Song 52: The Ronettes, “I Wish I Never Saw The Sunshine” (1965/1974)Posted: February 22, 2013
Man, this one is sad. The thing that gets to me most is that phrase in the intro and between verses, with the tympani and strings. It’s beautiful, but there’s one note throwing a slight wrench in the works, making it sound slightly “bluesy” in a way that’s absolutely heartbreaking. Then there’s the chorus, which contradicts Alfred Lord Tennyson’s statement that “‘Tis better to have loved and lost/Than never to have loved at all.” Actually, say the Ronettes, ’tis better to have stayed indoors.
The Ronettes, as practitioners of Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound”, usually had more bells and baritone sax to their songs. To my ears, those are absent (though maybe there are some bells in there; that mono wall can be hard to pick apart). They’re more famous for songs like the incredible “Be My Baby”, more rock than what Spector supposedly called “little symphonies for the kids”, and it’s that grandness that makes this song work so well. I like to think of teenagers in 1965 sitting in their bedrooms, setting this one on the turntable or hearing it on the radio, thinking about their high school romances, thinking, “Yes, exactly!” (Alas, this definitely never happened: Though recorded in 1965, the song wasn’t released until 1974.)
Everything feels massively important in teenage years, and, purposely or not, I think this song nails that feeling exactly. Beth Orton covered this song in 1996, and it sounds just as dramatic in the hands of a person in her late 20s. I’d imagine it would sound the same sung by a person in their 70s; love is love, loss is loss. It’s amazing how that works.