to the original date he quit. He played his last show with the group on October the fifth 1963, and then formed his own band, the Marksmen, who signed to A&M:  [Excerpt: Dave and the Marksmen, "Kustom Kar Show"] There have been rumours that Murry Wilson threatened DJs that the Beach Boys wouldn't co-operate with them if they played Marksmen records, but in truth, listening to the records the Marksmen made during their two years of existence, it's quite obvious why they weren't played -- they were fairly shoddy-sounding garage rock records, with little to commend them. Indeed, they actually sound somewhat better now than they would have done at the time -- some of Marks' flatter and more affectless vocals prefigure the sound of some punk singers, but not in a way that would have had any commercial potential in 1963. Meanwhile, the Beach Boys continued, with Alan Jardine buying a Stratocaster and switching to rhythm guitar, and Brian Wilson resigning himself to having to perform live, at least at the moment, and returning to his old role on the bass. Jardine was now, for publicity purposes, a full member of the group, though he would remain on a salary rather than an equal partner for many years -- Murry Wilson didn't want to make the same mistake with him that he had with Marks. And there was still the constant need for new material, which didn't let up. Brian's songwriting was progressing at a furious pace, and that can be seen nowhere better than on "The Warmth of the Sun", a song he wrote, with Love writing the lyrics, around the time of the Kennedy assassination -- the two men have differed over the years over whether it was written the night before or the night after the assassination. "The Warmth of the Sun" is quite staggeringly harmonically sophisticated. We've talked before in this podcast about the standard doo-wop progression -- the one, minor sixth, minor second, fifth progression that you get in about a million songs: [demonstrates] "The Warmth of the Sun" starts out that way -- its first two chords are C, Am, played in the standard arpeggiated way one expects from that kind of song: [demonstrates] You'd expect from that  that the song would go C, Am, Dm, G or C, Am, F, G. But instead of moving to Dm or F, as one normally would, the song moves to E flat, and *starts the progression over*, a minor third up, so you have: [demonstrates] It then stops that progression after two bars, moves back to the Dm one would expect from the original progression, and stays there for twice as long as normal, before moving on to the normal G -- and then throwing in a G augmented at the end, which is a normal G chord but with the D note raised to E flat, so it ties in to that original unexpected chord change. And it does all this *in the opening line of the song*: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "The Warmth of the Sun"] This is harmonic sophistication on a totally different order from anything else that was being done in teen pop music at the time -- it was far closer to the modern jazz harmonies of the Four Freshmen that Brian loved than to doo-wop. The new five-piece lineup of the group recorded that on January the first, 1964, and on the same day they recorded a song that combined two of Brian's other big influences. "Fun Fun Fun" had lyrics by Mike Love -- some of his wittiest -- and starts out with an intro taken straight from "Johnny B. Goode": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Fun Fun Fun"] But while the rest of the track keeps the same feel as the Chuck Berry song, the verse goes in a different harmonic direction, and actually owes a lot to "Da Doo Ron Ron". Instead of using a blues progression, as Berry normally would, the verse uses the same I-IV-I-V progression that "Da Doo Ron Ron"'s chorus does, but uses it to very different effect: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Fun Fun Fun"] That became the group's fourth top ten hit, and made number five on the charts -- but the group suddenly had some real competition. At numbers one, two, and three were the Beatles. Brian Wilson realised that he needed to up his game if he was going to compete, and he did. In April 1964 he started working on a new single. By this time, while the Beach Boys themselves were still playing most of the instruments, Brian was bringing in additional musicians to augment them, and expanding his instrumental palette. The basic track was the core members of the band -- Carl playing both lead and rhythm guitar, Alan playing bass, and Dennis playing drums, with Brian on keyboards -- but there were two further bass players, Glen Campbell and Ray Pohlman, thickening the sound on six-string bass, plus two saxophones, and Hal Blaine adding percussion.  And the main instrument providing chordal support wasn't guitar or organ, as it usually had been, but a harpsichord, an instrument Brian would use a lot over the next few years: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "I Get Around (backing track)"] The recording session for that backing track was also another breaking point for the band. Murry Wilson, himself a frustrated songwriter and producer, was at the session and kept insisting that there was a problem with the bassline. Eventually, Brian had enough of his father's interference, and fired him as the band's manager. Murry would continue to keep trying to interfere in his children's career, but this was the point at which the Beach Boys finally took control over their own futures. A few days later, they reconvened in the studio to record the vocals for what would become their first number one hit: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "I Get Around"] It's fascinating to see that even this early in the group's career, and on one of their biggest, summeriest hits, there's already a tension in the lyrics, a sense of wanting to move on -- "I'm getting bugged driving up and down the same old strip/I've got to find a new place where the kids are hip". The lyrics are Love's, but as is so often the case with Brian Wilson's collaborations, Love seems to have been expressing something that Wilson was feeling at the time. The Beach Boys had risen to the challenge from the Beatles, in a way that few other American musicians could, and "I Get Around" was good enough that it made the top ten in the UK, and became a particular favourite in the Mod subculture in London. The group would only become more popular over the next few years in the UK, a new place where the kids were hip. "I Get Around" is a worthy classic, but the B-side, "Don't Worry Baby", is if anything even better. It had been recorded in January, and had already been released on their Shut Down vol 2 album in March. It had originally been intended for the Ronettes, and was inspired by "Be My Baby", which had astonished Brian Wilson when it had been released a few months earlier. He would later recall having to pull over to the side of the road when he first heard the drum intro to that record: [Excerpt: The Ronettes, "Be My Baby"] Brian would play that record over and over, on repeat, for days at a time, and would try to absorb every nuance of the record and its production, and he tried to come up with something that could follow it. Wilson took the basic rhythm and chord sequence of the song, plus melodic fragments like the line "Be my little baby", and reworked them into a song that clearly owes a lot to its inspiration, but which stands on its own: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Don't Worry Baby"] Phil Spector turned the song down, and so the Beach Boys recorded it themselves, and I have to say that this was only a good thing -- Ronnie Spector recorded a solo version of it many decades later, and it's a fine performance, but the lyric misses something when it's sung by a woman rather than a man. That lyric was by Roger Christian, and in it we see the tension between the more emotional themes that Wilson wanted to explore and the surf and car lyrics that had made up the majority of their singles to this point. The lyric is ostensibly about a car race, and indeed it seems to be setting up precisely the kind of situation that was common in teen tragedy records of the period. The protagonist sings "I guess I should have kept my mouth shut when I started to brag about my car,  but I can't back down now because I pushed the other guys too far", and the whole lyric is focused on his terror of an upcoming race.  This seems intended to lead to the kind of situation that we see in "Dead Man's Curve", or “Tell Laura I Love Her”, or in another teen tragedy song we'll be looking at in a couple of weeks, with the protagonist dead in a car crash. But instead, this is short-circuited. The protagonist's fears are allayed by his girlfriend: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "Don't Worry Baby"] What we have here is someone trying to deal with a particular kind of anxiety brought about by what we now refer to as toxic masculinity. The protagonist has been showing off about his driving skills in front of his peers, and has now found himself in a situation that he can't cope with. He's saved by a figure we'll see a lot more of in Brian's songs, whoever the lyricist, the supernaturally good woman who understands the protagonist and loves him despite, or because of, his faults, even though she's too good for him. Obviously, one can point to all sorts of reasons why this figure might be considered problematic -- the idea that the man is unable to deal with his own emotional problems without a woman fixing him -- but there's an emotional truth to it that one doesn't get in much music of the era, and even if it's a somewhat flawed view of gender relations, it speaks to a very particular kind of insecurity at the inability to live up to traditional masculine roles, and is all the more affecting when it's paired with the braggadocio of the A-side. The combination means we see the bragging and posturing on the A-side as just a facade, covering over the real emotional fragility of the narrator. Each side reinforces the other, and the combination is one of the most perfect pairings ever released as a single. "Don't Worry Baby", released as "I Get Around”'s B-side, made the charts in its own right peaking at number twenty-four. The B-side to the next single further elaborated on the themes of "Don't Worry Baby": [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, "She Knows Me Too Well"] This repurposing of the emotional and musical style of girl-group songs to deal with the emotional vulnerability that comes from acknowledging and attempting to process toxic masculinity is something that few other songwriters were capable of at this point – only some of John Lennon's work a couple of years later comes close to dealing with this very real area of the emotional landscape, and Lennon, like Wilson, often does so by using the figure of the perfect woman who will save the protagonist. In 1964, the group once again released four albums – Shut Down vol.2, All Summer Long, a live album, and a Christmas album – and they also did most of the work on yet another album, The Beach Boys Today!, which would be released in early 1965. As these recordings progressed, Brian Wilson was more and more ambitious, both in terms of the emotional effect of the music and his arrangements, increasingly using session musicians to augment the group, and trying for a variant on Phil Spector's production style, but one which emphasised gentle fragility rather than sturm und drang. Possibly the greatest track he created in 1964 ended up not being used by the Beach Boys, though, but was given to Glen Campbell: [Excerpt: Glen Campbell, "Guess I'm Dumb"] Campbell got given that track because of an enormous favour he'd done the group. The mental strain of touring had finally got too much for Brian, and in December, on a plane to Texas, he'd had a breakdown, screaming on the plane and refusing to get off. Eventually, they coaxed him off the plane, and he'd managed to get through that night's show, but had flown back to LA straight after. Campbell, who was a session guitarist who had played on a number of the Beach Boys' recordings, and had a minor career as a singer at this point, had flown out at almost no notice and for the next five months he replaced Brian on stage for most of their shows, before the group got a permanent replacement in. Brian Wilson had retired from the road, and the hope was that by doing so, he would reduce the strain on himself enough that he could keep writing and producing for the group without making his mental health worse. And for a while, at least, that seemed to be how it worked out. We'll take a look at the results in a few weeks' time.

A History Of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs
Episode 117: “Don’t Worry Baby” by the Beach Boys

