Dec 14, 2008

Ronnie Spectors Christmas Party - Concert Review

It's now officially Christmas time. Last night Ronnie Spector "the original bad girl of Rock & Roll" rocked her annual Christmas show at BB Kings on 42nd St. in Manhattan. This was my third straight year to see her at BB Kings, and I had seen her way back a few times at the old Bottom Line in the Village.
We got there early after shuffling around the jam packed streets of mid town, as Christmas is alive & well in NY. We had a few drinks in Lucille's the restaurant part of the club. I had a $17 hamburger that wasn't worth it, but the nachos were pretty good. This place isnt known for its food.
Ronnie hit the stage and was her usual cheerful self, singing all her Ronettes hits, the Christmas songs she made into classics & some great covers from a few of her famous friends.

Opening with Sleigh Ride & segueing into the Ronettes "Why Don't They Let Us Fall In Love", she looked great with her hair all teased out in sixties rock & roll fashion, tight black pants & long sleeve button down blouse she proudly claims she bought at Trash & Vaudeville on 8th St in the Village. Her voice sounds great with that innocent but sexy twang to it , proving she can still do it after all these years.

The crowd are her usual fans many who have seen the show before like myself, but come back annually to feel the spirit of early sixties Rock & Roll & some Christmas songs with that same sound. Back then it wasn't every pop artist that made Christmas songs like today. As usual by shows end, she brought the place to its feet. I even managed to get a hand shake from her as she greeted the audience across the stage during the finale. (sigh)

The band was the same shes had the past few years, tight & very polished.A Great hot female guitarist, 2 female back up singers, bass, guitarist, drummer, keyboardist & sax man with the smoking hair under the hot lights.
She told great stories of her rock friends; how Frankie Lymon died after he wrote his Christmas song and she felt he wanted her to carry on singing it. How Billy Joel wrote Say Goodbye to Hollywood for her & she recorded it with Bruce Springsteen. How Amy Winehouse wants to be her when she grows up, but she told her you cant do drugs if you ever want to reach her age in the rock n roll business. How Joey Ramone died right after he wrote Arms Around a Memory for her. And that she was so devastated when her friend John Lennon died, she vowed to sing Happy Christmas at every Christmas show she ever does in his honor.

It was a great night & a great show. There are always "concert moments" & when Ronnie Spector sings "Be My Baby" & "Walking In The Rain" they are at the top of the list.

RONNIE SPECTORS HOLIDAY PARTY - SUNDAY 12/14 : SET LIST

*Sleigh Ride
*Why Don't They Let Us Fall In Love (Ronettes)
*Do I Love You (Ronettes)
*Say Goodbye To Hollywood (Billy Joel written for her)
*I'm So Young (the Students)
*Keep On Dancing Little Girl
*Frosty the Snow Man
*So Young (Ronettes)
*Back to Black (Amy Winehouse)
*You Baby
*It's Christmas Once Again (Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers)
*Is This What I Get For Loving You (Ronettes)

*Walking In the Rain (Ronettes)
*Best Part of Breaking Up (Ronettes)
*You Cant Put Your Arms Around a Memory (Joey Ramone)
*Be My Baby (Ronettes)

encores:
*I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
*Remember When We Danced
*Happy Christmas -War Is Over (John Lennon)
*I Can Hear Music (Ronettes)
_______________________________________________________

HISTORY:
Born Veronica Bennett in Harlem in 1943 to an Irish father, African American/Native American mother. Her first inspiration was childhood friend Frankie Lymon of the Teenagers. She began singing with her sister & cousin as the Ronettes when she was just 13. The girls were encouraged to enter a talent show at the Apollo Theater & won. They were mistaken for performers at the Peppermint Lounge and escorted inside and sang with Ray Charles. There they were hired by Murray the K as regular dancers & back up singers for his Brooklyn Fox Theater shows. The Ronettes were taken under the wing of producer Phil Spector and became one of the biggest girl group acts of the early sixties. They were given a strong image as "bad girls", with beehive hairdos, heavy eyeliner, and tight skirts

The Ronettes- recorded a long string of classic pop hits: like "Walking in the Rain", "Do I Love You", "Baby I Love You", "The Best Part of Breaking Up", "I Can Hear Music", and their international Number One smash "Be My Baby". Their songs were written by great song writers like Carole King, Jerry Goffin, Ellie Greenwich, & Jeff Barry.

Ronnie became known as the "Original Bad Girl of Rock & Roll" her trademark voice is filled with innocence, boldness and a knowing sexuality. The Ronnettes were the top touring act in England in 1963 headlining over the Beatles & the Stones. In her book she tells stories of how they all became close friends on that tour. John Lennon was obsessed with her and tried very hard to begin an intimate relationship. She claims she was too young & innocent at the time to have it go beyond friendship. George Harrison had a thing for her sister Estelle.

One of my favorite stories in her book was when she took the Beatles to Shermans BBQ on Amsterdam Ave. in Harlem to eat American food. For years when ever she went back, Sherman would say "Your the Little girl who brought the Beatles here". (Imagine the scene of walking into that place & seeing the Beatles & Ronettes eating!!). The Ronettes were hand picked by the Beatles to be an opening act on their last tour in 1966.

Next up was when the Rolling Stones came to NY on their 1st tour they knew no one in NY. They went up to her apartment in Harlem and her mom cooked dinner for them. (Another great scene as I imagine a young Mick & Kieth asking directions to her place in Harlem!!)
The Ronettes appeared on the famous Phil Spector Christmas Album in 1963. The songs have become timeless Christmas classics, her versions of "Sleighride" "Frosty" & "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" are legendary. For years she did her classic Christmas shows at the old Bottom line & the past few years has moved it to BB Kings Blues Club.

Ronnie then married Phil Spector and became trapped in his jealous world as he hid her away, locked her in the house, threatened her life and ruined her career. It was a terrible marriage and I dont wish to get into all the dirt here.One of her closest friends at that time was a young Cher.

After the Ronettes she sang on a George Harrison-produced single, "Try Some, Buy Some" in 1970, which she sang at John Lennons 1971 birthday party. She also sang on records by Jimi Hendrix, Alice Cooper & Southside Johnny. In 1976, Billy Joel wrote "Say Goodbye to Hollywood", as a tribute to her which she recorded the following year with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. In 1986 she had a hit with Eddie Money with "Take Me Home Tonight" where Money sang "just like Ronnie said..." and she answered "Be My Little Baby".

In the late 1980's she appeared on many TV shows, was part of the Radio City Christmas Show, wrote her best selling autobiography "How I Survived Mascara & Miniskirts".

She has recorded two more albums, one with close friend Joey Ramone in 1999 She won a landmark 15 year court battle being rewarded for her vocals on the Ronettes songs. Many of her songs have been included in numerous movies. The Ronettes were finally inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.

The style, look, and sound of Ronnie Spector have been an inspiration and role model for a generation of rock and roll women. In her sensuality, attitude, and dress, Ronnie created style, that has been revolutionary.

1 comment:

Cliff Blau said...

It was Johnny Thunders who wrote "You Can't Put Your Arm Around a Memory", not Joey Ramone.