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  • Writer's pictureMark Howitt

Songs in the Key of My Life: 8



Baby, I Love You, Ramones (1980)


It is often said that you never forget where you were when you heard that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated as he was driven in that motorcade through Dallas, Texas. However, since that tragic event took place over 60 years ago, there is now a dwindling number of people alive who have any recollection. I’m not one of them.


I can tell you where I was and what I was doing 14 years later, when I first heard the news that Elvis Presley had died age 42 in August 1977. Or I thought I could, memory can be a fickle friend.


My recollection is that I was with my Mum and Dad, we were driving back from Linlithgow, listening to radio commentary on England v. Australia cricket match from Leeds - Johnners, Blowers, The Alderman, old school - which was interrupted to bring the sad news from Graceland, then back to the cricket. None of us registered any great interest. My mother had a huge classical music collection, occasionally Dad would listen to one of his handful of jazz LPs, and at that stage all I had to show was a half share in Save Your Kisses for Me by Brotherhood of Man.


In fact the Test match had finished the day before Elvis died (I doubt he was aware) with a thumping win for England, Geoff Boycott knocking up 191 in England’s only innings and Ian Botham taking 5 wickets for 21 runs in his second ever Test match. But we did hear the news in the car on the way back from Linlithgow, of that I am certain.


Initially, it was a surprise watching Priscilla, Sofia Coppola’s film about Priscilla Presley that the soundtrack contained none of her ex-husband’s songs. The closest we get is repeated views of the back of Jacob Elordi as Elvis appearing on stage in 1973 to the magisterial sound of Also sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss. But this is a film about Priscilla, played by Cailee Spaeny who, quite remarkably, portrays her convincingly from age 14 through to 28 and has deservedly been nominated for a Golden Globe.


The non-usage of Elvis makes for a better film and the soundtrack is predictably unpredictable, as you would expect from Coppola. The ever dreamy Venus from Frankie Avalon, a slice of neo-psychedelica from Peter Kember in How You Satisfy Me and some lovely gospel from Pastor T.L. Barrett with Nobody Knows. But the tone for the whole movie is set at the start when, over the opening credits, Alice Coltraine’s Going Home segues into the Ramones’ cover version of the Ronettes’ single Baby, I Love You.


That version was recorded under considerable duress, producer Phil Spector allegedly holding the band hostage at gunpoint and insisting that - against his wishes - singer Joey Ramone record the song with session musicians. It sounded nothing like the Ramones but turned out to be their most commercially successful single ever.


I love it, the contrast of Joey’s rasping voice against the soaring string section. And of course, the lyrics, are perfect for Priscilla and Elvis. At least until it all went pear shaped.


I can't live without you

I love everything about you

I can't help it if I feel this way

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