A History Of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs

Play Episode Listen Later Mar 20, 2021


Episode one hundred and seventeen of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Don’t Worry Baby” by the Beach Boys, and how the years 1963 and 1964 saw a radical evolution in the sound and subject matter of the Beach Boys’ work. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a ten-minute bonus episode available, on “You’re No Good” by the Swinging Blue Jeans. Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust and http://sitcomclub.com/ —-more—- ERRATA: I say that the Surfin’ USA album was released only four months after Surfin’ Safari. It was actually over five months. Also, for some reason I pronounce Nik Venet’s name as if he were French here. I believe that’s incorrect and his name is actually pronounced “Vennit”, though I’m not 100% sure. More importantly, I say that “Sweet Little Sixteen” wasn’t a big hit, when of course it made number two on the charts.    Resources There is no Mixcloud this week, because there were too many Beach Boys songs in the episode. I used many resources for this episode, most of which will be used in future Beach Boys episodes too. It’s difficult to enumerate everything here, because I have been an active member of the Beach Boys fan community for twenty-four years, and have at times just used my accumulated knowledge for this. But the resources I list here are ones I’ve checked for specific things. Becoming the Beach Boys by James B. Murphy is an in-depth look at the group’s early years, up to the end of 1963. Stephen McParland has published many, many books on the California surf and hot-rod music scenes, including several on both the Beach Boys and Gary Usher.  His books can be found at https://payhip.com/CMusicBooks Andrew Doe’s Bellagio 10452 site is an invaluable resource. Jon Stebbins’ The Beach Boys FAQ is a good balance between accuracy and readability. Stebbins also co-wrote The Lost Beach Boy, David Marks’ autobiography. And Philip Lambert’s Inside the Music of Brian Wilson is an excellent, though sadly out of print, musicological analysis of Wilson’s music from 1962 through 67. The Beach Boys’ Morgan recordings and all the outtakes from them can be found on this 2-CD set. As a good starting point for the Beach Boys’ music, I would recommend this budget-priced three-CD set, which has a surprisingly good selection of their material on it. Transcript Today, we’re going to take our second look at the Beach Boys, and we’re going to look at their evolution through 1963 and 1964, as they responded to the threat from the Beatles by turning to ever more sophisticated music, even as they went through a variety of personal crises. We’re going to look at a period in which they released four albums a year, had three lineup changes, and saw their first number one – and at a song which, despite being a B-side, regularly makes lists of the best singles of all time. We’re going to look at “Don’t Worry Baby”: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, “Don’t Worry Baby”] When we left the Beach Boys, they had just secured a contract with Capitol Records, and released their first national hit, “Surfin’ Safari” backed with “409”. Since then we’ve also seen Brian Wilson working with several songwriting collaborators to write hits for Jan and Dean. But now we need to double back and look at what Brian was doing with his main band in that time.  After “Surfin’ Safari” was a hit, in one of the many incomprehensible decisions made in the Beach Boys’ career, Capitol decided to follow it up with an album track that Brian and Gary Usher had written, “Ten Little Indians”. That track, a surf-rock version of the nursery rhyme with the group chanting “Kemo sabe” in the backing vocals, made only number forty-nine on the charts, and frankly didn’t deserve to do even that well. Some have suggested, in fact that the record was released at the instigation of Murry Wilson, who was both Brian, Carl, and Dennis Wilson’s father and the group’s manager, as a way of weakening Usher’s influence with the group, as Murry didn’t want outsiders interfering in what he saw as a family business.  After realising the folly of deviating from the formula, the group’s next single followed the same pattern as their first hit. The B-side was “Shut Down”, a car song co-written by Brian and Roger Christian, who you may remember from the episode on “Surf City” as having been brought in to help Brian with car lyrics. “Shut Down” is most notable for being one of the very small number of Beach Boys records to feature an instrumental contribution from Mike Love, the group’s lead singer. His two-note saxophone solo comes in for some mockery from the group’s fans, but actually fits the record extremely well: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, “Shut Down”]  “Shut Down” was a top thirty hit, but it was the A-side that was the really big hit. Just as their first hit had had a surf song on the A-side and a car song on the B-side, so did this single. Brian Wilson had been inspired by Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen”, and in particular the opening verse, which had just listed a lot of places: [Excerpt: Chuck Berry, “Sweet Little Sixteen”] He might well also have been thinking of Chubby Checker’s minor hit, “Twistin’ USA”, which listed places in America where people might be twisting: [Excerpt: Chubby Checker, “Twistin’ USA”] Brian had taken Berry’s melody and the place-name recitation, and with the help of his girlfriend’s brother, and some input from Mike Love, had turned it into a song listing all the places that people could be surfing — at least, they could “if everybody had an ocean”: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, “Surfin’ USA”] “Surfin’ USA” became a huge hit, reaching number two on the charts, and later being named by Billboard as the biggest hit of 1963, but unfortunately for Brian that didn’t result in a financial windfall for him as the songwriter. As the song was so close to “Sweet Little Sixteen”, Chuck Berry got the sole songwriting credit — one of the only times in rock music history where a white artist has ripped off a Black one and the Black artist has actually benefited from it. And Berry definitely did benefit — “Sweet Little Sixteen”, while a great record, had never been a particularly big hit, while “Surfin’ USA” is to this day regularly heard on oldies radio and used in commercials and films. But that success meant extra work, and a lot of it. “Surfin’ USA” was the title song of the group’s second album, released in March 1963 only four months after their first, and they would release two more albums before the end of the year — Surfer Girl in September and Little Deuce Coupe in October. Not only were they having to churn out a quite staggering amount of product — though Little Deuce Coupe featured four songs recycled from their earlier albums — but Brian Wilson, as well as writing or co-writing all their original material, started producing the records as well, as he was unhappy with Nik Venet’s production on the first album. Not only that, but as well as making the Beach Boys’ records, Wilson was also writing for Jan and Dean, and he had also started making records on the side with Gary Usher, doing things like making a “Loco-Motion” knock-off, “The Revolution”, released under the name Rachel and the Revolvers: [Excerpt: Rachel and the Revolvers, “The Revolution”] According to some sources, Usher and Wilson found the singer for that track by the simple expedient of driving to Watts and asking the first Black teenage girl they saw if she could sing. Other sources say they hired a professional session singer — some say it was Betty Everett, but given that that’s the name of a famous singer from the period who lived in the Mid-West, I think people are confusing her for Betty Willis, another singer who gets named as a possibility, who lived in LA and who certainly sounds like the same person: [Excerpt: Betty Willis, “Act Naturally”] Wilson was also in the process of breaking up with his girlfriend and starting a relationship with a young woman named Marilyn Rovell. Rovell, along with her sister Diane, and their cousin, Ginger Blake, had formed a girl group, and Brian was writing and producing records for them as well: [Excerpt: The Honeys, “The One You Can’t Have”] As well as making all these records, the Beach Boys were touring intensively, to the point that on one day in June the group were actually booked in for four shows in the same day.  Unsurprisingly, Brian decided that this was too much for one person, and so in April 1963, just after the release of “Surfin’ USA”, he decided to quit touring with the group. Luckily, there was a replacement on hand. Alan Jardine had been a member of the Beach Boys on their very first single, but had decided to quit the group to go off to university. A year later, that seemed like a bad decision, and when Brian called him up and asked him to rejoin the band, he eagerly agreed. For now, Alan was not going to be a proper member of the group, but he would substitute for Brian on the group’s tour of the Midwest that Spring, and on many of the shows they performed over the summer — he could play the bass, which was the instrument that Brian played on stage, and he could sing Brian’s parts, and so while the Beach Boys still officially consisted of Brian, Carl, and Dennis Wilson, Mike Love, and David Marks, the group that was on tour was Carl, Dennis, Mike, David, and Alan, though Brian would sometimes appear for important shows. Jardine also started recording with the group, though he would not get credited on the covers of the first couple of albums on which he appeared. This made a huge change to the sound of the Beach Boys in the studio, as Jardine playing bass allowed Brian Wilson to play keyboards, while Jardine also added to the group’s vocal harmonies. And this was a major change. Up to this point, the Beach Boys’ records had had only rudimentary harmonies. While Brian was an excellent falsetto singer, and Mike a very good bass, the other three members of the group were less accomplished. Carl would grow to be one of the great vocalists of all time, but at this point was still in his early teens and had a thin voice. Dennis’ voice was also a little thin at this point, and he was behind the drum kit, which meant he didn’t get to sing live, and David Marks was apparently not allowed to sing on the records at all, other than taking a single joint lead with Carl on the first album. With the addition of Jardine, Brian now had another singer as strong as himself and Love, and the Surfer Girl album, the first one on which Jardine appears, sees Brian expanding from the rather rudimentary vocal arrangements of the first two albums to something that incorporates a lot more of the influence of the Four Freshmen. You can hear this most startlingly on “In My Room”. This is one of the first songs on which Jardine took part in the studio, though he’s actually not very audible in the vocal arrangement, which instead concentrates on the three brothers. “In My Room” is a major, major, step forward in the group’s sound, in the themes that would appear in their songwriting for the next few years, and in the juxtaposition of the lyrical theme and the musical arrangement.  The song’s lyrics, written by Gary Usher but inspired by Wilson’s experiences, are about solitude, and the song starts out with Brian singing alone, but then Brian moves up to the third note of the scale and Carl comes in under him, singing the note Brian started on. Then they both move up again, Brian to the fifth and Carl to the third, with Dennis joining in on the note that Brian had started on, before Mike and Alan finally also join in. Brian is singing about being alone, but he has his family with him, supporting him:  [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, “In My Room”] This new lineup of the group, with Alan augmenting the other five, might even have lasted, except for a chain of events that started on David Marks’ fifteenth birthday. Murry Wilson, who was still managing the group at this point, had never liked the idea of someone from outside the family being an equal member, and was particularly annoyed at David because Murry had tried to have an affair with David’s mother, which hadn’t worked out well for him.  But then on Marks’ fifteenth birthday, he and Dennis Wilson both caught a sexually transmitted infection from the same sex worker, and when Murry Wilson found this out — as he had to, as he needed to pay their doctor’s bills — he became furious and started screaming at the whole group.  At that point, David had had enough. His mother had been telling him that he was the real talent in the group and he didn’t need those Wilsons, and as a fifteen-year-old kid he didn’t have the understanding to realise that this might not be entirely true. He said “OK, I quit”. At first, the rest of the group thought that he was joking, and even he wasn’t at all sure that he wanted to leave the group altogether. He remained in the band for the next month, but Murry Wilson kept reminding his sons that Marks had quit and that they’d all heard him, and refused to speak directly to him — anything that Murry wanted to say to David, he said to Carl, who passed the message on.  And even though the rest of the group definitely wanted David to stay — especially Brian, who liked having the freedom not to go out on tour, and Carl, who had been the one who’d lobbied to bring his friend into the group in the first place — David was still, as the youngest member, the only one who didn’t sing, and the only one not part of the family, regarded by the others as somewhat lesser than the rest of the band.  David became increasingly frustrated, especially when they were recording the Little Deuce Coupe album. That album was made up entirely of songs about cars, and the group were so short of material that the album ended up being filled out with four songs from earlier albums, including two from the Surfer Girl album released only the previous month. Yet when David tried to persuade Brian to have the group record his song “Kustom Kar Show”, Brian told David that he wasn’t ready to be writing songs for the group.  All this, plus pressure from David’s parents to make him more of a focal point of the group, led to his resignation eventually being accepted, and backdated to the original date he quit. He played his last show with the group on October the fifth 1963, and then formed his own band, the Marksmen, who signed to A&M:  [Excerpt: Dave and the Marksmen, “Kustom Kar Show”] There have been rumours that Murry Wilson threatened DJs that the Beach Boys wouldn’t co-operate with them if they played Marksmen records, but in truth, listening to the records the Marksmen made during their two years of existence, it’s quite obvious why they weren’t played — they were fairly shoddy-sounding garage rock records, with little to commend them. Indeed, they actually sound somewhat better now than they would have done at the time — some of Marks’ flatter and more affectless vocals prefigure the sound of some punk singers, but not in a way that would have had any commercial potential in 1963. Meanwhile, the Beach Boys continued, with Alan Jardine buying a Stratocaster and switching to rhythm guitar, and Brian Wilson resigning himself to having to perform live, at least at the moment, and returning to his old role on the bass. Jardine was now, for publicity purposes, a full member of the group, though he would remain on a salary rather than an equal partner for many years — Murry Wilson didn’t want to make the same mistake with him that he had with Marks. And there was still the constant need for new material, which didn’t let up. Brian’s songwriting was progressing at a furious pace, and that can be seen nowhere better than on “The Warmth of the Sun”, a song he wrote, with Love writing the lyrics, around the time of the Kennedy assassination — the two men have differed over the years over whether it was written the night before or the night after the assassination. “The Warmth of the Sun” is quite staggeringly harmonically sophisticated. We’ve talked before in this podcast about the standard doo-wop progression — the one, minor sixth, minor second, fifth progression that you get in about a million songs: [demonstrates] “The Warmth of the Sun” starts out that way — its first two chords are C, Am, played in the standard arpeggiated way one expects from that kind of song: [demonstrates] You’d expect from that  that the song would go C, Am, Dm, G or C, Am, F, G. But instead of moving to Dm or F, as one normally would, the song moves to E flat, and *starts the progression over*, a minor third up, so you have: [demonstrates] It then stops that progression after two bars, moves back to the Dm one would expect from the original progression, and stays there for twice as long as normal, before moving on to the normal G — and then throwing in a G augmented at the end, which is a normal G chord but with the D note raised to E flat, so it ties in to that original unexpected chord change. And it does all this *in the opening line of the song*: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, “The Warmth of the Sun”] This is harmonic sophistication on a totally different order from anything else that was being done in teen pop music at the time — it was far closer to the modern jazz harmonies of the Four Freshmen that Brian loved than to doo-wop. The new five-piece lineup of the group recorded that on January the first, 1964, and on the same day they recorded a song that combined two of Brian’s other big influences. “Fun Fun Fun” had lyrics by Mike Love — some of his wittiest — and starts out with an intro taken straight from “Johnny B. Goode”: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, “Fun Fun Fun”] But while the rest of the track keeps the same feel as the Chuck Berry song, the verse goes in a different harmonic direction, and actually owes a lot to “Da Doo Ron Ron”. Instead of using a blues progression, as Berry normally would, the verse uses the same I-IV-I-V progression that “Da Doo Ron Ron”‘s chorus does, but uses it to very different effect: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, “Fun Fun Fun”] That became the group’s fourth top ten hit, and made number five on the charts — but the group suddenly had some real competition. At numbers one, two, and three were the Beatles. Brian Wilson realised that he needed to up his game if he was going to compete, and he did. In April 1964 he started working on a new single. By this time, while the Beach Boys themselves were still playing most of the instruments, Brian was bringing in additional musicians to augment them, and expanding his instrumental palette. The basic track was the core members of the band — Carl playing both lead and rhythm guitar, Alan playing bass, and Dennis playing drums, with Brian on keyboards — but there were two further bass players, Glen Campbell and Ray Pohlman, thickening the sound on six-string bass, plus two saxophones, and Hal Blaine adding percussion.  And the main instrument providing chordal support wasn’t guitar or organ, as it usually had been, but a harpsichord, an instrument Brian would use a lot over the next few years: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, “I Get Around (backing track)”] The recording session for that backing track was also another breaking point for the band. Murry Wilson, himself a frustrated songwriter and producer, was at the session and kept insisting that there was a problem with the bassline. Eventually, Brian had enough of his father’s interference, and fired him as the band’s manager. Murry would continue to keep trying to interfere in his children’s career, but this was the point at which the Beach Boys finally took control over their own futures. A few days later, they reconvened in the studio to record the vocals for what would become their first number one hit: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, “I Get Around”] It’s fascinating to see that even this early in the group’s career, and on one of their biggest, summeriest hits, there’s already a tension in the lyrics, a sense of wanting to move on — “I’m getting bugged driving up and down the same old strip/I’ve got to find a new place where the kids are hip”. The lyrics are Love’s, but as is so often the case with Brian Wilson’s collaborations, Love seems to have been expressing something that Wilson was feeling at the time. The Beach Boys had risen to the challenge from the Beatles, in a way that few other American musicians could, and “I Get Around” was good enough that it made the top ten in the UK, and became a particular favourite in the Mod subculture in London. The group would only become more popular over the next few years in the UK, a new place where the kids were hip. “I Get Around” is a worthy classic, but the B-side, “Don’t Worry Baby”, is if anything even better. It had been recorded in January, and had already been released on their Shut Down vol 2 album in March. It had originally been intended for the Ronettes, and was inspired by “Be My Baby”, which had astonished Brian Wilson when it had been released a few months earlier. He would later recall having to pull over to the side of the road when he first heard the drum intro to that record: [Excerpt: The Ronettes, “Be My Baby”] Brian would play that record over and over, on repeat, for days at a time, and would try to absorb every nuance of the record and its production, and he tried to come up with something that could follow it. Wilson took the basic rhythm and chord sequence of the song, plus melodic fragments like the line “Be my little baby”, and reworked them into a song that clearly owes a lot to its inspiration, but which stands on its own: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, “Don’t Worry Baby”] Phil Spector turned the song down, and so the Beach Boys recorded it themselves, and I have to say that this was only a good thing — Ronnie Spector recorded a solo version of it many decades later, and it’s a fine performance, but the lyric misses something when it’s sung by a woman rather than a man. That lyric was by Roger Christian, and in it we see the tension between the more emotional themes that Wilson wanted to explore and the surf and car lyrics that had made up the majority of their singles to this point. The lyric is ostensibly about a car race, and indeed it seems to be setting up precisely the kind of situation that was common in teen tragedy records of the period. The protagonist sings “I guess I should have kept my mouth shut when I started to brag about my car,  but I can’t back down now because I pushed the other guys too far”, and the whole lyric is focused on his terror of an upcoming race.  This seems intended to lead to the kind of situation that we see in “Dead Man’s Curve”, or “Tell Laura I Love Her”, or in another teen tragedy song we’ll be looking at in a couple of weeks, with the protagonist dead in a car crash. But instead, this is short-circuited. The protagonist’s fears are allayed by his girlfriend: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, “Don’t Worry Baby”] What we have here is someone trying to deal with a particular kind of anxiety brought about by what we now refer to as toxic masculinity. The protagonist has been showing off about his driving skills in front of his peers, and has now found himself in a situation that he can’t cope with. He’s saved by a figure we’ll see a lot more of in Brian’s songs, whoever the lyricist, the supernaturally good woman who understands the protagonist and loves him despite, or because of, his faults, even though she’s too good for him. Obviously, one can point to all sorts of reasons why this figure might be considered problematic — the idea that the man is unable to deal with his own emotional problems without a woman fixing him — but there’s an emotional truth to it that one doesn’t get in much music of the era, and even if it’s a somewhat flawed view of gender relations, it speaks to a very particular kind of insecurity at the inability to live up to traditional masculine roles, and is all the more affecting when it’s paired with the braggadocio of the A-side. The combination means we see the bragging and posturing on the A-side as just a facade, covering over the real emotional fragility of the narrator. Each side reinforces the other, and the combination is one of the most perfect pairings ever released as a single. “Don’t Worry Baby”, released as “I Get Around”’s B-side, made the charts in its own right peaking at number twenty-four. The B-side to the next single further elaborated on the themes of “Don’t Worry Baby”: [Excerpt: The Beach Boys, “She Knows Me Too Well”] This repurposing of the emotional and musical style of girl-group songs to deal with the emotional vulnerability that comes from acknowledging and attempting to process toxic masculinity is something that few other songwriters were capable of at this point – only some of John Lennon’s work a couple of years later comes close to dealing with this very real area of the emotional landscape, and Lennon, like Wilson, often does so by using the figure of the perfect woman who will save the protagonist. In 1964, the group once again released four albums – Shut Down vol.2, All Summer Long, a live album, and a Christmas album – and they also did most of the work on yet another album, The Beach Boys Today!, which would be released in early 1965. As these recordings progressed, Brian Wilson was more and more ambitious, both in terms of the emotional effect of the music and his arrangements, increasingly using session musicians to augment the group, and trying for a variant on Phil Spector’s production style, but one which emphasised gentle fragility rather than sturm und drang. Possibly the greatest track he created in 1964 ended up not being used by the Beach Boys, though, but was given to Glen Campbell: [Excerpt: Glen Campbell, “Guess I’m Dumb”] Campbell got given that track because of an enormous favour he’d done the group. The mental strain of touring had finally got too much for Brian, and in December, on a plane to Texas, he’d had a breakdown, screaming on the plane and refusing to get off. Eventually, they coaxed him off the plane, and he’d managed to get through that night’s show, but had flown back to LA straight after. Campbell, who was a session guitarist who had played on a number of the Beach Boys’ recordings, and had a minor career as a singer at this point, had flown out at almost no notice and for the next five months he replaced Brian on stage for most of their shows, before the group got a permanent replacement in. Brian Wilson had retired from the road, and the hope was that by doing so, he would reduce the strain on himself enough that he could keep writing and producing for the group without making his mental health worse. And for a while, at least, that seemed to be how it worked out. We’ll take a look at the results in a few weeks’ time.

Heat Rocks
Sheila Burgel on The Ronettes' "Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica" (1964)

Heat Rocks

Play Episode Listen Later Mar 11, 2021 53:10


Writer and DJ Sheila Burgel sits down with Oliver and guest co-host Jocelyn Brown to discuss The Ronettes' Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica. We talk about impact of girl groups through the decades, the "wall of sound" formula, and the influence of girl groups across the globe.More on Sheila BurgelCheck out Sophisticated Boom Boom on WFMUSheila's astonishing record collection (Dust & Grooves)Website More on The RonettesIt's Time To Recognize The Ronettes As Rock And Roll Pioneers (NPR)Classic Tracks: The Ronettes 'Be My Baby' (Sound On Sound)The Ronettes on American BandstandShow Tracklisting (all songs from  Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica unless otherwise indicated):Chapel of LoveBaby, I Love YouAmy Winehouse: Back to BlackBLACKPINK: Ice CreamBe My BabyWhat I'd Say(The Best Part Of) Breakin' UpI WonderDo I Love You?So Young You BabyC. Jérôme: Da Dou Ron RonEiichi Ohtaki: Kimiwa TennenshokuAdrienne Posta: Shang A Doo LangThe Pipettes: Because It's Not Love (But It's Still A Feeling)Walking in the Rain(The Best Part Of) Breakin' UpBaby, I Love YouBe My BabyHow Does It FeelWhen I Saw YouBe My BabyThe Shangri-Las: Give Him A Great Big KissLaura Nyro & Labelle: The BellsThe Dixie Cups: I'm Gonna Get You YetReparata and the Delrons: I Can Hear The RainLesley Gore: You Don't Own Me  Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find on thereIf you’re not already subscribed to Heat Rocks in Apple Podcasts, do it here!

