Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Be my Baby by Ronnie Spector -- A Book Review

It has been awhile since I was able to post a "Wednesday Review" and I am glad to be back on my regular schedule and post one tonight.    This week I read the book Be My Baby by Ronnie Spector.  It was written in 1990, so it is an older book.   I have read that a second revised edition came out in 2004.   I personally borrowed this book from my local library. 

The book is the autobiography of Ronette, Ronnie Spector and her very crazy life.   The things this woman has lived through is just amazing.   Even if she didn't have an amazing singing voice, the things she has endured makes her pretty awesome.

The book explains how Ronnie, Estelle and Nedra got their start as the Ronetts and how they first danced at the Peppermint Twist club and then Murry the K saw them and hired them and got them to perform at his shows every week in New York.   From there Phil Spector saw the girls and they started recording and had a huge hit "Be My Baby."

There is a LOT of Beatles stuff in this book.  Much more than I ever thought.    In January 1964, the Ronettes traveled to England to do some concerts.  And while they were there, the first night they went to a party and John, Ringo and George were there.   They had a really fun time dancing and it became obvious that Estelle and George were flirting and the two of them went off to a private room.   Ronnie and John also went off to a private room and they started to kiss, but Ronnie stopped it after that.   However the four of them double dated several times at fancy London restaurants and George even flew back to London during a short break in the Paris tour to spend some time with Estelle.

The next month the Beatles came to America and the Ronettes were leaving England.   They almost flew of the same plane together---but they didn't.    But Phil did in a sneaky way....

While at the Plaza, the guys invited the Ronettes over (and they brought along Murray the K.).   There is a pretty wild story about a naked girl having sex with one of the Beatles entourage while everyone is snapping photos and about John trying to get Ronnie to sleep with him, but Ronnie turned him down.    Honestly----I am not sure if I totally believe this.    Cynthia was with John on this trip.   They shared a hotel room.   So how did John get Ronnie into his room without Cyn knowing about it?   Something about that story didn't add up to me.

Anyhow---Ronnie and Phil have an insane relationship.   Phil basically kept her prisoner in their home in California.   He wouldn't allow her to go into the kitchen and eat, or leave the house very much and he was so mean to her.   He had a golden coffin with a glass top made and told her that is where she will be if she ever tried to leave, because he would kill her!    But she still ended up married to the guy and became an alcoholic to escape the craziness of Phil Spector.

Then in 1971 they went to London and Ronnie recorded a song written by George Harrison, "Try some Buy Some" on Apple records.    Ronnie's explanation about  this made me laugh.  She really disliked that song and wasn't surprised that it wasn't a hit.

Ronnie eventually does divorce Phil, and it was a big mess of a divorce hearing.   John and May Pang even go to court one of the days.   

Pete Bennett, Ronnie and John during the Lost Weekend

The last time Ronnie saw John Lennon was in 1976 outside of the Dakota.   They chatted for a bit and John told her how happy he was being a househusband.   And then he introduced her to someone in the music business that helped her get back on track a bit.

I really liked this book, and not just the Beatles stuff.   Ronnie Spector (who took that name after George and John suggested it) lived a life of a strong woman.   Especially knowing what we do now about Phil Spector, it is amazing to know that she made it out alive.    

I give "Be My Baby" my recommendation.   It honestly was a hard book for me to put down, because I couldn't wait to see how she overcame her next obstacle.


  1. I remember reading that and the John/Ronnie thing during the Beatles first US trip doesn't add up to me either. I don't believe John would've cheated on Cynthia when she was right there in the same room! He wasn't THAT stupid. Unless maybe Ronnie meant their second visit later that same year?

  2. Thanks for the review Sara. Regarding the alleged incident between John and Ronnie in the bedroom I can see why you are having trouble believing this took place. Both of these incidents are in the Spitz book though if I remember correctly, but if my memory serves me well...(it usually doesn't)...I thought Spitz said that John grabbed Ronnie and disappeared with her into another room in their suite that happened to be unoccupied, but not his and Cyn's bedroom. I do think there's a possibility this could have happened. If the room was crowded enough it would have been relatively easy for John to slip out with Ronnie if Cyn was occupied with other people at the time. Also this incident seems to be in keeping with John's recklessness. Anyway I might just check the library system for this book. It sounds interesting.

  3. Ok, first off....before I get one sentence more in.....Ronnie doesn't have a great voice? That's news to the rock and roll world, let me tell you! That girl has an AMAZING rock and roll voice, beautiful vibrato.....ask Brian Wilson what he thinks of Ronnie Spector's voice!!! When Phil Spector first heard her sing, he told Sonny Bono, with great reverence, "She sounds like Frankie Lymon"! (high praise indeed). Heck, ask John, Paul, George and Ringo what they think of her voice! Her and John singing together? Those two? That would have been too much soul and human feeling for just one record!!!

    Ok, sorry, my good good friend, I just HAD to write that, because as a girl group fanatic, I have to put that out there!!!

    I never read that book! I know all about her life though, and I would bet it WAS hard to put down! Now I'm dying to read it!!

    You are right though...that doesn't quite add up, with Cyn being there. But memory can play tricks on you for stuff that happened over 20, 30 years ago. I started a blog about my old band from the 80s....and just writing our history, I get all kinds of stuff wrong in my memory, and then find some piece of paper that contradicts it or someone will correct me on something.

    I say this because - if you lived a life like Ronnie Spector - it could be easy to, say, remember that she went to the Plaza, and another memory, from another time and place, gets combined. "oh it was at the Plaza". Maybe she met up with them again during the US tour later that year.

