She Talks to Rainbows is not just the title of a four-song EP
due Tuesday (Sept. 14) from Ronnie Spector that marks the ex-Ronettes
singer's emergence from a nearly 10-year exile from recording.
To Spector, it's also the story of her previous life in a gilded cage.
The girl-group legend said she felt as if former Ramones leader Joey
Ramone was singing about her the first time she heard the Ramones
song "She Talks to Rainbows."
"When I was married to ['Wall of Sound' creator] Phil [Spector] I
never went out and I never talked to anybody. I never had any friends,
no one could come over to the mansion, no one could ever call there,"
Spector said of the time from the late '60s to mid-'70s she described
in her 1986 autobiography "Be My Baby."
"So when I heard [the song] that's exactly what I used to do in
California in the mansion. I would talk to the bees and the trees,
because I had nobody else to talk to. So that's why the song was so
perfectly meant for me"
That explains what might otherwise seem like the EP's odd choice of
covers for the 56-year-old former girl-group leader (born Veronica
Bennett), best known for the 1963 hit "Be My Baby."
Co-produced by Ramone (born Jeff Hyman), the EP features the title
track (RealAudio excerpt),
the Beach Boys' "Don't Worry Baby" and "Bye Bye Baby," a
Ramone-penned ballad intended as an homage to Spector.
The EP also features a song made famous by late New York Dolls
guitarist and solo artist Johnny Thunders, "You Can't Put Your Arms
Around a Memory," a duet with Ramone.
Ramone and Spector met in 1996, when Spector's husband/manager,
Jonathan Greenfield, heard "She Talks to Rainbows" from the Ramones'
1995 studio swan song, Adios Amigos!, and thought the singer
could appreciate the song's sentiment.
"I thought it was so great, and it reminded me so much of myself and
what I do live that I wanted to meet Joey," Spector said. "I called
Joey the next day, and we just bonded right away."
Ramone said "She Talks to Rainbows" was inspired by a young girl he
used to see in his neighborhood who he described as being "in her own
"I used to see her in the neighborhood all the time. She [the girl]
just inspired it ... and Ronnie makes it her own, Ronnie just makes it
as if ...," Ramone said, as Spector cut him off, chiming in, "as if I
wrote it" (RealAudio excerpt of interview).
The ex-Ramones singer whose pioneering punk band sometimes
used '60s girl-groups such as the Ronettes as inspiration in their
brief, repetitive songs said he wanted to find music Spector
could relate to emotionally. His search led him to the melancholy
Thunders song. Ramone said he hadn't known Spector already had a
history with punk icon Thunders.
"There was something between Johnny Thunders and Ronnie that I
sensed," Ramone said. "A real similarity in what they'd been through."
Spector claimed in "Be My Baby" that she was held captive at the
Hollywood mansion she shared with ex-husband Phil Spector in the late
'60s and early '70s. She said she met Thunders when she played a show
at New York's Continental club in 1975. "I was going through my
divorce and [Thunders] came to see me, and he cried through nearly
every song," Spector said.
She said the guitarist, who died in 1991 of a suspected drug
overdose, came backstage after the show and was so choked up by her
set that he could barely speak. "It's amazing that I ended up singing
his song and crying too," Spector said. "I was recording the song by
the guy who was crying at my show, and now, 20 years later, I'm crying.
It's such an omen, such a psychic thing."
Under her birth name, Spector led the Ronettes (which also included
her sister Estelle and their cousin Nedra Talley) to limited success
in the early '60s. Their big break came in 1963 when Phil Spector
signed them to his Phillies label. The group scored the 1963 hit "Be
My Baby" and followed it with less successful singles such as "Baby I
Love You," and "(The Best Part of) Breakin' Up." Phil Spector and
Ronnie were married in 1966.
Her career faltered for nearly two decades before she re-emerged in
1986, singing a duet with singer Eddie Money on "Take Me Home Tonight,"
which peaked at #4.