When Ronnie Spector agreed to record a cover with the E Street Band, she was making sure the band didn’t break up.
The studio session took place in 1977 when Bruce Springsteen was engaged in a battle with his former manager and as a result was legally barred from following any new music. This meant that his group members were also unable to work and the boss lacked the money to pay them.
In his recent memoirs Unshared enthusiasms (Going through rolling stone), E Street Band guitarist Stevie Van Zandt recalled that three of his bandmates voted to part ways because they had session work offers. He persuaded them not to make up their minds, and that’s when label executive Steve Popovich suggested working with Spector, who died on January 12 at age 78. She only recently started singing again after years of retirement, including an appearance on Southside’s debut album Johnny and the Asbury Jukes in 1976, which was Van Zandt’s first time working with her.
“We all fell in love with that voice,” he said. “That combination of innocence and a bit of sensuality and sexuality.” But when she started recording Billy Joel’s “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” – a song she had inspired – the band noticed something was wrong. “At a certain point, we realized that she had changed the vibrato of her voice”, recalls the guitarist. “She changed her style a bit in the off years and we just reminded her, ‘There’s this thing you do, this really cool sexy vibrato thing.’ And then we had the catch.
The single wasn’t the success they had hoped for, but it did bring the band members some much-needed paychecks – including Springsteen, who only participated as an “advisor”. “It should have been a hit, that thing,” Van Zandt said. “We brought her back to the stage and she stayed there for the next 45 years. Professionally, what an honor to produce it. And it was a very, very critical moment.
You can listen to the song below.
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