This week, 3:1 visits what is arguably one of the best songs of all time: “Be My Baby,” written by Phil Spector, Jeff Barry, and Ellie Greenwich and originally performed by The Ronettes in 1963. You may know it from the from the iconic opening credits of Dirty Dancing or Mean Streets, the sampling in Eddie Money‘s “Take Me Home Tonight,” or any of the many times it’s been used and covered over the years. It’s a staple of rock and roll history.
The original’s bold, full sound (known as Phil Spector’s signature “The Wall of Sound” styling) and powerful, beautiful vocals (which include backup by a young Cher), make it a difficult recording for anyone to beat, but I imagine it’s an irresistibly fun song to tackle as a cover.
First, an emo/punk rock rendition from Bayside, found on their 2012 EP, Covers Volume #1. It’s an unexpected take that works surprising well.
Next, the posthumously released version by John Lennon, recorded in 1973 for the Rock ‘N’ Roll sessions with Phil Spector. It can be found on the John Lennon Anthology from 1998. There’s something really haunting about its slow pace and pleading vocals. How it didn’t make it on to the album baffles me.
Perhaps the most interesting cover in terms of background story comes from The Beach Boys in 1980. Brian Wilson has been interviewed many times over the years about his obsession with the song. It’s a fantastic tribute.
“I felt like I wanted to try to do something as good as that song and I never did,” Wilson said in a NY Time article titled Still Tingling Spines, 50 Years Later, “I’ve stopped trying…It’s the greatest record ever produced. No one will ever top that one.” Perhaps all these covers can ever hope to be are worthy tributes to the classic.
and the original, in all it’s timeless glory. Even if you’ve heard it a million times, give it a close listen and imagine a time when no one had heard anything quite like it: