As glue-sniffin’ surfin’ birds from the nonaffluent boroughs, the Ramones should’ve been the bastard sons of the badboy hitters the Ronettes and Shangri-Las pined over. Maybe they were: She Talks to Rainbows (c/o 109X Regents Park Road, London, NW1 8UR, U.K.) unites rock’s original bad girl, Ronnie Spector, with punk’s tallest rock star, Joey Ramone.
Over the past 35 years, Ronnie survived marriage to off-the-wall (of-sound) Phil, sang her heart out with Eddie Money and Alice Cooper, remarried, had two sons, cut records, and packed the house every Xmas. But her new EP surgically removes Our Matron Saint of Big Hair from nostalgia bins, restoring her to her throne. Guitar from longtime Ramones producer Daniel Rey adds a snarl to classic Ronettes “whu huh huh huh”s and Ramones “oh yeahs.” Tough and ruefully tender, a dialectic of vulnerability and guts runs through the four songs.
Onstage these days in front of kids at Coney Island High and the Continental, Queen Ronnie and King Joey wear tight black clothes and almost identical pageboys. But I wonder, oh yeah I wonder, oh-oh-oh-oh, who did it to who? Ronnie’s defiant teenage squelp resonates now with womanly sensuality and conviction, tweaking doo-wop’s underbelly of longing with hopeful exuberance. My first 40 rotations of “Bye Bye Baby” put a lump in my throat, made me cry my eyes out over every guy I’ve loved and lost since 1964. The grease-and-glamour aesthetics, the Noo-Yawk-accented sincerity, how Ronnie inadvertently genderbends “Don’t Worry Baby,” Brian Wilson’s reply to “Be My Baby” (written for Ronnie but forbidden by Phil)— She Talks to Rainbows is a fearless end-of-the-century declaration of Ronnie’s born-in-Spanish–Harlem rocker bloodline, her raw power, and her great heart. Nobody can fuck with that.