Tag Archives: Ronnie Spector

How Does It Feel To Just Stare At The Ceiling All Night?

This is the spastic Ronnie Spector track that’s been getting me going lately.

How Does It Feel- The Ronettes

Humoresque

The 1946 film Humoresque, starring Joan Crawford, John Garfield, and Oscar Levant is a real gem, and a real oddball movie. It’s a New York movie at heart. Garfield is a rough and tumble guy who grew up above his father’s Brooklyn grocery store (I’m thinking in my haunt of  Williamsburg– it has that A Tree Grows In Brooklyn feel). It turns out he’s a child prodigy violinist. He’s got a plain-jane musician girlfriend, until vampy Joan Crawford comes around, turned-on by Garfield’s music and ethnic upbringing. The film has amazingly witty dialogue courtesy of  Clifford Odets. And sour Oscar Levant, as Garfield’s sidekick, steals every scene he’s in.

N.Y. Times critic Bosley Crowthers wrote of the film:

…there is certainly nothing humorous about the lachrymose “Humoresque,”…It is rather a mawkish lamentation upon the hopelessness of love between an art-dedicated violinist and a high-toned lady who lives for self alone…the Warner Brothers have wrapped this piteous affair in a blanket of soul-tearing music which is supposed to make it spiritually purgative…The music, we must say, is splendid—and, if you will only shut your eyes so that you don’t have to watch Mr. Garfield leaning his soulful face against that violin or Miss Crawford violently emoting,… you may enjoy it very much.”

Crowthers’ sentiments echo the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, who spent some time writing in Hollywood and said of Crawford’s acting ability:

She can’t change her emotions in the middle of a scene without going through a Jeckyll and Hyde contortion of the face, so that when one wants to indicate that she is going from joy to sorrow, one must cut away and then back. Also, you can never give her such stage direction as “telling a lie” because if you did she would practically give a representation of Benedict Arnold selling West Point to the British.

Personally, I find nothing more sublime than watching Joan Crawford suffer on screen, despite her over-acting. Here she is looking brainy in glasses.

So, having hardly anything to do at all with Humoresque except opening up with a piece of dialogue from the film, I present the exclusive Gentlebear mix Humoresque. It’s a cold-weather mix, with patches of sunshine.

Humoresque

“New York Is full of all kinds of animals…”- from Humoresque

Are You Happy?- from Farenheit 451, Bernard Hermann

Tears In The Typing Pool- Broadcast

Speed of Sound- Chris Bell

Do You Finally Need A Friend- Terry Callier

Morning Glory- Bobbie Gentry

I Hear You Calling- Bill Fay

Symphonic Revolutions- Mandrill

Lovely Sky Boat- Alice Coltrane

Lady In My Life- Shinehead

Something On Your Mind- Karen Dalton

My Sister- Tindersticks

Try Some Buy Some- Ronnie Spector

I (Who Have Nothing)- Maxine Weldon

Nostalgia- Tezeta

Don’t Make Me Over- Lynn Collins

Angel Come Home- Beach Boys

Close My Eyes- Arthur Russell

You Will Come- from La Double Vie de Veronique, Zbigniew Preisner

The Way This Whole Town Laughs at Me, I Just Can’t Take It No More

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I just read Ronnie Spector’s autobiography Be My Baby, a fun trashy read, and was surprised to learn that Sonny Bono got his start working in Gold Star Studios for Phil Spector. Ronnie Spector and Cher became good pals, and Cher even sang backup on “Be My Baby,” along with other Spector productions. They were both sweet young girls with possessive husbands who were going to make something out of them. But playing the dual-role of wife and protege did not make for pretty marriages;  I’m sure I don’t need to detail how both marriages went south.  Sonny and Cher did remain amicable through the years, in contrast to the Spector union, in which Ronnie literally escaped barefoot from Spector’s Xanadu. 

