Be My Baby
|"Be My Baby"|
|Single by the Ronettes|
|B-side||"Tedesco and Pitman"|
|Recorded||July 5, 1963|
|Studio||Gold Star Studios, Hollywood|
|The Ronettes singles chronology|
|Phil Spector productions singles chronology|
"Be My Baby" is a song by American girl group the Ronettes that was released as a single in August 1963 and later appeared as a track on their 1964 album Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes featuring Veronica. The song was written by Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich, and Phil Spector. Phil also produced the Ronettes' recording in what is now considered a quintessential example of his Wall of Sound production formula. It was recorded with a host of session musicians later known as the Wrecking Crew. Ronnie Spector is the only Ronette that appears on the track.
It is considered one of the best songs of the 1960s by NME, Time, and Pitchfork staff members. In 1999, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 2004, the song was ranked 22 by Rolling Stone in its list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and described as a "Rosetta stone for studio pioneers such as the Beatles and Brian Wilson," a notion supported by AllMusic who writes, "No less an authority than Brian Wilson has declared 'Be My Baby' the greatest pop record ever made—no arguments here." In 2006, the Library of Congress honored the Ronettes' version by adding it to the United States National Recording Registry. In 2017, Billboard named the song number 1 on their list of the "100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time".
"Be My Baby" was recorded in July 1963 at Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles. Spector recorded a range of instruments including guitars, saxophones, multiple pianos, and horns with innovative studio mixing and over-dubbing. Spector described his production method as "a Wagnerian approach to rock & roll", which became known as the wall of sound. "Be My Baby" was one of the first times Phil Spector used a full orchestra in his recording. The drums were played by Hal Blaine, who introduced a drum beat that later became widely imitated. Guitars on the session were played by Tommy Tedesco and Bill Pitman, after whom the instrumental "Tedesco and Pitman" on the B-side of the single was named.
"Be My Baby" was the Ronettes' first song produced by Phil Spector, released on his label, Philles Records. The group had already recorded a track by Greenwich and Barry called "Why Don't They Let Us Fall in Love", but this was held back in favor of "Be My Baby". The song reached number 2 on the U.S. Billboard Pop Singles Chart and number 4 on the UK's Record Retailer. It also peaked at number four on the R&B chart. The single sold more than two million copies in 1963. In her autobiography, lead vocalist Ronnie Spector relates that she was on tour with Joey Dee and the Starlighters when "Be My Baby" was introduced by Dick Clark on American Bandstand as the "Record of the Century."[full citation needed]
Barbara Cane, vice president and general manager of writer-publisher relations for the songwriters' agency BMI, estimated that the song has been played in 3.9 million feature presentations on radio and television since 1963. "That means it's been played for the equivalent of 17 years back to back."
The song appears in the opening credit sequence of Martin Scorsese's film Mean Streets (1973). It was used without clearance by Scorsese, allowing Spector to take a bite out of Scorsese's earnings for years. Similarly, the song appears in the opening sequence of the 1987 film Dirty Dancing.
The song plays in the "I Am Curious… Maddie" episode of Moonlighting aired March 31, 1987, where Dave and Maddie consummated their relationship. This event not only drew the largest audience the show had, but also may have led to the show's decline.
Blaine reused the drum phrase in the Frank Sinatra song "Strangers in the Night" in a slower and softer arrangement. Many artists have mimicked Hal Blaine's opening drum phrase, including:
- The Four Seasons ("Rag Doll")
- Billy Joel ("Say Goodbye to Hollywood")
- Manic Street Preachers ("Everything Must Go")
- The Jesus and Mary Chain ("Just Like Honey")
- Taylor Swift ("Hey Stephen")
- Meat Loaf ("You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth")
- Marc Shaiman / Scott Wittman ("Good Morning Baltimore", from Hairspray)
- Camila Cabello ("Never Be the Same")
- Camera Obscura ("Eighties Fan")
- Bat for Lashes ("What's a Girl to Do?")
- The Carpenters ("Only Yesterday")
Effect on Brian Wilson
"Be My Baby" had a profound lifelong impact on the Beach Boys' founder Brian Wilson. His biographer Peter Ames Carlin describes the song as becoming "a spiritual touchstone" for Wilson, while music historian Luis Sanchez states that it formed an enduring part of Wilson's mythology, being the Spector record that "etched itself the deepest into Brian's mind ... it comes up again and again in interviews and biographies, variably calling up themes of deep admiration, a source of consolation, and a baleful haunting of the spirit." Spector was aware of Wilson's obsession with "Be My Baby" and remarked that he would "like to have a nickel for every joint [Brian] smoked" trying to figure out the record's sound.
