Review #494: Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes, The Ronettes

Karla Clifton
3 min readDec 21, 2023


#494: Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes, The Ronettes

So like RS to do this to me. Five albums ago they give me a Phil Spector mega-album, now they give me an album he produced. Most of these songs were already on the compilation!!! This is a test. They WANT me to lose my mind.

Ironically, Spector wasn’t even an album-oriented producer, preferring to put out single after single. This was the Ronettes only album. But they didn’t start out as the Ronettes; sisters Estelle and Veronica Bennett, plus their cousin Nedra Talley, started their career as “The Darling Sisters.” Their first official outing as a group was actually an accident, after a club manager mistook them for his house band’s backup dancers. They did so well that the house band handed the reigns over to them, letting Veronica perform an impromptu version of Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say.” The live version on this album sounds almost like it’s their first performance, with how much fun they’re having shouting back and forth to each other. Phil Spector discovered them soon after. While he wanted to only sign Veronica (aka Ronnie Spector), the Bennett matriarch insisted they were a package deal.

The song that blew them up was “Be My Baby,” a prim love song that Bennett still manages to pack full of personality, featuring Cher on backup vocals. (Fun fact, Cher performed on a lot of Spector’s hits. Also, she had a hilarious response to Spector propositioning her.) This song was so popular that Brian Wilson would write the homage “Don’t Worry Baby” in their honor—and also perform a straight cover of “So Young.”

Like I said, I listened to most of these songs less than a week ago, so I’ll spare you the gory details of this one and just say that it’s one hundred percent worth a listen. Bennett’s voice is so striking and addictive (highlights are “When I Saw You” and “(The Best Part of) Breakin’ Up”) but don’t sleep on Nedra or Estelle! Their backup vocals are consistent and ever-present; they kept Veronica from being just another Darlene Love. See “I Wonder” and “Chapel of Love.” Although I will say, there is a strong theme of devoted love songs. Specifically songs about babies; see “You, Baby” and “Baby, I Love You.”

The only song that breaks the mold (and the only song, other than the Ray Charles cover, that wasn’t on Back to Mono) was “How Does It Feel.” It’s a truly broken-hearted love song, with maybe the most creative percussion I’ve ever heard from Spector. Do you want her like I wanted you before?

The group officially broke up in 1967 (though they would briefly regroup in the Seventies). Frontwoman Veronica is frank in her memoir about reasons for the group’s dissolution, seeming pretty self-aware in fact: “You also have to remember that Nedra and Estelle stood in the background while I got to bask in the spotlight. … I got the preferential treatment in all kinds of other ways which [quite understandably] drove them crazy.” But she would pay the price for Spector’s preferential treatment, being horrifically abused at his hands. Because lest we forget, Spector was a murderer.

If I could redo this list, I would (obviously) keep this one, but would replace Back to Mono with A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector, and spare myself a four-hour Spector extravaganza.

More Rolling Stone Weirdness: Just listen to this quote from RS: More a Spanish Harlem street gang than a girl group, the Ronettes were pop goddesses dressed as Catholic schoolgirls gone to hell and back.” I’m tired.

Review #493: Here, My Dear, Marvin Gaye

Review #495: II, Boyz II Men