Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Be My Baby - Ronnie Spector with Vince Waldron (Book Review)

As you'll come to notice, I am a huge enthusiast of the 50s and 60s. Like many, I'm enamoured with the music and love finding autobiographies of people who were involved in that world. I'm always intrigued to learn where people started out - usually I find they're not worlds apart from yourself; and I love hitting on a common note with someone I admire, even if it's something as random as your parents sharing the same occupation!

be my baby book, ronnie spector, the ronettes, be my baby book reviewI originally wanted to get my hands on "Be My Baby - How I survived Mascara, Miniskirts and Madness", but since it's largely out of print, the copies I've found online are out of my price range. I was holding onto hope that I'd chance upon it in a second-hand bookstore one day -but then I happened upon this gem in a Camden bookstore a year back. I'm not sure if there is much (or any) difference between the two (both are written in cooperation with Vince Waldron), or whether my copy is just a reprint - but I think it holds!

Be My Baby is a fast paced account of Ronnie's life, from her upbringing in the Spanish Harlem, the breakthrough of the Ronettes, through to her marriage (and breakdown) to mentor and producer, Phil Spector. What immediately struck me about Ronnie is that as much as she was enamoured with music, she was equally (and probably more so) with fame. She isn't shy in coming forward about her ambitions, and once hitting the proverbial 'big time', she relishes in it, regaling in stories of riot-inducing performances and strutting about onstage. Although for the most part her story isn't an easy one, and though at times slightly cocky, Ronnie speaks with a clear head and without self-pity. She recognises in retrospect her own faults and mistakes as well as rationalising those of others, which is applaudable once you know her life.

 What I can't fathom is why nobody has yet seized the chance to produce a Ronnie Spector biopic - the story is one with her at the epicentre of the sixties, floating in and out of everybody else's world. First hand accounts of Beatlemania, touring (and eating scrambled eggs!) with the Stones and even a 'romantic tryst' with Bowie, Ronnie is to me the Forrest Gump of her era. Her story would make a good game of "Six Degrees of Separation" - Cher, John Lennon (a recurring character!) and May Pang and even Bruce Springsteen make an appearance. What's more, her story is peppered with serendipity - there are a lot of 'right place at the right time' moments that would make for a more than decent film!



The Ronettes: Be My Baby
The Chiffons: One Fine Day
The Shirelles: Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?
The Ramones: Baby I Love You
Frankie Lymon: Why Do Fools Fall In Love?
Ronnie Spector: Don't Worry Baby
The Essex: Easier Said Than Done
Back To Black: Ronnie Spector
The Ronettes: Baby I Love You
The Crystals: He's A Rebel
The Ronettes: Do I Love You?

In all, I would certainly recommend this to anyone interested in the era -  especially in terms of the music. (I always found another musician or person of note cropping up a nice surprise - especially the Beatles.) You really get a feel for how close knit the industry must have been back then.

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