Monday, 10 March 2014

Ronnie Spector - Beyond The Beehive at Queen Elizabeth Hall

Last night we went to see Ronnie Spector's 'Beyond The Beehive' show at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in which she takes us through the story of her life with words, music, photos and videos. The show was part of the Women of the World series and she brought out and talked about her own experiences as a woman in the early days of pop music through to today, most particularly being married to a controlling and threatening man.

Ronnie kicked off my taking about her childhood in Spanish Harlem in New York, her mother part Black and part Cherokee while her dad was Irish. As she talked she showed photos of those long ago days, keeping it fast paced and punctuated by songs, from her love of doo-wop to forming the Ronettes, touring the UK supported by the Rolling Stones, flirting with the Beatles and the shock of leaving the music business unexpectedly when she married Phil Spector. The format was a few minutes of talk and photos or video projected behind her followed by a song and then more spoken word.

The core narrative seemed to be that she married a jealous control freak who ended her career when they married and, when she escaped, bullied and threatened her into becoming a non-entity and erasing her from the history of pop music. She fought her way back into becoming the singer she always wanted to be and ended the show by saying she will not be erased from history. She sounded delighted about finally being inducted into the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame against threats from Phil Spector, her place finally secured. But she still wants us to remember the music, the songs she helped bring to life.

She gave us songs from across her long career, from the Ronette's 'Be my Baby' in the 60s to 'Girls From The Ghetto', an autobiographical song from her last album in 2006. She gave us her version of 'Time Is On My Side' by the Stones, the song she recorded for George Harrison, 'Try Some, Buy Some', 'Say Goodbye To Hollywood' recorded with the E-Street Band and 'She Talks to Rainbows', recorded with Joey Ramone. She brought us right up to date with her version of Amy Winehouse's 'Back To Black'.

It must be odd being in Ronnie's position, someone who was around from almost the start of pop music as we know it, became a huge star and then vanished just as her career was really taking off. Knowing all the luminaries of the 60s and 70s, appearing now and then to make music with them but never reaching that peak again. Resurfacing with Bruce Springsteen and later with Joey Ramone, always the rock chick but no longer the superstar. She tells a fascinating tale.

My favourite piece of video was the Ronettes shaking their pert bums at incredible speed on stage in the early '60s - how did they do that?

Extra kudos to Ronnie for playing The Ramones as the entrance music ('Blitzkreig Bop' anyone?) and closing with Joey Ramone's 'What A Wonderful World'. That's a nice tribute to an old fan and friend who is no longer with us.

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