Roy Orbison

Roy Orbison in 1967

Roy Kelton Orbison (April 23, 1936 – December 6, 1988), also known by the nickname The Big O, was an American singer-songwriter, best known for his distinctive, powerful voice, complex compositions, and dark emotional ballads. Orbison grew up in Texas and began singing in a rockabilly/country and western band in high school until he was signed by Sun Records in Memphis. His greatest success came with Monument Records between 1960 and 1964, when 22 of his songs were placed on the Billboard Top Forty, including "Only the Lonely", "Crying", and "Oh, Pretty Woman". His career stagnated through the 1970s, but several covers of his songs and the use of "In Dreams" in David Lynch's Blue Velvet revived his career in the 1980s. In 1988, he joined the supergroup Traveling Wilburys with George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and Jeff Lynne and also released a new solo album. He died of a heart attack in December that year, at the zenith of his resurgence. His life was marred by tragedy, including the death of his first wife and his two eldest sons in separate accidents.

Links To Peel

Roy Orbison, Running Scared

Roy Orbison, Running Scared

This track was played at John Peel's funeral ceremony.

Peel was a big fan of Roy Orbison and considered him as one of his musical heroes: so much so that he was given the job of presenter of the Big O radio documentary, where he mentioned that he always carried a cassette of Roy Orbison's Greatest Hits in his car "to shriek along with" when driving. Peel first discovered Roy Orbison in America, where he was working and on Peeling Back The Years 6 (Transcript), he talked about how he got into his music:

"I mean, he is one of those people I can vaguely identify with. I mean, he is one of those people who have sort of popped up at different stages of my life. When I first went to America, one of the first records that I ever bought – actually it was a record called Uptown, which predated Only The Lonely, and it was all about a bloke not having any money but one of these days he was going to have money and as a consequence of having money would become socially more successful, which is how I rather felt at the time. But then he went on to do a whole string of records which really I felt were my life. And then I saw him in Ipswich a couple of years ago. He came on, he started with Only The Lonely, which he sang appallingly badly. He couldn't get the high notes, all over the place. I thought, “This is going to be really embarrassing.” But he quite clearly needed that first number just to clear the tubes, you know, and after that he sang magically. And he did Ooby Dooby, which because I hadn’t heard it done live before reduced me to tears – I’m a bloke who cries fairly easily I should emphasize – but then he did Running Scared, which is like the ultimate loser's song. You know, loser going out with girl who previously went out with a successful, more sociable human being; they meet each other and she stays with the loser rather than going out with the previously successful bloke and so on. And when he sang that and the hideous roadies receded into the background, and it was just a great moment."

On the VH1 programme, where Peel was presenting his Ten Of The Best, he described Roy Orbison's 1985 gig as one of the best that year:

"I was always liked the fact that he was a plain bloke. It's one of those things you reinsure that somebody physically not hugely attractive can make it do some kind of level in showbiz ... I saw him play live in Ipswich and when I think one of the music papers phoned me that christmas and said what was the best gig you saw this year. You supposed to say, incredibly hip, Sonic Youth, or something like that, but in fact I had to say Roy Orbison in Ipswich." 

On Desert Island Discs with Sue Lawley in 1990, he chose a track from Roy Orbison, as a record he would take if he was stuck on a desert island.

"Well, about 3 or 4 weeks ago I was standing in the fog at Stowmarket station and there was no-one else on the platform waiting for the train to London and the only light was very diffused light through the fog, and I was standing at the end of the platform. And behind the station there's an industrial estate and very faintly and very tinnily from the industrial estate I could hear Roy Orbison's "It's Over" and it was a magical moment."

A couple of Orbison's tracks were part of his Peelenium and before Peel's death, he wanted Roy Orbison's Running Scared amongst others, as a record that would be played at his funeral.[1]. After his death, John Peel's Record Box was discovered, which did not consist of any Roy Orbison's records. The record box was a collection of records he could take way if there was a fire at Peel Acres. However, a record by Jerry Byrd, written by Orbison, was present in that box, thus providing some linkage to one of his musical heroes.


Other Shows Played

(The following list was compiled only from the database of this site and Lorcan's Tracklistings Archive and is certainly incomplete. Please add further details if known.)

  • 01 July 1967: Cry Softly Lonely One ("'Only The Lonely' part two," comments JP) (single) London 
  • 22 April 1980: Crying (single, 1961) London (JP: "Aw, blood vessels going like rubber bands in me forehead there! That's Roy Orbison and 'Crying' from God alone knows when. Great record though. Hur, [I'm] out of breath!")
  • 06 June 1990: Blue Angel (album - Lonely And Blue) Monument SM 14002
  • 14 August 1990: 'Wild Hearts (...Time) (7")' (ZTT) (JP: 'Oh, I was sorry to see him go. It really hurt.')
  • 28 October 1990: Wedding Day (LP - Orbisongs) Monument
  • 10 August 1991: I'll Say It's My Fault
  • 21 December 1991: I'll Be A Legend In My Time (JP: "Back in the mists of pre-history when I was living in Dallas, I used to play that to myself every time I was feeling sorry for myself. So it got played quite a lot.")
  • Best Of 1991 Vol 5: I’ll Be A Legend In My Time
  • 07 January 1994: ‘She Wears My Ring (LP – Crying)’ (Monument) (JP: ‘Since I bought my first record, loads of pop people have died but he [Roy Orbison] is the one I miss most. Uncool but true.’)
  • 12 March 1994: I'll Say It's My Fault (LP - Lonely And Blue) Monument
  • 05 May 1995: In Dreams (Compilation 2xLP: All Time Greatest Hits) Monument
  • 21 March 1996: Crying (CD - The Legendary Roy Orbison) Telstar (Peel sitting in for Mark Radcliffe)
  • 02 September 2004: 'It's Over' (LP - All Time Greatest Hits Of Roy Orbison) (Monument Records) 

See Also

External Links

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