Be My Baby always existed. Clearly to me it always existed, it is ten years older than me. But there is something about Be My Baby which feels like it always existed, its has the primal chord, the ur-drumbeat, that wall of sound and in the heart of it Ronnie Spector’s hics, tics and wonderfully strident voice. You get the feeling they could have shut down pop music then and there and called it a good job well done, and a plenty of people would have said fair enough.
(By the way I love that London Records reissue sleeve: way to go to miss the point).
This perceived perfection is the problem with Be My Baby. Not that it is too good. But in marrying Spector’s production to this wonderful mid-tempo stompathon it unwittingly gave us the template for “proper pop”. You know, the pop that never really existed, the pop that people are always talking about when they are sniffy about S Club 7*. Brian Wilson loved Be My Baby so much he wrote Don’t Worry Baby as some sort of drug whacked out response (there is nothing in Be My Baby that suggests Ronnie or indeed the Ronettes, were particularly worried, though with Phil Spector in the background perhaps they should have). So perhaps we can imagine a world where Be My Baby never existed, and how different it would be?
Well Mean Streets and Dirty Dancing would be down a key song each. Don’t Worry Baby would be off any Wilson / Beach Boy touring repetoire. And The Rubettes and the Raveonettes probably wouldn’t exist – thus Luke Haines would have had to riff on something else to make a creepy commentary on the state of pop. But part of me wonders if this hole in the musical canon would be skirted around forever, as the ultimate idea of a wonderful record that we cannot quite attain. In avoiding such a great record because it makes ours or other efforts look lame in comparison are we not just throwing Be My Baby out with the bathwater?
We do not need to imagine the world without Be My Baby. Instead use it as the base of some sort of half-arsed ontological argument being rehashed for the pop era; doesn’t the existence of a record like Be My Baby imply the possibility or existence of even better records? This very list suggests the existence of sixteen better ones (though there are plenty of caveats to be taken with that statement). The Ronettes and Phil Spector didn’t just get lightning in a bottle with Be My Baby, they kept trying and often got close. Others ploughing a similar furrow equally get close. And others go all over the place to chase the ideal. I hope we don’t attain it. Because the truth is, as great as it is, Be My Baby has never given me goosebumps. Because it always existed. Perhaps we need flaws, we need the near misses, to prove we are fallible. Be My Baby is not a template to get there, but other routes are constantly available. But while we wait, watch Ronnie and the girls come as close as you should come to perfection. But :
*This argument has weakened considerably of late! Hence S Club 7.