You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory

From The Paris Review:

On Wednesday, in the hours after Ronnie Spector’s family announced her passing from cancer at seventy-eight, I played, on loop, her cover of the Johnny Thunders punk anthem “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory.” Recorded for The Last of the Rock Stars, her 2006 comeback album, the song is also a dirge for Thunders, who died in 1991; he had been one of Ronnie’s crucial supporters in the period after she left her abusive ex-husband, the megalomaniac, murderer, and iconoclastic music producer Phil Spector. On YouTube, you can watch her perform a live version of the song from 2018: after showing footage from an archival interview the Ronettes did with Dick Clark sometime in the sixties, she comes out, to applause, and says, “Sorry, I was backstage crying.” Dabbing her eyes, she mourns the breakup of her iconic girl group, which also featured her older sister, Estelle, and cousin Nedra. “I thought 1966 was the end, no more Ronettes, no more stage, no more singing. I was out here in California and out of show business for seven or eight years. Let me tell you, life was a bitch.” She then describes starting over back in New York City in the ‘70s (she was raised in Spanish Harlem), and meeting Thunders while singing at the legendary gay club and bathhouse Continental Baths, where he cried all through her set. Later, she also met Joey Ramone, who produced an EP of hers and whose contributions to The Last of the Rock Stars include backing vocals on “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory.”

On the haunting track, Ronnie’s voice, its teen-dream girlishness scratched with nicotine, bears witness to the time that’s passed.

More here.