Sunday, 8 April 2012

Roy ORBISON: The Best Of Roy Orbison


(#164: 31 January 1976, 1 week)

Track listing: Oh Pretty Woman/Borne On The Wind/Today’s Teardrops/The Crowd/Crying/Evergreen/Candy Man/Blue Angel/Up Town/Only The Lonely (Know The Way I Feel)/It’s Over/Lana/Leah/In Dreams/Pretty Paper/Blue Bayou/Running Scared/Falling/Goodnight/Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream)

“It is death to mock a poet, death to love a poet, and death to be a poet.”
(Old Irish saying, possibly derived from Virgil)

But first, let us speak of Harry Barry and the Big Elastic Band.

One of my favourite songs is “When Big Roy Sang on Annie McGregor’s Juke Box,” the title track of the Big Elastic Band’s 1996 debut album. Some perspective is needed here; Harry Barry comes from Uddingston, a village about seven miles southeast of Glasgow, and the place where I grew up. Or to be precise, he comes from Viewpark, a postwar housing scheme just to the northeast of Uddingston. On the old bus route from Uddingston Cross to Bellshill, Viewpark more or less marked the halfway point of the journey. It was originally created for the benefit of heavy industry workers who certainly appreciated having decent homes in which to live. In time, as adjacent Tannochside decanted its mining community – it demolished the old miners’ cottages to make way for a new industrial estate (which is now mostly business and retail parks, but in the heyday of Ranco, Blue Circle Cement etc. it was quite a spectacle; from the back of the playground at Muiredge Primary School you could see the whole estate, which looked oddly flat and two-dimensional) – the miners and their families also made their way to Viewpark, which meant it became a solid working class community, full of (as Mr Barry either states or implies in his notes and songs) mass football matches, fish fry-ups and the accordion of Jimmy Shand on the wireless to remind folk of their roots. It developed a bad reputation in the seventies; my father would turn around at the old gasometer which marked the boundary between Uddingston and Bothwell, point at the distant estate and declaim “Colditz!” Things were rough there for a while, but the community rallied together and from the eighties onward there was marked improvement.

Harry Barry himself is a drummer, singer and songwriter who has been in the music business probably for as long as I’ve been alive. He played the drums on Andy Cameron’s 1978 World Cup anthem “Ally Tartan’s Army.” I recall a single he had out on RCA in 1974 entitled “Friday Night” which was a moderate local hit but faded into obscurity, which is a shame for it is really not bad. If you grew up listening to Radio Clyde, chances are you heard a lot of Mr Barry’s jingles, for jingle-writing was, along with session work, his main occupation for some considerable time. Like Chas and Dave, however, he became anxious to sing of his own culture and in his own accent; hence the formation of the Big Elastic Band, a predominantly middle-aged group with unabashed nostalgia for growing up in fifties South Lanarkshire. Instruments such as accordion, mandolin and harmonium indicate their general artistic approach – the music is a deliberately familiar and welcoming blend of straight pop, country, folk and reels.

“When Big Roy Sang…” is a song about the moment that inspired Mr Barry to pursue a career in music. Since I mostly grew up in seventies Uddingston, I cannot pretend that the Osborne Café wasn’t before my time – it had certainly vanished by the time I would have been old enough to appreciate it – but the memories, and more importantly the emotions, are still present within the song. There they are, Mr Barry and his Uddingston Grammar pals, “smoking fags and dogging school” (the latter a lovely Lanarkshire euphemism for playing truant) in Annie McGregor’s place, and there is a juke box. This juke box Mr Barry loves to use and listen to; it plays what you would expect from the time and place: “Buddy Holly, Elvis, Jerry Lee.”

But one lunchtime he puts his money in and a different record is played by mistake; but what a mistake. It is “Only The Lonely” by Roy Orbison, and soon the whole crowd is wreathed in a “magic spell.” He and/or Annie play this record over and over, try to get into its grooves, within its heart, to work out just what magic it is creating. And he knows, because the song delves into “Only The Lonely” with varying degrees of subtlety, that this is the moment that will change his life, that this is the talisman which will guide him down his path. In 1996 (“Nearly forty years have come and gone”) he remains entranced by the record (“it still sounds fresh and strong to me”), and while he’s at least partly aware that he’s living in the past (“But nostalgia’s no’ like it used to be”) he still recognises the record as a beacon; artfully constructed so as to emulate the climax of an Orbison ballad, the song peaks with Mr Barry stating that he knew his life would never be the same after having heard it. It is one of the most moving musical instances I know of how a person can be taken over, almost occupied, by a record, how music can move its listener to change his or her life. Give it a Sheffield accent, different scenery and a slightly more elaborate orchestration and it could be Richard Hawley. In his brief note, Mr Barry says of the song: “On hearing ‘Only The Lonely’ for the first time. How many million others had the same experience?” Listening to it now, over half a century since it was recorded, I would imagine that the numbers climb into the realm of the innumerable.