The CoverUp
167 - Break-a-Way - The CoverUp

The CoverUp

Play Episode Listen Later Mar 8, 2021 13:11


A hidden gem of a song with all the feel and style of Motown, and a cover that ended a musical career in the best possible way. Break-a-way, originally by Irma Thomas, covered by Tracey Ullman. Outro music is (The Best Part of) Breakin' Up, by The Ronettes.

Creatives Are The Worst
Phil Spector

Creatives Are The Worst

Play Episode Listen Later Feb 9, 2021 65:29


Harvey Phillip Spector was widely considered to be the first true auteur record producer. His trademark “Wall of Sound” can be heard on albums by The Beatles, The Ramones, The Righteous Brothers, The Ronettes, and so many more. Artists like Brian Wilson and John Lennon have called him “the greatest record producer of all time”, but a chaotic personal life and penchant for violence were simmering beneath the surface. It would all culminate in 2003, when actress Lana Clarkson was found dead from a single gunshot wound in Spector’s home. This week, we’re asking the question: Is Phil Spector the worst? Content warning: This episode contains graphic depictions of violence and domestic abuse.

Now I've Heard Everything
Ronnie Spector

Now I've Heard Everything

Play Episode Listen Later Feb 1, 2021 15:43


They may have called her "the original 'bad girl of rock and roll'," but Ronnie Spector was nothing but nice to me, when I met her in 1990. Spectre was the lead singer in the '60s girl-group The Ronettes. Their big hit, of couse, was "Be My Baby." but of course there were others, too. But Ronnie Spector was also Mrs. Phil Spector. And we get into that a little bit, in this interview.

Come To The Sunshine
Episode 188: Come To The Sunshine #177 - Phil Spector

Come To The Sunshine

Play Episode Listen Later Jan 25, 2021 117:41


In an episode first aired January 18, 2021: DJ Andrew Sandoval explores the songs & productions of Phil Spector from 1962-1970 with music by The Ronettes; Sonny & Cher; Marianne Faithfull; Peter & Gordon; Ike & Tina Turner; The MFQ; The Symbols; The Lovin' Spoonful; The Crystals; Manfred Mann; The Righteous Brothers; Carole King; John Lennon & The Plastic Ono Band; The Beatles; George Harrison; Bob B. Soxx & The Blue Jeans.

A History Of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs
Episode 110: “Be My Baby” by the Ronettes

A History Of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs

Play Episode Listen Later Jan 9, 2021


Episode 110 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Be My Baby”, and at the career of the Ronettes and Ronnie Spector. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode. Patreon backers also have a ten-minute bonus episode available, on “Little Saint Nick” by the Beach Boys. Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust and http://sitcomclub.com/ (more…)

A History Of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs
Episode 110: "Be My Baby" by the Ronettes

A History Of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs

Play Episode Listen Later Jan 9, 2021 45:20


  Episode 110 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at "Be My Baby", and at the career of the Ronettes and Ronnie Spector.  Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode.   Patreon backers also have a ten-minute bonus episode available, on "Little Saint Nick" by the Beach Boys. Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt's irregular podcasts at http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust and http://sitcomclub.com/ ----more---- Erratum I say Ray Peterson's version of "Tell Laura I Love Her" was an American number one. It wasn't -- it only made number seven.   Resources As always, I've created a Mixcloud streaming playlist with full versions of all the songs in the episode. A lot of resources were used for this episode. Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara Miniskirts and Madness, or My Life as a Fabulous Ronette by Ronnie Spector and Vince Waldron is Ronnie's autobiography and was the main source. Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era by Ken Emerson is a good overview of the Brill Building scene, and provided me with the information on Barry and Greenwich. I've referred to two biographies of Spector in this episode, Phil Spector: Out of His Head by Richard Williams and He's a Rebel by Mark Ribkowsky. And information on the Wrecking Crew largely comes from The Wrecking Crew by Kent Hartman. There are many compilations available with some of the hits Spector produced, but I recommend getting Back to Mono, a four-CD overview of his career containing all the major singles put out by Philles. If you want something just covering Ronnie Spector and the Ronettes, The Very Best of Ronnie Spector  covers all the Ronettes hits and the best of her solo career. And the AFM contract listing the musicians on "Be My Baby" can be found here.   Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript Today we're going to take a look at the record that, more than anything, ensured Phil Spector's place in popular music history -- a record that changed the lives of several people who heard it for the better, and changed the life of its singer for the worse, and one which has the most imitated drum intro in the world. We're going to look at "Be My Baby" by the Ronettes: [Excerpt: The Ronettes, "Be My Baby"] Before I start this one, two things need saying. The first is that this episode, by necessity, deals with spousal abuse. As always, I will try to discuss the issue with sensitivity, and touch on it as briefly as possible, but if you worry that it might upset you, please either skip this episode, or read the transcript to see if you'll be OK listening to it. I imagine that very few people will be upset by anything I say here, but it's always a possibility. And secondly, I'd like to apologise for this episode being so late. I had a major disruption in my personal life over Christmas -- one of those really bad life events that only happens once or twice in most people's lifetimes -- and that made it impossible for me to get any work done at all for the last couple of weeks. I'm now able to work again, and this should not be anything that affects the podcast for the rest of the year. Anyway, enough about that, let's get on with the story. The story of the Ronettes begins when Ronnie Bennett, a mixed-race girl from Harlem, became obsessed with the sound of Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers: [Excerpt: Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, "Why Do Fools Fall In Love?"] Ronnie became the Teenagers' biggest fan, and even managed to arrange a meeting between herself and Lymon when they were both thirteen, but had her illusions torn away when he turned up drunk and made a pass at her. But that didn't stop her from trying her best to imitate Lymon's vocals, and forming a vocal group with several friends and relatives. That group had a male lead singer, but when they made their first appearance on one of the Harlem Apollo's talent shows, the lead singer got stage fright and couldn't start singing when he got on stage. Ronnie stepped forward and took over the lead vocal, and the group went down well enough even with the Apollo's notoriously hostile audience that a smaller group of them decided to start performing regularly together. The group took the name Ronnie and the Relatives, and consisted of Ronnie, her sister Estelle, and their cousin Nedra Talley. They originally only performed at private parties, bar mitzvahs and the like, but they soon reached the attention of Stu Phillips at Colpix Records, a label owned by the film studio Columbia Pictures. The first single by Ronnie and the Relatives was not a success -- "I Want a Boy" came out in August 1961 and didn't chart: [Excerpt: Ronnie and the Relatives, "I Want a Boy"] And nor did their second, "I'm Gonna Quit While I'm Ahead": [Excerpt: Ronnie and the Relatives, "I'm Gonna Quit While I'm Ahead"] Those records did apparently sell to at least one person, though, as when Ronnie met President Clinton in 1997, he asked her to sign a record, and specifically got her to sign an album of those early recordings for Colpix. While the girls were not having any commercial success, they did manage to accidentally get themselves a regular gig at the most important nightclub in New York. They went to the Peppermint Lounge, just as the Twist craze was at its height, and as they were underage they dressed up especially well in order to make themselves look more grown up so they could get in. Their ruse worked better than they expected. As they were all dressed the same, the club's manager assumed they were the dancers he'd booked, who hadn't shown up. He came out and told them to get on stage and start dancing, and so of course they did what he said, and started dancing to the Twist sounds of Joey Dee and the Starliters: [Excerpt: Joey Dee and the Starliters, "The Peppermint Twist"] The girls' dancing went down well, and then the band started playing "What'd I Say?", a favourite song of Ronnie's and one the group did in their own act, and Ronnie danced over to David Brigati, who was singing lead on the song, and started dancing close to him. He handed her the mic as a joke, and she took over the song. They got a regular spot at the Peppermint Lounge, dancing behind the Starliters for their whole show and joining them on vocals for a few numbers every night. Inspired by the Bobbettes and the Marvelettes, Ronnie and Estelle's mother suggested changing the group's name. She suggested "the Rondettes", and they dropped the "d", becoming the Ronettes. The singles they released on ColPix under the new name did no better than the others, but they were such an important part of the Peppermint Lounge that when the Lounge's owners opened a second venue in Florida, the girls went down there with the Starliters and were part of the show.  That trip to Florida gave them two very different experiences. The first was that they got to see segregation firsthand for the first time, and they didn't like it -- especially when they, as light-skinned mixed-race women, were read as tanned white women and served in restaurants which then refused to serve their darker-skinned mothers. But the second was far more positive. They met Murray the K, who since Alan Freed had been driven out of his job had become the most popular DJ in New York. Murray was down in Florida for a holiday, and was impressed enough by the girls' dancing that he told them if they were ever in New York and wanted a spot on one of his regular shows at the Brooklyn Fox Theatre they should let him know. They replied that they lived in New York and went to those shows all the time -- of course they wanted to perform on his shows. They became regular performers at the Brooklyn Fox, where they danced between the other, bigger, acts, sang backing vocals, did a song or two themselves, and took part in comedy sketches with Murray. It was at these shows, as well, that they developed the look they would become famous with -- huge hair piled up on top of their heads, tons of mascara, and tight skirts slit to show their legs. It was a style inspired by street fashion rather than by what the other girl groups were wearing, and it made them incredibly popular with the Fox audience. But the Ronettes, even under their new name, and even with the backing of New York's most prominent DJ, were still not selling any records. They knew they were good, and the reaction to their stage performances proved as much, so they decided that the problem must be with Colpix. And so in 1963 they made a New Year's resolution -- they were going to get Phil Spector to produce them.  By this time, Spector was becoming very well known in the music industry as a hit maker. We already saw in the recent episode on the Crystals how he was making hits for that group and the Blossoms, but he was also making hits with studio groups like Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, who he took into the top ten with a remake of the old Disney song "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah": [Excerpt: Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah"] and as well as the records he was putting out on Philles, he was also working as a freelance producer for people like Connie Francis, producing her top ten hit "Second-Hand Love": [Excerpt: Connie Francis, "Second-Hand Love"] So the Ronettes were convinced that he could make them into the stars they knew they had the potential to be. The group had no idea how to get in touch with Spector, so they tried the direct route -- Estelle called directory enquiries, got the number for Philles Records, and called and asked to be put through to Spector. She was as astonished as anyone when he agreed to talk to her -- and it turned out that he'd seen the group regularly at the Brooklyn Fox and was interested in working with them.  At their audition for Spector, the group first performed a close-harmony version of "When the Red Red Robin Goes Bob-Bob-Bobbin' Along", which they'd been taught by their singing teacher. Spector told them that he wanted to hear what they did when they were singing for themselves, not for a teacher, and so Ronnie launched into "Why Do Fools Fall In Love?"  It only took her getting to the second line of the song before Spector yelled at her to stop -- "THAT is the voice I've been looking for!" The Ronettes' first recordings for Spector weren't actually issued as by the Ronettes at all. To start with, he had them record a version of a song by the writing team of Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, "Why Don't They Let Us Fall In Love?", but didn't release it at the time. It was later released as by "Veronica", the name under which he released solo records by Ronnie: [Excerpt: Veronica, "Why Don't They Let Us Fall In Love?"] But at the time, when Ronnie asked him when the record was coming out, Spector answered "Never". He explained to her that it was a good record, but it wasn't a number one, and he was still working on their first number one record. Their next few recordings were covers of then-current dance hits, like "The Twist": [Excerpt, "The Crystals", "The Twist"] And "The Wah-Watusi", one of the few times that one of the other Ronettes took the lead rather than Ronnie, as Nedra sang lead: [Excerpt, "The Crystals", "The Wah-Watusi"] But these, and two other tracks, were released as album tracks on a Crystals album, credited to the Crystals rather than the Ronettes. The song that eventually became the group's first hit, "Be My Baby", was mostly written by one of the many husband-and-wife songwriting teams that had developed at the Brill Building, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich. Barry had started out as a performer who occasionally wrote, putting out records like "It's Called Rock and Roll": [Excerpt: Jeff Barry, "It's Called Rock and Roll"] But while his performing career had gone nowhere, he'd started to have some success as a songwriter, writing "Teenage Sonata" for Sam Cooke: [Excerpt: Sam Cooke, "Teenage Sonata"] And "Tell Laura I Love Her", which was recorded by several people, but the biggest hit version was the American number one by Ray Peterson: [Excerpt: Ray Peterson, "Tell Laura I Love Her"] Ellie Greenwich had also started as a performer, recording "Silly Isn't It?" under the name Ellie Gaye: [Excerpt: Ellie Gaye, "Silly, Isn't It?"] She'd become one of the most important demo singers in New York, and had also started writing songs. She'd first collaborated with Doc Pomus, cowriting songs like "This is It", which had been a flop single for Jay and the Americans: [Excerpt: Jay and the Americans, "This is It"] She'd then been taken on by Trio Music, Leiber and Stoller's company, where she had largely collaborated with another writer named Tony Powers. Trio had first refusal on anything the two of them wrote, and if Leiber and Stoller didn't like it, they could take the song elsewhere. Greenwich and Powers had their biggest successes with songs that Leiber and Stoller rejected, which they sold to Aaron Schroeder. And they'd started up a collaboration with Phil Spector -- although Spector and Greenwich's first meeting had not exactly gone smoothly. He'd gone into her office to hear her play a song that she thought would be suitable for the Paris Sisters, but had kept wandering out of the office, and had kept looking at himself in a mirror and primping himself rather than listen to her song. Eventually she said to him  "Listen to me, you little prick. Did you come to look at yourself or to hear my songs?", and she didn't make that sale. But later on, Spector became interested in a song she'd sold to Schroeder, and made an appointment to meet her and talk about her writing some stuff for him -- that second meeting, which Spector didn't realise was with someone he'd already made a bad impression on, Spector turned up four hours late.  