This was the first Ronettes song produced by Phil Spector and released on his label, Philles Records. It exemplified Spector's "Wall Of Sound" production technique, where he layered lots of instruments and used echo effects.
Spector had already produced seven chart hits when he auditioned The Ronettes for his Philles record label. The Ronettes were Veronica (Ronnie) Bennett, her sister Estelle Bennett and their cousin Nedra Talley. Phil fell in love with Veronica's voice and immediately went about signing the group to Philles (the trio was under contract with Colpix Records who had issued a few singles and a album which did not chart).
With the help of Veronica and Estelle's mother, who simply called the company and got Colpix to release the Ronettes from their contract, Phil immediately signed the Ronettes to Philles at the end of March. He had the group record a Jeff Barry-Ellie Greenwich song called "Why Don't They Let Us Fall In Love," but Spector decided not to release it in favor of another Barry-Greenwich composition, "Be My Baby." The single (Philles 116) entered the charts at the end of August and became the biggest hit and only Top 10 for The Ronettes.
Veronica Bennett was the only Ronette to sing on this. Phil Spector rehearsed her for weeks and had her do 42 takes before he got the sound he wanted. Spector and Bennett got married in 1968, and they divorced in 1974.
Phil Spector got a songwriting credit on this along with Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich. In an interview on National Public Radio (NPR), Ronnie Spector said she felt the song was inspired by her budding romance with Phil.
The Los Angeles area was populated with very talented session musicians in 1963, and Phil Spector called on many of them to play on "Be My Baby." Assembled at Gold Star Studios on July 5, 1963 were Don Randi (piano), Hal Blaine (drums - the opening is one of his signature riffs), Frank Capp (also drums - Spector used two drummers at the session), Al de Lory (keyboards), Bill Pitman (guitar), Ray Pohlman (bass), and Tommy Tedesco (guitar).
These four-hour sessions typically yielded 4-6 songs, but many times Phil Spector used all of his time on one song, which was the case here. For the B-side, Spector had Tommy Tedesco and Bill Pitman record a throwaway instrumental that he called "Tedesco And Pitman." Spector made sure the B-sides of his singles were garbage so there was no doubt what song should be played. This also allowed him more studio time to craft the hit.
Ronnie Spector (formerly Bennett) titled her 1995 autobiography Be My Baby
. In the book, she explained that Phil had her rehearse the song for weeks, then spent about three days working on her vocal in the control room. Ronnie would practice in the ladies' room at the studio, which she said had great acoustics and let her work out the little "whoas" and "oh-oh-ohs."
Phil Spector used a full string section on this recording, which Brian Wilson thought was brilliant. Wilson says it is his favorite record, stating in Q Magazine's 1001 Best songs Ever: "This is a special one for me. What a great sound, the Wall of Sound. Boy, first heard this on the car radio and I had to pull off the road, I couldn't believe it. The choruses blew me away; the strings are the melody of love. It has the promise to make the world better."
Ronnie Spector sang parts of this on Eddie Money's "Take Me Home Tonight
," released in 1986. She also appeared in the video, marking her first exposure on MTV and introducing her to a whole new audience (she hadn't had a Top 40 hit since "Walking in the Rain" with The Ronettes in 1964).
Since Bennett was not well known among the younger crowd, Money introduced Bennet's part with the line "Just like Ronnie sang..."
"Take Me Home Tonight" not only invigorated Spector's career, it also gave Money his biggest hit when it made #4 US.
A pre-famous Cher sang backup vocals. Sonny Bono worked for Phil Spector as a promotion man; he was dating Cher and introduced her to Phil, who then used her as backup on several recordings including "Da Do Ron Ron" and "Be My Baby."
Spector invited anyone who could sing to participate in the backup vocal sessions, and for "Be My Baby," Bono, Darlene Love, Bobby Sheen (of Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans), and Nino Tempo were among those showing up. According to Spector's engineer Larry Levine, they had to back up Cher because her voice would cut through so powerfully.
A version by Andy Kim hit US #17 in 1970, and Cissy Houston took it to #92 in 1971. John Lennon recorded the song with Phil Spector as part of the sessions for his album Rock 'N' Roll, but it didn't make the cut. Lennon's version was finally released in 1998 on his John Lennon Anthology set.
Brian Wilson wrote an answer song to this called "Don't Worry Baby." Ronnie covered it in 1999 on She Talks To Rainbows.
This song opens the 1987 movie Dirty Dancing, and plays during the opening credits over Martin Scorsese's 1973 movie Mean Streets. After the Dirty Dancing appearance, The Ronettes sued Phil Spector, claiming he wasn't authorized to use their music in movies, advertisements and other venues. In a 1998 trial, Spector was ordered to pay $2.6 million in past royalties to The Ronettes, but the verdict was overturned in 2002, with a judge deciding that if the secondary rights to the music were not spelled out in the contract (which they rarely were in the '60s), the singers did not control those rights.
Ronnie Spector was just 15 years old when she recorded this song, and 16 when it hit #1.
According to Ronnie Spector, the first time The Ronettes heard the finished version of this song was when Dick Clark played it on American Bandstand. She recalls getting very excited when Clark declared the song "The next record of the century."
This was used in TV commercials for erectile dysfunction drug Cialis.