For this is one of the most important records in Then Play Long, despite its appearance. When I came across this not especially easy to find Arcade compilation in the record racks, I was amused to find it filed next to 1987’s In Dreams: The Greatest Hits. On the face of it, there seems no competition; one a perfunctory cut-and-paste job which looks as though it took marginally less time to put together than it did to look at it, the other a luxuriously-packaged collection fit for a comeback. But remember Mingus’ remarks in “The Chill Of Death” about the two long roads waiting for him to choose; the less appealing-looking album is actually the superior record. Although the track listing is not really logical and reads as though the compilers put the song titles into a hat and drew them out, and despite the perhaps misleading copyright renewal dates (1971, 1972) which lead to immediate suspicion of questionable re-recordings, these twenty tracks – as the album sleeve actually makes completely clear – are the original Monument masters. It is not the same album as 1973’s definitive double The All-Time Greatest Hits Of Roy Orbison nor the record which will eventually appear here as entry #378 – the hits are ordered differently and the auxiliary tracks are also different on each – but they are the originals, whereas In Dreams consists of re-recordings, and sounds like it; the rhythmic and arrangemental subtleties of the originals are flattened out to match the tenor of the times, as has been all too often the case from the eighties onward, and while Orbison can still reach those high notes, the emotion, the guilelessness, appear to have evaporated. He sounds like an old man trying to remember his dreams, whereas the originals, as represented on this collection, capture him at the point when he was still dreaming these dreams.

As I don’t think approaching the album in track order is going to prove especially helpful, it is better to start with “Only The Lonely,” a record which in itself marked the formation of a radical bend in the road of rock which had not previously existed, or been imagined. I am very much bearing in mind the listening habits of the younger Roy, out in the barren oil fields of Wink, Texas, including the strong radio signals he would have got from Nashville and Mexico, not to mention opera and pre-rock pop (so much of his work seems just to avoid being sung in Spanish, the “yi-yi-yi” in the climactic “crying” of “Crying” being just a single example). It is probably also accurate to say that it was Del Shannon, and not Orbison, who was rock’s first neurotic, but Orbison unquestionably introduced an extra psychological layer to rock, a music which had not hitherto been much concerned about self-doubt or suffering. It is true that Orbison used tropes and constructs which were common parlance in country, blues, jazz, folk, the Broadway musical, and about every other pre-rock 20th century musical movement of popular significance, but these had not yet been used within rock itself, and its consequences in terms of influence can properly be described as immeasurable. In songs like “Falling,” “Goodnight,” “Leah” and “In Dreams,” Orbison seems to be doing Blood On The Tracks over a decade ahead of Dylan – the same incrementally increasing piles of imagery, both abstract and concrete, the same underlying, unimaginable pain – and in terms of emotional and aesthetic complexity, Orbison was there first.

There was of course a song called “Only The Lonely” already in existence, written by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy van Heusen as a sort of title track for Sinatra’s 1958 album. But, as magnificent a soliloquy of hopelessness as Sinatra’s “Only The Lonely” is – and the album is full of definitive Sinatra setpieces of melancholia including “What’s New?,” “Angel Eyes” (“’Scuse me while I disappear”), “Goodbye” and “One For My Baby” – it does seem rather to wallow in its own sorrow, find a strange kind of euphoria in doing so.