But despite that, Greenwich and Powers wrote several songs for Spector, who was also given songwriting credit, and which became big hits in versions he produced -- "(Today I Met) The Boy I'm Gonna Marry", a single by Darlene Love: [Excerpt: Darlene Love, "(Today I Met) The Boy I'm Gonna Marry"] And "Why Do Lovers Break Each Others' Hearts?", released as by Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, but with Love once again on lead vocals: [Excerpt: Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, "Why Do Lovers Break Each Others' Hearts?"] I say that Spector was also given songwriting credit on those records, because there is some debate about how much he contributed to the songs he's credited on. Some of his co-writers have said that he would often only change a word or a phrase, and get himself cut in on an already-completed song, while others have said that he contributed a reasonable amount to the songwriting, though he was never the primary writer -- for example Barry Mann has said that Spector came up with the middle section for "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'". I tend towards the belief that Spector's contribution to the writing on those songs he's co-credited on was minimal -- in his whole career, the number of songs he wrote on his own seems to be in the single figures, while those other writers wrote dozens of hit records without any contribution from Spector -- and so when I talk about records he produced I'll tend to use phrasing like "a Goffin and King song co-credited to Phil Spector" rather than "a song by Goffin, King, and Spector", but I don't want that to give the impression that I'm certain Spector made no contribution.  But while Greenwich and Powers were a mildly successful team, their partnership ended when Greenwich met Jeff Barry at a family Thanksgiving dinner -- Greenwich's uncle was Barry's cousin. As Greenwich later put it, when they started talking together about music and realised how much they had in common, "I went 'ooh', he went 'mmmhh', and his wife went 'I don't think I like this'". Soon their previous partnerships, both romantic and musical, were over, and Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich became the third of the great Brill Building husband-and-wife songwriting teams.  Where Goffin and King had a sophisticated edge to their writing, with a hint of sexual subversion and the mingling of pain and pleasure, and Mann and Weill tried to incorporate social comment into their songs, Barry and Greenwich were happy to be silly -- they were writing songs like "Hanky Panky", "Da Doo Ron Ron",  and "Doo Wah Diddy Diddy": [Excerpt: Ellie Greenwich "Doo Wah Diddy Diddy (demo)"] This worked extremely well for them, to the extent that after they broke up a few years later, Barry would continue this formula with songs such as "Sugar Sugar", "Jingle Jangle" and "Bang Shang A Lang". Barry and Greenwich's style was to jam in as many hooks as possible, maybe put in a joke or two, keep the lyrics simple, and get out in two minutes. Very few of their songs were masterpieces of songwriting, but they *were* absolutely perfect templates for masterpieces of production. It sounds like I'm damning them with faint praise, but I'm really not. There is a huge skill involved in what they were doing -- if you're writing some heartwrenching masterpiece about the human condition, people will forgive the odd lapse in craft, but if you're writing "My baby does the hanky panky", there's no margin for error, and you're not going to get forgiven if you mess it up.  Barry and Greenwich were good enough at this that they became the go-to writers for Spector for the next couple of years. He would record songs by most of the Brill Building teams, but when you think of the classic records Spector produced, they're far more likely than not to be Barry and Greenwich songs -- of the twenty-seven Philles singles released after Barry and Greenwich started writing together, fourteen are credited to Barry/Greenwich/Spector, and other than the joke release "Let's Dance the Screw", which we talked about back in the episode on the Crystals, there's a run of eleven singles released on the label between late 1962 and early 1964 which are credited either as Greenwich/Powers/Spector or Barry/Greenwich/Spector. And so it was naturally to Barry and Greenwich that Spector turned to write the first big hit for the Ronettes -- and he let Ronnie hear the writing session. By this time, Spector had become romantically involved with Ronnie, and he invited her into his apartment to sit in the next room and listen to them working on the song -- usually they got together in hotels rather than at Spector's home. While she was there, she found several pairs of women's shoes -- Spector hadn't told her he was married, and claimed to her when she asked that they belonged to his sister. This should probably have been a sign of things to come. Assuming that Spector did contribute to the writing, I think it's easy to tell what he brought to “Be My Baby”. If you listen to that Connie Francis record I excerpted earlier, on which Spector is also a credited co-writer, the melody line for the line “that you don't feel the same” leading into the chorus: [Excerpt: Connie Francis, “Second-Hand Love”] is identical to the melody line leading into the chorus of “Be My Baby”: [Excerpt: The Ronettes, “Be My Baby”] So that transition between the verse and the chorus is likely his work. After rehearsing Ronnie for several weeks in New York, Spector flew her out to LA to make the record in Gold Star Studios, where she spent three days recording the lead vocals. The backing vocals weren't provided by the other Ronettes, but rather by the Blossoms, with a few extra singers -- notably Spector's assistant Sonny Bono, and his new girlfriend Cher -- but what really made the track was not the vocals -- although the song was perfect for Ronnie -- but Hal Blaine's drum intro: [Excerpt: The Ronettes, "Be My Baby"] That intro was utterly simple -- Blaine was always a minimalist player, someone who would play for the song rather than play fussy fills -- but that simple part, combined with the powerful sound that the engineer Larry Levine got, was enough to make it one of the most memorable intros in rock music history. Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys talks to this day about how he had to pull over to the side of the road when he first heard it on his car radio, and he would listen to the record incessantly for hours at a time. Incidentally, since I'm talking about the musicians, a lot of sources credit Carol Kaye for playing the bass on this track, so I'm going to say something once, here, which should be taken as read whenever I'm talking about records made in LA in the sixties -- Carol Kaye is not only an unreliable source about what records she played on, she is an utterly dishonest one. For those who don't know, Ms. Kaye was one of the great bass players of the sixties, and also one of the better session guitarists. She played on hundreds of records in the sixties, including many, many, classics from the Beach Boys, Spector, Frank Zappa, and others, and she was the only woman getting regular session work in LA on a rock instrument -- there may have been session orchestral musicians who were women, but when it comes to guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, sax, and so on, she was the only one. For that, she deserves a huge amount of credit. Unfortunately, she has never been happy only being credited for the records she actually played on, and insists she played on many, many, more. Some of this can be reasonably put down to lapses in memory more than fifty years later -- if you're playing two or three sessions a day, and you play on a bunch of Beach Boys records, then it's easy enough to misremember having played on "Surfin' USA" when maybe you played on a similar-sounding record, and there are things like her claiming to have played on "Good Vibrations", where there were multiple sessions for that track, and it happened that the takes eventually used weren't the ones where she was playing bass, but she had no way of knowing that. That's completely forgivable. But Ms. Kaye also claims, with no evidence whatsoever on her side and a great deal of evidence against her, to have been responsible for playing almost the entire recorded works of James Jamerson, Motown's main bass player, claiming tapes were secretly shipped from Detroit to LA -- something that has been denied by every single person working at Motown, and which can be easily disproved just by listening to the tapes. She claims to have played the bass on "I'm a Believer" by the Monkees -- a track recorded in New York, by New York musicians. And whenever anyone points out the falsehoods, rather than saying "I may have made a mistake" she hurls abuse at them, and in some cases libels them on her website. So, Carol Kaye did not play on this record, and we know that because we have the AFM session sheets, which show that the bass players on the track were Ray Pohlman and Jimmy Bond. I'll link a PDF of that sheet in the show notes. So in future, when I mention someone other than Carol Kaye playing on a song, and Wikipedia or somewhere says she played on it, bear this in mind. Two people who did play on the record were Bill Pitman and Tommy Tedesco, and this is why the B-side, an instrumental, is named "Tedesco and Pitman". Spector was enough of a control freak that he didn't want DJs ever to play the wrong side of his singles, so he stuck instrumental jam sessions by the studio musicians -- with the songwriting credited to him rather than to them -- on the B-sides. I don't know about you, but I actually quite like "Tedesco and Pitman", but then I've always had a soft spot for the vibraphone: [Excerpt: "The Ronettes" (The Wrecking Crew), Tedesco and Pitman"] "Be My Baby" was a massive hit -- it went to number one on the Cashbox chart, though only number two on the Billboard chart, and sold millions of copies. The group were invited on to Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars tour, but Spector wanted Ronnie to be in California to record the follow-up, so the girls' cousin Elaine filled in for her for the first couple of weeks of the tour, while Ronnie recorded another Barry, Greenwich and Spector song, "Baby I Love You": [Excerpt: The Ronettes, "Baby I Love You"] Ronnie didn't realise it at the time, but Spector was trying to isolate her from the other group members, and from her family. But at first this seemed to her like a sensible way of solving the problem, and she rejoined the tour after the record was made. Soon after this, the group travelled to the UK for a brief tour in early 1964, during which they became friendly with the Beatles -- Ronnie had a brief chaste flirtation with John Lennon, and Estelle something a little more with George Harrison. They also got to know their support act on the tour, the Rolling Stones -- at least once Ronnie had had a row with Andrew Loog Oldham, as Spector had sent a telegram forbidding the Rolling Stones from spending time with the Ronettes. Once Ronnie pointed out that they were there and Spector wasn't, the two groups became very friendly -- and more than friendly, if Keith Richards' autobiography is to be believed. On their return to the US, they continued having hits through 1964 -- nothing was as big as "Be My Baby", but they had three more top forty hits that year, with two mediocre records, "The Best Part of Breaking Up" and "Do I Love You?", co-written by the team of Pete Andreoli and Vini Poncia, and then a return to form with the magnificent "Walking in the Rain", written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill: [Excerpt: The Ronettes Featuring Veronica, "Walking in the Rain"] But Spector was becoming more and more erratic in his personal life, and more and more controlling. I won't go into too many details here, because we're going to see a lot more of Phil Spector over the next year or so, but he recorded many great records with the Ronettes which he refused to release, claiming they weren't quite right -- Ronnie has later realised that he was probably trying to sabotage their career so he could have her all to himself, though at the time she didn't know that. Neither of the two singles they did release in 1965 made the top fifty, and the one single they released in 1966, a return to songs by Barry and Greenwich, only made number one hundred, for one week: [Excerpt: The Ronettes, "I Can Hear Music"] Also in 1966, the Ronettes were invited by the Beatles to be their support act on their last ever tour, but once again Spector insisted that Ronnie couldn't go, because she needed to be in the studio, so Elaine substituted for her again, much to the Beatles' disappointment. Nothing from the studio sessions during that tour was released. The group broke up in 1967, and the next year Ronnie married Phil Spector, who became ever more controlling and abusive. I won't go into details of the way he treated her, which you can read all about in her autobiography, but suffice to say that I was completely unsurprised when he murdered a woman in 2003. You'll probably get some idea of his behaviours when I talk about him in future episodes, but what Ronnie suffered in the years they were together was something no-one should have to go through. By the time she managed to leave him, in June 1972, she had only released one track in years, a song that George Harrison had written for her called "Try Some, Buy Some", which Spector had recorded with her at Harrison's insistence, during a period when Spector was working with several of the ex-Beatles and trying to rebuild his own career on the back of them: [Excerpt: Ronnie Spector, "Try Some, Buy Some"] Neither Ronnie nor Spector were particularly keen on the track, and it was a commercial flop -- although John Lennon later said that the track had inspired his "Happy Xmas (War is Over)". Ronnie eventually escaped from Spector's abuse -- leaving the house barefoot, as Spector had stolen her shoes so she couldn't leave -- and started to build a new life for herself, though she would struggle with alcoholism for many years. She got nothing in their divorce settlement, as Spector threatened to hire a hit man to kill her if she tried to get anything from him, and she made a living by touring the nostalgia circuit with various new lineups of Ronettes -- the others having given up on their music careers -- and while she never had another hit, she did have a recording career. Her solo career got its proper start because of a chance meeting in New York. Her old friend John Lennon saw her on the street and called her over for a chat, and introduced her to the friend he was with, Jimmy Iovine, who was producing an album for Southside Johnny and the Asbury Dukes. Bruce Springsteen had written a song for that band, and Iovine thought it might work well as a duet with Ronnie, and he invited her to the studio that day, and she cut the song with them: [Excerpt: Southside Johnny and the Asbury Dukes, "You Mean So Much To Me"] That song became one of the most popular songs on the album, and so when the Asbury Dukes toured supporting Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band, they brought Ronnie along with them to sing on that song and do a couple of her own hits. That led to the E-Street Band themselves backing Ronnie on a single -- a version of Billy Joel's "Say Goodbye to Hollywood", a song that Joel had written with her in mind: [Excerpt: Ronnie Spector and the E-Street Band, "Say Goodbye to Hollywood"] However, that was a flop, and so were all her later attempts to have comebacks, though she worked with some great musicians over the years. But she was able to continue having a career as a performer, even if she never returned to stardom, and she never made much money from her hits. She did, though, sing on one more top-ten hit, singing backing vocals on Eddie Money's "Take Me Home Tonight": [Excerpt: Eddie Money, "Take Me Home Tonight"] Phil Spector continued to earn money from his ex-wife for a long time after their divorce. By 1998, when the Ronettes finally sued Spector for unpaid royalties, they had earned, between them, a total of $14,482.30 in royalties from all their hit records -- the amount that came from a single 1964 royalty payment. In court, Spector argued that he didn't owe them any more, and indeed that *they* still owed *him* money, because the cost of recording their singles meant that they had never actually earned more money than they cost. Eventually, after a series of appeals, the group members each got about half a million dollars in 2002 -- obviously a great deal of money, but a small fraction of what they actually earned. Spector, who was on the board of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, prevented the Ronettes from being inducted out of spite towards his ex until he was imprisoned, at which point they were finally recognised, in 2007.  Ronnie continues to perform, and seems to have a happy life. Estelle, sadly, did not -- she suffered from anorexia and schizophrenia, spent a period of time homeless, and died in 2009. Nedra became a born-again Christian shortly after the group split up, and recorded a couple of unsuccessful albums of Christian music in the seventies, before going off to work in real estate. In September last year, it was announced that a film is going to be made of Ronnie Spector's life story.  It's nice to know that there'll be something out there telling her story with her as the protagonist, rather than as a background character in the story of her abusive husband.

