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Survival & Comebacks: Ronnie Spector

How did you come to Phil Spector’s attention?

The Ronettes were on Colpix Records, singing songs like I’m On The Wagon. Phil thought that my voice was the greatest voice ever for rock’n’roll, it’s just that simple. He asked us to come down and audition about seven at night. He said: “Skip school”, and we did. He was playing the Darlene Love record Today I Met The Boy I’m Gonna Marry. I said, ‘Is he trying to tell me something?’

When you married in 1968, did you accept that it would be at the cost of your musical aspirations?

No, I didn’t have a clue. In fact Phil told me: “I have a bigger song for you than I Wanna Hold Your Hand. The Ronettes did The Beatles’ first American tour, but I wasn’t on that tour because Phil said: “I’m making a record bigger than theirs.” He never did. He tricked me totally.

The marriage was dominated by Phil’s jealousy, domination and control-freakery. When you finally freed yourself, how confident were you that you still had a career?

When I married him, I thought: “He’ll be more secure, he won’t be jealous of the Stones and The Beatles.” It was just the opposite. I always thought that I could be on stage, but I did two songs in seven years and I never went on stage again. At least Tina Turner and Cher were working, they were out there. I was there in that musty old mansion.

While you were away, were you aware that people like Joey Ramone, Bruce Springsteen and Alice Cooper were singing your praises?

Not then. I didn’t see people for seven years and when I came back to New York, people were saying: “Patti Smith loves you.” I was in awe of them because I had no idea people even knew who I was. In the mansion I only heard opera music. I wasn’t even allowed to hear rock’n’roll.

So many artists from the early sixties were ripped off by music business sharks. Were you?

Of course. The guy owes me millions of dollars and he knows it. Every artist gets hit. I never thought about money, I thought about the stage and singing.

_Weighing your personal pros and cons, would you recommend a singing career to a thirteen-year-old girl from the ghetto? _

Yeah, I would if she loved it. You can’t sing if you don’t have your heart in it, you have to love it. When you love something it’s very easy. The stage is very easy when you love it. And the audience loves you in return. That’s all I ask for.

Classic Rock’s Reviews Editor for the last 19 years, Ian stapled his first fanzine in 1977. Since misspending his youth by way of ‘research’ his work has also appeared in such publications as Metal Hammer, Prog, NME, Uncut, Kerrang!, VOX, The Face, The Guardian, Total Guitar, Guitarist, Electronic Sound, Record Collector and across the internet. Permanently buried under mountains of recorded media, ears ringing from a lifetime of gigs, he enjoys nothing more than recreationally throttling a guitar and following a baptism of punk fire has played in bands for 45 years, releasing recordings via Esoteric Antenna and Cleopatra Records.