Whereas Orbison’s “Only The Lonely” is the superior song and performance because both suggest a way out. As a jobbing songwriter, Orbison had tried to pitch it to Elvis (who hadn’t got out of bed yet) and the Everlys (who weren’t interested), and finally resorted to recording it himself. He brought two friends into the Nashville studio to do the Everly-style backing vocal refrain. Producer Fred Foster protested that the music was too quiet to record; Orbison replied that he’d better find a way of recording it because that was the way he did it. And he was right; the musical background is integral but unobtrusive, and Orbison takes the opportunity to use almost his whole vocal range, and by doing so make his sadness empathetic and universal. At points the voice engages in rhetorical dialogues with Bob Moore’s strings, but what is vital about the record is how both voice and arrangement build up, layer by layer, so that by the time Orbison climaxes on the extended, out-of-time falsetto on the “you” of “that’s the chance you gotta take,” he allows himself a death-pondering pause between the “you” and the “gotta take,” and thereby makes his meaning and message clear; he is not seeking to mourn or to die, but is simply asking for the freedom to try again, even if he fails again. He tells us quite firmly here that he is not a quitter, that he’s ready to take whatever life and people throw at him, swallow it and start again.

There was some initial difficulty in following the song up. “Blue Angel”’s arrangement is simply too fussy for the song to come through and palpate; the backing vocals swallow the song up (so that in places Orbison scats where he would have otherwise put a lyric, before abruptly rushing into the middle eight). In between all this, we sense that Orbison is offering himself in the rare (for him) role of saviour, protector; his low “low” and “around” imbued with authority (although he finishes on a falsetto). Nor were the likes of “Today’s Teardrops” any way forward; the song was co-written by Gene Pitney, whose voice Orbison resembles throughout, and although a later collaboration would have been something to behold – Pitney eventually becoming Orbison’s only serious rival in damaged opera-pop suffering, and largely because of his own innovations as a producer and sound artist – this early effort is an uncomfortably jaunty uptempo affair, complete with Psycho-type string slashes, would-be rootsy sax and guitar solos, and imbecilic “Yeah yeah yeah!”s from the backing singers. In fact Orbison generally (but not wholly; there are at least two sterling exceptions to the rule here) sounds not only uncomfortable in uptempo settings, but also different; his voice a lot more nasal and maybe more carnal. “Lana,” not released as a single in Britain until 1966, sees him having to contend with a curious bass (proto-synth bass? Tuba?) and absurd backing vocals which go “Ling-a-ling-a-linga” when they are not going “Mamamamamamamamamama” (which I admit may have been partial inspiration for “Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)” and maybe young Robert Plant knew the record). “Up Town,” meanwhile, is JC Penney Elvis (specifically “Stuck On You”) where Orbison is compelled to leer about the potential to live in “penthouse number three,” to ride with the unsubtle drum hammering (“You want be my Ev! Er! Lov! In! Ho! Ney!”) or, in a particularly priceless moment, proclaim “I’m just a bellhop/You see I can’t stop.”

But “Running Scared,” his first US number one, put him quite defiantly back on track. The first of his hits to deploy the classic bolero structure – indeed, the song was inspired by Ravel’s Bolero - the song remains one of the most frightening rock has ever offered, not just because of the screaming subtext of sexual inadequacy and sexual jealousy, but because, as with so many of his subsequent hits, the action may only be happening in Orbison’s head; the song is a pocket examination of what happens when a man feels he is obliged to drag his past around with him like a ball and chain; she is not scared, may not even realise that he harbours these doubts, but who is this “him” who obsesses Orbison, so much so that he cannot stop or pause for breath? Whatever he is, Orbison conjures him up so tirelessly and persistently that eventually all he can do is appear (“And then, all at once, he was standing there”). This man, who is “afraid to lose” – he is already spelling it all out for us – at least summons the nerve to look him in the eye (if he even exists), and as his voice methodically ascends from dread to liberation we not only realise that few pop songs depend so violently on one word, but also that no listener would have entertained the thought of the girl walking away from Orbison; the whole twist is that she walks away with him, and he had nothing to worry about all along. Not that she’ll ever know that she never really had a say in the matter.

“Crying” upped the ante even more. Parallel to Sinatra’s slowly burning take on “What’s New?,” the song tells a similar story; he sees an old flame in the street, they get on and part on good terms, and at no point dare he tell her that his flame for her still burns, is close to obliterating him. The tom-toms and vibes seem not desolate, but disused. His “hello” is consumed by fear. His “crying” at the end of the first verse is audibly shaky. But the bolero continues to build and he has no option but to unleash everything his voice has to offer; the impartial, affable baritone of the first verse, the eventual move into falsetto, the final explosion into his real upper register (yet again resting on that “you”). All the while, the song’s triple beats are nailing him into the sand. No one else in rock was even trying to sound like this. He climbs the mountain, wanting only to scream at the summit. No wonder he needed to provide some relief with “Candy Man,” the B-side (and eventually a UK hit in its rather listless Brian Poole and the Tremeloes incarnation) which even in its upbeat sensuality comes across as slightly menacing; the too-rough harmonica, the ongoing likeness of a politer cousin of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning.”