A History Of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs
Episode 110: “Be My Baby” by the Ronettes

A History Of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs

Play Episode Listen Later Jan 9, 2021


  Episode 110 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “Be My Baby”, and at the career of the Ronettes and Ronnie Spector.  Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode.   Patreon backers also have a ten-minute bonus episode available, on “Little Saint Nick” by the Beach Boys. Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust and http://sitcomclub.com/ —-more—- Erratum I say Ray Peterson’s version of “Tell Laura I Love Her” was an American number one. It wasn’t — it only made number seven.   Resources As always, I’ve created a Mixcloud streaming playlist with full versions of all the songs in the episode. A lot of resources were used for this episode. Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara Miniskirts and Madness, or My Life as a Fabulous Ronette by Ronnie Spector and Vince Waldron is Ronnie’s autobiography and was the main source. Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era by Ken Emerson is a good overview of the Brill Building scene, and provided me with the information on Barry and Greenwich. I’ve referred to two biographies of Spector in this episode, Phil Spector: Out of His Head by Richard Williams and He’s a Rebel by Mark Ribkowsky. And information on the Wrecking Crew largely comes from The Wrecking Crew by Kent Hartman. There are many compilations available with some of the hits Spector produced, but I recommend getting Back to Mono, a four-CD overview of his career containing all the major singles put out by Philles. If you want something just covering Ronnie Spector and the Ronettes, The Very Best of Ronnie Spector  covers all the Ronettes hits and the best of her solo career. And the AFM contract listing the musicians on “Be My Baby” can be found here.   Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript Today we’re going to take a look at the record that, more than anything, ensured Phil Spector’s place in popular music history — a record that changed the lives of several people who heard it for the better, and changed the life of its singer for the worse, and one which has the most imitated drum intro in the world. We’re going to look at “Be My Baby” by the Ronettes: [Excerpt: The Ronettes, “Be My Baby”] Before I start this one, two things need saying. The first is that this episode, by necessity, deals with spousal abuse. As always, I will try to discuss the issue with sensitivity, and touch on it as briefly as possible, but if you worry that it might upset you, please either skip this episode, or read the transcript to see if you’ll be OK listening to it. I imagine that very few people will be upset by anything I say here, but it’s always a possibility. And secondly, I’d like to apologise for this episode being so late. I had a major disruption in my personal life over Christmas — one of those really bad life events that only happens once or twice in most people’s lifetimes — and that made it impossible for me to get any work done at all for the last couple of weeks. I’m now able to work again, and this should not be anything that affects the podcast for the rest of the year. Anyway, enough about that, let’s get on with the story. The story of the Ronettes begins when Ronnie Bennett, a mixed-race girl from Harlem, became obsessed with the sound of Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers: [Excerpt: Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, “Why Do Fools Fall In Love?”] Ronnie became the Teenagers’ biggest fan, and even managed to arrange a meeting between herself and Lymon when they were both thirteen, but had her illusions torn away when he turned up drunk and made a pass at her. But that didn’t stop her from trying her best to imitate Lymon’s vocals, and forming a vocal group with several friends and relatives. That group had a male lead singer, but when they made their first appearance on one of the Harlem Apollo’s talent shows, the lead singer got stage fright and couldn’t start singing when he got on stage. Ronnie stepped forward and took over the lead vocal, and the group went down well enough even with the Apollo’s notoriously hostile audience that a smaller group of them decided to start performing regularly together. The group took the name Ronnie and the Relatives, and consisted of Ronnie, her sister Estelle, and their cousin Nedra Talley. They originally only performed at private parties, bar mitzvahs and the like, but they soon reached the attention of Stu Phillips at Colpix Records, a label owned by the film studio Columbia Pictures. The first single by Ronnie and the Relatives was not a success — “I Want a Boy” came out in August 1961 and didn’t chart: [Excerpt: Ronnie and the Relatives, “I Want a Boy”] And nor did their second, “I’m Gonna Quit While I’m Ahead”: [Excerpt: Ronnie and the Relatives, “I’m Gonna Quit While I’m Ahead”] Those records did apparently sell to at least one person, though, as when Ronnie met President Clinton in 1997, he asked her to sign a record, and specifically got her to sign an album of those early recordings for Colpix. While the girls were not having any commercial success, they did manage to accidentally get themselves a regular gig at the most important nightclub in New York. They went to the Peppermint Lounge, just as the Twist craze was at its height, and as they were underage they dressed up especially well in order to make themselves look more grown up so they could get in. Their ruse worked better than they expected. As they were all dressed the same, the club’s manager assumed they were the dancers he’d booked, who hadn’t shown up. He came out and told them to get on stage and start dancing, and so of course they did what he said, and started dancing to the Twist sounds of Joey Dee and the Starliters: [Excerpt: Joey Dee and the Starliters, “The Peppermint Twist”] The girls’ dancing went down well, and then the band started playing “What’d I Say?”, a favourite song of Ronnie’s and one the group did in their own act, and Ronnie danced over to David Brigati, who was singing lead on the song, and started dancing close to him. He handed her the mic as a joke, and she took over the song. They got a regular spot at the Peppermint Lounge, dancing behind the Starliters for their whole show and joining them on vocals for a few numbers every night. Inspired by the Bobbettes and the Marvelettes, Ronnie and Estelle’s mother suggested changing the group’s name. She suggested “the Rondettes”, and they dropped the “d”, becoming the Ronettes. The singles they released on ColPix under the new name did no better than the others, but they were such an important part of the Peppermint Lounge that when the Lounge’s owners opened a second venue in Florida, the girls went down there with the Starliters and were part of the show.  That trip to Florida gave them two very different experiences. The first was that they got to see segregation firsthand for the first time, and they didn’t like it — especially when they, as light-skinned mixed-race women, were read as tanned white women and served in restaurants which then refused to serve their darker-skinned mothers. But the second was far more positive. They met Murray the K, who since Alan Freed had been driven out of his job had become the most popular DJ in New York. Murray was down in Florida for a holiday, and was impressed enough by the girls’ dancing that he told them if they were ever in New York and wanted a spot on one of his regular shows at the Brooklyn Fox Theatre they should let him know. They replied that they lived in New York and went to those shows all the time — of course they wanted to perform on his shows. They became regular performers at the Brooklyn Fox, where they danced between the other, bigger, acts, sang backing vocals, did a song or two themselves, and took part in comedy sketches with Murray. It was at these shows, as well, that they developed the look they would become famous with — huge hair piled up on top of their heads, tons of mascara, and tight skirts slit to show their legs. It was a style inspired by street fashion rather than by what the other girl groups were wearing, and it made them incredibly popular with the Fox audience. But the Ronettes, even under their new name, and even with the backing of New York’s most prominent DJ, were still not selling any records. They knew they were good, and the reaction to their stage performances proved as much, so they decided that the problem must be with Colpix. And so in 1963 they made a New Year’s resolution — they were going to get Phil Spector to produce them.  By this time, Spector was becoming very well known in the music industry as a hit maker. We already saw in the recent episode on the Crystals how he was making hits for that group and the Blossoms, but he was also making hits with studio groups like Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, who he took into the top ten with a remake of the old Disney song “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah”: [Excerpt: Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah”] and as well as the records he was putting out on Philles, he was also working as a freelance producer for people like Connie Francis, producing her top ten hit “Second-Hand Love”: [Excerpt: Connie Francis, “Second-Hand Love”] So the Ronettes were convinced that he could make them into the stars they knew they had the potential to be. The group had no idea how to get in touch with Spector, so they tried the direct route — Estelle called directory enquiries, got the number for Philles Records, and called and asked to be put through to Spector. She was as astonished as anyone when he agreed to talk to her — and it turned out that he’d seen the group regularly at the Brooklyn Fox and was interested in working with them.  At their audition for Spector, the group first performed a close-harmony version of “When the Red Red Robin Goes Bob-Bob-Bobbin’ Along”, which they’d been taught by their singing teacher. Spector told them that he wanted to hear what they did when they were singing for themselves, not for a teacher, and so Ronnie launched into “Why Do Fools Fall In Love?”  It only took her getting to the second line of the song before Spector yelled at her to stop — “THAT is the voice I’ve been looking for!” The Ronettes’ first recordings for Spector weren’t actually issued as by the Ronettes at all. To start with, he had them record a version of a song by the writing team of Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, “Why Don’t They Let Us Fall In Love?”, but didn’t release it at the time. It was later released as by “Veronica”, the name under which he released solo records by Ronnie: [Excerpt: Veronica, “Why Don’t They Let Us Fall In Love?”] But at the time, when Ronnie asked him when the record was coming out, Spector answered “Never”. He explained to her that it was a good record, but it wasn’t a number one, and he was still working on their first number one record. Their next few recordings were covers of then-current dance hits, like “The Twist”: [Excerpt, “The Crystals”, “The Twist”] And “The Wah-Watusi”, one of the few times that one of the other Ronettes took the lead rather than Ronnie, as Nedra sang lead: [Excerpt, “The Crystals”, “The Wah-Watusi”] But these, and two other tracks, were released as album tracks on a Crystals album, credited to the Crystals rather than the Ronettes. The song that eventually became the group’s first hit, “Be My Baby”, was mostly written by one of the many husband-and-wife songwriting teams that had developed at the Brill Building, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich. Barry had started out as a performer who occasionally wrote, putting out records like “It’s Called Rock and Roll”: [Excerpt: Jeff Barry, “It’s Called Rock and Roll”] But while his performing career had gone nowhere, he’d started to have some success as a songwriter, writing “Teenage Sonata” for Sam Cooke: [Excerpt: Sam Cooke, “Teenage Sonata”] And “Tell Laura I Love Her”, which was recorded by several people, but the biggest hit version was the American number one by Ray Peterson: [Excerpt: Ray Peterson, “Tell Laura I Love Her”] Ellie Greenwich had also started as a performer, recording “Silly Isn’t It?” under the name Ellie Gaye: [Excerpt: Ellie Gaye, “Silly, Isn’t It?”] She’d become one of the most important demo singers in New York, and had also started writing songs. She’d first collaborated with Doc Pomus, cowriting songs like “This is It”, which had been a flop single for Jay and the Americans: [Excerpt: Jay and the Americans, “This is It”] She’d then been taken on by Trio Music, Leiber and Stoller’s company, where she had largely collaborated with another writer named Tony Powers. Trio had first refusal on anything the two of them wrote, and if Leiber and Stoller didn’t like it, they could take the song elsewhere. Greenwich and Powers had their biggest successes with songs that Leiber and Stoller rejected, which they sold to Aaron Schroeder. And they’d started up a collaboration with Phil Spector — although Spector and Greenwich’s first meeting had not exactly gone smoothly. He’d gone into her office to hear her play a song that she thought would be suitable for the Paris Sisters, but had kept wandering out of the office, and had kept looking at himself in a mirror and primping himself rather than listen to her song. Eventually she said to him  “Listen to me, you little prick. Did you come to look at yourself or to hear my songs?”, and she didn’t make that sale. But later on, Spector became interested in a song she’d sold to Schroeder, and made an appointment to meet her and talk about her writing some stuff for him — that second meeting, which Spector didn’t realise was with someone he’d already made a bad impression on, Spector turned up four hours late.  But despite that, Greenwich and Powers wrote several songs for Spector, who was also given songwriting credit, and which became big hits in versions he produced — “(Today I Met) The Boy I’m Gonna Marry”, a single by Darlene Love: [Excerpt: Darlene Love, “(Today I Met) The Boy I’m Gonna Marry”] And “Why Do Lovers Break Each Others’ Hearts?”, released as by Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, but with Love once again on lead vocals: [Excerpt: Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, “Why Do Lovers Break Each Others’ Hearts?”] I say that Spector was also given songwriting credit on those records, because there is some debate about how much he contributed to the songs he’s credited on. Some of his co-writers have said that he would often only change a word or a phrase, and get himself cut in on an already-completed song, while others have said that he contributed a reasonable amount to the songwriting, though he was never the primary writer — for example Barry Mann has said that Spector came up with the middle section for “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'”. I tend towards the belief that Spector’s contribution to the writing on those songs he’s co-credited on was minimal — in his whole career, the number of songs he wrote on his own seems to be in the single figures, while those other writers wrote dozens of hit records without any contribution from Spector — and so when I talk about records he produced I’ll tend to use phrasing like “a Goffin and King song co-credited to Phil Spector” rather than “a song by Goffin, King, and Spector”, but I don’t want that to give the impression that I’m certain Spector made no contribution.  