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  1. #1
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    Mar 2004
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    Default The Dirty Dick's affair

    Dirty Dick’s Bar
    Nassau, Bahamas
    March 1963

    I’m sixteen years old. I’m wearing a horizontal-stripe boatneck beach shirt over plaid Bermuda shorts, brown loafers, white socks. In my back pocket I’ve got a creased British Arrow paperback of More Not at Night that I picked up in a used bookstall off Bay Street. All topped off by a straw hat with a one-foot crown.

    Get the picture?

    Total. Geek.

    I’m in Nassau on a family vacation. My folks and their good friends, the Blindts, have flown themselves and all six kids to the Bahamas to escape the New Jersey winter. The daily ritual has become: Beach and touristy stuff all day until 4 o’clock or so when we all traipse down to the famous Dirty Dick’s Bar on Bay Street for afternoon libations. The adults hang at the bar in the front room while the kids – three Wilsons and three Blindts, varying in age from 10 to 16 – are relegated to the backroom. Martinis for the adults, cokes or virgin cocktails for the kids. The only good thing about the backroom is the jukebox.

    We don’t talk much. We’ve been together all day so there’s not a lot left to say. Mostly we listen to the music (if I hear “Yellow Bird” one more time, I will kill) and I read my book. I love the warm weather and the beach, but the bar bores me.

    (“Up and at ’em. We’re heading for Dirty Dick’s.”
    “Aaaaw, again?”)

    Until…

    I don’t recall if it’s our 2nd or 3rd day there. We usually have the backroom to ourselves at that time of day, but today I look up as three young women enter. They’re wearing open blouses over bikinis. They have mocha skin, full, pouty lips, and tons of ebony hair piled atop their heads. They’re only a few years older than yours truly, who develops an instant crush on the tall one – but I could have an equal crush on any of the trio.

    And then they start to dance to whatever's playing on the jukebox. In their bikinis.

    I am mesmerized. Can’t take my eyes off them. They are from a different world. They are so cool, so comfortable in their smooth, flawless, bikini’d skin, and they sway so gracefully. I remove my straw hat, but I keep my book out because I can hide my staring by pretending to read. They’re totally in their own world and I am wallpaper.

    Finally one of our parents announces it’s time to go to dinner.

    Really? Do we have to leave already?

    Next day I’m hanging over my father asking when we’re going to Dirty Dick’s.

    When we return – finally! – the three exotic ladies are already there. Dancing. In their bikinis. (My brother thinks he remembers them doing the limbo. I doubt this. I have no memory of it and am sure beyond question that images of them limboing in their bikinis would have been deeply branded on my still-developing hippocampus.)

    Again, I am mesmerized until we’re pulled away to attend a dinner-theater restaurant somewhere inland. Little Anthony is going to be singing. The Beatles haven’t hit the US yet, but I’m already so over Little Anthony and his ilk. Same with post-Army Elvis. I much prefer what’s called R&B. (I don’t call it that; don’t know if I’ve even heard the term yet; I just know that Rufus Thomas and Smokey Robinson and Mary Wells have something I like.) But when you’re on a family vacation, you go where the family goes.

    So we cab inland to this big outdoor restaurant with lots of round tables and a stage. After an indifferent meal, the show starts. But not Little Anthony right away. First we have to sit through an opening act no one has ever heard of: The Ronettes.

    I look up and my jaw drops (quite literally) as the three exotic gals from Dirty Dick’s step onto the stage. They’re dolled up with huge eyelashes and thick eyeliner and squeezed into short slinky dresses, but no question: it’s them.

    And they can sing! The lead singer – my second deepest crush of the trio – has this powerful voice with a natural vibrato. I’m mesmerized all over again. The nameless beauties are nameless no more: They’re the Ronettes.

    I can’t wait to get to Dirty Dick’s the next day. I’m determined to screw up my courage and speak to them – tell them I saw them sing and think they’re great. But they don’t show. On their way to the next stop on Little Anthony’s tour, I guess.

    Ah, well. We’ll always have Nassau.

    Fast-forward six months to either shortly before or after Labor Day (not sure) when I’m 17 and have my driver’s license. I’m cruising somewhere (or maybe just cruising). As usual I’m listening to my fave Top-40 drive-time DJ Dan Ingram on WABC-AM; he says something about a new song from a group called the Ronettes.

    Wait…Ronettes? That name rings a bell. I turn up the volume to hear “Boom…boom-boom-BAM! Boom…boom-boom-BAM!” (I started drumming for a garage band over the summer so I’m immediately pulled in.) And then that voice from Nassau starts singing, “The night we met I knew I…needed you so…”

    I damn near drive off the road. It’s them! I know them! Well, not really, but I feel as if I do. Yeah. I knew them before they were on the radio. I knew them when, baby!

    I love-love-love the song. And I get this feeling that, even if they never record another tune, I’m a Ronettes fan for life.

    THE BEST SONGS

    “Be My Baby” – this put the Ronettes on the map. Hal Blaine’s iconic drum opening, and then Ronnie kicks in, backed by Phil Spector’s famous Wall of Sound. Her fellow Ronettes – sister Estelle and cousin Nedra – aren’t on the record. They were back in NYC while all sorts of LA music folk like Sonny and Cher, Darlene Love, Nino Tempo, and others crowded into Gold Star Studios to sing backup.

    “Baby I Love You” – Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, who wrote “Be My Baby,” returned to compose the Ronettes’ second hit, which is pretty much a redo of “Be My Baby,” right down to the “Whoa-ho-ho-ho” that became Ronnie’s signature. (Back in the day, when you had a hit with “Up on the Roof,” you followed it with “Under the Boardwalk.” You followed “It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To” with “Judy’s Turn to Cry.” And so on.)

    “(The Best Part of) Breaking Up” – Ronnie’s got all pistons firing, especially her sultry “C’mon, beeby” in the outro. (Written by Pete Andreoli and Vincent Poncia.)

    “Do I Love You?” – a long intro featuring Carol Kaye’s melodically mesmerizing bass line leading to Spector’s thickest Wall of Sound yet. (Also written by Andreoli-Poncia.)

    “Walking in the Rain” – written by another married songwriting powerhouse, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. The Wall of Sound is downplayed during the verses but comes on strong on the chorus. Nice build at the end of the bridge. Notable for strategic thunder claps.

    “You Baby” – Another Mann-Weil tune; not sure if this was ever a single, but it’s a super song, especially Ronnie’s moany little “Ohs” in the outro.

    “I Wonder” – this Barry-Greenwich tune was never a single but a great record with a muscular Wall of Sound (including castanets and Hal Blaine getting all manic on the toms).
    Last edited by fpw; 06-28-2017 at 03:48 PM.
    FPWHidden Content
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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Posts
    3

    Default

    Songs of my childhood, you were a bit older than I but the music had me from around 8 years old on. Great walk down memory lane, I agree on Yellow Bird.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Location
    The Jersey Shore
    Posts
    2,928

    Default

    Glad you liked it.
    FPWHidden Content
    "It means 'Ask the next question.' Ask the next question, and the one that follows that, and the one that follows that. It's the symbol of everything humanity has ever created." Theodore Sturgeon.

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