Next came “Dream Baby” which, though ostensibly bright and uptempo, retains the bolero structure, from double bass introduction through acoustic guitar and thumping drums, and here it is that Orbison begins not to be quite of this world; his desired one may not exist other than in his dreams, and as the female backing singers become more animated, and baritone sax and agitated solo guitar muscle their way into the picture, the intensity increases. Suddenly there’s a silence, as though a coffin lid has slammed shut on the singer, before the song resumes, now with handclaps and Orbison’s readiness to insert a final, high, tormented “sweet” before the record fades; the air is one of a more deceptive variant on “Hit The Road Jack.” It was not a format to which Orbison would for the most part adhere in his subsequent singles (although “Mean Woman Blues,” the double A-side to “Blue Bayou” and, in the States, the bigger hit, is strangely absent from this collection).

The follow-up, “The Crowd,” found Orbison back in familiar territory; first the slow wheels of the tom-toms – we could almost be listening to Queen Victoria’s funeral – then bass drum, bass guitar and piano mimicking a heartbeat (“For the heart of the crowd is gone from sight”). Unlike, say, Andy Williams, Orbison cannot hope to lose even himself in a crowd; there is a bizarre, string-driven tango of a middle eight, and once more the build-up to Orbison’s near-hysterical “Make be-LIEVE!” before strings and beats push him over the edge of the cliff. This is perhaps the most obviously Mexican-influenced of his singles, though he already had to be careful not to repeat himself (“Evergreen,” which is included here, is a nice but minor work, with strings swooning at the line “When the cold winds begin to blow” and so forth).

However, 1963’s “Leah,” double A-side to the likewise absent “Workin’ For The Man” – a shame about the latter, since both help set the scene for “Blue Bayou” – threatens to dovetail into psychosis. An introduction for floor tom and watering can immediately conjures up “Caroline No” and the scenario in this song is perhaps Orbison’s weirdest; he goes out of his beach hut and into the sea, diving for pearls he can give to his Other. But while doing so, his leg catches on something, something heavy enough to drag him down, and he knows he is dying. Musically the hint of “Bali Ha’i” is strongly evident, mixed with a little Les Baxter exotica (including marimba) – but he awakens to find he died in his own dream, and maybe even prefers things that way (“I could sleep in my dream,” he sings, somewhat horrifically in terms of what it really tells us about the singer; a morbid Walter Mitty who actually favours fictitious oblivion as a relief from boredom).

Then comes “In Dreams” itself, and it’s not difficult to see how this song in particular provoked David Lynch – for what is Blue Velvet if not an extended bad dream, or – worse? – a wet daydream by someone who is able to hear but not yet listen; what else can that severed ear signify? – as it moves with nearly infinite patience from candy-coloured sandmen through prayers via recollections of life to stark bereavement. He knows which world he wants, and it’s the one he wills into being, nightly; again he meticulously climbs the mountain, only to discover discarded oxygen bottles at the peak. Yes, the cold reality of loneness hits him; yes, he can’t help crying, but still - still! - he refuses to end everything, instead tries to shrug it all off with his “It’s too bad,” but just along the road the first syllable of his “Only” – the big “O,” so to speak – lurks there to crucify him. This was the sound of rock tearing itself up, of a man who indulged in no Brel-style theatricality on stage, who merely stood stock still behind his guitar, never moved, and wore thick, and then dark, glasses – all to conquer stage fright, though as his early employer Sam Phillips astutely noted, if he’d taken the glasses off he would have been dead within the week – and yet was capable of more intensity and emotional openness than any of his peers. More to the point,, where could Orbison go with his dreams after this coda?

Into fantasies of near-derangement. “Falling” begins with ride cymbal and acoustic guitar alone, then joined by bass and castanets; it is Orbison’s starkest admission yet: “I was lying all the time/Pretending to be falling in love with you.” The twist here being: despite himself, he really is falling in love with her (“But it’s different now,” “Forgive me, forgive me” he pleas, as though at the church confessional). He gulps on his own words as he phrases “Don’t leave me now” in the manner of a spoilt child, and the question is not just whether he is saying any of this out loud, or only thinking it, but also: why the extended pretence? The only rational explanation is that this is a one-night stand, or a regular one-night stand, to whom he has become gradually attached; how often, I note, is Orbison actually on the winning side? Here he doesn’t even know he has won. As I said: Blood On The Tracks ahead of schedule – or even Here, My Dear?