But while Greenwich and Powers were a mildly successful team, their partnership ended when Greenwich met Jeff Barry at a family Thanksgiving dinner — Greenwich’s uncle was Barry’s cousin. As Greenwich later put it, when they started talking together about music and realised how much they had in common, “I went ‘ooh’, he went ‘mmmhh’, and his wife went ‘I don’t think I like this'”. Soon their previous partnerships, both romantic and musical, were over, and Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich became the third of the great Brill Building husband-and-wife songwriting teams.  Where Goffin and King had a sophisticated edge to their writing, with a hint of sexual subversion and the mingling of pain and pleasure, and Mann and Weill tried to incorporate social comment into their songs, Barry and Greenwich were happy to be silly — they were writing songs like “Hanky Panky”, “Da Doo Ron Ron”,  and “Doo Wah Diddy Diddy”: [Excerpt: Ellie Greenwich “Doo Wah Diddy Diddy (demo)”] This worked extremely well for them, to the extent that after they broke up a few years later, Barry would continue this formula with songs such as “Sugar Sugar”, “Jingle Jangle” and “Bang Shang A Lang”. Barry and Greenwich’s style was to jam in as many hooks as possible, maybe put in a joke or two, keep the lyrics simple, and get out in two minutes. Very few of their songs were masterpieces of songwriting, but they *were* absolutely perfect templates for masterpieces of production. It sounds like I’m damning them with faint praise, but I’m really not. There is a huge skill involved in what they were doing — if you’re writing some heartwrenching masterpiece about the human condition, people will forgive the odd lapse in craft, but if you’re writing “My baby does the hanky panky”, there’s no margin for error, and you’re not going to get forgiven if you mess it up.  Barry and Greenwich were good enough at this that they became the go-to writers for Spector for the next couple of years. He would record songs by most of the Brill Building teams, but when you think of the classic records Spector produced, they’re far more likely than not to be Barry and Greenwich songs — of the twenty-seven Philles singles released after Barry and Greenwich started writing together, fourteen are credited to Barry/Greenwich/Spector, and other than the joke release “Let’s Dance the Screw”, which we talked about back in the episode on the Crystals, there’s a run of eleven singles released on the label between late 1962 and early 1964 which are credited either as Greenwich/Powers/Spector or Barry/Greenwich/Spector. And so it was naturally to Barry and Greenwich that Spector turned to write the first big hit for the Ronettes — and he let Ronnie hear the writing session. By this time, Spector had become romantically involved with Ronnie, and he invited her into his apartment to sit in the next room and listen to them working on the song — usually they got together in hotels rather than at Spector’s home. While she was there, she found several pairs of women’s shoes — Spector hadn’t told her he was married, and claimed to her when she asked that they belonged to his sister. This should probably have been a sign of things to come. Assuming that Spector did contribute to the writing, I think it’s easy to tell what he brought to “Be My Baby”. If you listen to that Connie Francis record I excerpted earlier, on which Spector is also a credited co-writer, the melody line for the line “that you don’t feel the same” leading into the chorus: [Excerpt: Connie Francis, “Second-Hand Love”] is identical to the melody line leading into the chorus of “Be My Baby”: [Excerpt: The Ronettes, “Be My Baby”] So that transition between the verse and the chorus is likely his work. After rehearsing Ronnie for several weeks in New York, Spector flew her out to LA to make the record in Gold Star Studios, where she spent three days recording the lead vocals. The backing vocals weren’t provided by the other Ronettes, but rather by the Blossoms, with a few extra singers — notably Spector’s assistant Sonny Bono, and his new girlfriend Cher — but what really made the track was not the vocals — although the song was perfect for Ronnie — but Hal Blaine’s drum intro: [Excerpt: The Ronettes, “Be My Baby”] That intro was utterly simple — Blaine was always a minimalist player, someone who would play for the song rather than play fussy fills — but that simple part, combined with the powerful sound that the engineer Larry Levine got, was enough to make it one of the most memorable intros in rock music history. Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys talks to this day about how he had to pull over to the side of the road when he first heard it on his car radio, and he would listen to the record incessantly for hours at a time. Incidentally, since I’m talking about the musicians, a lot of sources credit Carol Kaye for playing the bass on this track, so I’m going to say something once, here, which should be taken as read whenever I’m talking about records made in LA in the sixties — Carol Kaye is not only an unreliable source about what records she played on, she is an utterly dishonest one. For those who don’t know, Ms. Kaye was one of the great bass players of the sixties, and also one of the better session guitarists. She played on hundreds of records in the sixties, including many, many, classics from the Beach Boys, Spector, Frank Zappa, and others, and she was the only woman getting regular session work in LA on a rock instrument — there may have been session orchestral musicians who were women, but when it comes to guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, sax, and so on, she was the only one. For that, she deserves a huge amount of credit. Unfortunately, she has never been happy only being credited for the records she actually played on, and insists she played on many, many, more. Some of this can be reasonably put down to lapses in memory more than fifty years later — if you’re playing two or three sessions a day, and you play on a bunch of Beach Boys records, then it’s easy enough to misremember having played on “Surfin’ USA” when maybe you played on a similar-sounding record, and there are things like her claiming to have played on “Good Vibrations”, where there were multiple sessions for that track, and it happened that the takes eventually used weren’t the ones where she was playing bass, but she had no way of knowing that. That’s completely forgivable. But Ms. Kaye also claims, with no evidence whatsoever on her side and a great deal of evidence against her, to have been responsible for playing almost the entire recorded works of James Jamerson, Motown’s main bass player, claiming tapes were secretly shipped from Detroit to LA — something that has been denied by every single person working at Motown, and which can be easily disproved just by listening to the tapes. She claims to have played the bass on “I’m a Believer” by the Monkees — a track recorded in New York, by New York musicians. And whenever anyone points out the falsehoods, rather than saying “I may have made a mistake” she hurls abuse at them, and in some cases libels them on her website. So, Carol Kaye did not play on this record, and we know that because we have the AFM session sheets, which show that the bass players on the track were Ray Pohlman and Jimmy Bond. I’ll link a PDF of that sheet in the show notes. So in future, when I mention someone other than Carol Kaye playing on a song, and Wikipedia or somewhere says she played on it, bear this in mind. Two people who did play on the record were Bill Pitman and Tommy Tedesco, and this is why the B-side, an instrumental, is named “Tedesco and Pitman”. Spector was enough of a control freak that he didn’t want DJs ever to play the wrong side of his singles, so he stuck instrumental jam sessions by the studio musicians — with the songwriting credited to him rather than to them — on the B-sides. I don’t know about you, but I actually quite like “Tedesco and Pitman”, but then I’ve always had a soft spot for the vibraphone: [Excerpt: “The Ronettes” (The Wrecking Crew), Tedesco and Pitman”] “Be My Baby” was a massive hit — it went to number one on the Cashbox chart, though only number two on the Billboard chart, and sold millions of copies. The group were invited on to Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars tour, but Spector wanted Ronnie to be in California to record the follow-up, so the girls’ cousin Elaine filled in for her for the first couple of weeks of the tour, while Ronnie recorded another Barry, Greenwich and Spector song, “Baby I Love You”: [Excerpt: The Ronettes, “Baby I Love You”] Ronnie didn’t realise it at the time, but Spector was trying to isolate her from the other group members, and from her family. But at first this seemed to her like a sensible way of solving the problem, and she rejoined the tour after the record was made. Soon after this, the group travelled to the UK for a brief tour in early 1964, during which they became friendly with the Beatles — Ronnie had a brief chaste flirtation with John Lennon, and Estelle something a little more with George Harrison. They also got to know their support act on the tour, the Rolling Stones — at least once Ronnie had had a row with Andrew Loog Oldham, as Spector had sent a telegram forbidding the Rolling Stones from spending time with the Ronettes. Once Ronnie pointed out that they were there and Spector wasn’t, the two groups became very friendly — and more than friendly, if Keith Richards’ autobiography is to be believed. On their return to the US, they continued having hits through 1964 — nothing was as big as “Be My Baby”, but they had three more top forty hits that year, with two mediocre records, “The Best Part of Breaking Up” and “Do I Love You?”, co-written by the team of Pete Andreoli and Vini Poncia, and then a return to form with the magnificent “Walking in the Rain”, written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill: [Excerpt: The Ronettes Featuring Veronica, “Walking in the Rain”] But Spector was becoming more and more erratic in his personal life, and more and more controlling. I won’t go into too many details here, because we’re going to see a lot more of Phil Spector over the next year or so, but he recorded many great records with the Ronettes which he refused to release, claiming they weren’t quite right — Ronnie has later realised that he was probably trying to sabotage their career so he could have her all to himself, though at the time she didn’t know that. Neither of the two singles they did release in 1965 made the top fifty, and the one single they released in 1966, a return to songs by Barry and Greenwich, only made number one hundred, for one week: [Excerpt: The Ronettes, “I Can Hear Music”] Also in 1966, the Ronettes were invited by the Beatles to be their support act on their last ever tour, but once again Spector insisted that Ronnie couldn’t go, because she needed to be in the studio, so Elaine substituted for her again, much to the Beatles’ disappointment. Nothing from the studio sessions during that tour was released. The group broke up in 1967, and the next year Ronnie married Phil Spector, who became ever more controlling and abusive. I won’t go into details of the way he treated her, which you can read all about in her autobiography, but suffice to say that I was completely unsurprised when he murdered a woman in 2003. You’ll probably get some idea of his behaviours when I talk about him in future episodes, but what Ronnie suffered in the years they were together was something no-one should have to go through. By the time she managed to leave him, in June 1972, she had only released one track in years, a song that George Harrison had written for her called “Try Some, Buy Some”, which Spector had recorded with her at Harrison’s insistence, during a period when Spector was working with several of the ex-Beatles and trying to rebuild his own career on the back of them: [Excerpt: Ronnie Spector, “Try Some, Buy Some”] Neither Ronnie nor Spector were particularly keen on the track, and it was a commercial flop — although John Lennon later said that the track had inspired his “Happy Xmas (War is Over)”. Ronnie eventually escaped from Spector’s abuse — leaving the house barefoot, as Spector had stolen her shoes so she couldn’t leave — and started to build a new life for herself, though she would struggle with alcoholism for many years. She got nothing in their divorce settlement, as Spector threatened to hire a hit man to kill her if she tried to get anything from him, and she made a living by touring the nostalgia circuit with various new lineups of Ronettes — the others having given up on their music careers — and while she never had another hit, she did have a recording career. Her solo career got its proper start because of a chance meeting in New York. Her old friend John Lennon saw her on the street and called her over for a chat, and introduced her to the friend he was with, Jimmy Iovine, who was producing an album for Southside Johnny and the Asbury Dukes. Bruce Springsteen had written a song for that band, and Iovine thought it might work well as a duet with Ronnie, and he invited her to the studio that day, and she cut the song with them: [Excerpt: Southside Johnny and the Asbury Dukes, “You Mean So Much To Me”] That song became one of the most popular songs on the album, and so when the Asbury Dukes toured supporting Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band, they brought Ronnie along with them to sing on that song and do a couple of her own hits. That led to the E-Street Band themselves backing Ronnie on a single — a version of Billy Joel’s “Say Goodbye to Hollywood”, a song that Joel had written with her in mind: [Excerpt: Ronnie Spector and the E-Street Band, “Say Goodbye to Hollywood”] However, that was a flop, and so were all her later attempts to have comebacks, though she worked with some great musicians over the years. But she was able to continue having a career as a performer, even if she never returned to stardom, and she never made much money from her hits. She did, though, sing on one more top-ten hit, singing backing vocals on Eddie Money’s “Take Me Home Tonight”: [Excerpt: Eddie Money, “Take Me Home Tonight”] Phil Spector continued to earn money from his ex-wife for a long time after their divorce. By 1998, when the Ronettes finally sued Spector for unpaid royalties, they had earned, between them, a total of $14,482.30 in royalties from all their hit records — the amount that came from a single 1964 royalty payment. In court, Spector argued that he didn’t owe them any more, and indeed that *they* still owed *him* money, because the cost of recording their singles meant that they had never actually earned more money than they cost. Eventually, after a series of appeals, the group members each got about half a million dollars in 2002 — obviously a great deal of money, but a small fraction of what they actually earned. Spector, who was on the board of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, prevented the Ronettes from being inducted out of spite towards his ex until he was imprisoned, at which point they were finally recognised, in 2007.  Ronnie continues to perform, and seems to have a happy life. Estelle, sadly, did not — she suffered from anorexia and schizophrenia, spent a period of time homeless, and died in 2009. Nedra became a born-again Christian shortly after the group split up, and recorded a couple of unsuccessful albums of Christian music in the seventies, before going off to work in real estate. In September last year, it was announced that a film is going to be made of Ronnie Spector’s life story.  It’s nice to know that there’ll be something out there telling her story with her as the protagonist, rather than as a background character in the story of her abusive husband.

