Legendary Roy Orbison Part Five
I’m ready for Legendary Roy Orbison Part Five, which with disc Two, from the previous blog, so what am I doing typing this paragraph, when you should be reading. There I’m done with this paragraph, and I can be serous about this blog.
Developing the images
Just weeks later “Running Scared” reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #9 in the UK. The composition of Orbison’s following hits reflected “Running Scared”: a story about an emotionally vulnerable man facing loss or grief, with a crescendo culminating in a surprise climax that employed Orbison’s dynamic voice. “Crying” followed in July 1961 and reached #2; it was coupled with an up-tempo R&B song, “Candy Man”, written by Fred Neil and Beverley Ross, which reached the Billboard Top 30, staying on the charts for two months. While Orbison was touring Australia in 1962, an Australian DJ referred to him affectionately as “The Big O”, partly based on the big finishes to his dramatic ballads, and the moniker stuck with him thereafter. Orbison’s second son was born the same year, and Orbison hit number four in the U.S. and number two in the UK with “Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream?)”, an upbeat song by country songwriter Cindy Walker. (Orbison’s producer would later form the Candymen quintet, which was Orbison’s backing band from 1965 to 1970, while releasing a few singles and two albums of their own). Also in 1962, he charted with “The Crowd”, “Leah”, and “Workin’ For the Man”, which he wrote about working one summer in the oil fields near Wink. His relationship with Joe Melson, however, was deteriorating over Melson’s growing concerns that his own solo career would never get off the ground.
Lacking the photogenic looks of many of his rock and roll contemporaries, Orbison eventually developed a persona that did not reflect his personality. He had no publicist in the early 1960s, no presence in fan magazines, and his single sleeves did not feature his picture. Life magazine called him an “anonymous celebrity”. After leaving his thick eyeglasses on an airplane in 1962 or 1963, Orbison was forced to wear his prescription Wayfarer sunglasses on stage and found that he preferred them. His biographers suggest that although he had a good sense of humor and was never morose, Orbison was very shy and suffered from severe stage fright; wearing sunglasses helped him hide somewhat from the attention. The ever-present sunglasses led some people to assume, then and now, that the stationary performer was blind. The black clothes and desperation in his songs led to an aura of mystery and introversion. Years later Orbison said, “I wasn’t trying to be weird, you know? I didn’t have a manager who told me to dress or how to present myself or anything. But the image developed of a man of mystery and a quiet man in black somewhat of a recluse, although I never was, really.”
His dark and brooding persona, combined with his tremulous voice in lovelorn ballads marketed to teenagers, made Orbison into a superstar during the early 1960s. He had a string of hits in 1963 with “In Dreams” (U.S. number 7/UK number 6), “Falling” (22/9), and “Mean Woman Blues” (5/3) coupled with “Blue Bayou” (29/3). He finished the year with a Christmas song written by Willie Nelson titled “Pretty Paper” (U.S. number 15 in 1963/UK number 6 in 1964).
As “In Dreams” was released in April 1963, Orbison was asked to replace guitarist Duane Eddy on a tour of the UK in top billing with the Beatles, whose popularity was on the rise. When he arrived in Britain, however, he saw the amount of advertising devoted to the quartet and realized he was no longer the main draw. He had never heard of them and, annoyed, asked hypothetically, “What’s a Beatle anyway?” to which John Lennon replied, after tapping his shoulder, “I am”. On the opening night, Orbison opted to go onstage first, although he was the more established act. Known for having raucous shows expressing an extraordinary amount of energy, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr stood dumbfounded backstage as Orbison performed completely still and simply sang through fourteen encores. Finally, when the audience began chanting “We want Roy!” again, Lennon and McCartney prevented Orbison from going on again by physically holding him back. Starr later said, “In Glasgow, we were all backstage listening to the tremendous applause he was getting. He was just standing there, not moving or anything.” Through the tour, however, the two acts quickly learned to get along, a process made easier by the fact that the Beatles admired his work. Orbison felt a kinship with Lennon, but it was Harrison with whom he would later form a strong friendship