There was one more dream to come, and it was the most terrifying of the lot. “I’m so lonesome all the time,” Orbison sings on “Blue Bayou,” still thinking of the Everlys. The part of Texas where he grew up was a day-and-a-half’s Greyhound ride from any bayou, blue or otherwise – though his regular songwriting partner Joe Melson might have known more – and yet his lament is not for some imagined paradise (“Oh to see my baby again/And to be with some of my friends”) but the horrible everyday world he is forced to inhabit (“Saving nickels, saving dimes/Workin’ ‘til the sun don’t shine/Lookin’ forward to happier times/On Blue Bayou”). The bass and brushes ostinato in the introduction foresees “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” and the harmonica is a bug which won’t leave Orbison alone. His idea of paradise? Somewhere “where you sleep all day.” In other words, there is no real evidence of his ever having been in Blue Bayou; it is a protest against the humdrum, cold, unforgiving world – that he can dream all he likes, but can never get away. Or possibly die in the process. The dreaming credit is running out.

“Borne On The Wind” followed in early 1964, and it is one of the album’s most fascinating songs, as well as featuring one of Orbison’s most bravura performances. Here we are not even in the world of dreams anymore, but approaching the graveyard; the bolero framework is the same as before but the performance more quietly intense. The choir has never been more ghostly; here it borders on “Johnny Remember Me” territory. The song is constructed like an extended elegy: “So tenderly, your memory lingers with me…/And you will live in my dream” (those dreams do not entirely fade from view; not just yet, anyway). And then there is the hint of “Jezebel” and some rare but genuine Orbison anger as he spits out the words “You don’t love me but you’d love me to be in love with you.” If it sounds as though we’re getting awfully close to “Eloise” again, it’s not an accident; but Orbison avoids hysterics here and leaves it to the drums to provide emotional beat accentuation before he dives from the top of the tower with a high C.

Then it was the reckoning; “It’s Over,” a British number one in the midst of the beat boom. While I do sympathise with Lena’s view that this is a rock equivalent of Sinatra’s “Learnin’ The Blues” – a consolatory arm around a pal’s shoulder as he relates what he himself has seen in an effort to reassure the wronged friend that he’s not the only one it’s happened to – I see it more as Orbison’s natural release. Throughout this anthology, Orbison has repeatedly been a passive recipient of pain and sorrow rather than an active motivator of them; he lets things happen to him, relies on the security of dreams to pretend that they didn’t really happen.

But “It’s Over” ruthlessly strips away that last mask. The florid orchestration and even more florid lyrics are there to distract the listener’s attention from what is really going on in the song; that Orbison is having his dreams taken away from him and being forced to look the reality of loss in the eye. And if a man really loves the thing he fears most, then it must be admitted that “It’s Over” is a grand, even magisterial gesture of release. That is, if he is singing to and for himself; but those final four exclamations of the title for me represent escape, a flight from pain and illusion, his most gratifying of freedoms.

I probably don’t have to talk too much about Orbison’s 1964 Christmas offering, Willie Nelson’s very slyly accusatory “Pretty Paper” – or possibly I should, since the tinsel and snow settings are systematically subverted by a zoom-in on the grieving man on the sidewalk (Orbison himself, although he never lets this on). “If you stop…better not…you’re too busy”; this conversational approach to pop lyricism leads directly to the work of Scott Walker (who grew up in another, greener part of Texas), Gilbert O’Sullivan, Elvis Costello and Morrissey. “And in the midst of the laughter, he cries” – was a better self-description ever achieved in pop? There is also “Goodnight,” belatedly released by Monument in the States as a single in early 1965 as Orbison moved to MGM, and away from the peak of his career, which is tough emotional going; Orbison begins by addressing his lover as “My lovely woman child” but she’s been cheating on him, is in fact doing it with someone else, and it is only as the song progresses that you realise that, far from never walking out on her, she in fact has long since walked out on him. His “goodnight”s become more and more wrenching, and, as in “In Dreams,” “I can’t help it if I cry.” Or repeat himself.