A History Of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs
Episode 104: "He's a Rebel" by "The Crystals"

A History Of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs

Play Episode Listen Later Nov 16, 2020 41:44


Episode 104 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at "He's a Rebel", and how a song recorded by the Blossoms was released under the name of the Crystals.  Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode.   Patreon backers also have a ten-minute bonus episode available, on "Sukiyaki" by Kyu Sakamoto. Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt's irregular podcasts at http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust and http://sitcomclub.com/ ----more---- Resources As always, I've created a Mixcloud streaming playlist with full versions of all the songs in the episode. A lot of resources were used for this episode. The material on Gene Pitney mostly comes from his page on This is My Story. Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era by Ken Emerson is a good overview of the Brill Building scene. Girl Groups by John Clemente contains potted biographies of many groups of the era, including articles on both The Crystals and the Blossoms. I've referred to two biographies of Spector in this episode, Phil Spector: Out of His Head by Richard Williams and He's a Rebel by Mark Ribkowsky. And information on the Wrecking Crew largely comes from The Wrecking Crew by Kent Hartman. There are many compilations available with some of the hits Spector produced, but I recommend getting Back to Mono, a four-CD overview of his career containing all the major singles put out by Philles.   Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript A brief note -- there are some very brief mentions of domestic abuse here. Nothing I think will upset anyone, but you might want to check the transcript if you're at all unsure. Up to this point, whenever we've looked at a girl group, it's been at one that had, to a greater or lesser extent, some control over their own career. Groups like the Marvelettes, the Chantels, and the Bobbettes all wrote their own material, at least at first, and had distinctive personalities before they ever made a record. But today, we're going to look at a group whose identity was so subsumed in that of their producer that the record we're looking at was released under the name of a different group from the one that recorded it. We're going to look at "He's a Rebel", which was recorded by the Blossoms and released by the Crystals. [Excerpt: “The Crystals” (The Blossoms), "He's a Rebel"] The Crystals, from their very beginnings, were intended as a vehicle for the dreams of men, rather than for their own ambitions. Whereas the girl groups we've looked at so far all formed as groups of friends at school before they moved into professional singing, the Crystals were put together by a man named Benny Wells. Wells had a niece, Barbara Alston, who sang with a couple of her schoolfriends, Mary Thomas and Myrna Giraud. Wells put those three together with two other girls, Dee Dee Kenniebrew and Patsy Wright, to form a five-piece vocal group. Wells seems not to have had much concept of what was in the charts at the time -- the descriptions of the music he had the girls singing talk about him wanting them to sound like the Modernaires, the vocal group who sang with Glenn Miller's band in the early 1940s. But the girls went along with Wells, and Wells had good enough ears to recognise a hit when one was brought to him -- and one was brought to him by Patsy Wright's brother-in-law, Leroy Bates. Bates had written a song called "There's No Other Like My Baby", and Wells could tell it had potential. Incidentally, some books say that the song was based on a gospel song called "There's No Other Like My Jesus", and that claim is repeated on Wikipedia, but I can't find any evidence of a song of that name other than people talking about "There's No Other Like My Baby". There is a gospel song called "There's No Other Name Like Jesus", but that has no obvious resemblance to Bates' song, and so I'm going to assume that the song was totally original. As well as bringing the song, Bates also brought the fledgling group a name -- he had a daughter, Crystal Bates, after whom the group named themselves. The newly-named Crystals took their song to the offices of Hill and Range Music, which as well as being a publishing company also owned Big Top Records, the label that had put out the original version of "Twist and Shout", which had so annoyed Bert Berns. And it was there that they ended up meeting up with Phil Spector. After leaving his role at Atlantic, Spector had started working as a freelance producer, including working for Big Top. According to Spector -- a notorious liar, it's important to remember -- he worked during this time on dozens of hits for which he didn't get any credit, just to earn money. But we do know about some of the records he produced during this time. For example, there was one by a new singer called Gene Pitney. Pitney had been knocking around for years, recording for Decca as part of a duo called Jamie and Jane: [Excerpt: Jamie and Jane, "Faithful Our Love"] And for Blaze Records as Billy Bryan: [Excerpt: Billy Bryan, "Going Back to My Love"] But he'd recently signed to Musicor, a label owned by Aaron Schroeder, and had recorded a hit under his own name. Pitney had written "(I Wanna) Love My Life Away", and had taken advantage of the new multitracking technology to record his vocals six times over, creating a unique sound that took the record into the top forty: [Excerpt: Gene Pitney, "(I Wanna) Love My Life Away"] But while that had been a hit, his second single for Musicor was a flop, and so for the third single, Musicor decided to pull out the big guns. They ran a session at which basically the whole of the Brill Building turned up. Leiber and Stoller were to produce a song they'd written for Pitney, the new hot husband-and-wife songwriting team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil were there, as was Burt Bacharach, and so were Goffin and King, who wrote the song that *Spector* was to produce for Pitney. All of them were in the control booth, and all of them were chipping in ideas. As you might expect with that many cooks, the session did not go smoothly, and to make matters worse, Pitney was suffering from a terrible cold. The session ended up costing thirteen thousand dollars, at a time when an average recording session cost five hundred dollars. On the song Spector was producing on that session, Goffin and King's "Every Breath I Take", Pitney knew that with the cold he would be completely unable to hit the last note in full voice, and went into falsetto. Luckily, everyone thought it sounded good, and he could pretend it was deliberate, rather than the result of necessity: [Excerpt: Gene Pitney, "Every Breath I Take"] The record only went to number forty-two, but it resuscitated Pitney's singing career, and forged a working relationship between the two men. But soon after that, Spector had flown back to LA to work with his old friend Lester Sill. Sill and producer/songwriter, Lee Hazelwood, had been making records with the guitarist Duane Eddy, producing a string of hits like “Rebel Rouser”: [Excerpt: Duane Eddy, "Rebel Rouser"] But Eddy had recently signed directly to a label, rather than going through Sill and Hazelwood's company as before, and so Sill and Hazelwood had been looking for new artists, and they'd recently signed a group called the Paris Sisters to their production company. Sill had decided to get Spector in to produce the group, and Spector came up with a production that Sill was sure would be a hit, on a song called "I Love How You Love Me", written by Barry Mann with another writer called Jack Keller: [Excerpt: The Paris Sisters, "I Love How You Love Me"] Spector was becoming a perfectionist -- he insisted on recording the rhythm track for that record at one studio, and the string part at another, and apparently spent fifty hours on the mix -- and Sill was spending more and more time in the studio with Spector, fascinated at his attitude to the work he was doing. This led to a breakup between Sill and Hazelwood -- their business relationship was already strained, but Hazelwood got jealous of all the time that Sill was spending with Spector, and decided to split their partnership and go and produce Duane Eddy, without Sill, at Eddy's new label. So Sill was suddenly in the market for a new business partner, and he and Spector decided that they were going to start up their own label, Philles, although by this point everyone who had ever worked with Spector was warning Sill that it was a bad idea to go into business with him. But Spector and Sill kept their intentions secret for a while, and so when Spector met the Crystals at Hill and Range's offices, everyone at Hill and Range just assumed that he was still working for them as a freelance producer, and that the Crystals were going to be recording for Big Top. Freddie Bienstock of Hill & Range later said, "We were very angry because we felt they were Big Top artists. He was merely supposed to produce them for us. There was no question about the fact that he was just rehearsing them for Big Top—hell, he rehearsed them for weeks in our offices. And then he just stole them right out of here. That precipitated a breach of contract with us. We were just incensed because that was a terrific group, and for him to do that shows the type of character he was. We felt he was less than ethical, and, obviously, he was then shown the door.” Bienstock had further words for Spector too, ones I can't repeat here because of content rules about adult language, but they weren't flattering. Spector had been dating Bienstock's daughter, with Bienstock's approval, but that didn't last once Spector betrayed Bienstock. But Spector didn't care. He had his own New York girl group, one that could compete with the Bobbettes or the Chantels or the Shirelles, and he was going to make the Crystals as big as any of them, and he wasn't going to cut Big Top in. He slowed down "There's No Other Like My Baby" and it became the first release on Philles Records, with Barbara Alston singing lead: [Excerpt: The Crystals, "There's No Other Like My Baby"] That record was cut late at night in June 1961. In fact it was cut on Prom Night -- three of the girls came straight to the session from their High School prom, still wearing their prom dresses. Spector wrote the B-side, a song that was originally intended to be the A-side called "Oh Yeah, Maybe Baby", but everyone quickly realised that "There's No Other Like My Baby" was the hit, and it made the top twenty. While Spector was waiting for the money to come in on the first Philles record, he took another job, with Liberty Records, working for his friend Snuff Garrett. He got a thirty thousand dollar advance, made a single flop record with them with an unknown singer named Obrey Wilson, and then quit, keeping his thirty thousand dollars. Once "There's No Other" made the charts, Spector took the Crystals into the studio again, to record a song by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil that he'd got from Aldon Music. Spector was becoming increasingly convinced that he'd made a mistake in partnering with Lester Sill, and he should really have been working with Don Kirshner, and he was in discussions with Kirshner which came to nothing about them having some sort of joint project. While those discussions fell through, almost all the songs that Spector would use for the next few years would come from Aldon songwriters, and "Uptown" was a perfect example of the new kind of socially-relevant pop songwriting that had been pioneered by Goffin and King, but which Mann and Weil were now making their own. Before becoming a professional songwriter, Weil had been part of the Greenwich Village folk scene, and while she wasn't going to write anything as explicitly political as the work of Pete Seeger, she thought that songs should at least try to be about the real world. "Uptown" was the first example of a theme which would become a major motif for the Crystals' records -- a song about a man who is looked down upon by society, but who the singer believes is better than his reputation. Mann and Weil's song combined that potent teen emotion with an inspiration Weil had had, seeing a handsome Black man pushing a hand truck in the Garment District, and realising that even though he was oppressed by his job, and "a nobody" when he was working downtown, he was still somebody when he was at home. They originally wrote the song for Tony Orlando to sing, but Spector insisted, rightly, that the song worked better with female voices, and that the Crystals should do it. Spector took Mann and Weil's song and gave it a production that evoked the Latin feel of Leiber and Stoller's records for the Drifters: [Excerpt: The Crystals, "Uptown"] By the time of this second record, the Crystals had already been through one lineup change. As soon as she left school, Myrna Giraud got married, and she didn't want to perform on stage any more. She would still sing with the girls in the studio for a little while -- she's on every track of their first album, though she left altogether soon after this recording -- but she was a married woman now and didn't want to be in a group.  The girls needed a replacement, and they also needed something else -- a lead singer. All the girls loved singing, but none of them wanted to be out in front singing lead. Luckily, Dee Dee Kenniebrew's mother was a secretary at the school attended by a fourteen-year-old gospel singer named La La Brooks, and she heard Brooks singing and invited her to join the group. Brooks soon became the group's lead vocalist on stage. But in the studio, Spector didn't want to use her as the lead vocalist. He insisted on Barbara singing the lead on "Uptown", but in a sign of things to come, Mann and Weil weren't happy with her performance -- Spector had to change parts of the melody to accommodate her range -- and they begged Spector to rerecord the lead vocal with Little Eva singing. However, Eva became irritated with Spector's incessant demands for more takes and his micromanagement, cursed him out, and walked out of the studio. The record was released with Barbara's original lead vocal, and while Mann and Weil weren't happy with that, listeners were, as it went to number thirteen on the charts: [Excerpt: The Crystals, "Uptown"] Little Eva later released her own version of the song, on the Dimension Dolls compilation we talked about in the episode on "The Loco-Motion": [Excerpt: Little Eva, "Uptown"] It was Little Eva who inspired the next Crystals single, as well -- as we talked about in the episode on her, she inspired a truly tasteless Goffin and King song called "He Hit Me And It Felt Like A Kiss", which I will not be excerpting, but which was briefly released as the Crystals' third single, before being withdrawn after people objected to hearing teenage girls sing about how romantic and loving domestic abuse is. There seems to be some suggestion that the record was released partly as a way for Spector to annoy Lester Sill, who by all accounts was furious at the release. Spector was angry at Sill over the amount of money he'd made from the Paris Sisters recordings, and decided that he was being treated unfairly and wanted to force Sill out of their partnership. Certainly the next recording by the Crystals was meant to get rid of some other business associates. Two of Philles' distributors had a contract which said they were entitled to the royalties on two Crystals singles. So the second one was a ten-minute song called "The Screw", split over two sides of a disc, which sounded like this: [Excerpt: The Crystals, "The Screw"] Only a handful of promotional copies of that were ever produced. One went to Lester Sill, who by this point had been bought out of his share of the company for a small fraction of what it was worth. The last single Spector recorded for Philles while Sill was still involved with the label was another Crystals record, one that had the involvement of many people Sill had brought into Spector's orbit, and who would continue working with him long after the two men stopped working together. Spector had decided he was going to start recording in California again, and two of Sill's assistants would become regular parts of Spector's new hit-making machine. The first of these was a composer and arranger called Jack Nitzsche, who we'll be seeing a lot more of in this podcast over the next couple of years, in some unexpected places. Nitzsche was a young songwriter, whose biggest credit up to this point was a very minor hit for Preston Epps, "Bongo, Bongo, Bongo": [Excerpt: Preston Epps, "Bongo Bongo Bongo"] Nitzsche would become Spector's most important collaborator, and his arrangements, as much as Spector's production, are what characterise the "Wall of Sound" for which Spector would become famous.  The other assistant of Sill's who became important to Spector's future was a saxophone player named Steve Douglas. We've seen Douglas before, briefly, in the episode on "LSD-25" -- he played in the original lineup of Kip and the Flips, one of the groups we talked about in that episode. He'd left Kip and the Flips to join Duane Eddy's band, and it was through Eddy that he had started working with Sill, when he played on many of Eddy's hits, most famously "Peter Gunn": [Excerpt: Duane Eddy, "Peter Gunn"] Douglas was the union contractor for the session, and for most of the rest of Spector's sixties sessions. This is something we've not talked about previously, but when we look at records produced in LA for the next few years, in particular, it's something that will come up a lot. When a producer wanted to make records at the time, he (for they were all men) would not contact all the musicians himself. Instead, he'd get in touch with a trusted musician and say "I have a session at three o'clock. I need two guitars, bass, drums, a clarinet and a cello" (or whatever combination of instruments), and sometimes might say, "If you can get this particular player, that would be good". The musician would then find out which other musicians were available, get them into the studio, and file the forms which made sure they got paid according to union rules. The contractor, not the producer, decided who was going to play on the session. In the case of this Crystals session, Spector already had a couple of musicians in mind -- a bass player named Ray Pohlman, and his old guitar teacher Howard Roberts, a jazz guitarist who had played on "To Know Him is to Love Him" and "I Love How You Love Me" for Spector already. But Spector wanted a *big* sound -- he wanted the rhythm instruments doubled, so there was a second bass player, Jimmy Bond, and a second guitarist, Tommy Tedesco. Along with them and Douglas were piano player Al de Lory and drummer Hal Blaine. This was the first session on which Spector used any of these musicians, and with the exception of Roberts, who hated working on Spector's sessions and soon stopped, this group put together by Douglas would become the core of what became known as "The Wrecking Crew", a loose group of musicians who would play on a large number of the hit records that would come out of LA in the sixties. Spector also had a guaranteed hit song -- one by Gene Pitney. While Pitney wrote few of his own records, he'd established himself a parallel career as a writer for other people. He'd written "Today's Teardrops", the B-side of Roy Orbison's hit "Blue Angel": [Excerpt: Roy Orbison, "Today's Teardrops"] And had followed that up with a couple of the biggest hits of the early sixties, Bobby Vee's "Rubber Ball": [Excerpt: Bobby Vee, "Rubber Ball"] And Ricky Nelson's "Hello Mary Lou": [Excerpt: Ricky Nelson, "Hello, Mary Lou"] Pitney had written a song, "He's a Rebel", that was very strongly inspired by "Uptown", and Aaron Schroeder, Pitney's publisher, had given the song to Spector. But Spector knew Schroeder, and knew that when he gave you a song, he was going to give it to every other producer who came knocking as well. "He's a Rebel" was definitely going to be a massive hit for someone, and he wanted it to be for the Crystals. He phoned them up and told them to come out to LA to record the song. And they said no. The Crystals had become sick of Spector. He'd made them record songs like "He Hit Me and it Felt Like a Kiss", he'd refused to let their lead singer sing lead, and they'd not seen any money from their two big hits. They weren't going to fly from New York to LA just because he said so. Spector needed a new group, in LA, that he could record doing the song before someone else did it. He could use the Crystals' name -- Philles had the right to put out records by whoever they liked and call it the Crystals -- he just needed a group. He found one in the Blossoms, a group who had connections to many of the people Spector was working with. Jack Nitzsche's wife sometimes sang with them on sessions, and they'd also sung on a Duane Eddy record that Lester Sill had worked on, "Dance With the Guitar Man", where they'd been credited as the Rebelettes: [Excerpt: Duane Eddy, "Dance With the Guitar Man"] The Blossoms had actually been making records in LA for nearly eight years at this point. They'd started out as the Dreamers one of the many groups who'd been discovered by Johnny Otis, back in the early fifties, and had also been part of the scene around the Penguins, one of whom went to school with some of the girls. They started out as a six-piece group, but slimmed down to a quartet after their first record, on which they were the backing group for Richard Berry: [Excerpt: Richard Berry, "At Last"] The first stable lineup of the Dreamers consisted of Fanita James, Gloria Jones (not the one who would later record "Tainted Love"), and the twin sisters Annette and Nanette Williams. They worked primarily with Berry, backing him on five singles in the mid fifties, and also recording songs he wrote for them under their own name, like "Do Not Forget", which actually featured another singer, Jennell Hawkins, on lead: [Excerpt: The Dreamers, "Do Not Forget"] They also sang backing vocals on plenty of other R&B records from people in the LA R&B scene -- for example it's them singing backing vocals, with Jesse Belvin, on Etta James' "Good Rocking Daddy": [Excerpt: Etta James, "Good Rocking Daddy"] The group signed to Capitol Records in 1957, but not under the name The Dreamers -- an executive there said that they all had different skin tones and it made them look like flowers, so they became the Blossoms. They were only at Capitol for a year, but during that time an important lineup change happened -- Nanette quit the group and was replaced by a singer called Darlene Wright. From that point on The Blossoms was the main name the group went under, though they also recorded under other names, for example using the name The Playgirls to record "Gee But I'm Lonesome", a song written by Bruce Johnston, who was briefly dating Annette Williams at the time: [Excerpt: The Playgirls, "Gee But I'm Lonesome"] By 1961 Annette had left the group, and they were down to a trio of Fanita, Gloria, and Darlene. Their records, under whatever name, didn't do very well, but they became the first-call session singers in LA, working on records by everyone from Sam Cooke to Gene Autry.  So it was the Blossoms who were called on in late 1962 to record "He's a Rebel", and it was Darlene Wright who earned her session fee, and no royalties, for singing the lead on a number one record: [Excerpt: The "Crystals" (The Blossoms), "He's a Rebel"] From that point on, the Blossoms would sing on almost every Spector session for the next three years, and Darlene, who he renamed Darlene Love, would become Spector's go-to lead vocalist for records under her own name, the Blossoms, Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, and the Crystals. It was lucky for Spector that he decided to go this route rather than wait for the Crystals, not only because it introduced him to the Blossoms, but because  he'd been right about Aaron Schroeder. As Spector and Sill sat together in the studio where they were mastering the record, some musicians on a break from the studio next door wandered in, and said, "Hey man. we were just playing the same goddam song!" Literally in the next room as Spector mastered the record, his friend Snuff Garrett was producing Vicki Carr singing "He's a Rebel": [Excerpt: Vicki Carr, "He's a Rebel"] Philles got their version out first, and Carr's record sank without trace, while "The Crystals" went to number one, keeping the song's writer off the top spot, as Gene Pitney sat at number two with a Bacharach and David song, "Only Love Can Break a Heart": [Excerpt: Gene Pitney, "Only Love Can Break a Heart"] The Crystals were shocked that Spector released a Crystals record without any of them on it, but La La Brooks had a similar enough voice to Darlene Love's that they were able to pull the song off live. They had a bit more of a problem with the follow-up, also by the Blossoms but released as the Crystals: [Excerpt: "The Crystals"/The Blossoms, "He's Sure the Boy I Love"] La La could sing that fine, but she had to work on the spoken part -- Darlene was from California and La La had a thick Brooklyn accent. She managed it, just about. As La La was doing such a good job of singing Darlene Love's parts live -- and, more importantly, as she was only fifteen and so didn't complain about things like royalties -- the Crystals finally did get their way and have La La start singing the leads on their singles, starting with "Da Doo Ron Ron". The problem is, none of the other Crystals were on those records -- it was La La singing with the Blossoms, plus other session singers. Listen out for the low harmony in "Da Doo Ron Ron" and see if you recognise the voice: [Excerpt: The Crystals, "Da Doo Ron Ron"] Cher would later move on to bigger things than being a fill-in Crystal. "Da Doo Ron Ron" became another big hit, making number three in the charts, and the follow-up, "Then He Kissed Me", with La La once again on lead vocals, also made the top ten, but the group were falling apart -- Spector was playing La La off against the rest of the group, just to cause trouble, and he'd also lost interest in them once he discovered another group, The Ronettes, who we'll be hearing more about in future episodes. The singles following "Then He Kissed Me" barely scraped the bottom of the Hot One Hundred, and the group left Philles in 1964. They got a payoff of five thousand dollars, in lieu of all future royalties on any of their recordings. They had no luck having hits without Spector, and one by one the group members left, and the group split up by 1966. Mary, Barbara, and Dee Dee briefly reunited as the Crystals in 1971, and La La and Dee Dee made an album together in the eighties of remakes of the group's hits, but nothing came of any of these. Dee Dee continues to tour under the Crystals name in North America, while La La performs solo in America and under the Crystals name in Europe. Barbara, the lead singer on the group's first hits, died in 2018. Darlene Love continues to perform, but we'll hear more about her and the Blossoms in future episodes, I'm sure. The Crystals were treated appallingly by Spector, and are not often treated much better by the fans, who see them as just interchangeable parts in a machine created by a genius. But it should be remembered that they were the ones who brought Spector the song that became the first Philles hit, that both Barbara and La La were fine singers who sang lead on classic hit records, and that Spector taking all the credit for a team effort doesn't mean he deserved it. Both the Crystals and the Blossoms deserved better than to have their identities erased in return for a flat session fee, in order to service the ego of one man.

