ROAR is a project of Owen Evans, the drummer of the Arizona folk-punk band AJJ, during a time when he was writing and producing alone. ROAR’s most famous song is called Christmas Kids (2010). The composition is famous for being a musical biopic that tells the story of a dramatic period in the life of the famous 1960s vocalist Ronnette Spector (born Veronica Yvette Bennett). A photo of the lead singer of the girl group The Ronnettes graces the cover of the track. The lyrics retain the singer’s original name, Ronnie (Ronnett), derived from Veronica. Her first husband, the scandalous music producer Harvey Phillip Spector, is mentioned. The plot of the song sheds light on the history of the difficult and dysfunctional relationship in the creative and familial union of Ronnette and Phil.
About the making of Christmas Kids.
Owen Evans’ decision to address Spector’s story came after reading the singer’s autobiographical book, Be My Child: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts and Madness. By then, the world knew the details: Ronnie had run away from Phil’s home, unable to bear the hardships of living with an oppressive and mentally unstable man. Her resilience in the face of abuse and violence is what the plot of the song revolves around.
The title Christmas Kids is deceptive, because it is not about a cute little song about love and the traditional New Year’s Eve family celebration. Christmas Kids were two twin boys adopted by Phil without his wife’s knowledge and given to her for the holiday. The year before, he had tried to bond with his young wife with his first adopted son. Growing up, Gary and Louis accused their father of dysfunctional behavior not only with women and co-workers, but also toward them.
Freed from the bonds of a toxic marriage, Veronica continued her career, performing with two new performers as Ronnie and the Ronettes. The singer married her manager, Jonathan Greenfield, and gave birth to and raised two sons. She died of cancer at age 79.
Harvey Phillip’s “golden age” was over by the 1980s. The brilliant producer and author of the famous “wall of sound” recording technique practically retired from business, wallowing in the abyss of alcohol and drug addiction. The pathological despot and psychopath ended his life in 2021. He died of a coronavirus in prison, serving time for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson.
And back in the 1960s, the careers and fortunes of the two musical legends were closely intertwined. Phil was involved in Ronnie’s releases, giving the trio The Ronnettes the bad girl image of tight short skirts with heavily lined eyes and trendy “beehive” hairstyles. Ronnie married Phil, hoping for a long and happy life. Instead, she was trapped for six years in an unhealthy, demonically abusive relationship with a jealous psychopath.
The plot and meaning of the musician’s song ROAR
Christmas Kids develops the scenario of Ronnie’s life in a depressing and dangerous marriage to Phil.
- In the first verse, the husband claims that love is a tower in which the couple can live together with adopted children. In reality, the wife has been confined at home, unable to go to the store, a movie, or a restaurant. Phil asks Ronnie not to leave him, while threatening to find out if she “changes her name and leaves this cum place behind.” In real life, Spector has kept the woman home without her outerwear and shoes, tapped phone calls, and surrounded the mansion with guard dogs and a wire fence to prevent escape.
- In the second verse, the man seems to realize his inadequacy: “My appearance is unsightly, demons inside me.” In her autobiography, however, the singer writes that he showed her a gold coffin with a glass lid – prepared in case she tried to keep it. Then follows Ronnie’s decision to get rid of Phil’s tyranny at all costs: “I’ll escape, but you won’t know how or where to find me.” In 1972, the world learned that the singer managed to break free with the help of her mother – she ran out of the house half-naked and barefoot.
- The third verse describes the condition of Phil, sentenced to a long prison term. He is afraid in his cell that he is going to drink himself to death and asks Ronnie: “Get me out of here.
The song is structured so that the obsession and creepy threats of a jealous and despotic man to take out his fugitive wife are expressed in the repeated refrain of the refrain “I’ll know, I’ll know.” And the woman’s intention to end domestic violence, expressed in two lines, becomes evident.
Christmas Kids should not be taken solely as sympathy for the courageous Ronnie Spector or as the songwriter’s diss to Phil Spector. Owen Evans points out that while Phil was making his wife’s life hell, he was producing catchy pop songs for a younger generation, mixing them with the increasingly popular rock and roll. Critics called the talented musician “the first teenage mogul,” and in real life, fans were disappointed in the musical icon of the time. After all, everyone around them suffered from Phil’s inadequate actions.
Owen Evans confessed: it was Spector who helped him realize that “bastards like this” were in the music industry in the legendary 1960s era. And many of the naïve songs of that era came to seem dark, insincere and even sinister to him: they asserted that women tolerate dependence on men or relationships to feel valued and loved.