No, best to leave with “Oh Pretty Woman,” his biggest hit and his greatest uptempo achievement, and here is what Orbison has maybe been all along; a stud in the club, looking for love, eyeing up someone he fancies (not really that far removed from David Lee Roth in Van Halen’s “Jump”). “I don’t believe you/You’re not the truth!” he exclaims at one point, but he knows why she’s here just as surely as he is; and as his “me-e” moves from major to minor in time for the middle eight, his Tony the Tiger growl and “Mercy!” sneer fade to reveal the old, needful Orbison (with music aptly reminiscent of “Only The Lonely”). Various signifiers of the age flash by (“Yeah yeah yeah,” “Don’t walk on by”) and then something extraordinary happens. Orbison steps out of the song to assess the situation. It doesn’t look as if he’s been lucky. He muses for some time on the credibility of the word “okay.” But he doesn’t go home and cry like Morrissey, since he followed Petula Clark’s advice and went downtown; the club is dark, so he can stay in the shadows, perhaps see others more clearly. Instead he shrugs his shoulders and prepares to go home. What the hell, try tomorrow night, you never know…

….but wait. She’s walking back to him. He can’t believe it. She actually wants him. And his “yeah!” gradually formulates into a huge, euphoric grin as the music steps up behind him. He got his happy ending at last.

This is not the last time I have to face the spectre of Roy Orbison here, because of course, shortly after recording this music, real hardcore shit began to happen to him. And so it was that by the time 1976 rolled around he could have been forgiven that nobody remembered him; he hadn’t had a hit in Britain since “Penny Arcade” in 1969, his records gradually became less noticed and noticeable. But he never stopped working, or touring; in 1976 he was glad to play for whoever would have him, be it the Marquee Club or Batley Variety Club. He could go on a TV programme like The Wheeltappers And Shunters Social Club and make the rest of the programme wonder why it bothered turning up. On stage, whether in Britain, or elsewhere in Europe, or in Australia, or even Asia, he’d find to his incredulity that he was still being worshipped.

But this doesn’t begin to explain why Orbison’s music continued to carry such currency. I refer you to my opening quote; Orbison was, in his own way, a poet, and for him it proved to be a kind of death. But where and how does his legacy live on? In as many ways as there were fans of his music, is the only answer. Think not just of the obvious ones, like George Harrison (“Something”) and Jeff Lynne (“Telephone Line”), but also people like Neil Young (“A Man Needs A Maid”), Bryan Ferry (“In Every Dream Home, A Heartache”) and Michael Stipe (“Everybody Hurts”) – all songs Orbison could easily have done. Or Dusty Springfield, in many ways our female version of Orbison, though Roy would never have gone near Bacharach and David (but how else to compare a performance as draining as Springfield’s “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself”?).And then there was Bono, who ended up writing a song for Orbison; the same passive-over-active attitude in most of his songs, the same seemingly effortless high notes – “With Or Without You,” by its composer’s own admission, is so much of an Orbison song as makes no difference. And Springsteen, who took Orbison’s urban operatics and made them breathe within a post-Spector structure (together with Dylan abstractions and bits and pieces from the whole twenty years that rock had so far given to him).

Or, for that matter (thanks, Lena), Marvin Gaye. “I know a man ain’t supposed to cry/But these tears I can’t hold inside,” “But I can’t help bein’ confused/If it’s true, please tell me, dear.” The same phrasing, the same structure, the same theme; I can’t imagine either Gaye or Norman Whitfield giving Orbison a second thought when putting together “Grapevine” but he, or his example, is there, in plain view.

The best response is to go back to the Big Elastic Band, and the business of a working class community. Who was buying Roy Orbison records in 1976 Britain? It can’t have been just nostalgia. There is undoubtedly an overlap with the Jim Reeves audience – it’s that Texas thing again, the yarragh redolent of howling coyotes; it’s there, too, in the bell of Ornette’s alto – but none, I think, with Perry Como. As with Reeves, and Max Boyce, it’s the working class vote again, and I’m sure we all saw Orbison as the working classes’ own Caruso, a brilliant and emotional technician on whom we could rely for answers, authority, and guidance. Even to the point of changing the lives of those kids in the Osborne Café, all those decades ago, when life was no simpler then, and probably a lot more complex, than now.

1 comment:

Bobcatbob said...

Speaking of Jim Reeves, Roy also recorded 'Distant Drums', and it charted as a double-A-sided hit with 'Falling' in Australia in 1963(reaching #3 according to the Kent national charts).