A History Of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs
Episode 104: “He’s a Rebel” by “The Crystals”

A History Of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs

Play Episode Listen Later Nov 16, 2020


Episode 104 of A History of Rock Music in Five Hundred Songs looks at “He’s a Rebel”, and how a song recorded by the Blossoms was released under the name of the Crystals.  Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode.   Patreon backers also have a ten-minute bonus episode available, on “Sukiyaki” by Kyu Sakamoto. Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust and http://sitcomclub.com/ —-more—- Resources As always, I’ve created a Mixcloud streaming playlist with full versions of all the songs in the episode. A lot of resources were used for this episode. The material on Gene Pitney mostly comes from his page on This is My Story. Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era by Ken Emerson is a good overview of the Brill Building scene. Girl Groups by John Clemente contains potted biographies of many groups of the era, including articles on both The Crystals and the Blossoms. I’ve referred to two biographies of Spector in this episode, Phil Spector: Out of His Head by Richard Williams and He’s a Rebel by Mark Ribkowsky. And information on the Wrecking Crew largely comes from The Wrecking Crew by Kent Hartman. There are many compilations available with some of the hits Spector produced, but I recommend getting Back to Mono, a four-CD overview of his career containing all the major singles put out by Philles.   Patreon This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them? Transcript A brief note — there are some very brief mentions of domestic abuse here. Nothing I think will upset anyone, but you might want to check the transcript if you’re at all unsure. Up to this point, whenever we’ve looked at a girl group, it’s been at one that had, to a greater or lesser extent, some control over their own career. Groups like the Marvelettes, the Chantels, and the Bobbettes all wrote their own material, at least at first, and had distinctive personalities before they ever made a record. But today, we’re going to look at a group whose identity was so subsumed in that of their producer that the record we’re looking at was released under the name of a different group from the one that recorded it. We’re going to look at “He’s a Rebel”, which was recorded by the Blossoms and released by the Crystals. [Excerpt: “The Crystals” (The Blossoms), “He’s a Rebel”] The Crystals, from their very beginnings, were intended as a vehicle for the dreams of men, rather than for their own ambitions. Whereas the girl groups we’ve looked at so far all formed as groups of friends at school before they moved into professional singing, the Crystals were put together by a man named Benny Wells. Wells had a niece, Barbara Alston, who sang with a couple of her schoolfriends, Mary Thomas and Myrna Giraud. Wells put those three together with two other girls, Dee Dee Kenniebrew and Patsy Wright, to form a five-piece vocal group. Wells seems not to have had much concept of what was in the charts at the time — the descriptions of the music he had the girls singing talk about him wanting them to sound like the Modernaires, the vocal group who sang with Glenn Miller’s band in the early 1940s. But the girls went along with Wells, and Wells had good enough ears to recognise a hit when one was brought to him — and one was brought to him by Patsy Wright’s brother-in-law, Leroy Bates. Bates had written a song called “There’s No Other Like My Baby”, and Wells could tell it had potential. Incidentally, some books say that the song was based on a gospel song called “There’s No Other Like My Jesus”, and that claim is repeated on Wikipedia, but I can’t find any evidence of a song of that name other than people talking about “There’s No Other Like My Baby”. There is a gospel song called “There’s No Other Name Like Jesus”, but that has no obvious resemblance to Bates’ song, and so I’m going to assume that the song was totally original. As well as bringing the song, Bates also brought the fledgling group a name — he had a daughter, Crystal Bates, after whom the group named themselves. The newly-named Crystals took their song to the offices of Hill and Range Music, which as well as being a publishing company also owned Big Top Records, the label that had put out the original version of “Twist and Shout”, which had so annoyed Bert Berns. And it was there that they ended up meeting up with Phil Spector. After leaving his role at Atlantic, Spector had started working as a freelance producer, including working for Big Top. According to Spector — a notorious liar, it’s important to remember — he worked during this time on dozens of hits for which he didn’t get any credit, just to earn money. But we do know about some of the records he produced during this time. For example, there was one by a new singer called Gene Pitney. Pitney had been knocking around for years, recording for Decca as part of a duo called Jamie and Jane: [Excerpt: Jamie and Jane, “Faithful Our Love”] And for Blaze Records as Billy Bryan: [Excerpt: Billy Bryan, “Going Back to My Love”] But he’d recently signed to Musicor, a label owned by Aaron Schroeder, and had recorded a hit under his own name. Pitney had written “(I Wanna) Love My Life Away”, and had taken advantage of the new multitracking technology to record his vocals six times over, creating a unique sound that took the record into the top forty: [Excerpt: Gene Pitney, “(I Wanna) Love My Life Away”] But while that had been a hit, his second single for Musicor was a flop, and so for the third single, Musicor decided to pull out the big guns. They ran a session at which basically the whole of the Brill Building turned up. Leiber and Stoller were to produce a song they’d written for Pitney, the new hot husband-and-wife songwriting team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil were there, as was Burt Bacharach, and so were Goffin and King, who wrote the song that *Spector* was to produce for Pitney. All of them were in the control booth, and all of them were chipping in ideas. As you might expect with that many cooks, the session did not go smoothly, and to make matters worse, Pitney was suffering from a terrible cold. The session ended up costing thirteen thousand dollars, at a time when an average recording session cost five hundred dollars. On the song Spector was producing on that session, Goffin and King’s “Every Breath I Take”, Pitney knew that with the cold he would be completely unable to hit the last note in full voice, and went into falsetto. Luckily, everyone thought it sounded good, and he could pretend it was deliberate, rather than the result of necessity: [Excerpt: Gene Pitney, “Every Breath I Take”] The record only went to number forty-two, but it resuscitated Pitney’s singing career, and forged a working relationship between the two men. But soon after that, Spector had flown back to LA to work with his old friend Lester Sill. Sill and producer/songwriter, Lee Hazelwood, had been making records with the guitarist Duane Eddy, producing a string of hits like “Rebel Rouser”: [Excerpt: Duane Eddy, “Rebel Rouser”] But Eddy had recently signed directly to a label, rather than going through Sill and Hazelwood’s company as before, and so Sill and Hazelwood had been looking for new artists, and they’d recently signed a group called the Paris Sisters to their production company. Sill had decided to get Spector in to produce the group, and Spector came up with a production that Sill was sure would be a hit, on a song called “I Love How You Love Me”, written by Barry Mann with another writer called Jack Keller: [Excerpt: The Paris Sisters, “I Love How You Love Me”] Spector was becoming a perfectionist — he insisted on recording the rhythm track for that record at one studio, and the string part at another, and apparently spent fifty hours on the mix — and Sill was spending more and more time in the studio with Spector, fascinated at his attitude to the work he was doing. This led to a breakup between Sill and Hazelwood — their business relationship was already strained, but Hazelwood got jealous of all the time that Sill was spending with Spector, and decided to split their partnership and go and produce Duane Eddy, without Sill, at Eddy’s new label. So Sill was suddenly in the market for a new business partner, and he and Spector decided that they were going to start up their own label, Philles, although by this point everyone who had ever worked with Spector was warning Sill that it was a bad idea to go into business with him. But Spector and Sill kept their intentions secret for a while, and so when Spector met the Crystals at Hill and Range’s offices, everyone at Hill and Range just assumed that he was still working for them as a freelance producer, and that the Crystals were going to be recording for Big Top. Freddie Bienstock of Hill & Range later said, “We were very angry because we felt they were Big Top artists. He was merely supposed to produce them for us. There was no question about the fact that he was just rehearsing them for Big Top—hell, he rehearsed them for weeks in our offices. And then he just stole them right out of here. That precipitated a breach of contract with us. We were just incensed because that was a terrific group, and for him to do that shows the type of character he was. We felt he was less than ethical, and, obviously, he was then shown the door.” Bienstock had further words for Spector too, ones I can’t repeat here because of content rules about adult language, but they weren’t flattering. Spector had been dating Bienstock’s daughter, with Bienstock’s approval, but that didn’t last once Spector betrayed Bienstock. But Spector didn’t care. He had his own New York girl group, one that could compete with the Bobbettes or the Chantels or the Shirelles, and he was going to make the Crystals as big as any of them, and he wasn’t going to cut Big Top in. He slowed down “There’s No Other Like My Baby” and it became the first release on Philles Records, with Barbara Alston singing lead: [Excerpt: The Crystals, “There’s No Other Like My Baby”] That record was cut late at night in June 1961. In fact it was cut on Prom Night — three of the girls came straight to the session from their High School prom, still wearing their prom dresses. Spector wrote the B-side, a song that was originally intended to be the A-side called “Oh Yeah, Maybe Baby”, but everyone quickly realised that “There’s No Other Like My Baby” was the hit, and it made the top twenty. While Spector was waiting for the money to come in on the first Philles record, he took another job, with Liberty Records, working for his friend Snuff Garrett. He got a thirty thousand dollar advance, made a single flop record with them with an unknown singer named Obrey Wilson, and then quit, keeping his thirty thousand dollars. Once “There’s No Other” made the charts, Spector took the Crystals into the studio again, to record a song by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil that he’d got from Aldon Music. Spector was becoming increasingly convinced that he’d made a mistake in partnering with Lester Sill, and he should really have been working with Don Kirshner, and he was in discussions with Kirshner which came to nothing about them having some sort of joint project. While those discussions fell through, almost all the songs that Spector would use for the next few years would come from Aldon songwriters, and “Uptown” was a perfect example of the new kind of socially-relevant pop songwriting that had been pioneered by Goffin and King, but which Mann and Weil were now making their own. Before becoming a professional songwriter, Weil had been part of the Greenwich Village folk scene, and while she wasn’t going to write anything as explicitly political as the work of Pete Seeger, she thought that songs should at least try to be about the real world. “Uptown” was the first example of a theme which would become a major motif for the Crystals’ records — a song about a man who is looked down upon by society, but who the singer believes is better than his reputation. Mann and Weil’s song combined that potent teen emotion with an inspiration Weil had had, seeing a handsome Black man pushing a hand truck in the Garment District, and realising that even though he was oppressed by his job, and “a nobody” when he was working downtown, he was still somebody when he was at home. They originally wrote the song for Tony Orlando to sing, but Spector insisted, rightly, that the song worked better with female voices, and that the Crystals should do it. Spector took Mann and Weil’s song and gave it a production that evoked the Latin feel of Leiber and Stoller’s records for the Drifters: [Excerpt: The Crystals, “Uptown”] By the time of this second record, the Crystals had already been through one lineup change. As soon as she left school, Myrna Giraud got married, and she didn’t want to perform on stage any more. She would still sing with the girls in the studio for a little while — she’s on every track of their first album, though she left altogether soon after this recording — but she was a married woman now and didn’t want to be in a group.  The girls needed a replacement, and they also needed something else — a lead singer. All the girls loved singing, but none of them wanted to be out in front singing lead. Luckily, Dee Dee Kenniebrew’s mother was a secretary at the school attended by a fourteen-year-old gospel singer named La La Brooks, and she heard Brooks singing and invited her to join the group. Brooks soon became the group’s lead vocalist on stage. But in the studio, Spector didn’t want to use her as the lead vocalist. He insisted on Barbara singing the lead on “Uptown”, but in a sign of things to come, Mann and Weil weren’t happy with her performance — Spector had to change parts of the melody to accommodate her range — and they begged Spector to rerecord the lead vocal with Little Eva singing. However, Eva became irritated with Spector’s incessant demands for more takes and his micromanagement, cursed him out, and walked out of the studio. The record was released with Barbara’s original lead vocal, and while Mann and Weil weren’t happy with that, listeners were, as it went to number thirteen on the charts: [Excerpt: The Crystals, “Uptown”] Little Eva later released her own version of the song, on the Dimension Dolls compilation we talked about in the episode on “The Loco-Motion”: [Excerpt: Little Eva, “Uptown”] It was Little Eva who inspired the next Crystals single, as well — as we talked about in the episode on her, she inspired a truly tasteless Goffin and King song called “He Hit Me And It Felt Like A Kiss”, which I will not be excerpting, but which was briefly released as the Crystals’ third single, before being withdrawn after people objected to hearing teenage girls sing about how romantic and loving domestic abuse is. There seems to be some suggestion that the record was released partly as a way for Spector to annoy Lester Sill, who by all accounts was furious at the release. Spector was angry at Sill over the amount of money he’d made from the Paris Sisters recordings, and decided that he was being treated unfairly and wanted to force Sill out of their partnership. Certainly the next recording by the Crystals was meant to get rid of some other business associates. Two of Philles’ distributors had a contract which said they were entitled to the royalties on two Crystals singles. So the second one was a ten-minute song called “The Screw”, split over two sides of a disc, which sounded like this: [Excerpt: The Crystals, “The Screw”] Only a handful of promotional copies of that were ever produced. One went to Lester Sill, who by this point had been bought out of his share of the company for a small fraction of what it was worth. The last single Spector recorded for Philles while Sill was still involved with the label was another Crystals record, one that had the involvement of many people Sill had brought into Spector’s orbit, and who would continue working with him long after the two men stopped working together. Spector had decided he was going to start recording in California again, and two of Sill’s assistants would become regular parts of Spector’s new hit-making machine. The first of these was a composer and arranger called Jack Nitzsche, who we’ll be seeing a lot more of in this podcast over the next couple of years, in some unexpected places. Nitzsche was a young songwriter, whose biggest credit up to this point was a very minor hit for Preston Epps, “Bongo, Bongo, Bongo”: [Excerpt: Preston Epps, “Bongo Bongo Bongo”] Nitzsche would become Spector’s most important collaborator, and his arrangements, as much as Spector’s production, are what characterise the “Wall of Sound” for which Spector would become famous.  The other assistant of Sill’s who became important to Spector’s future was a saxophone player named Steve Douglas. We’ve seen Douglas before, briefly, in the episode on “LSD-25” — he played in the original lineup of Kip and the Flips, one of the groups we talked about in that episode. He’d left Kip and the Flips to join Duane Eddy’s band, and it was through Eddy that he had started working with Sill, when he played on many of Eddy’s hits, most famously “Peter Gunn”: [Excerpt: Duane Eddy, “Peter Gunn”] Douglas was the union contractor for the session, and for most of the rest of Spector’s sixties sessions. This is something we’ve not talked about previously, but when we look at records produced in LA for the next few years, in particular, it’s something that will come up a lot. When a producer wanted to make records at the time, he (for they were all men) would not contact all the musicians himself. Instead, he’d get in touch with a trusted musician and say “I have a session at three o’clock. I need two guitars, bass, drums, a clarinet and a cello” (or whatever combination of instruments), and sometimes might say, “If you can get this particular player, that would be good”. The musician would then find out which other musicians were available, get them into the studio, and file the forms which made sure they got paid according to union rules. The contractor, not the producer, decided who was going to play on the session. In the case of this Crystals session, Spector already had a couple of musicians in mind — a bass player named Ray Pohlman, and his old guitar teacher Howard Roberts, a jazz guitarist who had played on “To Know Him is to Love Him” and “I Love How You Love Me” for Spector already. But Spector wanted a *big* sound — he wanted the rhythm instruments doubled, so there was a second bass player, Jimmy Bond, and a second guitarist, Tommy Tedesco. Along with them and Douglas were piano player Al de Lory and drummer Hal Blaine. This was the first session on which Spector used any of these musicians, and with the exception of Roberts, who hated working on Spector’s sessions and soon stopped, this group put together by Douglas would become the core of what became known as “The Wrecking Crew”, a loose group of musicians who would play on a large number of the hit records that would come out of LA in the sixties. Spector also had a guaranteed hit song — one by Gene Pitney. While Pitney wrote few of his own records, he’d established himself a parallel career as a writer for other people. He’d written “Today’s Teardrops”, the B-side of Roy Orbison’s hit “Blue Angel”: [Excerpt: Roy Orbison, “Today’s Teardrops”] And had followed that up with a couple of the biggest hits of the early sixties, Bobby Vee’s “Rubber Ball”: [Excerpt: Bobby Vee, “Rubber Ball”] And Ricky Nelson’s “Hello Mary Lou”: [Excerpt: Ricky Nelson, “Hello, Mary Lou”] Pitney had written a song, “He’s a Rebel”, that was very strongly inspired by “Uptown”, and Aaron Schroeder, Pitney’s publisher, had given the song to Spector. But Spector knew Schroeder, and knew that when he gave you a song, he was going to give it to every other producer who came knocking as well. “He’s a Rebel” was definitely going to be a massive hit for someone, and he wanted it to be for the Crystals. He phoned them up and told them to come out to LA to record the song. And they said no. The Crystals had become sick of Spector. He’d made them record songs like “He Hit Me and it Felt Like a Kiss”, he’d refused to let their lead singer sing lead, and they’d not seen any money from their two big hits. They weren’t going to fly from New York to LA just because he said so. Spector needed a new group, in LA, that he could record doing the song before someone else did it. He could use the Crystals’ name — Philles had the right to put out records by whoever they liked and call it the Crystals — he just needed a group. He found one in the Blossoms, a group who had connections to many of the people Spector was working with. Jack Nitzsche’s wife sometimes sang with them on sessions, and they’d also sung on a Duane Eddy record that Lester Sill had worked on, “Dance With the Guitar Man”, where they’d been credited as the Rebelettes: [Excerpt: Duane Eddy, “Dance With the Guitar Man”] The Blossoms had actually been making records in LA for nearly eight years at this point. They’d started out as the Dreamers one of the many groups who’d been discovered by Johnny Otis, back in the early fifties, and had also been part of the scene around the Penguins, one of whom went to school with some of the girls. They started out as a six-piece group, but slimmed down to a quartet after their first record, on which they were the backing group for Richard Berry: [Excerpt: Richard Berry, “At Last”] The first stable lineup of the Dreamers consisted of Fanita James, Gloria Jones (not the one who would later record “Tainted Love”), and the twin sisters Annette and Nanette Williams. They worked primarily with Berry, backing him on five singles in the mid fifties, and also recording songs he wrote for them under their own name, like “Do Not Forget”, which actually featured another singer, Jennell Hawkins, on lead: [Excerpt: The Dreamers, “Do Not Forget”] They also sang backing vocals on plenty of other R&B records from people in the LA R&B scene — for example it’s them singing backing vocals, with Jesse Belvin, on Etta James’ “Good Rocking Daddy”: [Excerpt: Etta James, “Good Rocking Daddy”] The group signed to Capitol Records in 1957, but not under the name The Dreamers — an executive there said that they all had different skin tones and it made them look like flowers, so they became the Blossoms. They were only at Capitol for a year, but during that time an important lineup change happened — Nanette quit the group and was replaced by a singer called Darlene Wright. From that point on The Blossoms was the main name the group went under, though they also recorded under other names, for example using the name The Playgirls to record “Gee But I’m Lonesome”, a song written by Bruce Johnston, who was briefly dating Annette Williams at the time: [Excerpt: The Playgirls, “Gee But I’m Lonesome”] By 1961 Annette had left the group, and they were down to a trio of Fanita, Gloria, and Darlene. Their records, under whatever name, didn’t do very well, but they became the first-call session singers in LA, working on records by everyone from Sam Cooke to Gene Autry.  So it was the Blossoms who were called on in late 1962 to record “He’s a Rebel”, and it was Darlene Wright who earned her session fee, and no royalties, for singing the lead on a number one record: [Excerpt: The “Crystals” (The Blossoms), “He’s a Rebel”] From that point on, the Blossoms would sing on almost every Spector session for the next three years, and Darlene, who he renamed Darlene Love, would become Spector’s go-to lead vocalist for records under her own name, the Blossoms, Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, and the Crystals. It was lucky for Spector that he decided to go this route rather than wait for the Crystals, not only because it introduced him to the Blossoms, but because  he’d been right about Aaron Schroeder. As Spector and Sill sat together in the studio where they were mastering the record, some musicians on a break from the studio next door wandered in, and said, “Hey man. we were just playing the same goddam song!” Literally in the next room as Spector mastered the record, his friend Snuff Garrett was producing Vicki Carr singing “He’s a Rebel”: [Excerpt: Vicki Carr, “He’s a Rebel”] Philles got their version out first, and Carr’s record sank without trace, while “The Crystals” went to number one, keeping the song’s writer off the top spot, as Gene Pitney sat at number two with a Bacharach and David song, “Only Love Can Break a Heart”: [Excerpt: Gene Pitney, “Only Love Can Break a Heart”] The Crystals were shocked that Spector released a Crystals record without any of them on it, but La La Brooks had a similar enough voice to Darlene Love’s that they were able to pull the song off live. They had a bit more of a problem with the follow-up, also by the Blossoms but released as the Crystals: [Excerpt: “The Crystals”/The Blossoms, “He’s Sure the Boy I Love”] La La could sing that fine, but she had to work on the spoken part — Darlene was from California and La La had a thick Brooklyn accent. She managed it, just about. As La La was doing such a good job of singing Darlene Love’s parts live — and, more importantly, as she was only fifteen and so didn’t complain about things like royalties — the Crystals finally did get their way and have La La start singing the leads on their singles, starting with “Da Doo Ron Ron”. The problem is, none of the other Crystals were on those records — it was La La singing with the Blossoms, plus other session singers. Listen out for the low harmony in “Da Doo Ron Ron” and see if you recognise the voice: [Excerpt: The Crystals, “Da Doo Ron Ron”] Cher would later move on to bigger things than being a fill-in Crystal. “Da Doo Ron Ron” became another big hit, making number three in the charts, and the follow-up, “Then He Kissed Me”, with La La once again on lead vocals, also made the top ten, but the group were falling apart — Spector was playing La La off against the rest of the group, just to cause trouble, and he’d also lost interest in them once he discovered another group, The Ronettes, who we’ll be hearing more about in future episodes. The singles following “Then He Kissed Me” barely scraped the bottom of the Hot One Hundred, and the group left Philles in 1964. They got a payoff of five thousand dollars, in lieu of all future royalties on any of their recordings. They had no luck having hits without Spector, and one by one the group members left, and the group split up by 1966. Mary, Barbara, and Dee Dee briefly reunited as the Crystals in 1971, and La La and Dee Dee made an album together in the eighties of remakes of the group’s hits, but nothing came of any of these. Dee Dee continues to tour under the Crystals name in North America, while La La performs solo in America and under the Crystals name in Europe. Barbara, the lead singer on the group’s first hits, died in 2018. Darlene Love continues to perform, but we’ll hear more about her and the Blossoms in future episodes, I’m sure. The Crystals were treated appallingly by Spector, and are not often treated much better by the fans, who see them as just interchangeable parts in a machine created by a genius. But it should be remembered that they were the ones who brought Spector the song that became the first Philles hit, that both Barbara and La La were fine singers who sang lead on classic hit records, and that Spector taking all the credit for a team effort doesn’t mean he deserved it. Both the Crystals and the Blossoms deserved better than to have their identities erased in return for a flat session fee, in order to service the ego of one man.

DISGRACELAND
Chapter Two: Phil Spector and Ronnie Spector

DISGRACELAND

Play Episode Listen Later Aug 12, 2020 34:44


Leader of the Ronettes, voice behind “Be My Baby,” and the former wife of Phil Spector, Ronnie Spector peels back the curtain to expose the darker side of one of the most infamous couples of the 1960s. Ronnie’s life with Phil takes a nosedive from rubbing elbows with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones to being held prisoner in her own house. Learn more about your ad-choices at https://news.iheart.com/podcast-advertisers