    On the other hand - in Pete Shotton's great book, he mentions that Lennon told him that he had had multiple girls in a single night, at a party. I hate to say it, but I could see the young John Lennon cheating on his wife, especially first time in America? When all the other Beatles were probably going a little crazy? "Cyn, dear, why don't you get some sleep, I have to meet with Brian and the lads...."

    I have a close family friend that lived next to Ronnie during the 70s, when she was not going through the best time, let's put it that way. I've heard some stories, very detailed stories. However, in all the interviews I've ever seen with her (and I've seen many), she seems pretty candid and whereas I do have trouble swallowing that he's philandering with her while Cyn is in the next room (though - if I think about it - not TOO much trouble!), I will chalk it up to fuzzy memory, as opposed to outright lies. With a life like that, why would she need to lie? She's already got an amazing, colorful life, and she already has multiple Beatle stories under her belt so I don't know why she'd go the extra mile to lie.

    Thanks for the review! I'm going to seek it out! I've read two books about Phil, three documentaries about him (Ronnie's in all three), so this is right up my alley!

    But Ronnie is one of the great, quintessential, archetype, distinctive rock and roll singers, I have to put that out there. If she's not, no one is. "Be My Baby" is a beautiful vocal performance, so is "Baby I Love You", "Born To Be Together"......woo! That vibrato!!!! That intimacy!!!

    Lastly...I hate the Bob Spitz book! No one should use that as a reference. Any book that "reconstructs" conversations from 50 years ago....and one that purports John and Paul DROVE to Butlins, to ask Ringo to join.....should not be believed.

    PS: Lastly, lastly: It doesn't say he tried to get her to sleep with her IN HIS ROOM, at least not as I just read your review. So Cyn could be sleeping in one room.....while John is somewhere else. Not THAT is completely plausible.

    1. You will really enjoy this book. I hope you are able to find a copy! I had to "order" from my local library's loan system.

      Either you misread what I wrote or I just wrote it all wrong. I didn't mean to say that Ronnie had a bad voice. I was trying to say that even without her voice and fame, the book would have been a good read because she overcame so much.

      You know---Ronnie kept saying that the Beatles stayed at the Warwick when the first came to America. I just thought she had made a mistake and meant the Plaza, but you might be right....she could have combined two or three events into one. She does not mention Cynthia at all. So maybe the night with the naked girl and John pulling her off into another room happened during one of the tours and not in Feb 1964.

      When I read her story, it almost seemed like she sort of exaggerated what happened to tell everyone, "look I was so desirable that John Lennon wanted to sleep with me, but I even turned hm down." But then you are right---why would she lie about that after all the things she has been through?

    2. I am SO sorry!!!! Now I understand! And what a long winded comment I gave, more than usual!! I didn't realize it was so long!!!

      I think I sent you a clip with that Ronettes article, and she's talking similarly. She has told stories like that many times over the years, I know there's one where she's sitting on John's lap? Is that in there?

      Ok, let me not write another book, especially since I just leaped to Ronnie's defense below, again! (I'm a huge girl group collector, sorry...!)

  4. ronnie's voice was average for girl groups then but she had sex appeal that helped the fame; john had no respect for cyn so wouldn't doubt his sneaking about -shame on ronnie for "kissing" him

    1. Ronnie didn't do anything more than kiss him one time in London. She made it very clear that she was a virgin and wasn't going to sleep with anybody. She broke off the kiss to say she wanted to go back to the party and then the second time she gave John a big talk about how she thought of him as a brother and nothing else.

    2. No, actually Ronnie's voice was NOT average for girl groups. Go listen to the Cookies. THAT was average for girl groups. Charming...but bordering on amateurish, often going flat or sharp. Shirley Owens from The Shirelles....THAT was average for girl groups. The Dixie Cups, ditto. Other than Darlene Love, Ronnie is the top girl group singer, period. I mean, I put Ronnie above LaLa Brooks.

      And, again, significantly....Phil Spector - who had certainly recorded his share of girl groups...was blown away by her voice. By all accounts, he fell in love with her voice way before he fell in love with the woman herself.

      So, sorry, but Ronnie's voice (along with the songwriting) is what sold those records, not her sex appeal. Yes, it helped her fame, but not the music (just like the Beatles and their hair). She has a distinctive, one-of-a-kind voice, with impeccable phrasing...that's like saying John Lennon was an "average singer". Ronnie Spector is in the top three girl group singers (Darlene Love is obviously number one!). Who's better?

  5. LOL! It seems to me that one might think her voice great and another just average and that is ok - nothing to get hung about. And thanks Sara for another interesting book review.

    1. Touche, but you might want to follow your own advice next time you see a picture of Linda! Zap!

      (Anonymous, I often get into it with you, but in reality, you are tied with Lizzie as my favorite commenter all means roll your eyes....but please never stop commenting!) (and Ronnie's the best, c'mon, c'mon...!)

  6. Sara- love all this stuff you find connected to the lads! Personally didn't care for the Ronettes but loved Mary Wells. Phil Spector always had an edge of creepiness to me.

  7. I thought Ronnie and Keith Richards were hooked up in 1965

  8. I wish we had more information about George and Estelle. Their relationship seemed really sweet.

  9. After reading that book and reading the comments here, John was certainly capable of finding a way to cheat on Cynthia no matter where in the world he was or if Cynthia was with them during their Feb 1964 visit to the states. John was having an affair with Sunnie Freeman and they were all together during the filming of HELP in Austria in 1965...Obviously John could be very discreet when need be. We all know he never really was faithful to Cynthia throughout their entire marriage. Sad isn't it?

    1. yeah- Cyn was a good wife & mother