Thursday, November 04, 2010

"Be My Baby" (1963)

42. Ronettes, "Be My Baby" (Sept. 14, 1963, #2)

It's still hard for me to believe that Phil Spector has been sent to prison for murder—it's not that I doubt the evidence, or even the various propensities he's shown over the decades. I guess I must just still be stuck in the "denial" phase along the road to acceptance. Meanwhile, his work still stands, particularly the "little symphonies for the kids" wall of sound hits that he concocted in the early '60s, of which this is likely the single best. (But for gods sake don't stop here. The Back to Mono box set remains the best way to grasp and appreciate his work, and represents one of the best box sets in all rock 'n' roll.) Spector loved the Ronettes so much that he married the lead singer, and it's not hard to hear how he lavishes just a little bit more of everything on their productions. Even so, I never really cottoned to how effective this particular song is until I saw the way Scorsese used it in Mean Streets, part of one of the greatest pop song transitions in any movie, and pioneering in its translation of radio fare to soundtrack element; Scorsese, of course, has since proved one of the great masters of it. Everything you want from a Phil Spector number is here: Brill Building tunesmithery, big booming drums, tracks stacked to the sky, alluring rhythms, an entire orchestra, and Ronnie Spector, all in the service of a plaintive, affecting declaration of love. It soars on the chorus, the strings carry an instrumental break with poise and aplomb, and you don't want it to end ever, and it shouldn't. This song makes an effective case that it should always be the early autumn of 1963 and we should have never gone beyond that.


  1. A fantastic song. Given the riches of what came immediately after the autumn of 1963, that last bit is a hard case to make but you're right, this song comes about as close to making it as any could. Interesting to contrast the opening of Dirty Dancing with that of Mean Streets - both use this song but the DD credits are relatively lazy and uninspired whereas Scorsese's use sparkles with angsty energy and visceral deliverence.

    Another movie moment: in the Maysles' little-seen What's Happening!, a verite Beatles doc from '64 (much of it was later compiled into the Apple release The First U.S. Visit) we see Ronnie Ronette bopping in the studio with Murray the K - it's a great sequence.

  2. Great points, MovieMan! I've never seen that Maysles doc but it definitely sounds worth tracking down. Thanks for stopping by.