Saturday, December 26, 2009
Another Excerpt from the Book
By 1961, Roy Orbison had supplanted Ricky Nelson at the top of my pops, even as the decade of the rock group arrived with early Motown and the Beach Boys, Phil Spector’s Ronettes and Crystals and all the rest. Orbison’s first big hit, "Only the Lonely," was a template for his future themes.
I had no idea where he’d come from or what he looked like and probably was soon surprised to see that the confident sounding singer looked a little squirelly -- thick horns rim, oily pompadour, lumpy features. Despite these drawbacks, more hits followed. Unlike many rockers of the day, Roy wrote or co-wrote most of his own hits. But even more distinctively, he had an almost operatic voice. He could hit the highs, lick the lows and invigorate the in-betweens, and his lyrics were always spooky, from the despair of “Crying” to the tortured triumph of “Runnin’ Scared.”
He was the Caruso of rock. You knew that almost without fail that in every single he was going to wail, and when he did, or your car radio or transistor speaker was going to tremble like a windowpane caught in high-C hurricane. It was a voice from the other side, unearthly in the majesty of its emotion, almost oppressively powerful, yet in the end fragile and only too human. He was, after all, almost always singing about losing his woman – “It’s Over” unless he was “In Dreams.”