Thursday, 17 July 2008

Bonnie and the Treasures—Home of the Brave

“Home of the Brave, Land of the Free
Oh why won’t they let him be what he wants to be?”

I heard this song only once, thirty years ago, but those lines from the chorus have been stuck in my head ever since. John Peel was playing selections from an album of Phil Spector rarities on his weekday-evening show, and this one stuck out. Of course human memory is fallible: I distinctly remember the artist as “Ronnie and the Relatives” which of course was the name Veronica (Ronnie Spector) Bennet, Estelle Bennet and Nedra Talley used before they became the Ronettes. But then, they had become the Ronettes before they’d even met Crazy Phil. Who knows; maybe Peelie also played a Ronnie & the Relatives track that night, and my faulty memory conflated the two.

I’m not alone in this confusion: any online discussion of this little gem of a record sooner or later has somebody stating that Bonnie is Ronnie Spector as an absolute fact. Hey, even Ronnie herself is on record as agreeing. But now I can actually here the record again, I’d have to disagree: there is a similarity, but that’s mostly in the Spector wall-o’-sound treatment (actually produced by Spector protogé Jerry Riopelle). This vocalist sounds like Ronnie would if you took the Washington Heights out of her voice. And who on earth would want to do that?

No, the packet switching muse tells me that Bonnie is in fact Charlotte O’Hara, a talented singer and songwriter who never really made it, and died tragically young.

So why did it stick in my mind all these years? It’s a good bad-boy song in the manner of He’s a Rebel or even Leader of the Pack (but no death, though). Seems like a reasonable Spectory production, although this copy is particularly poor quality, and wall-of-sound quickly turns to wall-of-mush once we move too far from the hi-fi. But the main reason has to be the sentiment. Us pinko limey bastards, like all foreign bleeding-heart liberal cowards, have a love-hate relationship with Yankee Culture. We Hate the Rednecks, but in our hearts of hearts we know that nobody ever heard a good commie rock and roll record (Well, apart from Stalin Wasn’t Stallin’ maybe). But here we have a pop record comparing and contrasting the USA’s Liberty-loving rhetoric with the reality of deeply conservative conformist suburban culture.

If you’re having trouble hearing the lyrics, you can always try Jody Miller's hit version from the same year (1965).

I’m trying out a new way of embedding the sound here: I’d appreciate comments if you can’t play this, or even just to confirm that you can. Thanks!

Download Bonnie and the Treasures—Home of the Brave from Rapidshare

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yar its Charlotte alright. And there are cleaner versions on YouTube. I put the lyrics up for the difficult part. The Lyrics with the Jody Miller version are "a little bit different" to Bonnie's. And there is the bridge verse that Jody doesn't sing. For me Bonnie's version is Better and more of a heartbreak at first hand where Jody's is more motherly and bland. My opinion anyway.