Iconic sixties girl group the Ronettes are frequently (and justly) celebrated for anchoring the Wall of Sound and inspiring the Beatles, but in their own right, they transgressed social, gendered expectations in revolutionary ways. Framed by a notion I call the sonic feminine, a recuperative theoretical space for the revolutionarily transgressive work of female and femme artists, I argue that the Ronettes, and lead singer Ronnie Spector in particular, enacted a kind of cultural rebellion: they crafted their images to made-up heights that tease the boundaries of drag across the spaces of the stage, the recording studio, the bathroom, and the apartment building lobby. In this, they sidestepped and exploded past the masculinized arenas of rock and roll and of the recording studio. Centering on Spector's complex presentations of herself in her memoir and in interviews, I read her as enacting her own version of bell hooks' counter-memory, calling into question the race and gender norms of the sixties just as she challenged the accepted definition of what rock is and who gets to make it.
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This article was originally published in Women and Music: A Journal of Gender and Culture, available at https://doi.org/10.1353/wam.2021.0007.