Ronnie Spector at CBGB
Ronnie Spector: Darlin’ (single, 1980)
Crazy Phil Spector’s ex-wife decamped to New York (where she was born) and worked with Genya Ravan for her Polish (see the label irony) label productions. (Genya played it all the way – her first label T shirt had the showbiz question on the reverse: ‘who do I fuck to get off this label?’) Genya, an old CB’s hand, was probably the first top-shelf female producer in the US (or even the world) and connected with serious talent in this ex-Ronette. In the sixties, these three were a girl group of a relatively subservient kind, to then-husband Phil with world-wide hits such as Be My Baby (for which he pulled in Cher for her first ever recording, as a backing singer) and Baby I Love You.
In her first showbiz life, Genya had been Goldie, singing lead in Goldie and the Gingerbreads, who were probably the very first self-directed grrrrl group in the world (well you might have tried it if you had grown up on the lower East Side from the late 40s). She and Ronnie grew up in opposite ends of Manhattan, but their lives ran parallel in many ways.
Originally, after the introduction to this all-girl group from New York City, the big producer wanted to sign only Ronnie as a soloist, but Ronnie’s mother informed him unequivocally that it was the whole group or no deal. The rest is pop history. Phil and Ronnie divorced in 1972. But the big producer couldn’t let go.
After Ronnie had returned to New York, working on her first full solo album with Genya (she had featured nicely in singles before then), Phil would bother her new producer with abusive phone calls about his ex-wife and Genya’s role as production interloper. It was a confused connection, and while Ronnie did well on stage, with a delicate and sometimes vulnerable presence, the related recordings didn’t. Good try, anyway….