Ronnie Spector & The Ronettes: Live. Finally.

The Roundhouse, in Camden, has an enviable knack of promoting both new and old(er) talent and nights out there are, without exception, phenomenal. I could hardly believe it when I managed to secure tickets to see Ronni Spector perform ‘In the Round’: she, and The Ronettes, are musical icons.

This would prove to be an evening of great music, funny anecdotes and touching reminiscences. Can you believe that The Ronettes got their big break while waiting outside Peppermint Lounge on New York’s 45th Street? The venue’s manager had mistaken Ronnie and her sisters for the dancers she’d hired! “We were dressed to impress”, recalls Ronni, “with Kleenex stuffed in our bras and heavy makeup, accentuated by cigarettes”.

Once inside Peppermint Lounge, the lead singer from Joey Dee and the Starliters handed Ronni a microphone, instructing her: “Sing”. Chuckling, Ronni told us “He didn’t have to ask me twice” and launched into a cracking version of ‘That’s What I Want’.

Success came quickly for The Ronettes, as did their first TV appearance, on ‘Dick Clark’s American Bandstand’. “I was so nervous”, reminisced Ronni, as we watched grainy black & white footage of that memorable night.

Such success saw The Ronettes tour with The Beatles and they attracted many celebrity fans – for example, Brian Wilson, who was in the studio when the Ronettes recorded ‘Be My Baby’. “He was so excited, he was like a little kid”, mused Ronni “and he wrote a follow-up, just for me”. Cue a glorious rendition of ‘Don’t Worry Baby’.

Unbelievably, it’s 56 years since The Ronettes first performed in London and Ronni vividly recalls the headline of the January 1964 edition of NME: ‘Welcome to London’. Whilst here, “Keith Richards wrote a song for me – and 50 years later I got to record it”: ‘I’d Much Rather be with the Girls’.

“When I came back, in the late 1960s/early 1970s I had to start all over again. I remember seeing Tom Petty in the audience, crying – and Joey Ramone”. Strange to think that Ronni has outlived them both, although her sister Estelle who “loved fashion, but loved The Ronettes even more”, is no longer with us.

We’d been waiting a long time for ‘Be My Baby’ – but when it came, it didn’t disappoint.

It’s inevitable that such a long career will experience some sadnesses and we were blown away by the footage of Amy Winehouse declaring that The Ronettes were her 1960s icons and of Ronni singing ‘Back to Black’ – and even more so when Ronni announced that “Amy’s mother, Janice, is here tonight – and I want to thank her for being such a good friend to me”.

Reflecting, Ronni told us “This past year has been a tough one and we need to remember those less fortunate than us”. Following a glorious rendition of ‘Wish I Never Saw the Sunshine’, Ronni was joined on stage by the Roundhouse Choir and together they performed ‘I Hear Music’, leaving me – and, I suspect, many other audience members with a lump in my throat. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would see Ronni Spector perform live – and tonight fulfilled a long-held dream.

12 comments

  1. Great article, it reminded me of many happy years in the 70’s seeing all sorts of bands at The Roundhouse. Looking back it’s amazing that all the top bands would perform at small venues but I don’t think they did stadium gigs in those days, it’s hard to remember it’s now so long ago!

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    • Fairly certain I saw Free, Taste, The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, David Bowie, Black Sabbath,Jethro Tull, in those days my friends and I used to go to two local gigs and one in town a week so we saw a lot of bands. There used to be near Epping, The Wakes Arms, and on the North Circular Cooks Ferry, (both now gone) and in town The Marquee, The Hammersmith Odeon, The Astoria, it’s so long ago I can’t remember the names of them all but I do remember it was great fun.

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      • It’s so long ago now but I know I saw him in two different characters, perhaps the early Bowie didn’t have a character name at least not one I can remember and then Ziggy Stardust. Now you’re reminding me I must have seen a great number of bands over the years especially as I went three times a week. It’s all a blur, not through any form of drug crazed activity I just have a bad memory. Oh yes, Pink Floyd and Emerson Lake and Palmer. I can tell now my brain is going in this direction I will be driving or watching television and all of a sudden I will blurt out the name of some aged rock band and my wife will wonder what on earth I am going on about.

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      • I’ve never worked in business where you need names and for some reason it always takes me ages to get names. I would have forgotten the chaps name before I left the room if not sooner! And more…. The Rolling Stones, Tina turner and many “soul” singers in the 80’s. Oddly I will remember the early ones more than the latter.

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  2. Just remembered if you went to The Wakes Arms and didn’t know who was on it was always The Edgar Broughton Band and I’ve just thought of another slightly obscure band I used to enjoy Principla Edwards Magic Theatre. We obviously saw all the top bands Steeleye Span, Fairport Convention, The Who, so many!!

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  3. I just remembered, the Isle of Wight Festival, Bob Dylan, Jimmy Hendrix and bizarrely The Who at a cinema in Walthamstow very early on. Suddenly my life is flashing before me, I’ve shoulder length hair and a rather splendid pair of turquoise velvet bell bottom trousers. Happy days!

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