I was in my car with my girlfriend and we were driving around ... When all of a sudden this guy Wink Martindale—a disc jockey—he goes, "All right! Here we go with 'Be My Baby' by the Ronettes." ... I really did flip out. Balls-out totally freaked out when I heard. ... In a way it wasn't like having your mind blown, it was like having your mind revamped. It's like, once you've heard that record, you're a fan forever.
—Brian Wilson, 1995
Wilson first heard "Be My Baby" while driving and listening to the radio; he became so enthralled by the song that he felt compelled to pull over to the side of the road and analyze the chorus.[nb 1] Wilson immediately concluded that it was the greatest record he had ever heard. He bought the single and kept it on his living room jukebox, listening to it whenever the mood struck him. Copies of the song were located everywhere inside his home, as well as inside his car and in the studio. Sanchez writes,
The final result of the story and the variations of it that accumulate from an array of biographies and documentaries is an image of wretchedness: Brian locked in the bedroom of his Bel Air house in the early '70s, alone, curtains drawn shut, catatonic, listening to "Be My Baby" over and over at aggressive volumes, for hours, as the rest of The Beach Boys record something in the home studio downstairs.
"Know what's weird about this?" Brian asked in his ingenuous way, playing those four pantocratic notes for the twentieth time. "It's the same sound a carpenter makes when he's hammering in a nail, a bird sings when it gets on its branch, or a baby makes when she shakes her rattle. Didja ever notice that?"
Music journalist David Dalton, who visited Wilson's home in 1967, said that Wilson had analyzed "Be My Baby" "like an adept memorizing the Koran." Dalton later wrote about a box of tapes he had discovered in Wilson's bedroom: "I assumed they were studio demos or reference tracks and threw one on the tape machine. It was the strangest thing ... All the tapes were of Brian talking into a tape recorder. Hour after hour of stoned ramblings on the meaning of life, color vibrations, fate, death, vegetarianism and Phil Spector."
In the early 1970s, Wilson instructed his engineer Stephen Desper to create a tape loop consisting only of the chorus of "Be My Baby". Wilson listened to the loop for several hours in what Desper saw as "some kind of a trance." Wilson's daughter Carnie stated that during her childhood: "I woke up every morning to boom boom-boom pow! Boom boom-boom pow! Every day." Wilson told The New York Times in 2013 that he had listened to the song at least 1,000 times. In his 2016 memoir, Wilson recalled playing the song's drum intro "ten times until everyone in the room told me to stop, and then I played it ten more times." Bandmate Mike Love remembered Wilson comparing the song to Albert Einstein's theory of relativity.
1970 – Andy Kim
Andy Kim released a version of the song as a single in 1970. In the United States, his version spent 11 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, reaching No. 17, and No. 24 on Billboard's Easy Listening chart. It also reached No. 12 on the Cash Box Top 100. In Canada, the song reached No. 6 on the RPM 100, while reaching No. 16 on the New Zealand Listener chart, No. 24 in West Germany, and No. 36 on Australia's Go-Set National Top 60. It was also a hit in Brazil.
Andy Kim's version was ranked No. 80 on RPM's year end ranking of the "RPM 100 Top Singles of '71".
1972 – Jody Miller
In 1972, Jody Miller released a version as a single and on the album There's a Party Goin' On. Her version reached No. 15 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles chart and No. 35 on Billboard's Easy Listening chart. It also reached No. 15 on the Cash Box Country Top 75 and Record World's Country Singles Chart. In Canada, the song reached No. 11 on the RPM Country Playlist.
- 1976 – Shaun Cassidy released a cover of the song on his eponymous debut album. The following year it was released as a single and reached No. 39 in West Germany.
- 1992 – Teen Queens released a cover of the song that reached number 6 on the Australian ARIA Singles Chart in May 1992. It was certified Gold in Australia and was the country's 44th-most-successful song of 1992.
- 2013 – Leslie Grace covered the song in bachata for her eponymous album in a bilingual version in English and Spanish. Her version peaked at number 8 on the Billboard Hot Latin Songs and number 6 on the Tropical Songs chart.
Charts and certifications
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Gold||400,000|
Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.
- For Wilson, songs that "hit almost as hard" as "Be My Baby" includes "Rock Around the Clock" (Bill Haley & His Comets, 1955), "Keep A-Knockin'" (Little Richard, 1957), "Hey Girl" (Freddie Scott, 1963), and "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" (The Righteous Brothers, 1964). Wilson conceded that "it's hard to re-create the feeling of first hearing 'Be My Baby'".
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