Tuesday, 5 October 2004

"Be My Baby"

I'm reading Q magazine on the "1010 songs you must own". Yeah, Q has this obsession with lists, but it's a good list - part Q's own suggestions, part nominations from musicians - that points out quite a few new tunes to check out. It does end with a top 10 that's not particularly controversial:
  1. Marvin Gaye "I Heard it Through the Grapevine"
  2. The Beach Boys "Good Vibrations"
  3. U2 "One"
  4. Nirvana "Smells Like Teen Spirit"
  5. The Beatles "She Loves You"
  6. Michael Jackson "Billie Jean"
  7. The Ronettes "Be My Baby"
  8. Bee Gees "Stayin' Alive"
  9. Bob Dylan "Like a Rolling Stone"
  10. James Brown "Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine"
Sure, you could come up with another equally acceptable 10 songs (I'd put Gaye's "Let's Get It On" in there, probably), but it's hard to deny the quality of these tunes.

The presence of the Ronettes on that list made me think of how "Be My Baby" gets cited as an influence by everyone from Brian Wilson to the Ramones (their responses were, respectively, "Don't Worry Baby" and "the KKK Took My Baby Away"). Even the whole shoegazer movement borrows from the Wall of Sound. Heck, the song opens both Dirty Dancing and Mean Streets, and that's about as far apart in tone as you can get. But then, how could you not be influenced? "Be My Baby" is a pure, shimmering pop moment, with the voice of Ronnie Spector (then Ronnie Bennett) pregnant with longing, heart close to bursting with the love she has in her, spilling out everything she has to say and putting everything she has into the accumulating song until finally all she has is just pure sound, pure "woh-oh-oh-oh". Even in a club, you can see its magic: slapped away from the BPMs, the clubbers sway in a kind of time-stopped dream moment. It's unadulterated, exhilarating joy right from the moment Hal Blaine's iconic drum intro ("the Morse code of the gods") kicks in. You hear that irregular heartbeat of a girl in love, and you know for her - and for you - nothing will ever feel this powerful ever again.




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