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Sonny met runaway Cher in L.A. in 1962. He was 27 and she was 16. Their first big hit was “I Got You Babe,” but their first single was actually  a version of the Boxtops hit “The Letter,” which they recorded under the moniker Caesar & Cleo. The b-side was “Baby Don’t Go,” which charted later, riding the success of “I Got You Babe.”

I’ve always kind of fallen for songs about the kid from the wrong side of the tracks. “Baby Don’t Go” is about a girl leaving the only person who ever treated her right, her boyfriend, to go the city to escape the crappy town which has stigmatized her. There’s a really nice shimmery guitar part when Cher sings the last lines of each verse.

Baby Don’t Go

Here’s Sonny and Cher on Dave Letterman in 1987, where they “reunited” and sang “I Got You, Babe” one last time. There’s good stuff here about their early years, and you can really see the love they had for one another, despite their odd coupling. 

Versions

Here are some worthwhile covers.

First up, Odetta singing the Rolling Stones’ “No Expectations.” I love Odetta’s deep, searching voice, and it’s nice to hear her singing pop music instead of folk and blues. The record I took this from, Odetta Sings (1970), has her covering the songs of Elton John, Randy Newman, and Paul McCartney, among others. A lot of critics didn’t like this turn in Odetta’s career; maybe I have bad taste, but I think it’s great stuff. I’ll also post one of her own compositions from Odetta Sings that’s a real hip-shaker.

No Expectations

Hit or Miss

I can’t resist The Pointer Sisters covering Steely Dan’s “Dirty Work.” It really almost doesn’t work. From their 1978 record Energy. This is the first abum where they hooked up with the super-producer Richard Perry, who was responsible for their later hits “Automatic”, “I’m So Excited”, and “Jump,” as well as a multitude of great jams for other artists (do you love El Debarge’s “Rhythm of the Night” as much as I do?).

Dirty Work

Here’s the Pointer Sisters’ first hit, a cover of the Lee Dorsey song. Has Obama used this yet for his campaign?

Yes We Can Can

I was bummed out when June Pointer died from cancer in 2006. She had struggled with drug addiction for most of her career and was eventually kicked out of the group. My young self couldn’t take my eyes off of her, she was so energetic. Check her out singing lead in the “Jump” video, she can barely contain herself. I love the gap in her teeth, and her sleepy brown eyes. I bet she was really fun to hang out with. I’m guessing her drug of choice was cocaine. Whoever directed this thought it would be cool to intercut a track star performing various jumps during the chorus, which is kind of corny.

The Treacherous Three did a really epic rap cover of “Yes We Can Can” in 1984. I think that’s Kool Moe Dee in the middle, but it’s hard to tell since he was always concealed behind wrap-around Porsche sunglasses during his solo career.

Yes We Can Can

I used to have the 12″ of Kool Moe Dee’s “Go See the Doctor,” which was one of many rap songs advocating safe sex in the age of AIDS. Here he’s suggesting both partners get tested first for V.D. before getting down. Why not suggest wearing a jimmy cap? Maybe he just wasn’t into condoms. Be forewarned, Kool Moe Dee raps about pus on his penis.

Go See The Doctor

I was fortunate enough to see Ronnie Spector sing at the McCarren Pool here in Brooklyn last weekend. I’ve always dug her cover of the Johnny Thunders song “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory,” which is all about being a junkie. She recorded the song for the album She Talks to Rainbows with Joey Ramone right before he died. When she sang it at the pool I almost cried.

I can’t believe Phil Spector threatened her by keeping a gold coffin with a glass lid in their basement, telling her she’d end up it in if she left him. Making her watch Citizen Kane repeatedly wasn’t cool either.

Here’s her singing Johnny Thunders.

You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory

And the original.

You Can’t Put Your Ams Around A Memory

Finally, a live cover of Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” from when Johnny Thunders collaborated with Wayne Kramer under the moniker Gang War.

Like A Rolling Stone (live)